Essays From The Master

Archive for April, 2008

Why The Shadow laughs?

Why does The Shadow laugh?

Most students of the Komuso Ryu Dojo headed by T. Broussard as well as the Koga Clan represented by Ashida Kim are often referred to the pulp character The Shadow as an example albeit fictional account of stealth techniques along with Batman who is in a sense a descendant of The Shadow. The Shadow in its most recent incarnation, that of the film from the early 90’s, is also an example of the Kagejin or shadow self as defined by the Komuso Ryu. In all of The Shadow’s incarnations the laugh of the crime fighter serves as a trademark, a diversion and a psychological weapon. In none of the stories is the origin of the laugh given. At this point the reader may well wish to know what this laugh has to do with the practice of Ninjitsu which is after all “the Silent Way?”


The answer to that question has more than one part. First control of the voice is a means of directing energy in combat and manipulating the minds of others in general all of which can be studied in the adventures of The Shadow. Secondly, use of myth both ancient and modern has always been a tool of the Ninja. In all manifestations of The Shadow the signature laugh is always said to be sinister, chilling and is usually cast as being shaded with contempt and condescension. The cause of this laugh, the author feels, is the fact that The Shadow is not impressed with the evil in the hearts of his foes. The Shadow in the recent film was once a criminal known as Yin Ko which is Chinese for the shadow and so knew the roots of evil from that of his own heart but this does not explain the laughter. As Yin Ko the man who would become The Shadow acted not out of reaction to lack or trauma or vengeance but rather the sheer fact that he willed to do so. The evil of many of The Shadow’s foes were based on greed, anger, fear or hate all of which can be rationalized to the point that the practice has become a staple in the reality of the modern legal system.


 In contrast the evil of Yin Ko was in its way pure, he did so because he could and sought no other validation beyond his own will making Yin Ko a negative avatar of the “Super Man” sought by Nilism; note that if a negative avatar can exist so can a positive which is manifest in the persona known as The Shadow. The Ninja is a warrior who willfully invokes his shadow as a source of power and so must overcome his petty drives as well as the temptation that as Yin Ko The Shadow could not resist to use the power and insight of his own shadow to do ill. To function as The Shadow the man once known as Yin Ko had to harness his ruthless will, the shadow fought fire or rather evil with evil. The Shadow is often said to ‘know’ he knows the evils of men’s hearts because he has done all that they have done and more without benefit of the “reasons” criminals often have.


The Shadow laughs because the evils of what most call crime are delusions meant to fill up there own emptiness. The ninja like The Shadow has delved into his own heart and made tools of the “demons” that otherwise make evil seem permissible. The Shadow’s laugh is a condemnation of the self deception that the criminal must rely upon and thus serves to pierce the shell that evil creates around those who give into it as a way of life.


The Ninja knows in much the same way as The Shadow “what evil lurks in the hearts of men” having overcome them within himself and is thus able to keep silent and act without ego or “lust of result” drawing on the full ruthlessness of his will in its most primal form. Of course this is speaking of the Ninja as an ideal much as The Shadow is in the pulps he is defined in. This is why the Shadow laughs because he knows the primal will that evil touches and has enough contempt for his own faults to turn that force toward justice even though those “on the side of law and order” would cast him as a being of evil. If every good can be turned to evil than that raw untamed will to power must have its natural and proper, if not civil, use and therefore must be good at its base. Like The Shadow the Ninja is meant to act unseen and do what “the forces of law and order” can or will not do to maintain justice.  


As a closing note The Shadow is said to have learned his arts in Tibet which is also, some say, is the source for some of the disciplines of the Ninja. In the pulp magazines The Shadow’s invisibility is linked to stillness of a type that is vital to stealth practices of the Ninja, indeed the Phurba linked to The Shadow in film is one of the symbols of the Komuso Ryu.