KUJI ASHI The Nine Steps
The classic exercise of Ninjitsu is penetration of the enemy camp for the purpose of espionage
or assassination. This tradition and many of the techniques come to us from the 13th to
16th century practice of the Art in feudal Japan. But, the symbolism can be traced much further
back. In tribal times, when Man was first beginning to congregate in groups and responsibilities
for such things as hunting , gathering, or agriculture were becoming defined by age or ability,
those of the Pole Star School (circa 6000 B.C.) were known and feared as the best hunters and
greatest warriors of their time. Some said that this was due to secret knowledge handed down to
them from an even more ancient culture. Others, owing to the primitive nature of the times, attributed
it to one single factor the ability to become invisible.,
This is not so incredible as it may sound. Since the history of our most ancient and honorable
Society records that tribal methods of invisibility included walking through the smoke of
the hunters campfire in order to remove the smell of humans from the body, making it more
difficult for any prey, most of which were armed with a much more highly developed olfactory
sense than man, from detecting the hunter. This necessarily led to an understanding of wind
since the wind direction also had to be considered when stalking. Once that hurdle was overcome,
the hunter was forced to develop skills like walking silently, understanding cover and
concealment, and learning the ways or patterns of the intended prey. Just like those who
learned, preserved, and passed on their knowledge, used to infiltrate and defeat armies of overwhelming
numerical superiority in later times.
The secret of invisibility, according to Ko Hung a Chinese philosopher and physician of the
3rd century A.D. is to sit as still as a lizard on a rock. In this way, one becomes a part of the
landscape and acts in harmony with nature. Of course, Ko Hung was referring to the practice
of meditation, one of his many teachings for health and self defense. Even he employed the
symbolism of penetrating a castle to explain his method.
First, one must equip himself with the means to bribe the guards and cross the threshold
unseen. (A reference to paying ones teacher, since Ko also said, If your teacher you cannot
remunerate, you will have no way to operate. But, a valuable lesson of invisibility as well.) Fly
to the sky-palace, surprise Lord Lao at his breakfast, snatch his Elixer of Immortality, fight off
those who come to defend it, break down the walls of the fortress and return to Earth an immortal.
One of your skill and ability need only follow my course of instruction to be certain of success.
The goal of this teaching was good health and longevity. Immortality, of course, is an
absolute. But a life span of more than 250 years is not unknown among those who practice the
very exercises given in the previous section. Certainly, that would have been considered
immortality in an age when nutrition was poor, infant death considerable, and old age
(beyond 60) was almost unheard of.
Sitting quietly, watching the enemy, waiting for the opportunity to strike, is indeed the
practice of invisibility. But, one must be able to place oneself in a position to do so. Further, to
actually make the penetration of the enemy fortress, one cannot simple wait for the camp to
come to him.
Therefore, the Ninja of old devised many methods of stealth and moving silently to complement
their ability to attract no attention by making no movement. The Kuji Ashi or Nine
Steps are the classic exercise of this skill.
Man sees in three ways, by movement, silhouette, and color. Man also hears, and some hear
more acutely than others. Also, since masters can sense an alien presence, one must have a
calm mind to escape their notice. To elude all these sensory pickups is to be invisible for all
To eradicate color, the Ninja employs black art, a magician’s trick. Black is the absence of
color. This means that a black surface absorbs all of the light rays incident upon it, reflecting
none. It is the reflected rays that give an object its apparent color. Further, a black surface
casts no shadow upon itself to define its depth. To the magician, this means that a box can be
made to appear empty when it actually conceals a great many objects.
To distort the silhouette, one employs yogic postures and camouflage. An example is the kimono-
ninja technique. The cape may be draped over the body in a variety of manners to alter
shape, or the kimono may be arranged independently to make it appear that one is standing
where one is not. This is called Ametori-no-jitsu.
To erase shadow and sound when moving from one position of concealment to the next, the
Ninja use the Nine Steps.