Ninja Glossary


Ninjutsu (忍術) sometimes used interchangeably with the term ninpō (忍法) is the martial art, strategy, and tactics of unconventional warfare and guerrilla warfare as well as the art of espionage purportedly practiced by the shinobi(commonly known outside of Japan as ninja).


shuriken (Japanese 手裏剣; literally: "sword hidden in the hand") is a traditional Japanese concealed weapon that was generally used for throwing, and sometimes stabbing or slashing. They are sharpened hand-held blades made from a variety of everyday items, such as needles, nails, and knives, as well as coins, washers, and other flat plates of metal. Shuriken is the name given to any small-bladed object, while shakenis traditionally used to indicate the well-known "throwing star".

Shuriken are commonly known in the West as throwing stars or ninja stars though they took many different shapes and designs during the time they were used. The major varieties of shuriken are the bō shuriken (棒手裏剣, stick shuriken) and the hira shuriken (平手裏剣, flat shuriken) orshaken (車剣, also read as kurumaken, wheel shuriken).


Tekagi-shuko (手かぎ手虎 lit. "Tiger hook hands") and neko-te (猫手 lit. "Cat hands") were two of the many kakushi buki (隠し武器 lit. "hidden weapon") deployed by the ninjaof Japan. The main ryu (school) of ninjutsu that deployed such weapons were of the Togakure-ryū.

Although many variations of this particular weapon existed, they typically consisted of two metal bands conjoined by a leather strip - one fitting around the palm and the other around the wrist. The upper band featured a variety of spike/claw-like protrusions that were useful for both offensive and utilitarian purposes, as well as in defensive techniques (disarming and such). The use of this weapon is still taught by the Bujinkan dojo under Masaaki Hatsumi and the Jinenkan under Manaka Unsui.


The Neko-te (cat paw or cat claw) is a name given to several contraptions fitted in or over the hand, with sharp blades or pins sticking out. Some of these original neko-te that were shaped like metal gloves had pins standing up from the metal plate covering the back of the hand, designed to trap other weapons and leave minor damage when required, while the long claw-like tips of the fingers were used to stab at arteries and other vital areas, and to scratch through exposed skin.


The kyoketsu-shoge, which means "to run about in the fields and mountains", is a double edged blade, with another curved blade attached near the hilt at a 45-60 degree angle. This is attached to 12-18 feet of rope, chain, or hair which then ends in a large metal ring. It is thought to have developed before the more widely known kusarigama (sickle and chain). Before the ninja really became the ninja they were peasants and the blade of the kyoketsu-shoge was a farming tool.

Almost exclusively used by the ninja, the kyoketsu-shoge had a multitude of useful applications. The blade could be used for pulling slashes as well as thrusting stabs. The chain or cord, sometimes made from human hair or horsehair for strength and resiliency, could be used for climbing, ensnaring an enemy, binding an enemy and many such other uses. The long range of the weapon combined a cutting tool with the capability to strike or entangle an enemy at what he perceived to be a 'safe' distance out of the way. When skilled with this weapon it could be used to entangle a sword and rip from the opponents hands rendering him harmless. The kyoketsu-shoge cord and ring was sometimes used to wrap around and enemy's legs and trip them.


Ono () (masa-kari) is the Japanese word for an "axe" or a "hatchet", and is used to describe various tools of similar structure. As with axes in other cultures, ono are sometimes employed as weapons. The weapon version of the ono is described as having "a very large head with a very convex cutting edge and a large scroll-shaped peen opposite it. It has a sheath covering only the edge of the blade.


The wakizashi has a blade between 30 and 60 cm (12 and 24 in), with wakizashi close to the length of a katana being called o-wakizashi and wakizashi closer to tantō length being called ko-wakizashi. The wakizashi being worn together with the katana was the official sign that the wearer was a samurai or swordsman of feudal Japan. When worn together the pair of swords were called daishō, which translates literally as "big-little". The katana was the big or long sword and the wakizashi the companion sword. Wakizashi are not necessarily just a smaller version of the katana; they could be forged differently and have a different cross section.


Tessenjutsu (鉄扇術) is the martial art of the Japanese war fan (tessen). It is based on the use of the solid iron fan or the folding iron fan, which usually had eight or ten wood or iron ribs.