Originally published 02DEC2010 for Examiner.com
K&B, LLC co-owner and instructor Don Alley is a martial arts, personal protection, and emergency preparedness writer. Many of his articles originally appeared in Examiner.com. As these articles are able to be retrieved from old web caches, they will be posted here.
The Internet is responsible for bringing out rare and obscure holidays, such as International Talk Like a Pirate Day, Velociraptor Awareness Day, 42 Day, and many others. In this fine tradition, December 5 is Day of the Ninja! Your chance to dress in black pajamas and pretend you have superhuman stealth and skills!
Hollywood is largely responsible for not only popularizing the historic profession but also transforming the ninja from a sinister, unknown threat to the misunderstood anti-hero of today. The storytelling focus transformed them from paid killers with mysterious powers to the persevering and dedicated martial arts practitioners with good motives but sometimes less-than-savory methods of achieving their goals.
Serious martial arts practitioners tend to scoff at the mythical and fictional ninja the West has created, though it cannot be denied that this same entertainment has made many people both aware of and participants in the martial arts. So, while holidays like this one honoring the mythical figures are fun and lighthearted, each of us should take a moment and reflect on all the stories, cartoon characters, and fiction that permeated our childhoods and planted the seeds of desire for martial arts training. Many people practicing today are doing so because of some Technicolor turtle wielding a pair of sai.
I contacted Michael Fiegel, the creator of this holiday, and asked some questions. If you’re going to get into your black pajamas and sneak around in the mall, you deserve to know what you’re getting into, and who has called you into action.
Why did you invent the holiday?
The Day of the Ninja was essentially created as a counter to International Talk Like a Pirate Day, which is held every September 19. The conflict between pirates and ninja is well known (if only on the Internet), and it only seemed fair that if pirates got a holiday then ninja should get one, too.
What is your interest in ninja? Are you a fan of the myth, the history, or the martial art?
I’ve always been a fan of ninja, starting with the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and old Michael Dudikoff films. In 2000 I created a website called Ninja Burger which became quite popular, and so creating a holiday to celebrate ninja was a logical extension of my interest. Since then I’ve become even more fascinated by ninja lore and history. The real stuff is even more interesting than the fiction; the real Hattori Hanzo was a samurai and a ninja, and he even died fighting pirates. Sort of.
How many people around the world do you estimate are observing this holiday in some way?
It’s difficult to say for several reasons, not the least of which is that ninja tend to be more secretive and quiet about things. Things definitely seem to grow every year as more people learn about it. Based on the volume of email and the activity on Facebook, wikis and other social networks, it’s safe to say that tens of thousands of people actively participate in some way each year, however small. Some people dress up like ninja, others post things on their blogs, and this year there are some flash mobs being planned. So watch out. The number three movie of all time in terms of box office gross is The Dark Knight, and Batman is definitely a ninja.
So, while it remains unclear if Mr. Fiegel is a serious practitioner of the art of ninjutsu, or if Splinter was a father figure to him, you should have enough information now to determine exactly how you will be spending this holiday.
I’d say, “See you at the mall,” but if you’re doing it right, I won’t be able to spot you.