Traditional Japanese martial art consists of systems and lineages. called ryu-ha. Each of this systems, bearing their own historical legacy, has a separate “flavor” to them, based on how they were developed, maintained, and their intended necessity of use. No individual ryu-ha really addresses every possibility, instead focusing on a particular area of expertise. Each separate ryu-ha usually shares some overlap and similarities with each other, but names and strategies may vary.
It is the same with modern martial arts styles such as Brazilian Jiu-jitsu, Krav Maga, and so on. While each specializes in a certain strategic method, it isn’t realistic to cover every possible area of combat.
For the reason explained above, from a self-defense perspective, you must approach martial arts with an open mind, cross-training in order to be the most complete martial artist possible. In fact, I believe the value of a “good martial artist” weighs more heavily on the individual than the system that is practiced.
Traditional arts preserve valuable lessons, while instilling all important individualistic values and ethics. Modern arts tend to focus on effectiveness with less regard for internal development. Both are necessary to be complete.
Ninjutsu at its martial arts core, is not a stagnant fighting system, but rather an evolving strategic approach to combat and even life. As threats and strategies change, so must the warrior, in order to have the best chance for success. What makes Ninjutsu unique is its use of natural sciences and breadth of training, coupled with a focus on spirituality and internal development. In short, ninjutsu is much more than merely a fighting art. It’s also a philosophical and deep approach to life and adversity.
Is Ninjutsu A Martial Art?
Yes, but maybe not in the context that you think of. Ninjutsu is a martial art in that it employs martial strategies. But, remember what was explained before about ryu-ha… They are based on necessity of use. For example, one historical ninjutsu school taught a few evasion methods and how to poison wells as the bulk of their training. It has strategic value in combat, but not what people typically think when they think of martial arts training.
The ninja had to be familiar with the martial arts methods of their time, because this is most likely what they would have to defend against. What’s more, the focus of ninjutsu was on escaping rather than direct confrontation.
Times change and people’s knowledge of martial arts evolve, and so must that of the ninja. The martial arts of ninjutsu must evolve as well, or else the practitioner will be nothing more than a curator at a museum.
Ninjutsu is a sub-set of martial arts, while also having a philosophical and strategic approach to martial arts as a whole.