Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice is getting closer and closer. Ten days after having it in your hands, you have to talk about some of the legends that surround the figure of the ninja, some certain, others not so much , and all the mythology that flows around these legendary warriors that were, to a great extent, originated by the schools themselves to put fear into the bodies of their enemies. An early marketing strategy that undoubtedly had an unprecedented success.
The figure of the shinobi
First of all, talk about reality beyond the proto-marketing of the ninja, of these advertising strategies that were perhaps the most important part of their perception by the rest of society and that supposed great benefits for the shinobi -ninjas- , both economically and in terms of survival and combat advantage . Lethal weapons for hire in the Sengoku period, the labors of the ninja went far beyond simple murder, being perfect spies, counselors, protectors and inciters to gekokujo or revolution.
For their role as spies, ninja were trained in all the arts , in subjects as diverse as mathematics, painting, politics, poetry, music or theater as in other areas such as combat and seduction. The latter being imparted not only to kunoichi or ninja women, but also to men, since homosexuality was fully contemplated in Japanese culture until it merged with western culture during the Meiji Restoration, many years after the Portuguese shipwreck and the attempts of Francisco Javier and the Jesuits to expand the criticism with the help of Oda Nobunaga.
The ninja was, therefore, a member of the special forces capable of achieving their objectives in many ways, lethal and non-lethal, going beyond mere murder. Educated both culturally and physically, from children received training in combat without weapons, bow – yumi – blowgun – fukiya – throwing objects such as shuriken or kunai , combat with swords and combat with hidden weapons such as the fan – uchiwa , paper , and tessen , of iron-, the jutte or small trident, or the kusari gama-hoz with chain-. Along with these weapons, each with its own style and handling, such as the nunchako or the long chain with blade – kyoketsu shoge -, the ninja and the kunoishi used a large number of hidden weapons such as hairpins or kanzashi , generally imbued with poison, the neko-te or cat’s nails, sharp leaves that were placed on the tips of the fingers, and tools such as the metsubushi , the famous smoke bombs that were actually irritating dust that introduced into the shell of an egg empty or in a bamboo tube to throw into the eyes of the enemy with the purpose of killing him and running away.
Myths and legends
Thanks to these and other tools, the figure of the shinobi, a warrior far more technologically advanced than his rival samurai and ashiragu, managed to surround himself with a mysticism that led the rest of society in feudal Japan to see them as lethal ghosts with great esoteric powers. The ninja posed, for the average Japanese of the time, the power to walk on water, stick to the walls, disappear, slow down or advance time, control the elements and even become an animal. Behind this mythology was concealed, as we said before, a whole marketing strategy dedicated to confusing the enemy and increasing the legend and that usually made the ninja associate with his “traditional uniform” when in reality they used to dress without attracting attention as beggars or peasants wore armor in battle and wore brown clothes instead of blacks to camouflage themselves.
Today it is obvious that many of the then considered ‘spells’ and ‘magic techniques’ were nothing more than an advanced knowledge of materials such as gunpowder and oil along with a great work of craftsmanship and imagination. The ninja dominated the water and could walk on it thanks to the placement of wooden plates in certain strategic points of the river that formed a delicate bridge as an escape route. It could also disappear under water and not come back up for air, rather than getting a hollow reed, his blowgun or case – saya – perforated his sword – Ninjato -. Obviously this, like hanging on walls using the hooks of hands – tekagi shuko – and those of feet – ashikos- required an outstanding physical preparation that, together with myths and legends, made enemies give him these magical abilities. As a curious fact of how far they worked their legendary image, some ninja carried small animals such as owls, pigeons or rabbits, once the metsubushi were used in their flight, let them loose and make the enemies believe that they had become animals.
Of all these elements of the ninja, obviating things such as shinpo and kuji kiri or cuts made with nine symbols with hands for meditation, what is most striking is how they dominated the free movement and used simple tools to be able to perform feats like the one mentioned to cross a lake running on thin boards or reach great heights by using a simple rope tied to a hook that, under the name of kanigawa , will be the tool that we will use in Shekiro Shadows Die Twice to move freely on the stage .
To achieve this form of free movement, what today we call parkour , the shinobi trained day and night since childhood to achieve control of his body and, more importantly, that of his mind. With techniques of development of ki or inner energy very similar to those used by the samurai in their training, both warriors and others performed a strenuous routine of physical exercise that, once exhausted all their energies, led them to focus on the ki and move based on pure will , overcoming through concentration the limitations of the human body and thus achieving unite mind and body to realize what to the eyes of the average individual seemed impossible feats.
And here today’s text of ninjas and samurai special month of Sekiro , with many things that will undoubtedly sound like games like Tenchu, NiOh or Shinobido, and I hope they are present in Sekiro Shadows Die Twice, especially in what It corresponds to that freedom of movement that makes combat something very visceral and organic. Failing to put-at last-the hands on the last of From Software, we can only dream …