I enjoyed The Secret Traditions Of The Shinobi: Hattori Hanzo’s Shinobi Hiden And Other Ninja Scrolls edited and translated by Antony Cummins and Yoshie Minami for the historical significance of reading older texts on the arts. You won’t learn how to “be a ninja” by reading this book, especially when many lessons from that period were stated to be transmitted orally. However, this book does enlighten the reader as to what kinds of skills were being studied and practiced, and points the modern student of martial arts toward elements to include in one’s training.
There are several older texts included in this volume, including: the Shinobi Hiden attributed to Hattori Hanzo; the Koka Ryu Ninjutsu Densho from the Edo period; the three shinobi scrolls of the Gunpo Jiyoshu promoted by Tokugawa Ieyasu; and one hundred medieval poems about the shinobi dating to somewhere between the twelfth and seventeenth centuries. Also included are seventy black-and-white drawings from the scrolls.
Throughout the book, there are plenty of notes and descriptions to help the reader understand the translations better. These definitely helped me gain a deeper understanding of the texts, as well as the significance of the texts as related to the history of ninjutsu. I’m sure anyone wanting to learn more about the skills studied by the ancient ninja, as well as those with an interest in this period of Japanese history will enjoy this book.
I think the last section of the book, the Yoshimori Hyakushu, or the 100 poems or waka (also known as tanka) is my favorite section of the book. The poems themselves are very short, but there is also a paragraph of explanation after each of them. Some hardly needed much explanation, and the advice is still practical, as this one illustrates, “While traveling, you should never let you guard down with anything. It is said you are likely to make a blunder if you do.” Pretty good advice today as well, stay alert while traveling. The Japanese text of these short waka is also included for those that can read Japanese. (There are a few other places in the book where the Japanese is included as well.)
I enjoy training with modern weapons and training procedures, but I also like to study history of fighting and warfare and see where we have come from with the different martial arts and ways of warriorship. I thoroughly enjoyed reading these older texts and learning more about the historical shinobi, his tactics, skills studied, and his role in medieval Japan. If you’re also a martial art history buff, I think you’ll really enjoy it too.
The Secret Traditions Of The Shinobi: Hattori Hanzo’s Shinobi Hiden And Other Ninja Scrolls edited and translated by Antony Cummins and Yoshie Minami from amazon: