Shichi hō de

Immersion Through Sensory Overload

Just as playing the flute is easy to hear on its own, so when the flute sounds in a concert, it disappears in the mass of tones and is only rarely heard.

Another good example is a beautiful oil painting in a gallery. If it hangs alone on a wall, we perceive it, if it hangs together with many others in a hall, it gets lost in the crowd.

In everyday life, we meet countless people, most of whom are only noticed briefly or not at all. The larger the city you are in, the more this effect comes into play. In rural areas, you may immediately attract attention as a stranger, while in big cities you can move around unmolested.

Our consciousness filters out everything that is not necessary for our survival. This means that only people we know, people with an unusual stature, special appearance, or physical characteristics penetrate our consciousness. The other people are mostly noticed, maybe you even make eye contact in passing, but after a few moments, most of them have disappeared from our consciousness.

In the Middle Ages, this meant that the Ninja spent most of his mission in natural disguise. He only carried out a very small proportion of his orders in the typical black battle dress.

The Seven Disguises in the Middle Ages

The medieval system of shichi hō de consisted of seven different disguises and professions commonly encountered at the time. However, it is only a conceptual model, a Ninja was by no means limited to these seven disguises, he always adapted the disguise to the environment and the benefit. He could also act as a doctor, a traveler, a farmer, a soldier, a fisherman, or in some other role.

  • Akindo (Merchant)
  • Hokashi (Musician)
  • Komusō (Wandering Priest)
  • Rōnin (Masterless Samurai)
  • Sarugaku (Entertainer)
  • Shukke (Buddhist Monk)
  • Yamabushi (Warlike Mountain Ascetic)

The shichi hō de consists of two important components. On the one hand from the hensō jutsu (the art of disguise), and on the other hand from the gisō jutsu (the art of thinking oneself into others).

In hensō jutsu the Ninja learned how to put on the disguise and adapt it to his own body. In gisō jutsu one learned how to imitate a person, what characteristics and qualities one had to internalize.

A Modern Adaptation

Of course, today it is no longer possible for a Samurai to go through his area of ​​operations unobtrusively. But the methods of Ninjutsu are timeless, they just need to be adjusted from time to time. Stephen K. Hayes has developed a more recent version of the shichi hō de:


This category includes students, teachers, scientists, technical specialists, artists, and idealists. You have to familiarize yourself with the relevant university, school, or institution. Usually, you also have to have a specialist area that you should master. As an artist, you also have to have works or work to show for yourself and be able to show off your talent. As an idealist, you also have to identify with the idea you represent.

Business People

This category includes salespeople, traders, clerks, secretaries, accountants, and business owners. You should be able to demonstrate basic knowledge of your field. Appearance should be similar to that of a business person, experience and knowledge of the industry should be noted. Necessary business papers such as business cards, annual reports, etc. should be forged.

Country People

Farmers, ranchers, foresters, lumberjacks, migrant workers, and all people normally found in rural areas fall into this category. Of course, you have to be familiar with your field and know about cows, agriculture, or forestry. You should also be able to handle the necessary equipment, such as tractors, agricultural machinery, or hunting weapons. Of course, you also have to be able to show the necessary documents, such as a hunting or fishing license. This role is probably the hardest because being a stranger in rural areas immediately attracts attention and scrutinizes you.


All persons of religious life, such as priests, rabbis, preachers, missionaries, sect leaders, and possibly also social workers belong to this category. If one claims to belong to one of these groups, one must be very familiar with the rules, regulations, and taboos of the religion. Certain bed rules, dietary regulations, or ways of acting must be strictly observed for the role.

Representatives of Public Life

Entertainers, actors, musicians, elite athletes, politicians, reporters, models, and others associated with the yellow press can all be included in this category. One should of course have a certain skill in his field and have the right demeanor. Autograph cards and image material, party folders, etc. should be available.


All people who involve physical effort in their job, such as construction workers, painters, gardeners, truck drivers, plumbers belong to this category. Of course, you should be able to show that you have the necessary tools and expertise. You also have to consider that you may be able to tell from physical features whether you are doing physical work.


This area includes repair crews, water company or electric company employees, prison guards, police officers, nurses, military, security guards, and guards. In principle, you can probably get the furthest with this camouflage and may even be allowed to enter security-relevant areas. It goes without saying that you have to be able to show the necessary papers and permits.

Of course, the possibilities are far from exhausted with these professional groups. A contemporary Ninja does not feel restricted by any limitation and will let his imagination run wild at will.

Adaptation to the Disguise

The goal should always be not to choose the role that is easiest to portray but to choose the one that brings the Ninja closest to his goal. Under certain circumstances, the path is not easy, it can also happen that the Ninja first has to familiarize himself with a team of workers for a while before he reaches his destination or his target person.


The person you want to embody must also match your type. You can’t play a construction worker as a small, slim person with soft skin without putting yourself at risk. As a young person, the role of a company boss or a dignitary is not taken away from you. On the other hand, an older person is not believed to be a student.

Hair and Body Shape

The easiest way is to change the hairstyle and hair color. Changing body shape is far more difficult, and requires a lot of time or costly costuming. Posture, gait, and behavior can be adjusted through persistent practice. Disguise, makeup, and costumes can be easily customized.

Knowledge and Skills

It is much more difficult for a Ninja to acquire the necessary specialist knowledge of the professional group. Of course, you can prepare yourself for a job through books, at universities, or in courses, but it can happen that you are forced to prove your specialist knowledge. Depending on the professional group, this can prove to be differently difficult.


Language is another difficult part of the transformation. An experienced Ninja speaks as little as possible in order not to reveal himself. Of course, being overly reserved in certain professions can be very suspicious, but silence is usually safer because you can’t get caught up in any question-and-answer conversations. It is imperative that you become familiar with correct pronunciation, speech quality, and accent. The necessary technical language, idioms, and colloquialisms must absolutely fit the role. When you are in a foreign country, there is also the barrier of the foreign language, because if you cannot speak without an accent, you immediately stand out as a foreigner.

Operation Area

It is also important to familiarize yourself with the geography of the area of ​​operation. You should know escape routes and be able to find your way around your workplace.


If you want to take on the role of another person, you have to internalize their psychology as well. You may have to say things you hate or behave in a way you normally hate. Without the necessary acted conviction, you won’t be able to play the role convincingly enough.

It should also be borne in mind that a distinction must be made between private and professional in most occupational groups. Cops don’t always talk about crime and fighting it.

In shichi hō de you have to focus your whole mind on the role you want to play and become a different person at times. But one must not lose oneself in the new role so that a return to the old I is no longer possible or is even rejected. This requires a very strong personality.

Text: Stefan Imhoff