The order of
Jedi Knights is based, according to George Lucas, mainly on the samurai warriors of
ancient Japan, and the Jedi code reflects this basis. I put forth that the mandate of the
Jedi as peacekeepers and guarantors of justice requires that they use all skills available
to them. A samurai warrior is honorable but adheres to a code which values the show of
honor and ceremony over the actual necessity of maintaining peace and doing good. He will
betray his weakness if it is dictated by his code of honor. A ninja, on the other hand,
will use all tools necessary to complete the task and still come out alive.
A samurai warrior would never think to
hide his weapon from his attacker to give himself the advantage, while a ninja's art is
based on stealth. His weapon is only shown if it is to be used. This stealth principle was
born of the necessity of villagers to defend themselves in the face of oppressive laws
forbidding all but samurai to carry weapons. Sun Tzu's tenet "Military force is the
ultimate expression of diplomacy" certainly applies to the order of the Jedi Knights.
The art of diplomacy, as practiced by the Jedi, means the softer art of negotiation is
backed up by the presence of force that is not only feared and respected, but incompletely
understood by those subject to it. There is a definite mythology surrounding the Jedi
order, just as there always was with the ninja. The ninja used this reputation as a first
line of defense, intimidation, that will sometimes defeat a force that is cowardly and
ill-founded. This is seen to happen when the Jedi arrive on the Trade Federation ship. The
Neimoidian Daultay Dofine has heard the stories of how the Jedi can read your mind and
kill with the Force, and he is daunted into giving away the Federation's plot much sooner
than Sidious had wanted.
The Samurai were mainly Shintoists or Confucianists, both
religions with relatively inflexible dogmas. The Ninja, as outcasts from mainstream
society, were mainly Zen Buddhists, so their world view was more that of being one with
the universe rather than joining their ancestors in glory. Most martial arts have within
them the concept of zanshin, or acting in a pure manner without thinking. Moving in
zanshin requires long training and devotion to the art. One must listen to the
Force, rather than think about the motions for zanshin to work. A Jedi Knight will
naturally fight and move in zanshin when it is necessary; a Padawan would be
capable of it as well, but it probably would not be second nature yet.
The single most illustrative case of a ninja-like warrior
in the Star Wars saga is that of the Jedi Master Qui-Gon Jinn. He is fearless and
inventive, and his single-minded devotion to the Force allows him to see what must be
done. Qui-Gon Jinn is living in zanshin every day; he is listening to the Force and
acting without hesitation. He uses not only the agreed-upon tools available to the Jedi as
a part of their mission, but he improvises and makes use of everything as the Force shows
it to him. To Qui-Gon, there is no such thing as luck; his risks are all mandated by the
Force; he is so completely committed to his calling as a Jedi Master that he realizes that
his side trip to Tatooine is not an accident. He makes full use of his knowledge and
brings the jewel out of the mine of the galaxyAnakin Skywalker: he who will bring
balance to the Force.
The Force-running and misdirection tricks used by the Jedi
are ninja techniques taken to a new level. The most obvious example of misdirection in the
saga in my opinion is old Ben Kenobi's throwing of sound in the tractor beam generator
room in Episode IV-A New Hope. I believe that the super-fast Force-running we see at the
beginning of the Phantom Menace is also a projection of energy on the part of Qui-Gon and
Obi-Wan. Obi-Wan's final killing move against Darth Maul is, in my opinion, also a
misdirection or projection. Obi-Wan leads Maul to believe that he is still hanging in the
chasm, while, in reality, Obi-Wan is moving in zanshin, calling Qui-Gon's saber to
him and finishing the move before removing the veil from Darth Maul's eyes. It is
Obi-Wan's trial, the test of his fitness to become a Jedi Knight, and he passes it by
using what he has learned and trusting in the will of the Force to guide his moves.
Another story point that illustrates the ninja qualities of
the Jedi is the final conflict between Luke Skywalker, his father Anakin/Vader and Emperor
Palpatine in Episode VI: Return of the Jedi. Luke is facing his trials as Yoda has
directed him. As it was in the trials of Obi-Wan Kenobi, there is no falling back and
regrouping, for this is a fight to the death for the soul of Anakin Skywalker. Luke is now
of the most serious mind, as Yoda has stressed that a Jedi must be. He is grounded in the
Force, but his actions and decisions are all driven by shinkengata, or the fire
within. There is no relenting or indecision. Either Anakin is saved or Luke dies fighting.
This concept of shinkengata is aggression and single-minded attack, but it is not
driven by anger. It is driven by single purpose, much as Qui-Gon is driven by his single
purpose to train Anakin, but here used in combat.
