Dojo Tribute: The Ninja Boom
Much like the current MMA boom in today’s martial arts world, the early to mid 1980’s offered the Ninja Boom. For those that were not around for this, it was a great time to be a fan of martial arts and martial arts movies. The Ninja got major coverage in martial arts publications such as Ninja Magazine, Black Belt, Inside Karate, and Inside Kung Fu (just to name a few). Authors and practitioners such as Stephen K. Hayes, Robert Bussey, Dr. Masaaki Hatsumi, Harunaka Hoshino, Ronald Duncan, and others fueled the desire for the Ninja with their books, instructional videos, and a plethora of magazine articles about the secret assassins that were invincible. Eager to continue on the popularity of martial arts the Ninja became a figure used in movies, video games, TV series, and was a fixture of the popular culture of that time period. You were not cool if you didn’t have a Ninja uniform complete with tabi boots and tabi socks!
The Ninja were our heroes as we watched one Ninja take out entire platoons of Samurai, Special Forces, Terrorists, and even Secret Service Agents. This made for some great martial arts cinema and TV( in the US, Hong Kong/Taiwan, and Japan)! Many martial arts stars were highlighted during this period and many were introduced to the Western world. Legends such as Sho Kosugi, Sonny Chiba, Horoyuki Sanada, Michael Dudikoff, and Franco Nero(Enter the Ninja), thrived on the big and small screen ( remember the TV series The Master starring Lee Van Cleef)! Film companies such As Tohei Studios, Shaw Brothers, Golden Harvest as well as smaller independent companies in Hong Kong, the US, and Taiwan produced classics of the Ninja sub genre like Ninja in the Dragon’s Den, Five Element Ninjas, Ninja in the Deadly Trap, and Mafia vs Ninja.
The fascination with the Ninja still exists today although not quite as strong as it was in the 1980’s. By the late 1980’s many of the magazines devoted solely to Ninja stories or Ninjutsu started losing popularity and general martial arts magazines such as Black Belt ran fewer and fewer articles on the subject. The Ninja boom slowed down and pop culture moved on to other things in the martial arts world. The Ninja, however, still remain in our minds as the ultimate warrior; the lone assassin with some very capable methods of destroying almost anything or anyone. Movies such as Ninja and Ninja II starring martial arts dynamo Scott Adkins as well as Ninja Assassin ( starring Korean pop star Rain), the NBC TV series American Ninja Warrior and a bunch of smaller independent movies and web series are once again highlighting the Ninja and the myth that made them our favorite underdog bad a**. We cannot forget the Ninja Boom of the 1980’s and all the great martial arts action it brought us. The Film Fan Dojo thanks the authors, magazines, stars, Ninjutsu Masters, Grandmasters, movies studios, and directors of Ninja movies. You guys made my childhood memorable and you crafted a sub-genre in the martial arts movie world that will never be duplicated. Stay tuned to Film Fan Dojo as we explore more about some of our favorite Ninja movies and TV series.
P.S. This tribute does not cover the fascination Japan had with the Ninja( as a medium of entertainment) during the 1960’s and we encourage the reader to watch the EXCELLENT series