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Friday, April 14, 2006

Re-enter The Ninja

Ninja MagazineI was on my way to pickup lunch from the local Thai restaurant downtown when I passed by a used book store. I decided to go in and peruse because you never know what literary treasures lie within. While browsing the store, I passed their old magazine section and laying on a big pile of sports magazines was Issue #8 of Ninja magazine for only 25¢. I haven’t seen one of these in at least 15 years! What a find! I also found Issue #29 of Ninja and a copy of Fighting Stars NINJA circa 1986. Now these magazines are the tip of the iceberg known as the "Ninja Craze" that swept America in the 80's. The fad spawned countless magazines, books, toys and movies.

To a ko ryu bujutsu student, reading a ninja magazine is the same as a Pulitzer Prize winning author reading Weekly World News. It’s a guilty pleasure with absolutely no academic value.

These particular ninja gems contain articles such as Ninja Night Training, The Ninja Death House and my favorite: Now You See Him – Now You Don’t including photos of a "ninja" wearing camouflage pajamas (evidently that’s why I can't see him) hanging from trees with bos and swords. From reading these rags mags, one can only conclude ninjas are the deadliest people on planet Earth. As Ninja magazine itself seriously warns, "Forcing a ninja into a corner could be your first – and last mistake."

Unfortunately, while reading these magazines it becomes painfully apparent these books were written by unscrupulous individuals trying to cash in on the Ninja Craze of the time. In the name of capitalism, many Americans with very little actual martial arts knowledge sprang up all over the US of A claiming to teach "American Ninjutsu" and writing cheesy articles for Ninja magazine. They conned individuals out of their cash and taught them techniques only found in ninja movies. It amazes me the number of articles discussing weapons and tactics historical ninjas (now most likely extinct regardless of what the Bujinkan would have you believe) never used, that and all ninjas seem to have mullets. In fact, self-professed ninja grandmaster Ronald Duncan blows his own money making agenda by stating, "Ninja are very saleable; they can make a lot of money for the movie, TV, and book people."

It’s sad to see what Americans can do to other cultures in the name of supply and demand. I don’t have to comment on the legitimacy of these magazines when they have pictures of grown men in brightly colored ninja costumes leaping over logs with a caption that reads, "With the reflexes of a cat, a ninja leaps over a sword cut."

Now to be fair, when I was ten, I was fully consumed by the Ninja Craze. I wanted to be a ninja because at that age nothing was more appealing than running around in black pajamas, swinging a plastic sword and throwing smoke bombs so I could disappear in a puff of logic. But the guys in these magazines are not ten years old – not physically anyway.

I believe finding these magazines is a sign of a new Ninja Craze that’s about to nunchaku us in the face. Thanks to Sho Kosugi, ninjas are set to make a comeback. He plans to resuscitate his career and the genre he created by starring in The Return of the Ninja scheduled to debut later this year.

After reading Ninja magazine, I’m prepared to Re-enter the Ninja... are you?

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