In the Dead or Alive universe, the shinobi (忍び) are a group of elite warriors who use their highly advanced techniques and skills to perform tasks such as espionage, combat operations, and assassinations. While commonly referred to as "ninja" (忍者), the term “shinobi” historically precedes the modern word "ninja." However, regardless of which is used, both terms refer to a secretive group of shadow warriors and spies originating in medieval Japan. The term "kunoichi" (くノ一) is used for female shinobi.
In medieval Japan, internal struggles reached their peak in the 16th century and accordingly the shinobi became prominent as intelligence agencies and military "special operation groups." They formed their own tribes/clans through close familial integration. The clans are so closely knit that their secrets, history, and technology was only inherited through closed bloodlines.
As such they were a very independent group of people. They made their living from espionage and military operations but they weren’t simply an organization placed into effect by a government. They had skills exceeding even the most experienced samurai and were masters of strategy. They were few in number but they possessed enough defensive power to keep those in power at a constant distance. This state of independence, however, was constantly in crisis due to their existence as neutral outsiders and the fact that they were so small in number. In order to maintain this independence they sold their unique technology as a unique product to those in power.
History and Origins
The shinobi technologies and beliefs are notably similar to the training practices and physical training philosophies of a force of mountaineers who would not submit to the will of a centralized government, who are considered to be the closest people to the mythical tribes of beings known as "tengu" (天狗).
"Yamabushi" (山伏, lit. “mountain dwellers”) were mountain priests who worshiped the tengu. They were obsessed with the god-like power of the tengu and trained their minds, bodies, and souls by running through the mountains in order to obtain that power. Of course, the yamabushi weren’t members of the tengu tribes and their physical limits were no different than those of other Japanese people, so generally they couldn’t hope to attain as much power as the tengu. However, on rare occasions, a member of the yamabushi tribe would produce a "tengu" offspring; an individual with tengu-like powers and an amazing capacity for education and strategy.
The shinobi and yamabushi are hard to tell apart. In fact, there is a tendency to consider them as being one and the same. Since both groups of people maintained secrecy in the mountains, there are no existing historical records depicting the relationship between the two. But certain evidence points in that direction, particularly in their relationship with the tengu.
Ninjutsu strongly emphasizes the technology employed by the tengu. For example, the Ninpo ability “Izuna Otoshi” (used by Ryu Hayabusa), is actually derived from the laws of Izuna pioneered by the great Tengu, Saburo Iizuna.
The shinobi clans generally lived in hidden villages in the mountains, away from government and modern influences.
Techniques and Combat Abilities
Training started very early in life. But only after completing tests and training so intense it cannot be described using words did they combine with the highly trained bloodline. All members were specialists of extreme skill.
- Main article: Ninjutsu
The martial combat style associated with the shinobi, ninjutsu emphasizes fast and powerful attacks while also employing espionage techniques, concealed weaponry, and mystical abilities known as ninpo.
- Mugen Tenshin (Tenjinmon) style ninjutsu
- Mugen Tenshin (Hajinmon) style ninjutsu
- Hayabusa style ninjutsu
- Main article: Ninpo
The arts of ninpo assist the shinobi’s fighting prowess by providing powerful attacks through the use of ki energy, incantation scrolls, and talismans as well as enchanted weaponry. It is the shinobi’s form of magic and its knowledge, like ninjutsu, was passed down from the tengu.
Philosophy and Way of Life
In a more general sense, the nature of shinobi means "to endure by maintaining calmness." However, this kind of endurance means perseverance even to the point of accepting death calmly as, for the shinobi, death is calmly viewed as a philosophical view of a higher state. This philosophy is infused into the shinobi from an early age.
For the shinobi, the single most important principle is the continued existence of their clan and for this they will endure individual pain and suffering if it means the clan’s continued prosperity. Even when the members of the same Shinobi tribe were to become enemies during the course of their missions, professionalism was never sacrificed. Thus, personal ties were a hindrance to that professionalism. Once the Shinobi left their home villages, parenthood and siblinghood meant nothing to them. Of course, once they returned, the connections were reinstated as if they were never broken.
Their very existence and purpose required that each shinobi be able to endure circumstances that an average individual would be unable to survive or accept. The weak that were willing to abandon this endurance were considered a threat to the clan’s prosperity and were often chased and killed on the spot, those labeled a nukenin (runaway shinobi).
- In Japanese, 忍 ("shinobu") is a verb meaning "to endure by maintaining calmness" and “to perform actions with the utmost secrecy.”