ninja in black crouching with sword

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A Guide to Ninja Weapons

A Ninja or Shinobi (忍者 or 忍び) is a spy in feudal era of Japan who learns Japanese ninjutsu skills. With these skills, ninjas would sneak, rob, or even kill for a price. In Japanese, ninja literally means someone who is moving silently and nobody knows about their presence whereas ninjutsu is the art of silent movement. Unlike samurai, who followed the Bushido code and were dedicated to their masters, ninjas followed a code called the Ninpo and often worked alone. According to ninjutsu observers, their main ability was not so much killing the target but spying. Nevertheless, in order to defend themselves, a ninja needed to be well prepared with some deadly weapons at his arsenal.

The Weapons

We often associate ninjas with weapons because let's face it, some of these, although quite deadly and well-crafted, were quite cool to use and were very effective at doing the job. They were also built to be cheap and easy to make so the ninjas carrying them around would be well prepared to move with them. Until ninjas appeared, most of these were originally created for farming and then evolved into killing tools no ninja could survive without.

Nunchaku

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Even though the nunchaku is not the top choice for ninjas, it is a flexible weapon in any condition. You may know about its usage from the Bruce Lee movies but it actually originated in Okinawa as a rice cutting tool. It is mounted with one or two sticks and can be spun around for taking attention from enemies. It is easy to bear and not heavy. Its chain is used to catch an enemy's knife and break it.

Shuriken

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Shuriken is the most recognizable ninja weapon. It is often shown on television shows, in Hollywood movies, and pretty much anywhere you see ninjas. The shuriken is a thin metal star. Each edge of the star is very sharp. It is used to throw into enemies but could also be used as a tiny knife for slitting. The shuriken's use was not limited to killing though. It was also for distracting in order to escape from foes–commonly samurai who were chasing them. But, it can be even more dangerous if the edges are laced with poison. It has recently gained popularity as an origami paper craft.

Ashiko

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Ashiko is a sharp metal nail attached to a special rope and lace footwear used for climbing. Not for everyday wear, as you can imagine, it's rather simple design is meant to attach and tie to a ninja's feet quickly in order to escape. Very helpful in jumping up walls (like Spider-man).

Chigiriki

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Chigiriki is a stick with a chain which has a heavy ball at the tip. The stick would often be made with bamboo, wood, or metal but the chain and ball were always metal and were useful to attack an enemy from a distance, lasso a samurai's sword, or strangle an opponent.

Kama

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Originally for harvesting crops, the kama is a set of small sticks with a pointed blade on both edges. It is 11–12 inches long and is easy to carry. After all, ninjas most often came from farming communities and would use the tools they could get to great effect.

Kyotetsu Shogei

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A very flexible weapon that could be used to attack from a distance. Quite simple in its design, the small blade was great for swift stabs and the rope was often used to trip enemies.

Tanto

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The tanto is the most important weapon for a ninja. It is a thin knife made from strong metal steel. It can be used for quick kills, opening locked doors, digging small holes, or (like the shuriken) a throwing device.

Tetsu Bishi

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Tetsu bishi were small pointed weapons for slowing the enemy down by injuring their feet. Since within Japanese homes, people typically walked barefoot, ninjas would throw them at the enemy to step on in order to escape them. They were also called calthrops. Made from iron and sometimes with poison inside to instantly kill the enemy.

Bow

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This one is probably a no-brainer. Ninjas were often well trained to use a bow and arrow not only for assassinating but also for hunting prey for food. There are two types for short distance or long distance. Historically, this was the favorite for female ninjas.

Naginata

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Naginata is a long stick with knife on both edges. This weapon was for hand-to-hand combat and was also useful on the battlefield. Samurai wives would often train how to use this blade in order to defend their homes–against ninjas no doubt. Present day, naginata training is the most popular martial art for Japanese women.

Nekote

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The word literally means cat claws, like the naginata, nekote was commonly used by kunoichi or female ninjas (I should note, there is no current martial art specializing in this weapon). It is a sharp claw made from iron with leather laces to attach to the hands. As you probably guessed by now, they were sometimes laced with poison too (ninjas did love working with poison).

Kunai

Essaregee on Wikimedia

Kunai is a short dagger that served multiple purposes. In popular culture it may look familiar as Scorpion's thrusting weapon from Mortal Kombat, but it could be a blade, attach to a pole to become a spear, a climbing tool, a throwing weapon, or even a prying tool. This ninja weapon was useful to any wielder.

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