Dean Rostohar
Shihan Bujinkan Ninjutsu Croatia
Member of the Special Police forces "Alfa" /retired/

Ever since there are wars and combats, there was also a need for special purposes units or so called Special forces. Those units, as the name suggests, were used for special tasks that could not be done by regular soldiers. Even though this kind of units were used in many civilizations and countries throughout history, real fighters and first special purposes units were Ninja's and Ninja clan members.

Why is it so?

Only lately, in the modern age, there has been increased need for units of this kind. For example, these units started to develop during II. World War, but there are even earlier examples. In 1756, during the Colonial wars in America, major Robert Rogers founded the Rangers who used new principles and tactics in their fighting against the French and Indians. During the II. World War a small group of English soldiers was organized, called SAS (Special Air services), founded by Liutenant David Sterling. Lt.Sterling thought that a small well organized and well trained group can create much more damage to the enemy by using special tactics and technics, and this unit performs top assignments even today.

However, these are only some of the army Special forces that have been founded with that purpose, so we will name some more that have today developed into respectable units: US Army Green berets (specially distinguished during the Vietnam war), US Navy Seals, US Delta, US Rangers, Russian Specnaz, French Foriegn legion, Israely parachuters, etc.

With the development of terorism and crime today, a need has risen for Police Special forces, such as famous American SWAT teams, the English SAS teams (which are a police-military unit), German GSG-9 (police-military), French GIGN (police-military), Spanish GEO (police-military), Italian COMSUBIN, Russian "Alfa", etc. All these Special forces have one common thing, special and very hard training, special tactics, special equipment and special weapons and tools. And, of course, extraordinary people, ready for everything.
But why were the Ninja the first and the best Special force? We will try to compare the Ninja warriors and todays Special forces.


The Ninja of the feudal Japan, and to the modern age, were born and trained within their family and were all loyal to the tradition of Ninjutsu. For safety reasons Ninja clans didn't live in urban areas, but in the mountains, on difficult reachable places that were known only to the few. The training of the Ninja warrior begined at the early age of three, through various technics of movement coordination, condition trainings, body elasticity, climbing technics, obstacle overcoming, falls, rolls, etc. At the age of 10 they start training unarmed combat, various technics of movement in all conditions (horizontally and vertically), hiding skills, masking, camouflage and stelth movement, combat in water, silent swimming and diving, etc.

By his age of 20, a young Ninja learns the ways of using all kinds of weapons and tools of that time, throwing blades, fast and long runnings, tieing the enemy, writing and reading and using various codes and ciphers, methods of communication, the way of using the nature and surviving in nature, the art of stealth movement.

After that, the Ninja learns psychology and anatomy, strategy and combat tactics, various kinds of meditation, hypnosis, the skill of using fire arms and explosives, ethics and folklore, medicine, first aid and herb knowledge, meteorology and geography, espionage, masking, spiritual and mental perfection, etc.

The choosing and selection of the Ninja warriors in that time was very simple. If someone was not capable for that kind of training, he died on some of the exercises or trainings. So, Ninjutsu is very honest and simple; either we can or... Today, these drastic trainings are not necessary.

Modern Special forces select persons who allready have certain military or police experience in other units. They make a competition on which groups of people who volunteered go through various testings. These include tests of endurance, strength, will, body condition, and written tests of psychology, expert knowledge from different areas. Those who satisfy the tests and get the highest scores, become members of the unit. Then starts their special training which consists of introducing to various types of weapons, tools and explosives, tactics and strategies, medicine and technics, psychology, learning unarmed combat and fighting with various weapons, etc.

Special forces base are also situated on isolated, well guarded and secured places, in forbidden areas, so that nobody would distract or spy on them. I would like to list another side of the special forces, units and individuals who perform espionage missions. In the Special forces of today, there are Sections which deal with espionage and counter-espionage. They are trained in various technics and tactics of espionage and infiltration, to gain as much information possible, which are later divided to individual assignments. In modern age, various technology, such as computer systems of all kind, are used.

The Ninja also performed various espionage missions, to gain as much information possible for the Shogun who planned the combat. In order to do those kind of missions, Ninja had to master espionage and counter espionage, and use various technics and tactics, which are even today present in the Special forces.

