A Brief Intro

Throughout the Far East, there are legends of black-clad, veiled operatives, of both men and women, stealing into households as spies, assassins, and thieves. They were said to move with the fluidity of shadows, navigating treacherous terrain and slipping past unsuspecting guards with an almost supernatural grace.

Such exotic legends of these stealthy figures have captivated the imagination for centuries, blurring the lines between history and myth. In 1987 – as two naive youngsters – we set out to find the origin of these legends and study the esoteric skills we hoped to find. The journey was to be more than we could ever have imagined.

The term ninja 忍者 is commonly associated with this ‘hidden warrior’ concept, and while it is partially correct, it is important to note that ninja 忍者 were specifically the stealth operatives of Japanese history. However, the black-clad stealth operatives of the night have been a common figure throughout Far Eastern history and tradition.

While the Chinese roots of Far Eastern stealth traditions are widely acknowledged today, a comprehensive understanding of this history has – until now – remained elusive due to a complex interplay of political and economic factors. Notably, Japanese scholars, wary of potential political and financial repercussions, exhibit reluctance to definitively attribute the origins of the ninja 忍者 phenomenon to China. This hesitancy stems from the significant cultural and economic capital invested in the image of the ninja, both domestically and internationally. To complicate matters, significant historical evidence perished during the Chinese Cultural Revolution of 1966-1976, hindering a comprehensive reconstruction of the origins and evolution of the stealth traditions.

This difficult terrain plagued our research for decades. Each time we felt we had the full historical picture, something new and surprising would surface. This happened repeatedly – ad nauseam! If we had not served a twenty-year apprenticeship in a living tradition of the ‘Way of Ten Thousand Things’ 萬物之道, an assassin’s art of stealth in the ‘Warrior Heart’ 戦士心 school, we most certainly would not have been able to uncover the truth that has been buried so deeply in history. It was through our Master, Kwan Yuen Cheong 關潤昌, that we received the once-forbidden training, the school’s oral history, and a handwritten record of the tradition.

Few experiences compare to receiving a direct oral transmission of this ancient warrior art. Witnessing this knowledge, forged in the fires of three millennia, pass from teacher to student was profoundly moving. Yet, this journey went beyond mere witnessing. To cross-reference this living tradition with cold, hard evidence – historical records, archaeological finds, and social studies – was an astonishing validation. 

This unique confluence of oral tradition, historical evidence, and personal practice has yielded a multifaceted understanding of this remarkable art. It’s not just a collection of techniques; it’s a window into the lives, values, and even the myths of those who came before us.



Les and Noelle 2024

Video Intro

Below, Les talks about how this journey began…