One of the most overlooked aspects within the art of Ninjutsu – the part of training that is loved by some students while hated by others – is the ninja body conditioning exercises known as the Junan Taiso. Love it or hate it, this article explores the importance and necessity of this critical element of your progress and eventual mastery.
The ninja’s junan taiso, or “body conditioning” methods developed over time from yoga-like exercises to increase not only the ninja’s flexibility, but also his ability to counter certain natural tendencies of the human condition. These exercises, while formalized and passed down as a unified set of “forms,” are not to be seen as “all there is.”
While it is not within the scope and context of this article to describe the actual exercises themselves, suffice it to say that you may have to substitute other exercises and movements for the “official” forms, at least until you have sufficiently increased your bodies mobility, flexibility, health and fitness level.
In addition to the original forms which focus primarily on increasing your range of motion, you can divide the junan taiso into two categories of exercise. Each type focuses on strengthening a different part of the human body. The 2 primary types include:
- Exercises designed to strengthen the muscles and allw the ninja to perform many of the skills that the shadow warrior has become famous for, and…
- Exercises whose purpose is to increase the range of motion in the joints.
Ironically, when we think of the concept of “strengthening,” muscle-building exercises are all that come to mind. However, while the muscles can be strengthened through conventional exercise, doing so does little to make the joints stronger. In fact, this actually causes the joints to become closed and tight. So, the ninja uses stretching exercises to make sure that he has the range of motion to allow for escapes and certain techniques.
Here is a list of benefits that the ninja warrior gets from engaging in daily practice with the junan taiso:
- Increased flexibility
- Opening of the joints to increase the flow of fluids and electrical impulses to the extremities
- Increased energy
- Stress relief
- Opening the major points at the base and top of the spine, which promotes greater flow of energy up and down the spinal cord and through the chakra
My teacher also says that junan taiso practice slows the aging process. And, based on what I have seen and experienced first-hand, I would agree!