Actors, Acting & Ninjutsu

This article is just a bit of fun. In it, I will attempt to show the similarities between actors, the acting community and Japan’s legendary feudal spies, the ninja!

The ninja were among the greatest actors in history! They had to be. Unlike the professional actor who, if they were not prepared or up to playing a part, the worst thing that they risked, was getting a bad review the day after their performance…if a ninja didn’t play their part convincingly, it could cost them their life! In other words, a ninja’s performance was literally a matter of life and death! A ninja spy agent had several arts and techniques that they could draw on when creating a believable character…

First there was Shichihode or the 7 ways of going. This concerned the ninja agent choosing a suitable profession that would allow them to come and go through enemy territory without raising any suspicions. The 7 ways are…

Komuso – a wandering priest.

Shukke – a Buddhist monk.

Yamabushi – a mountain warrior priest.

Shonin – a salesman or merchant.

Hokashi – a musician.

Sarugaku – an actor or street entertainer.

Ronin – a masterless samurai.

After deciding on a profession, the ninja agent would turn to the second of their disguise arts.

Second, the Sanpogata or the 3 methods of altering the appearance.

The 3 methods are, altering the face, altering the body and altering the gender. To change the appearance of the face, a ninja would use different herb and plant dyes along with charcoal and ashes. To change the appearance of the body, agents would use a cloak or hood to exaggerate or distort the shape of their torso and body.

To change the appearance of their gender, a male ninja would adopt female clothing, makeup, wigs and feminine mannerisms. Usually this would only be for the short term, in order to allow the agent to make a safe escape while disguised as a member of the opposite sex.

The third and last art in the ninja’s acting arsenal was called Hengen Kashi no Jutsu or the agent’s version of getting into character. This consisted of learning their chosen character’s proper dialect, accent, customs, mannerisms and etiquette. These varied from prefecture to prefecture and claiming to be someone from Kyusho, while speaking with an accent from someone from Iga, would literally be a dead giveaway! If any ninja agent slipped up with their character creation, it very likely would prove to be a lethal mistake.

One last area the ninja used when creating a character was called Shihogami. This was a method of using a variety of appropriate hairstyles for a specific character. For example, a ronin or masterless samurai would sport a completely different hairstyle than would a Buddhist priest.

The ninja spies of ancient Japan and their dedication to detail and the focused, thorough way in which they approached creating a character, can be an inspiring archetype or example for anyone in the acting industry, or even anyone aspiring to become a professional actor.

If you are looking for a method of creating a flawless character and breathing life and believability into it and animating the character with a comprehensive reality, you need look no further than the resourceful, creative and adaptable ninja of Feudal Japan!

This has been just a brief glimpse of the time tested wisdom and inspiration of military strategy and tactics. If you would like more information on unorthodox methods for your business or life, get our FREE no obligation “Giveaway” at or follow me on Twitter at @Master_N_Chase. Look for my book on Amazon Kindle “Ancient Secrets Shadow Warriors.”

Our wish is for your continued success!


Nicholas J. Chase