Luke uses a ninja defense against multiple attackers in
order to win back his father's soul and to defeat the Emperor in one fell swoop. He plays
one Sith against another in a brilliant manipulation; when he stops short after severing
Vader's hand, he realizes the trap of the Dark Side and takes his own leap of faith. He
trusts in the strength of the Light within his father and forces Anakin to a decision,
either to save his own son or to remain as a slave to Palpatine. To do this, Luke must
sacrifice himself to the will of the Force. Anakin is the crux upon which turns the fate
of the galaxy, and Luke gives himself up to this knowledge. By doing so, Luke plays Vader
against Palpatine and brings about the destruction of the Emperor, the Empire and of Darth
Vader. Balance is restored to the Force.
Qui-Gon's driven attack against Darth Maul on Naboo
illustrates this concept of shinkengata well. Despite the fact that Maul is
obviously a formidable foe who would be more easily defeated by the combined efforts of
both Jinn and Kenobi working in concert, Qui-Gon pushes his attack relentlessly, realizing
that the Sith must be kept off-balance. Obi-Wan's initial moves against Maul are
substandard and cause him to be tripped up and off-balance throughout the conflict.
Qui-Gon realizes that Maul may be too much for Obi-Wan, so his strategy immediately
changes to a devastating, constant barrage on the Sith Lord. He realizes there will be no
revelations made to him or the Jedi purposefully by this agent of evil. It has but one
purposeto kill Jediso Qui-Gon turns that purpose back upon him with a purity
of intent that rivals that of Darth Maul, but has none of the blinding hate and thirst for
vengeance evident in Maul's demeanor. It was an act of love, an act done solely through
the will of the Force for the good of the universe. It is to Obi-Wan's credit that he was
able to deliver the finishing blows in harmony with Qui-Gon's original mandate.
It is said of the samurai that they are endowed with free
will to make decisions to benefit those they serve, but they occasionally broke the laws
of the government which has entrusted to them the duty of keeping the peace and
administering justice. The samurai was sometimes forced to do this in order to act in an
honorable way; the breaking of the law was not looked upon as dishonorable in these cases.
However, it was often incumbent on the samurai to make amends by taking his own life. This
form of behavior was not practiced by the ninja, as it was not part of their code. Honor,
in the view of the ninja, was not served by the useless ending of one's life as a gesture
of submission to the daimyo, or ruling house. The Jedi offered their lives in
service to the Universal Good; there was no wasted blood and no purpose that was not
mandated by the Force.
The Jedi order differs from the samurai in that the latter
was a closed order, being instituted in a feudal system, while the Jedi draw their members
from the entire galaxy. The only requirement is that the initiate have the requisite
Force-potential and commitment to the rigorous life of the Order. The Jedi order is much
more like an order of monks, who share a devotion to spiritual enlightenment and
fulfillment, while serving their daimyo, the Galactic Republic, only as a part of
their greater calling. The Jedi in action, particularly Qui-Gon Jinn and Luke Skywalker,
illustrate the commitment to the cooperative rather than the subservient principle of
service to the galaxy. This cooperative principle is the foundation of ninja culture,
which arose out of the necessity to survive in a hostile environment.
Comments to: firstname.lastname@example.org
Lyta Alexander is a real-life Jedi Ninja.
FYI: Ninjutsu is the collection of skills
utilized by the Ninja while Ninpo, often referred to as "the higher order of
Ninjutsu, " implies a philosophy for living based on the principles of Nin, meaning
literally, "blade over heart." It is the one who perseveres and is
patient, even when the blade of an adversary is over his/her heart, ready to strike the
killing blow. Taijutsu is the name for all of the Japanese unarmed combat methods.
It literally means "body skills." The name "Bujinkan" means
"warrior spirit house or training hall."
Various Ninja Information pages:
Official Bujinkan Hombu
Bujinkan Source Page
Mats Hjelm's Bujinkan
Budo Taijutsu Site
dojo near you!
Our Qui-Gon Jinn FAQ has some information on
the philosophy of the Jedi
Force Academy - An
awesome site with a huge amount of information on Jedi skills and beliefs
- Elegant weapons for a more civilized age - an impressive treatise on the lightsabre and
"Prime of the
Jedi" - From the Star Wars official site.
Segment #6 of "Lynn's Video Diary" deals with the lightsabre fight
choreography for The Phantom Menace
Nick Gillard -
Official site bio of the stunt master responsable for TPM's fight choreography
Swordplay - also from the official Site, Nick Gillard talks about creating the TPM
fights. See also this piece on Ewan McGregor's perspective on
the lightsabre fighting