Now I will try to compare the technics, the tactics and weapons of modern Special forces and Ninja warriors.

To present the similarity of today Special forces and Ninja warriors, we bring you few photographies which show Special forces members and Ninja's on similar missions.

Martial arts:

In the Special forces, the technics of unarmed combat are taught from several martial arts as a combination of Ju jutsu, Aiki jutsu, Karate or Tae kwon do. However, members of these units (exceptions are possible) don't train technics to the master level, but train to the level necessary for them to defend or attack. The tachnics are memorized. Special forces martial arts sometimes use combat technics with a knife, short stick and a bayonet.

The Ninja started training the technics of unarmed combat at the age of 10. The art of unarmed combat taught in Ninjutsu have been tested for hundreds of years on the battle fields and in close combat. We will not write about them, but we will say that some of the skills of which later became Ju jutsu (Takagi Yoshin ryu, Shindenfudo ryu, Gikan ryu), Aikijutsu (Kukishin ryu, Itto ryu, Chosui ryu) and some schools of Karate (Koto ryu, Gyokko ryu), originated from the arts trained by the Ninja (in the brackets). However, the arts in Ninjutsu taught the technics by which it was very easy to kill or to disable the enemy, and most importantly, they were trained to perfection and to the use throughout the combat instinctively, and not by memorizing it. In order to use those kind of technics, they also learned medicine and anatomy. By the way, the Ninja invented those arts that have some applications in the Special forces.

Firearms and tools:

Remington, Striker, Spas 12/15,); Machine guns (SAW (minimi), Ultimax, PKT) etc. And there are various rocket launchers (HK 40, Zolja, Osa), hand grenades (smoke, gas, explosive), etc.

In his time, the Ninja used many weapons and tools that gave him the advantage and power in combat. However, we need to say that the Ninja were inovators and came up with and make their own weapons and tools. For long distance combat, the Ninja used Yumi Ya (bow and arrows), which were often dipped into different kind of poison to be more efficient. Sometimes they set explosives and bombs on them to gain more efficiency. They were real masters at targeting and could hit the enemy at great distances. Then there was the Fukiya (a blower), which could also hit the enemy at great distances, and the darts were dipped in terrible poisons. Then there were Shuriken (throwing blades) which were also used at distances and could also be dipped in poison. Ninja was a master in Shuriken jutsu. And then there were tools for throwing poison liquids that could hit the enemy up to 30 meters. All these weapons and tools were silent and were used in place of todays silencers.

However, the Ninja's first started to use firearms in feudal Japan. Tanegashima, the long fuse rifle, had it's use in Ninjutsu, and the Ninja's were masters at using these weapons, just as the short pistol Futokoro teppo. But Ninja's were also masters in inovation, so that they hid pistols and rifles into sword and knife shapes so they couldn't be recognized and could be surprising and efficient on long distance. They also made various hand launchers called Kozutsu (something like a bazooka) and canons called Ohzutsu. They also used mines called Jirai and explosive hand granades called Torinoko. Dokuenjutsu were smoke granades that had the effect of todays tear gases. For blinding the opponent in combat, they used a smoke powder called Metsubushi.

But Ninja's were also masters in using cold weapons of that time. Swords, knives, spears, sticks, chains and various inovations and combinations found great application in Ninjutsu.


In modern times special attention is given to the equipment of the Special forces units and individuals, in order for them to be as efficient as possible. Starting by the clothes of the Special forces, we can see great resemblance with the outfit used by the Ninja. Camouflage (green, white, black, particoloured) comfortable Ninja clothes with a lot of pockets found it's application in the Special forces today. Hoods were a trade mark of the Ninja and todays Special forces use them for same purposes. The purpose of this kind of clothes was to camouflage and hide, to cover up the presence and to hide the identity of the one carrying it. Sometimes even when a Ninja was caught and had no way out he used his knife or his shuriken to masacre his face so that no one could find out to which clan he belonged. Todays Special forces use hoods for the same purposes. However, a hood like that also has a psychological efect on the enemy.

