Ninjas move with precise speed, grace and agility, demonstrating their flawless technique and the narrow line at which dance and martial arts intersect.
A person who uses Ninjitsu is by definition a ninja. Ninjutsu is an independent art of warfare that primarily developed in the Iga and Koka regions of Japan. Ninja’s, also known as shinobi’s were covert agents in feudal Japan. Their functions ranged from espionage, infiltration, assassination, sabotage and guerrilla warfare.
With such roles, requiring extreme dexterity, physical prowess and elite skills particularly in the areas of combat and defense, it is a wonder why it is not traditionally considered a martial art.
Pop culture has contributed to the transformation of the ninja world to the degree that it took the sport of ninja from a violent job of sorts to essentially a sport and ultimately an art. In Hollywood films ninja’s are typically portrayed with an alluring mystique, whose skills are not easily duplicated or matched. Many ninja characters are shown to move with such ease and fluidity that they often appear to be dancing with their weaponry. So it is no surprise that many modern dance groups study and emulate ninja movements and vice versa.
Let’s have a look at some modern ninja dancers in action.
Ninja dancing while playing with a katana.
Sword dance team Ji Mu Dan in Korea.
Kenbai samurai act sword dance juggling by Maro.
Korean sword dance performance by Chungnam Art High School students.
Hollywood didn’t stop at just highlighting ninjas as a role within a story, an entire feature film called Legend of the Dancing Ninja was released in 2013. Staring former Baywatch lead David Hasselhof, the campy film title says it all.
Over the past decade or two, another ninja sport has emerged. An organized sports competition known as Ninja Warrior hit the scene in Japan, eventually creating waves in the U.S. with a sister program called American Ninja Warrior (ANW). Participants train and compete individually on obstacle courses that challenge their agility, grip strength, endurance, tenacity and much more. Some obstacles appear like giant size playground sets. The preparation and training required to undertake such a feat of athleticism is no easy one. Most participants train for years to achieve the condition necessary just to make it part way, let alone complete the courses and snag the million dollar prize.
The ultimate prize and title of American Ninja Warrior is so coveted, that thousands of athletes travel the world and dedicate their live to rigorous training, sometimes just for the chance to partake in the popular franchise, let alone actually do well and win.
Once only attempted by elite athletes, today’s participants hail from all walks of life. Blue collar workers, stay at home mom’s, people with physical disabilities and even individuals with no athletic background who recently got in shape just to participate all are part of the Ninja Warrior experience. While this new wave of ninjas don’t actually engage in combat, they do have to fight their way through a grueling set of physical and mental obstacles, testing their will, determination, physical prowess and adaptability to change and constant challenges.
While taking on such a a feat can understandably be intense, requiring laser precision and focus, there is one popular American Ninja Warrior named Grant McCarthy who has become known for his ninja dance moves.
McCarthy famously dances to warm up prior to beginning a run on the course, then finishes with a post obstacle celebration dance to entertain the excited crowd.https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=S4-zs6EBT4U
Whether dancing on a ANW obstacle course, or flying effortlessly through the air in traditional masked garb, ninjas add a remarkable level of artistry, fitness and flair to fighting as well as dance.
Having fearlessly explored every continent, Nneka is multi-lingual and passionate about travel, culture and life. A SDSU alumni, she has worked in KTVU Fox's newsroom, interviewed notable figures and hosted programs for various media outlets. She has also written features for The San Leandro Times and LostGirlsWorld.com. Also a seasoned performer and fitness professional, Nneka holds several fitness certifications, has shared the stage with entertainment icons, and has appeared on various TV Shows. Follow her global adventures in the arts and beyond on IG @nnekaworldtrekker.