Becoming a Ninja Warrior

Becoming a Ninja Warrior

I’ve long been obsessed with ninjas, the legendary shadow warriors of feudal Japan. I love their dark mystique and their mindset of endurance, discipline, survivalism and mysticism—the polar opposite of the modern mentality of instant gratification, egotism, fragility, fear of darkness and materialism. I’ve read dozens of books about them, from the historically accurate to modern interpretations to the wildly fictional, and enjoyed most of them. They are a primary influence on my own path of the Shadow Scout. One of the more interesting takes on the ninja that I’ve come across is contained in the book Becoming a Ninja Warrior by Martin Faulks.

Faulks is an English esoteric writer and teacher with a background in Hermeticism and Freemasonry. He’s also highly adept at meditation and martial arts, which he demonstrates in older videos at his youtube channel. According to the account in Ninja Warrior, in the early 2000s Faulks did what many Westerners have only fantasized about: sought out real ninjas in the modern world and trained with them in their ancient martial and mystical arts in an effort to became a more powerful, shadow-aware person. He trained with thieves, mystics, mountain monks and martial arts warriors around the world, rather like a real-life Bruce Wayne in the film Batman Begins.

Faulks describes the ninja as part thief, part mystic and part warrior. This is reflected in his training under various masters: first with the “Norfolk Ninjas”—two amoral working-class British rogues who teach him the dark arts of stealth, lockpicking, and infiltration; then with Stephen Hayes, the famous American ninjutsu guru who takes a more spiritual approach to training; then in Japan under Bujinkan Grand Master Hatsumi and other Japanese masters who focus on martial arts; and finally with the ancient brotherhood of Yamabushi mountain monks of Japan, who seek spiritual strength by enduring austerities in nature.

All of these stories were interesting, but I found the first and last groups particularly so. The Norfolk Ninjas have their own “Bat Cave” in the basement of their mother’s house, stocked with a huge collection of ninja books, movies, weapons and tools. In addition to rigorous combat and lockpicking, their training includes a lot of prowling around in black ninja suits at night,  playing pranks on policemen by sneaking into their cars and stealing their radios to test their stealth skills. At the other end of the spectrum, the Yamabushi training consisted of hiking for several days in the mountains while fasting, getting little or no sleep, chanting, praying at shrines, hanging off cliffs and participating in a fire-walking ritual. It’s fascinating that their Shugendō (“Way of trial & practice”) tradition, which is over a thousand years old and is said to have influenced the ninja, still exists long after the historical ninja lineages have been broken.

Personally, I suspect Faulks made up some of the stories in this book. The Norfolk Ninjas in particular sound too perfect; they remind me of the kind of characters esoteric teachers invent to illustrate their ideas. I could be wrong, and I hope I am. It’s an inspiring story, regardless. But it should be noted that even if everything Faulks described in this book really happened, he’s still not a ninja. To experience the full reality of ninjutsu, he would need to do more than train in dojos and run around at night in the English countryside. He would need go into a warzone, train with special forces, infiltrate forbidden places, escape captivity, spy for MI6, execute a heist, commit arson, and the like. Enduring life-threatening danger in war-time conditions, and using stealth, deception and skill to survive, is the essence of the ninjutsu art. With those caveats, Warrior is an enjoyable and inspiring read for anyone interested in this topic.

Get a copy of Becoming a Ninja Warrior here (or a new version called The Path of the Ninja here).

Ways of the Shadow Scouts

Ways of the Shadow Scouts

Introduction

The brotherhood of Shadow Scouts that I envision is a secretive society of free spirits who think outside the boxes of current ways of life and structures of power. Here are some more details about the ways of this brotherhood, as practiced by myself and as I foresee them developing.

Ranges

Shadow Scouts reject existing national and territorial boundaries and reserve the right to roam anywhere we please. Each Scout will usually have a home “range” that he frequently scouts, which won’t overlap with the ranges of other Scouts because we do respect each other’s territory. Within his range, each Scout will be responsible for scouting shadow routes, establishing lookouts, gathering intelligence, leaving Scout sign and recruiting others. Collectively, Shadow Scouts are the rangers of our own shadowy nation—one with its own ideals, codes of conduct, communications, security, intelligence service and language.

Shadow Routes

As previously discussed here, “shadow routes” are routes that offer stealth travel and are not frequented by vehicles, police, security or the general public. They include:

  • Forest roads
  • Foot and bicycle trails
  • Power line corridors
  • Railroad tracks
  • Rivers and waterways

The first task of the Scout is to explore all shadow routes in his range, establishing stealthy routes for bugging out, gathering intelligence, getting to lookouts and general travel. He should also scout pathless sections between shadow routes—bushwhacking, crossing deserts, cutting across private property, crossing borders, etc.—so as to be able to travel long distances with maximum stealth and freedom.

Power line corridors can be good shadow routes.

Lookouts

Shadow Scouts should establish lookouts in areas where they are active. These are places where Scouts can observe an area, take shelter, meet other Scouts, leave messages and cache supplies. They will be established not only in wilderness areas, but in rural, suburban and urban locations. In our secret tongue, lookouts are called tyârzunz (“lookplaces”).

