American Ninja is no longer a fictional character created by 80's B-movie schlock house, Cannon Films.
No, there's a real American Ninja, and his name is Chris O'Neill.
29-year old O'Neill was just hired by the the Japanese government as an official, bonafide ninja. He will tour with six other ninja to help promote the Aichi region of the country, traveling across Japan as well as abroad in an effort to educate people about their culture and martial arts.
Satoshi Adachi of Aichi prefecture recently spoke very highly of Chris in an interview with Agency France-Presse:
Believe it or not, there's a lot more to O'Neill than just his abilities as a ninja. Chris is martial artist, free-runner, and has an active social media presence as a vlogger. He's also the face of his own travel show, Chris Across the World.
Chris recently spoke to Mashable about becoming one of Japan's first salaried ninja:
Normally, I never get nervous for auditions. I have done so many, I lost the nervous feeling a long time ago. However, for this audition they had an interview session for about a half-hour before the performance session. I was really nervous about understanding what they said and being able to speak in Japanese for them. My Japanese is so bad.
Not only did Chris have to speak in Japanese, but it was a little more detailed then just answering a few questions:
During that section they asked me to tell a story in Japanese. That was harder than any acrobatic routine I ever performed. Next was the acrobatic section, which was fun, but a little embarrassing because I destroyed the floor of the audition place.
The ninja's performances will not only be about promoting tourism, but they'll also off an education for the people who attend them:
Performing, teaching people about the difference between real Ninja and what people think Ninja are. The purpose of my job is to encourage people to visit Aichi-ken in Japan, which is super easy because this place has so much to offer. We will be doing a traveling show and hopefully be performing around the world.
But how did Chris O'Neill even become a ninja? It was a road that started fairly young for O'Neill:
I’ve been a ninja since before I can remember. I was enrolled in a Martial Arts school when I was really young, and then when I was seven or eight I started to get really serious about it. I went to a university in America with a Martial Arts major when I was 18. And while traveling the world, I studied every style I could. People around the world are so talented and have so many skill sets. I've tried to learn a little from everyone I met.
It's the education from others that he can now share with those that come out and see him perform. It's also an education that he continues to receive as he travels the globe with his six colleagues:
The best part of this job will be working closely with such talented and amazing people. I am so excited to have the chance to perform with them. They have been extremely warm and welcoming to me already. That being said, it is also the scariest part — I need to improve my Japanese! I want to build strong relationships with these people. I cannot express my heart clearly in Japanese and I worry about that. But a Ninja family is a special family. I am excited to learn from my new friends.