By opening his eyes and his mind, the NINJA can responsively follow the subtle seasons and reasons of heaven, changing just as change is necessary, adapting always, so that in the end there is no such thing as a surprise for the NINJA.”

Ninjutsu Hiketsu Bun


There are nine levels of personal development grouped into physical development, mental development, and spiritual development. The Ninjasuka (one who studies Ninjutsu/Ninpo) moves through these levels in a quest along “the Way” (Do) that takes a lifetime.

The first three levels of personal development are physical. In the first level of training, base physicality, the Ninjasuka practices empty-hand defense techniques, ukemi (rolling), and conditioning the body. Also taught in this phase are various weapons and techniques of movement.

The second level is concerned with the generation and channeling of the body’s energy. There are different sources of energy and different centers of energy in the body. “The ninja must be able to tap the energy source appropriate for what he wants to do. If he is too tense, he must calm himself. If he faces grave danger, he must rouse himself up. If he feels that someone is manipulating him, he must augment his sensitivity and awareness” (Hayes, The Ninja, 148).

In the third phase of development, the Ninjasuka learns to use the energy of the universe. In addition to tuning into the natural organization and harmony of the universe, the Ninjasuka learns how to use natural body movement to replace muscle power. In this way, weaker or older people are capable of exercising great power.

After gaining some level of proficiency in the physical level, there are three levels of mental development. Here the Ninjasuka studies him or herself to gain an understanding of others. This level also includes methods of sharpening sensitivity to the environment and the universal energy. This level also includes diet factors. The fourth level is the ridding of desire (as discussed in Seishin Teki Kyoyo). The fifth level of development is the ability to perceive danger (the Godan test). Following the Godan test, the Ninjasuka is ready to begin to truly understand him or herself in the sixth level. “One must strive to clear away all the twisted, faulty perceptions -- all the mental noise and contradictions that take up so much psychic energy. . . . Once we have cleared away the jungle of desires that has grown around our observing processes, we are on the way to spiritual power.” (Hayes, The Ninja, 148).

The final three levels of development are spiritual. Here, the Ninjasuka learns how to fit into the forces of nature. To understand how to make this fit, the Ninjasuka works on seeing the universe as a single, ever-moving process, rather than as countless isolated objects or actions.

These nine stages take a lifetime to learn, and many will never reach the upper levels. It is the goal, however, that every person who trains in this dojo achieves the highest level possible. Although the levels build upon another, it is not accurate to say a person must achieve all levels of the physical before beginning the mental or spiritual. After gaining some proficiency in one level, the Ninjasuka may begin to develop skills in the other areas as well.

The Heart Is Key