Locations

Some elements of a good wilderness lookout include:

  • near existing shadow routes
  • good views of the surrounding area
  • discreet location away from established camps, trails and roads
  • near natural shelters and camping areas
  • near water sources
  • places to discreetly cache supplies and leave messages

With well-stocked lookouts located along shadow routes, you can use them as re-supply points to travel long distances and extend your stays in the field. The best lookouts should be difficult to get to. They should require scouting skills to reach so they are unlikely to be visited by non-Scouts. This adds to their mystique as special places for a special breed of person.

A lookout location overlooking my home range and the U.S.-Canada border.
Caches

A weather- and animal-proof container, such as an ammo can, bear can, PVC pipe or wide-mouthed plastic bottle, should be hidden at the lookout site for caching supplies. A notebook and pen should be included in the cache for Scouts to log their visits and leave messages, if desired. Possible items to put in caches include:

  • food
  • maps of the area
  • emergency shelter (poncho, tarp, space blanket, etc.)
  • clothing
  • firestarters (lighter, matches, flammable material)
  • cookware (pot, stove, fuel, silverware)
  • water purification (filter, tablets)
  • medical supplies
  • lights and batteries
  • duct tape, thread, needle
  • notebook and pen/pencil
  • cash
A plastic container cache at one of my lookouts, marked with Scout sign.
Using Lookouts
  • When travelling, the Scout should visit lookouts as needed to obtain supplies and send or receive messages. The Scout should leave supplies in the caches for future use by himself and other Scouts whenever possible. Ideally, in a bug-out situation a Scout should be able to walk from his location with just the clothes on his back to nearby lookouts to obtain emergency supplies so he can stay in the field for days.
  • The Scout should leave no trace of his visits to lookouts by carefully re-burying caches, packing out trash and covering his tracks.
  • Lookout locations should be memorized. Part of the Scout’s training is learning the locations of lookouts in areas where he travels. Locations might also be sketched on paper, but avoid storing them in GPS devices as this makes it easier for the lookout network to be compromised.
  • The seal of the Shadow Scouts should be placed somewhere at the lookout to identify it to others of our kind.

Communications

Scouts have their own secret ways of communicating with each other, including:

Language

Shadow Scouts have their own spoken and written language, which they use to identify each other, leave messages, and reinforce their status as members of a separate, secret society. Understand that this language actually exists; it is not some figment of my imagination. To learn more about it, you will need to be admitted into the Scout society by following clues that will be provided at this blog.

Scout Sign

“Scout sign” are symbols of the Shadow Scouts placed in strategic locations to mark ranges, shadow routes, lookouts and other points of interest. These symbols can be engraved in wood or stone, drawn, painted, made with rock or wood arrangements, etc. The primary symbol used for signing is the “Scout seal” shown below, which is shorthand for “Scout” in our secret tongue:

The seal of the Shadow Scouts.

Individual Scouts should also develop their own seals, to mark their ranges and identify themselves to other Scouts. When I’m out scouting I carve the Shadow Scout seal on trees, bridges, kiosks and other structures I find with my knife; here is a sign carved on a bridge on a shadow route in my range:

The Shadow Scout seal carved on a bridge marks it as part of a shadow route.
Recognition Sign

Scouts may also use a special hand sign to identify themselves to other members of the Brotherhood. This is the gesture in the photo below: hand held sideways, with fingers split and thumb out, representing the Scout seal. Make this casually to someone you suspect of being a fellow Scout, and if they return the gesture you will know they are one of our kind.

If you see someone walking on a lonely road making this sign, he’s probably a Shadow Scout!

Recruiting

For the moment Shadow Scouting is a solitary vision, but one of my goals is to find others who share this vision and recruit them to the brotherhood. Here are a few communities I am eyeing for recruitment, both as Shadow Scouts and as allies and informants:

  • Thru-Hikers: “Thru-hikers” have their own society, with trail names, lingo, volunteer supporters, shelters, hostels, trail towns and donation boxes. They also have a sense of adventure, independence and ability to roam long distances, all of which makes them good potential Shadow Scouts. I have begun scouting sections of the major hiking trails in my area, the Pacific Northwest Trail and the Pacific Crest Trail, in hopes of encountering a thru-hiker who may be interested in being part of this brotherhood. It is common for thru-hikers to take hiking partners on long hikes, so I may be able to discreetly introduce Shadow Scouting to one in this way.
  • Geocachers: Geocaching is a type of treasure-hunting game that involves placing containers with small items and notebooks in obscure places for other geocachers to find. There are thousands of geocaches around the world, in every kind of environment, often in interesting and scenic locations. Geocachers have their own lingo and community; for example, non-geocachers are known as “muggles”. I have recently begun vising the geocaches in my area and placing my sign in them. I may start placing my own geocaches in difficult locations with messages for potential Scouts about becoming part of the brotherhood.

    Scout sign left in a geocache in my range.
  • Hoboes: The modern community of “hoboes” or “freight-hoppers” is small compared to its golden age in the early 20th century, when they had their own hobo signs, road names, lingo and community, but there are still a few around. Their “tags” (signs) can be found under bridges, in abandoned houses, on rail cars and other places hoboes frequent. I have researched this lifestyle a bit and intend to ride the rails in the near future, not only to gain familiarity with these shadow routes, but to see what kind of people I may be able to recruit.
I keep an eye out for other shadowy characters on the trails to recruit to the Brotherhood.