Ninjas became a pop culture staple by the late 20th century. Like the Shaolin monks, they were practically able to defy physics with how well-trained and deadly they were. For decades, movies portrayed them as superhuman killers while insisting there was something with spiritual depth about their practices. As a result, all sorts of misconceptions have been mixed in with ninja lore. Not only has this distorted our view of them, it’s covered up some great stories that are at least worth movies.
Since women weren’t allowed to serve as samurai, if a woman in feudal Japan wanted to provide military service to her clan, serving as a ninja was a much better bet. This was particularly true as women were much more likely to be invited into castles and fortresses than unfamiliar men. To make it even more uncomfortable for potential assassination targets, it was their usual practice to wait a bit before the hit.
They tended to receive all the same training that their male counterparts did and actually had a slightly wider array of weapons. Female ninjas often used blades concealed inside fans or a particularly unnerving weapon called the neko-te, or “cat’s claw.” It was a small blade (less than three inches long) attached to a leather ring worn on a finger. If that doesn’t sound that intimidating, consider that the tips of these claws were usually poisoned.