Why do we wear tabi in the Bujinkan? And should you?

I'm not afraid of controversy.   This blog tackles the tough questions.  Questions sure to inflame the keyboard martial artists that troll the various forums.  One question that repeatedly flames up all over the interwebs is:
Why do Bujinkan members wear tabi?
I know I crossed a line.  After asking a question like that there is no going back.  If you have been hiding under a cheeseburger and don't know what tabi are, from wikipedia:

Tabi (足袋?) are traditional Japanese socks. Ankle high and with a separation between the big toe and other toes, they are worn by both men and women with zori, geta, and other traditional thonged footwear.
What are some good reasons to wear tabi in Bujinkan training?  I made a list of possible reasons:

  1. If you wanna be a ninja, dress the part.  In America, tabi are all ninja baby.
  2. When you read those ninja books from the '80's it is easier to follow the foot diagrams.
  3. If you are caught by the enemy (the cops) wearing tabi gives the insanity plea more weight.
  4. Wearing tabi will throw off trackers looking for Nikes or Skechers.
  5. For foot flexibility, also from wikipedia:  "many workers prefer them for the softness of their soles. This gives wearers tactile contact with the ground and lets them use their feet more agilely than rigid-soled shoes allow: for instance, people who traverse girders on construction sites like to know what is under their feet, and craft practitioners such as carpenters and gardeners additionally use their feet as if they were an extra pair of hands, for example to hold objects in place."
  6. It is the custom in the Japanese dojo.
  7. It's easier to be stealthy.
  8. You want to overpay someone trying to make money off the Bujinkan by ordering silly shoes from a ninja website.
  9. You can catch weeds between your toes that camouflage your feet and legs.
  10. Throw shuriken with your feet!
  11. Chicks dig it.  Girls can't resist a man in tabi.
  12. Can be used to sight or cradle your blow gun.
  13. Helps you get into the right mindset for class.
  14. Sitting in seiza is way easier.
There are many reasons to wear tabi.  Make up your own.  Or stubbornly cling to practicality and miss out on the Ninja fantasy.  It's funny, most people in the Bujinkan refuse to wear the shinobi outfit, opting instead for a simple black karate or judo gi.  But those same people will wear tabi.  But there are some that are even embarrassed to wear the black gi, calling it "black pajamas."

I say wear tabi with pride.  Or you can try to remove everything Japanese from the art and be left with what?  In the list above I included my own reasons for wearing tabi.  See if you can guess what they are.  One last reason is that after so many years of training, I actually find tabi very comfortable and even prefer them to western shoes at times.


Mike Russell

Too funny! Thanks for sharing the answers to this ago old question lol

Bujinkan Santa Monica

I'm glad you see the humor in this! It always amazes me how serious people try to make things. I wonder if they've never met Hatsumi Sensei. He has a wonderful sense of humor.


You forgot: "to keep your feet warm" and "to make sliding a bit more easy" :)


Or my favorite reason: avoiding fungal and bacterial infections introduced by 100 sweaty feet sharing the same mats.

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