My Dad Was A Ninja – by Charlie Martel

Until I was old enough to doubt, I believed with my entire heart and soul that my dad was a ninja. I don’t mean that in a figurative sense, “Wow, my dad is a ninja when it comes to building things.” I mean a full-on, mask-wearing, sword-swinging, tree-climbing, assassinate-your-feudal-lord-in-his-sleep ninja.

Why on Earth would a young impressionable boy think such a thing? Because my dad told me he was a ninja, and we don’t start questioning our heroes until adolescence…not coincidentally about the same time we become assholes (each and every one of us).

My dad told me he was a ninja

So what? Maybe your dad told you he hit a grand slam in high school (it was an in the park homer and the opposing team had two errors) or he caught a 20 lb. trout (it was a stocked, catch and release pond). Dad’s embellish for their kids, and as kids, we want them to. Dads are our heroes.

The difference is your dad played baseball or fished. My dad hated those things. My dad was a f%*#ing ninja. My dad had all the tools of the trade: katana, nunchaku, shuriken, sai (if you don’t know what those are, just image search Ninja Turtles). He even had the boots with the funny big toe, ostensibly for climbing things in a deadlier fashion.


This might seem like an overgrown boy living out his fantasies if it weren’t for smaller versions of all these things for me. Ninjas need partners in their dark arts. I wore a white gi and mask. My dad wore black. We were like Snake Eyes and Stormshadow, if Stormshadow was in elementary school…and they weren’t sworn enemies…you get the idea.

On special Saturday mornings, before anyone else was up, my dad, the ninja in black, would take his ninja buddy to the west hills of Portland. We’d run with sharp objects, hack at things, beat things with sticks, and all manner of things you’re told not to do as a boy.

I remember vividly running along a wooded path, short sword trailing behind me; a white flash in bright green forest chasing a black shadow, the brown soles of his tabi boots braking just enough for me to catch up; my white mask concealing my ear-to-ear grin from my enemies.

Fortunately jogging had yet to be a thing in Portland, so there are very few eye witnesses to these ninja sessions. It’s likely there are more reported Sasquatch sightings than that of the hooded assassin. That being said, if you frequented Washington Park around sunrise circa 1984,
1. I don’t want to know why, and 2. You’re welcome.

dad ninja
A very happy birthday to my dad, my ninja buddy, my hero.


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