Monday, August 21, 2017

3.5 Ninja Stars for "The Ninja and Their Secret Fighting Art" by Stephen K. Hayes

In the interests of disclosure, I was given this copy for review purposes.

Title: The Ninja and Their Secret Fighting Art
Author: Stephen K. Hayes
Publisher: Tuttle Publishing
Published: 1981 (Republished 2017)
Format: Softcover
Pages: 151
Price: $12.95

Take Away: If you are going to start with the story of modern ninja, there's no better place than Stephen K. Hayes.

    Ninja are always fun to talk and read about.  And if you're going to look into ninja, then start with one of the men who popularized the idea of ninja in the US, Stephen K. Hayes.  He's the first name of ninjutsu in America.  He's been in Black Belt since ninja have been popular.  So why not get the story from the man himself.


    This book comprises the story of Mr. Hayes' search for ninjutsu in Japan, and some great anecdotes about his ninja training while there.  Each anecdote is specifically chosen to illustrate a point about the methodology of the ninja, whether it is their combat techniques, or their ways of invisibility.  Interspaced with these are more historical or philosophical chapters which explain the cosmology and modus operandi of the historical ninja.


    This book is one of the first actual books on ninja published in English.  It precedes, and may in fact be partly responsible for, the Ninja-craze of the 80's.  As such it a valuable read for that reason alone.  They stories are well written, and easily demonstrate points, while not having the author self-grandiose himself.  In fact, many times, he is the butt of the training story.  As such it is an easy read packed with many lessons useful to almost anyone with a martial mindset.


    This book was originally published in 1981, and is showing some of its age.  Because it was the first of its kind about ninja, it was important then.  The information it gives, though revolutionary for the time, are now a little more common knowledge, and as such has been seen or adapted in other media over time.


    The book is a little dated, and most of the information can be found other places now, but that
doesn't remove the significance of this book.  Because much of what's here has been historically debated, I have to be careful to take everything as gospel.  I do think that the majority of what is said has other sources to back it up.  However, some things have been directly disputed by several other sources.  Now that I think about it, one of the strategies of the ninja is to specifically enhance their reputation, and to exaggerate their mythology.  In the chapter about sewing misinformation, Mr. Hayes talks about how the strategy used was to spread gossip and lies mixed together...I think I just gained a new respect for this book.  That being said, I'm going to give it 3.5 out of 5 Ninja Stars.  I appreciate the reputation of Mr. Hayes, and his significance in modern ninja history.  The book itself is entertaining, and teaches many valuable lessons.  However, it is a bit dated, and some of the facts about ninja are disputed.


  1. Ninjutsu is a disputable subject in the modern era. Its not a martial art, but, The martial art used by ninjas in an imitative form of jujutsu called tai-jutsu which belongs to be a filthy form of jujutsu

  2. That is a truly awesome thought! I wish I would have seen it before I tossed out the greater part of my little girl's old belts. Uh oh... We kept all her dark belts,Karate Belt Display UK
    so I may in any case have the capacity to duplicate your thought. If its all the same to you...