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The way of the ninja dawned more than 800 years ago in Japan, flourishing during feudal times. Seeking autonomy from the county's oppressive class system, a number of citizens fled deep into the mountainous regions of Iga and Koga. There, they developed a stealthy means of survival. Some say their methods were based on The Art of War, a great Chinese military text written by the general Sun Tzu. Through the centuries, the ninja took shelter in secluded camps and trained from birth in a way that eventually became known as ninjitsu. Childhood games were designed to impart expertise in unarmed combat, swordplay, weaponry, camouflage, escape and evasion. Ninjitsu training also taught practitioners to reach spiritual heights by pushing their bodies and minds to limits far beyond the bounds of normal human endurance. The ninja specialized in espionage and assassination, offering their services mostly to the haughty samurai and their feudal lords.

Relying on any and all forms of subterfuge, the ninja were the most effective warriors and spies on the face of the planet. In time, they came to be feared throughout Japan. Hearsay gave rise to the myth that the ninja were spawn of the tengu -- long-nosed goblins known to serve the Japanese god of thunder, Raiden. From these divine origins, they were supposed to have derived their superhuman skills and techniques. Of course, this fable likely was spread by the ninja themselves to enhance their reputation.

The most devious ninja clan was known as the Hand. Unlike other cells, which plied their skills as mercenaries and were content merely to survive, the Hand was driven to dominate. The Hand ninja worked for no one, and the entirety of their activities involved either the elimination of enemies or the acquisition of power. From early in their history, the Hand ninja have depended on dark magic -- imparted by their demonic master, the Beast -- to augment their skills. One such spell ensures that if a Hand ninja is killed, his body will turn to dust soon after to prevent another from gazing upon his countenance.

The Hand ninja survive to this day. As ever, they continue to devote their lethal skills to the acquisition of power. The Hand's most formidable adversary has been a clan of warriors once led by Stick, the late martial-arts master. Stick tutored a young blind boy named Matt Murdock, who now puts his training to use as the costumed crimefighter called Daredevil. Another of his students was Elektra Natchios, the Greek assassin. Elektra infiltrated the Hand, determined to prove herself to Stick. Instead, the ninja tricked her into killing one of her former masters. Elektra served the Hand for a time, and their ways corrupted her soul. Finally, she rebelled and fled Japan.

Eventually, the Hand sought to eliminate Stick and his warriors once and for all. Stick thwarted an assassination attempt by four Hand ninja, then summoned the members his order to meet him in New York City. With the help of his clan, Stick defeated Kirigi -- at the time, the Hand's deadliest warrior. The Hand regrouped and attacked Stick's soldiers, who were joined by Daredevil and the former international spy code-named Black Widow. The Hand had almost overpowered the small band of heroes when Stick and one of his warriors resorted to a technique that drained the life force from all ninja present. However, the effort caused Stick and his comrade to explode as a result of the excess energies they had absorbed. The Hand considered the destruction of their enemies' master a victory and moved on to other schemes.

Years later, the Hand again turned its attention to Stick's leaderless clan of fighters, attempting to eliminate the entire order and prevent its members from locating the newborn child that would be Stick reincarnated. The Hand severely crippled Stick's soldiers, reducing their number to a handful of warriors. The few remaining fighters traveled to New York, seeking the assistance of Daredevil. Reluctantly, the Man Without Fear aided his former master's disciples, returning with them to Japan. There, the Hand ninja attacked Stick's clan relentlessly and in great numbers. Fighting alongside Daredevil, they barely managed to evade the Hand and safeguard their master's reincarnated spirit.

First Appearance: Daredevil (Vol. 1) #168

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