Todays Special forces use all sorts of bulletproof vests to protect themselves against projectiles and enemy fire. In feudal time, the Ninja used protective armour made of knitted metal wire or of strong, patent and hard leather, which was put on under the clothes, also to protect themselves against projectiles and enemy blades.

Special forces use footwear which protects their feet and holds the joints firmly, because of the strain they encounter. The Ninja used special light footwear called Jika Tabi with separate first toe to protect their feet, but it also had a purpose of covering up walking and noise, and was specially useful for climbing. On their hands and feet they had metal shieldings or the ones made of hard leather called Kyahan and Katabichi, which protected them from falls and hits.

When we start with the other equipment used by the Special forces today, we can stop on the climbing equipment. Nowadays Special forces use alpine technics and equipment for climbing. Much before the foundation of the discipline of "Free climbing", the Ninja used free climbing, but also had special equipment. Shukko and Ashiko, metal claws which were used for climbing can be found in some form of climbing equipment even today, for example: boot spikes, iceaxes and hooks. But the Ninja also used this equipment for combat. In their time the Ninja also used many ways of crossing over the ropes, the use of rope for climbing and descending. One of the technics of crossing over the rope was Kasha, the pulley, which is also used today in the Special forces. I have recently had a chance to watch a training of the German Special force unit GSG 9 and found that they recently started to use various hooks for climbing, while the Ninja allready used it centuries ago.

One of the combat technics and tactics used by Special forces today is parachuting, in order to reach specific point easier (and sometimes more silent and invisible). In feudal Japan the Ninja also used parachutes and hang gliders (of course not as high quality as todays), to get down of the mountains to specific places. From this comes the legend that the Ninja could fly.

The American Special force unit US Navy Seals, is specialized for combat technics and tactics in water, using modern technology such as diving equipment (wet and dry), small submarines (torpedo type) and rubber boats. The Ninja were also masters of Sui Ren, the technics and tactics of fighting training in water and the use of water.

Taru ikada were small wooden barrels or Ukidaru, metal or wooden circles which Ninja put on their feet and cross over water. From there came the legend that the Ninja could walk on water. Kamaikada, the straw raft or Mizugumo, a leather life-belt, are only couple of ways the Ninja used to cross rivers. Tsugi bune was a wooden boat made of parts. Every Ninja team member carried his part with him, because this way it was easier to carry it. When it was neccessary, they combined all the parts together and used it as a big boat. For diving and swimming under water, the Ninja used a bamboo tube called Shinodake, and metal bells (filled with air) which they put on their heads and crossed under water. It should be mentioned that the Ninja also knew how to use the technics of slow breathing, and in this way they could dive longer.

I could list many more similarities between Ninja warriors and todays Special forces. However, if I wanted to list them, the conclusion would be that todays Special forces are better equiped considering modern technologies, but they use many technics and tactics invented and used by the Ninja in feudal Japan, in accordance with their capabilities of that time. Todays Special forces are trained to act in well organized groups, which act learned and trained. The Ninja often performed their actions alone or in small groups which acted by intuition, situation and instinct, adopting and improvising perfect training to the given situation.

However, there are differences. In Special forces the emphasize is on the group that acts together, while in Ninpo the approach was to each person individually. A Ninja warrior possesed a collection of esoteric sciences, and used psychology, used the concience and the unconcience, adopted to the enviroment seeking harmony with the nature and the natural laws of the Universe. In Ninpo more attention is given to selfawareness, developing psychological and physical potentials which can be used through all aspects of life, not only through fighting technics, while in the Special forces that is, sadly, not the case.


So, for Ninjutsu and Ninja warriors we can say that they are forerunners of all todays Special forces units. Many technics and tactics used by the Ninja warriors have their use today in the Special forces units. Unfortunately, many Special forces units don't use all the knowledge and teachings of Ninjutsu that can be very helpfull in modern times, either in their original form or a modernized one. However, the fact remains that the Ninja warriors were the most succesfull warriors of all time.

This text is protected as a Copyright and can not be used (or any part of it) without a written approval of the author.
11 May by Specwog


Copyright Specwog 2004