By Curtis Silver
The Pirates vs Ninja discussion goes back many years in the geek community. It may not be a hardcore geek debate, but there has been plenty of discourse. The devoted Pirates have always had a long time rivalry with the equally devoted Ninja. Pirates hate Ninja, Ninja hate Pirates. This is not a clash that is without rhetorical bloodshed. Recently I was listening to a podcast at Hipsterplease.com and discovered there is even a Nerdcore Pirates vs Ninja rivalry. That was enough motivation for me.
Since it's evident to most that Ninja would easily defeat Pirates in a one-on-one battle to the severe and brutal but mercifully quick death, I decided to take the debate to a higher level. I'll be considering other overall factors than just the ability to kill in battle. Oh, and Ninja is the correct plural form of the word, according to the Japanese – who should know.
The Ninja emerged to prominence in the 15th century, serving mostly as mercenary agents of espionage and as spies. Side jobs included those of assassin and terrorist. General sabotage and misdirection during battle were also tell-tale signs that a Ninja was nearby. However, their history is murky and difficult to trace. There are early signs of Ninja activity in the 5th and 6th centuries with the occasional recorded assassination. Ninjas were mostly recruited from the ditch, that is – poor people. And In those days, not much ink was wasted telling tales of the poor, hence, little actual or factual history exists.
However, this lack of data allows for the history of the Ninja to be appropriately shrouded in mystery. The secret assassin, appearing from the shadows and disappearing just as quickly with nary a wisp of air to show the Ninja was there. On the other sword, Pirates have a rich and storied history with many fantastic tales and stories surrounding the scurvy raiders of the sea. If a pirate enters a room, you'd know it. There's no mistaking that stench.
Piracy has been going on for centuries. There are written accounts going back as far as 1350 BC in ancient Egypt describing plundering of merchant vessels by flagless ships. The Romans and Greeks faced piracy as well. The Vikings were essentially Pirates, except much larger and with better armour. The Ming Dynasty was a very busy time for Chinese pirates, with much history and lore being written about them. However, the era you are probably most familiar with (and the era within which most pirate movies are set) is referred to as the Golden Age of Pirates, which ran from the late 1600's to the mid 1700's.
Although myth still surrounds Pirate history, buccaneers nevertheless have a far more storied and colourful history than Ninja, which is shrouded in the darkness. This category goes to the Pirates. Score one for Pirates.
Ninja training wasn't easy: it was more than just physical training, it was psychophysical. They had to train their minds as well as their bodies, if not more. Using methods of concentration such as Zen-Buddhism, Ninja were experts in concentration and perception. The Ninja had to redefine logic and conventional thinking. Training was intense and put the Ninja into direct conflict orientated situations. There were no practice rounds. It was all training from day one. This was continuity, every day – training. Moderation was also a key point to Ninja training, they were not allowed anything that would deter from their training, including sex and alcohol. That's just the mental training.
The physical training was a different kind of intensity. The Ninja has to be in top physical form at all times, aiming for a mastery of balance, stealth and all that flipping and jumping around. The Ninja had to be a master of stress and conditioning, as well as being able to stand still for long periods of time without doing anything to give away his position. Not to mention the level of respect and discipline involved between a Ninja and his master.
The Pirate training manual? I'm guessing looks something like this:
1. Show up
2. Grab sword
3. Drink, rape, pillage and plunder
4. Pass out.
While there was a hierarchy and level of respect demanded by the Captain, there was no formal training to be a pirate. If you Google for "Pirate Training" you'll find a ton of games. Search for "Ninja Training" and you'll find Ninja Training. Pirate training didn't exist, besides training their livers to consume copious amounts of rum. Ninja easily takes this category. Chalk up one for Ninja.
Weaponry and killing style
Ninja were not short on weapons. Besides their hands and feet being deadly weapons, the Ninja had a virtual laundry list of other fun and sharp pointy things to kill someone with. From swords, foot and knuckle spikes, throwing stars, iron whips, smoke bombs, batons, Kamas, Sais, spikes, nunchucks and even utility belts. The Ninja was trained on the full and deadly usage of every single weapon in his arsenal.
The Ninja killed with stealth and precision. If you were in a fight with a Ninja, in most cases you wouldn't know it until you tasted your own blood as it bubbled up from the gaping hole in your throat. Unless a Ninja was facing an army of Samurai (or zombies), it was rare for the Ninja to engage in a bar room type brawl. The Ninja was a silent killer and a formidable enemy.
If you were in a fight with a pirate, you'd know it. There'd be more than one of them, swords would be swinging around with reckless abandon and the smell of gunpowder would be in the air. The slight advantage that Pirates have over Ninja comes in the form of the flint lock powder rifle or pistol. When gunpowder was invented for all-purpose use, in particular for use in guns, the Pirate's ability as effective killers multiplied tenfold – although that went right back down when you took into account things like lack of training and sobriety.
Pirates fought dirty, that fact is well known. There was no code of ethics when it came to engaging the enemy and killing them. You'd much rather die at the hands of a Ninja than at the grubby hands of a Pirate. However, as one of my friends mentioned, "Pirates, they have guns, and they're on a boat, bitch." This category goes to the Ninja as the Ninja was a far more efficient killer. Faced with a Pirate ship full of sailors, cannons and guns, a lone Ninja would kill them all while they slept. For absolute superiority in this category, Ninja get two points.
How many Ninja movies have you watched lately? While plenty have been released over the years, such as Zombie vs. Ninja, the Samurai have received the red carpet treatment with regards to mainstream films. The Ninja have made their way into the mainstream consciousness though when it comes to games and toys, just as much as Pirates. Pirates easily steal the film medium though, with the recent Pirates of the Caribbean trilogy.
Pirates have shown up in musicals, but there's not much to sing about Ninjas. In other media, a certain Ninja has made for one of the best comics on the web, and Pirates have made for great subject material when it comes to the literary world. Not to mention Talk Like a Pirate Day.
When it comes down to it though, I have to go with the Lego factor being the final word. Pirates have been a staple of the Lego universe for years and being a geek, Lego easily outweighs Snake Eyes as being high on the list of pop culture items in the geek universe. Pirates take this category and another point.
The final tally is Pirates two, Ninja three, so Ninja win by the width of a dagger's blade – which is sometimes all it takes. While this may come as no surprise to some, I was pretty sure I would be able to find a way to make the Pirate the winner, but as I neared the end of my analysis I could see that the Ninja was and is a superior agent of chaos. While the Pirate focuses on the unending search for treasure and wealth, the Ninja treats each mission independently and then silently moves to the next with nary a thought to anything beyond. Ninja have been rumoured throughout history as having taken down rulers with espionage and spying, while Pirates have been known for wreaking havoc and terror on the seas. It was a close one folks, without a doubt.
Clearly, a lot was left out (like Captain Morgan rum, Pirate lexicon, wenches & Killer Coding Ninja Monkeys to name a few) to keep this post below thesis category, so do me a favour and fill up the comments with whatever you think I missed or whom you think should have won.