I love ninjas.
There – I’ve said it.
I love those men and women in black from yesteryear.
I grew up in what you could arguably call the Ninja Spring, when ninjas exploded onto our screens in the 1980s. Climbing castle keeps, breathing underwater with bamboo reeds, jumping backwards up into trees – the shinobi were everywhere, delighting a Western audience already primed with the likes of Shogun, The Samurai and Kung Fu.
I was there with the rest of the schoolkids as we all followed the craze. We harvested metal in our backyards to make home-made shuriken (maybe one in 10 flew straight). We jumped off of trees and small buildings, believing if we just “bent our knees” like the ninjas did we could land safely from great heights. We frequented martial arts stores to buy small-and-medium size ninja suits, much to the bemusement of the store owners, who knew better than to ask questions. We laughed as kids brained themselves with clumsily-made nunchuks … or cried if we were the ones getting brained.
We spent enough 20-cent pieces for a 1980s house deposit playing ninja games at the arcades. We learnt the weapons of the ninja – “No, the ninja sword is the ninjato. The samurai sword is the katana” – as well as their mystical beliefs: “The ninja fears nothing except the failure of a mission.” For elite level nerd points, some of us even knew that “nunchuks” were actually “nunchaku”.
Our merry band of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles crept around schoolyards trying to sneak up on each other like our ninja hero Sho Kosugi, who was to ninja films what Bruce Lee was to martial arts movies.
For a while it seemed as if ninjas really were unkillable – at least the ninja movie genre, anyway.
Ninjas were just another reason why the ’80s were awesome. (You could chuck in the Atari 2600, Rubik’s Cubes, Walkmen, the films of John Hughes and New Romantic music into that list, too, but that’s another article.)
And then, like their shadow warrior namesakes, movies about ninjas disappeared.
Kids stopped taking ninjutsu classes or making aeronautically challenged shuriken. Fewer children required first aid for nunchuk wounds or darts to the neck spat from PVC pipes. There were fewer reports of students jumping off canteen roofs.
What followed was the age of Tolkien, of hobbits, of Marvel superheroes and special forces soldiers. Ninja retreated back in the shadows to trouble samurai lords and multiplexes no more.
Yet ninjas still have their aficionados. Hugh Jackman put them in his second Wolverine installment – and what a treat it was for all good children of the ’80s.
In fact, I love ninjas so much I’ve put them in my sequel to my ebook military thriller, The Spartan. An immovable object inspired by ancient Greek history will meet an unstoppable force from the mists of Japan.
There will be swordfighting. Shurikens. Assassinations. Ancient swords. Stealth attacks. Disguise and deception. Death.
Plus the eternal enemy of the ninja – samurai.
Let the battle commence.
And welcome back into the light, my sweet shinobi.
My ebook military thriller, The Spartan, is out now on Amazon.