Ninjas Wielded Exotic Weapons
Ninjas have a reputation for using lots of fancy weapons: blowguns, sickles with chains and heavy weights called kusigara, throwing stars... all sorts of fun death-dealing toys. The truth is actually a lot scarier. Yeah, the ninja had plenty of fancy weapons. But that didn't mean he wouldn't just kill you with a rock if that happened to be easier.
Ninjas were masters of death improv and turning innocuous items into really scary nightmare inducing engines of death. Take the ninja's signature weapon, the shuriken.
The shuriken weren't custom weapons; they were usually whatever flat metal was handy to sharpen, like coins, or was already sharp, like nails. They weren't designed to kill directly, either; they were supposed to be distractions or handy tools. For example; soak a cloth in poison, wrap it around the shuriken, and light it on fire. Boom, flying poison smoke cloud. Or they'd leave them in feces to rust, and then plant them in the ground as foot spikes. Then you got tetanus, which was incurable at the time and also still a really horrible way to die.
But they didn't need them. A ninja attempting an assassination dressed as a peasant could just use the sickle he happened to be holding, or have a rifle handy (yep, ninjas used guns). In short, the entire idea of the ninja wasn't using fancy weapons, it was making sure the other guy was dead.
Ninjas Had Mystical Powers
Most ideas people had of ninjas fading through walls and catching swords in their bare hands are either exaggerations from historical sources, or outright lies spread by the ninja. Remember, they wanted people as scared of them as humanly possible: it made their jobs a LOT easier if just the mention of their names had people soaking their underpants in fear.
Also remember that this is the fifteenth century. People in general were a lot more gullible and ignorant than they are now, and even the smartest samurai was no exception. He was a lot more likely to assume the samurai had demons at his command instead of thinking "Hey, this douchebag is throwing around smoke bombs! Somebody get me a pail of water!"
Partially thanks to their PR department and partially thanks to people misinterpreting the stories they heard on the road, the ninja enjoyed their reputation as really scary hombres and sometimes designed their techniques to cater to it. For example, if a samurai was distracted, a quick throw of a blade that he doesn't see would convince him he was being attacked by an invisible swordsman. Or they hid steel climbing claws in their gloves, which could easily parry a katana, but the attacker would be convinced they had steel hands.
In other words, ninjas really were sneaky. Just not the way you thought.
Any more facts about this internet darling? Got some wild speculation about the results of cage matches between them and pirates? Post below!
- - Ninjas Wore Black Suits: http://fistfightatthearthouse.files.wordpress.com/2008/07/24_ninjas_lgl.jpg
- - Ninjas Were Assassins: http://profitninja.files.wordpress.com/2008/05/father-was-killed-by-ninja-l0ckergn0me.jpg
- - Ninjas Only Snuck Around at Night: http://fc07.deviantart.net/fs40/f/2009/046/4/8/Ninjas_Motivational_Poster_by_kokonut10.jpg
- - Ninjas Wielded Exotic Weapons: http://aap.blackaris2001.org/PredatorPropReplica/PredatorPropShurikenLifeSizeS.jpg
- - Ninjas Had Mystical Powers: http://images.icanhascheezburger.com/completestore/2008/11/17/128714211286008705.jpg