Gamesmanship - part 7

The Urban Ninja

If there is no one in front of you, it is you who is holding up the traffic."
- Auberon K.

The historical and traditional martial art of Urban Ninjaism has been with us since the closing years of the last millennium, so it is hard to imagine there are still people out there who have never heard of it. Though it originated as a hobby to see who could maneuver his way from one end of Oxford Street to the other in the fastest possible time without touching any of the crowds, it was solidified into a sport by the writing of “The Urban Ninja Handbook” (Harpie Cullings) by my close friend, fellow gamesman and philosopher Auberon K. It has since dominated the world of global competitive sportsmanship surpassing even that of three-fingered chess and the controversial espresso croquet sessions.

As was pointed out at a recent expatriate gamesman appreciation evening at the club, with our genetically longer legs and massively more important lives we obviously move much faster than the natives and a such the art should find natural expression in Tokyo. And so I set out to rewrite the rulebook to include specific offensive and defensive techniques and moves that can be utilized with great success on the busy streets of Tokyo.

These following extracts must be preceded by a reminder of the very basics of the sport; the combatants must never touch, physically, though props may be used as defensive weapons though never directly against another person. The opponent must not become aware he is embroiled in a bout of Urban Ninjaim. No one talks about Urban Ninjaism.

The striking cobra

This first offensive technique has proven very popular in the motherland and loses nothing of its effect when transposed to the surroundings of Tokyo inner-city street life. When confronted by an oncoming wall of at least two opponents the Urban Ninja must create an opening to pass through. The combatant braces himself by turning his right shoulder (or left for the sinister) towards one of the oncoming targets. This aggressive move heralds an inevitable clash for which the Urban Ninja has prepared himself, alerting the opponent and forcing a defensive pose; he will turn away his right shoulder to deflect the blow. This creates a gap in the wall which the combatant should be able to slip through with a quick turn of the left shoulder and a rapid right-left sidestep before the opponent realises he will not be harmed.
If anything this move is slightly more effective over here as it plays on the stereotype that all foreigners are aggressive and rude.

The empty-handed Samurai
The sound of umbrellas opening is like the cocking of a thousand muskets, each aimed squarely at my eyes." – Auberon .K.

This defensive move saves face, and your eyes. With our naturally tall and noble stature we stick head and shoulders above most crowds and so navigating a busy street in the rain can be a dangerous pursuit as the metal tips of umbrellas are at eye-level.

For this technique we utilize a common piece of Japanese body language. When wanting to pass through a group of people a Japanese person conveys the whole of “Excuse me, old chap, but if you wouldn’t mind so terribly I’d like to pass and as you can see I am totally unarmed and pose no threat to you” with a simple karate-chop pose; holding the flat hand out in front of you, fingers pointing upwards; this apparently shows you are indeed not carrying your sword. To this day it is used by anyone wanting to squeeze through a narrow gap or break apart a duologue. (see figure 9)
It is utterly shameful to use such easy tactics as an Urban Ninja of course, but it does serve a purpose. When in imminent danger of having your eyes poked out by the sharp umbrella of an unsuspecting opponent, moving it away with your flat hand provides safety. The opponent will be surprised but when checking to see what he commotion is about will spot your open hand and interpret it as the common, polite hand gesture.

The deflecting sword

When the season is wet many people carry around their umbrellas, but some do so with less care than others, swinging it about freely and without hesitation. Though initially a danger it can be used as a diversionary tactic if the person is to be passed by quickly. Remembering never to touch an opponent, simply tap the umbrella from the inside. Thinking he may have harmed someone the opponent will turn around to check what has happened giving you the opportunity to slip past, taking care to avoid the offending umbrella. Tapping the umbrella from the outside will cause your opponent to turn in your direction instantly giving away your position and strategems; this is to be avoided!

As you can see the art of Urban Ninjaism enjoys a rich and diverse series of tactics and techniques. Though most are universally applicable, some are particularly useful in Japan. The next time you traverse a busy street in a hurry, why not practice some of these maneuvers always taking care not to make bodily contact or to alert the opponent he is involved in one of the richest, most historic martial arts ever to enjoy such wide popularity.


  1. Excellent, I'm sure you'll be perpetually using the striking cobra during TGS this weekend ;)

  2. I never realised that this was an art. I have always been someone who despises crowded areas and so wants to pass as quickly as possible through them. Whilst I haven't used any such crafty moves, I do slip through openings quickly and stealthily.

    Perhaps I need to read this book and see how to maximise my speed at manuevreing through the certainly less bustling than those of Tokyo, but still pretty packed nonetheless streets of Kyoto and Osaka.

    There are methods for this sort of thing on a bike too, but they can be substantially more dangerous, both to the participant and those in the way.

    Kyoto is great, though - you can get around by bike as fast as you can on a train.


  3. By the way, how should the gamesman approach the situation of being in a large crowd of people who have gathered to see some dreadfully overrated and no doubt tedious event/festival. Is urban ninjaism even possible in crowds so tight? Do you push to the front somehow, and how does one escape the confines of short old women with handbags when it becomes apparent that the event was a huge dissapointment and is only going to last another 10 minutes before EVERYONE leaves to catch the train at the same time.

    Should the urban ninja ever break into a sweat through excessive use of quick and stealthy moves? Is this bad form or ok for beginners? Teach us more!


  4. Sadly the arena of the TGS is only for the *extremely* advanced gamesman. My skills are still lacking.

    Vehicular Urban Ninjaism isn't allowed, I'm afaid, but I can see a few more posts on specific techniques may be required. And yes, it is an art, an ancient and historic one!