THE HEART OF KANJI: The Patient Heart of a Ninja


The kanji character 忍 (nin or shinobu) means “patience.” This character is made of two parts.

The top is  刃 (yaiba), which means “sword or knife.” The bottom is 心 (kokoro), which means “spiritual or physical heart.”

Nin is when someone attacks you with a sword and almost kills you by missing your heart, but you remain patient and calm.

You can use the word nin in different situations — for example, if someone talks mean or criticizes you, but you are still able to show patience.

The word nin is also used in “ninja.” Many Americans know the word ninja. However, they may not know the real meaning of ninja. Ninja means “patient person.”

I would like to share a story about a ninja. A few hundred years ago in Japan during the Edo period, there were many ninja. One day, the shogun (the military leader of Japan) invited a ninja to his castle. When the ninja entered a room in the castle, the shogun and many high-ranking samurai were waiting.

The shogun asked him to show his best ninja technique. Everyone was excited to see the ninja technique. They thought he might walk on water or disappear in front of them.

The ninja said, “Yes, I will show you my technique.”

Then he untied his black belt and spread it on the tatami mats. He began walking slowly from one end of his belt. After he walked to the other end of the belt, he bowed his head to the shogun.

The shogun and all the samurai were puzzled. The shogun angrily asked, “What did you do!? You just walked on it. I can do that!”

Then the ninja said, “Yes, anyone might be able to do this. However, if it is 100 feet or even 1,000 feet higher, how many of you can do it? I can walk up there like I can walk on the ground.”

The shogun and all the samurai were then able to understand — the great ninja technique was based on the patient heart and mind.

You too can use this ninja technique, when you talk to 100 or 1,000 people. With so many people in front of you, you might feel scared to talk. Instead, you should think you are talking to only one person.

If you can do that, you will be just like the ninja.

Rev. Masato Kawahatsu is a minister at the Konko Church of San Francisco and the Konko Center of South San Francisco. He teaches shodo (Japanese calligraphy) and martial arts, and also gives spiritual counseling; he may be contacted at or (415) 517-5563.

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