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Ninjutsu – The Intellectual Skills

by Zach Gasior

A ninja must become intimately familiar with 18 disciplines of ninjutsu before he or she will be a master.  There are weapon techniques, like the sword and bo, and there are combat skills, such as disguise and pyrotechnics.  But there are also those disciplines that require a strong mind.  These intellectual skills include seishintekikyoyo, bajutsu, sui-ren, boryaku, tenmon, and chi-mon.

            Seishintekikyoyo is the skill that ties all other aspects of ninjutsu together, and makes it possible to train as a ninja.  This discipline is all about spiritual refinement.  Mastery over one’s own mental state is absolutely necessary to perfect all other skills.  Without it, then nothing else can truly be accomplished.

Bajutsu is the art of horsemanship.  It began during the reign of Emperor Tenji in the 7th Century, and became a traditional part of military combat in the 12th Century.  However, horses were very rare in Japan, so only elite warriors practiced the art.  During the Tokugawa period, the discipline went by the wayside as peace replaced combat.  The discipline teaches proper horse care, as well as techniques for swordsmanship and archery on horseback.

Sui-ren is the art of water training.  Being able to move through the water without a sound is important for a ninja, especially when the majority of the countryside was agricultural and water drove the economy.  Boryaku is the art of tactics.  Ninja are keys to battle, and mustunderstand strategy and tactics.  These can be the usual military movements or more unorthodox ploys.  They can also be somewhat sinister, such as political manipulation and exploitation of weakness in order to exert influence.

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Tenmon is the art of meteorology.  Long before Doppler radar, ninja needed to be able to predict weather patterns for strategic purposes.  Understanding exactly how the environment, flora and fauna, and people reacted to changes in the weather could weaken and defeat enemies.  Chi-mon is the art of geography.  Before heading into battle, the ninja needs an understanding of the terrain surrounding a target.  The natural layout of the land, as well as placement of any manmade structures will significantly influence tactics and weapons employed.

The intellectual skills of ninjutsu have not seen as much focus in the incarnations of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.  Of course, that really has to do with the modernization of training.  Certain skills like tenmon and chi-mon are unnecessary for the boys when radar, maps, and the Internet make predicting weather patterns and knowing geography a simple matter. Similarly, horsemanship isn’t an essential skill anymore.  While the turtles did ride horses on a few occasions (such as in Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles III), they were not terribly familiar with the art.

Sui-ren is the one skill that the turtles do not need to practice.  Their very nature makes them masters of the water, even if they do spend most of their time on dry land or in a sewer.  But seishintekikyoyo and boryaku have been stressed, and often come into focus during training.  Leonardo and Donatello are both experts of boryaku, but in significantly different ways.  Donatello’s exceptional intelligence and analytical mind make him very skilled at tactics and planning. Leonardo, on the other hand, simply has a knack for tactics, which is what makes him an effective leader.  His instincts are spot on, and his emotionsdon’t often cloud his judgment.

The most commonly talked about skill (especially from Master Splinter) is spiritual refinement.  The rat master is constantly telling the boys about the importance of becoming one with the spirit.  They all take his advice to varying degrees, ranging from Leonardo’s diligent meditation to Raphael’s indifference.  But no matter what, it is the one intellectual skill that is stressed as much as any discipline of ninjutsu in the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle universe.

With so many different facets of ninjutsu, it’s no wonder that the turtles have a long way to go before becoming masters.  Weapons, combat training, and intellectual toughness are all required, and the turtles are clearly still a long way from achieving that pinnacle.  However, they will undoubtedly keep working hard, and will one day reach the end of this hard-fought journey.

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