the most well-known weapon in the historical ninja's fighting arsenal is the
throwing stars, or
shuriken throwing blade. At least as far as contemporary popular novels,
movies, and television programs are concerned, nothing triggers thoughts of the
ninja as readily as these flying blades of thin hammered steel. Though throwing
stars can now be purchased conveniently from any of countless martial arts
supply shops, it is ironic that the shuriken was once one of the most closely
guarded secrets of certain ninja families of feudal Japan.
Essentially, the art of throwing stars, or shuriken-jutsu,
was divided into two distinct categories. One was based on the star-shaped
designs and the other on the spike-shaped designs. Both could be devastatingly
lethal when wielded by a skilled practitioner of the art.
Until recently, there were only 10 distinct star-shaped styles of shuriken
favored by the ninja. The early designs included cross-shaped, four-pointed,
six-pointed, eight-pointed, and ten-pointed configurations. Variations also
included triangular, swastika-shaped, hexagonal, pentagonal, and three-pointed
The spike-shaped shuriken also were constructed in a variety of designs,
depending upon the needs and skill of the shadow warrior. They could be pointed
on one or both ends and range in lengths and shaft configurations from
completely round to hexagonal, triangular, or rectangular.
The star-shaped shuriken throwing starswere more versatile and required less overall
skill in mastering the art of throwing them. Since the multifaceted points could
be made to stick every time the weapon was thrown, the star-shaped designs were
usually more abundant in the ninja’s arsenal than the spike-shaped. The
spike-shaped shuriken, if accuracy was expected, required a keen judgment
of distance, velocity-to-spin ratio, rotation, and aerodynamic characteristics
before it could be used successfully in actual combat.
the other hand, the star-shaped designs minimized the chances of missing simply
because there were points on all sides of the weapon. This is not to say that
the star-shaped shuriken was fail-safe. In fact, this weapon of stealth required
a tremendous understanding on the part of the thrower if it was to be used as a
lethal weapon rather than a simple nuisance or diversionary tactic.
The art of throwing star-shaped shurikens was an exacting science that required
countless hours of training before the necessary skills were acquired. Details
like shurikencomposition, gripping methods, throwing positions, drawing,
trajectory, penetration characteristics, sighting methods, accuracy, fighting
tactics, knowledge of lethal target areas, rapid fire in the event that one
missed its mark, moving targets, and multiple shuriken throwing techniques were
all necessary if the shinobi was to use his weapon in the most effective
manner. In turn, each of those considerations was essentially an exacting
science itself. If there was a lack of proficiency, either on the part of the
executioner or the weapon, dismal failure could ultimately be expected from the
Equally important as the physical skills and a familiarity with shurikencharacteristics were the positive emotional
characteristics of the thrower. These included calmness, confidence, concentration, consistency,
objectivity, patience under duress, deliberateness, perseverance. temperance to
combative crisis, persistence, moderations in anxiety, and field experience.
The ninjutsuwarrior was also keenly aware of
the physical factors that had to be mastered inconjunction with these emotional elements.
These factors included proper power for the shape or design of his shuriken; familiarity with the weapon; good hand-eye
coordination; consistency in technique; proper methodology; good posture to
ensure accuracy; proper gripping, body positioning, power-to-distance ratios,
and release judgment; the right weapon for the specific task; and a full
comprehension of the particular shuriken’scapability. it is no wonder that the ninja was
a master of his craft.
The years of training prepared him for that single moment when he may be called
upon to offer his skills and services to one in power. In the event of capture,
these dedicated espionage agents would use concealed explosives to take their
own lives and destroy their facial features so their personal and their clan’s
identities would not be divulged to the enemy. The ninjutsu warrior had to dedicate his life to his
profession and be willing to die for the sake of completing a mission.