Ultra-Orthodox Ninja

Judaism and ninjutsu are not typically spoken of in the same breath. Except when discussing Ishay Amano, an ultra-Orthodox Jew of the Bratslav Hasidic sect and a fifth degree black belt (Dan 5) in the ancient Japanese martial art.

By Ryan Jones |
ULTRA ORTHODOX NINJA Photo: Nati Shohat/Flash90

Amano began training to be a ninja at a young age, and many years before “returning to the faith” (chozer b’tshuvah), as Jews refer to the process of becoming Orthodox. Like many kids, Amano wanted to be like the ninjas he saw in movies. So at nine years old he started to train in karate. Three years later, he happened upon a notice for a small ninjutsu group.

He immediately began to train with Shai Goshen, a pupil of Yaakov Hazan who was a student of Doron Navon, the first Western Jew to study under Masaaki Hatsumi, the 34th and current ninjutsu grandmaster. It was Navon who brought ninjutsu to Israel.

At age 16, Amano was privileged to meet Hatsumi at a training camp in the Netherlands. His dedication to the art only grew. “I began to see the world through ninja’s eyes,” Amano told the ultra-Orthodox news portal Kikar Hashabbat.

When he turned 18, two important things happened in Amano’s life. First, he became religious, finding the answers to his questions about life in the sacred texts of Judaism. Shortly after, he earned his black belt in ninjutsu, solidifying a career that today finds him as one of the top self-defense trainers in Israel.

Amano sees a lot of parallels between ninjutsu and the Israeli-developed martial art of krav maga (see page 26). Unlike other martial arts, which are today all about competitions and prizes, ninjutsu and krav maga remain very practical ways to defend one’s self. “Ninjutsu,” he says, “remains well suited to real-life situations.”

 

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