Editor’s note: This article was initially published in The Daily Gazette, Swarthmore’s online, daily newspaper founded in Fall 1996. As of Fall 2018, the DG has merged with The Phoenix. See the about page to read more about the DG.
Confused by the ninja tablers in Sharples in the days leading up to Valentine’s Day? Wondering what worthy causes a ninja might promote?
As it turns out, Swarthmore’s ninjas, in addition to being stealthy fighting machines, are simply selling NinjaGrams, a sweet way to enliven anyone’s Valentine’s Day. NinjaGrams cost 1.50 each with the proceeds benefiting Swat Sudan and Katrina Relief. According to James Mendez, class of ’08 and Head Ninja, the recipient, be it friend, faculty or administrator, will be presented with a valentine from “a ninja clad in darkness itself (or lightness itself, if it’s snowing that heavily)…with a scream of, ‘NINJAGRAM!'” Ninjas will deliver NinjaGrams to anywhere on campus, including all dorms and classrooms. All of those participating in the NinjaGram service, tabling and acting as attack-valentine ninjas have enjoyed the experience thoroughly. Katie Love-Cooksey, class of ’10 and dedicated ninja, asserts that she has had such a good time that she can “still feel the impression of the cloth [of her ninja outfit] on her face.”
As Valentine’s Day is Wednesday, February 14, be sure to purchase a Ninjagram today at Sharples.
But where, when, and why did NinjaGrams come into being? In an e-mail, James Mendez ’08 offered this explanation:
“NinjaGram originated in the sixth century CE, when Daoist magicians fleeing persecution in China for their allegiance to the Wu-Tang Clan ascended the Japanese mountains to learn martial arts secrets from the tengu (forest dÃƒÂ¦mons). Realizing that they were nothing to fuck with, the tengu transmitted ten thousand secrets of combat, concealment, and cultivation of conduct to the worthiest of these Daoist sages, who became the first ninja. Most of these early ninja descended the mountain slopes to teach ninjutsu to the Japanese people; but a select few Daoist immortals, remaining atop the mountains, learned the ultimate technique of the tengu: the alchemical manipulation of Love and Death to create the perfect weapon, the NinjaGram.
“In its earliest incarnation, this weapon caused even the strongest enemy, when struck, to explode. While the NinjaGram’s true nature is too badass for mortals to comprehend, the Masked Heart diagram symbolizes the arcane synt hesis: the heart shape represents Love, while the eyes narrowed with intent signify Death. The tengu pronounced that the immortals had achieved the apex of their skill, and bestowed upon them a prophecy: that in the future, far away in the West, would be born the greatest ninja of all, who when struck with the NinjaGram’s divine might would not die, but instead would attain the greatest power, the power of Awesome. The Daoist immortals asked the tengu, “What do you mean by ‘awesome’?” And the tengu replied, “By ‘awesome,’ we mean ‘totally sweet.'”
“The total sweetness of this prophecy spurred the Ninja Immortals to immediate action. They knew they had to find the legendary Western Ninja, and the power of Awesome. Scattering amongst the nations like African swallows, they tested men’s mettle with their secret NinjaGram weapons. Many innocents exploded during this period.
“After World War II, many Japanese martial arts altered their philosophy and practice to emphasize nonlethal principles. NinjaGram was no different. The Ninja Immortals realized they could reach potentially Awesome individuals more efficiently through the power of commercialized holidays; and so they re-calibrated their weapons to induce the target to explode not with Death, but with Love. Thus, NinjaGram’s quest for the Awesome Ninja of Legend continues at Swarthmore College on Valentine’s Day, 2007.”
… curious about what other Swarthmore traditions may have originated in the sixth century CE? Ask the Gazette at dailygazette [at] Swarthmore [dot] edu.