Equal parts naiveté, delusion, and obnoxiousness, the mall ninja contributes to countless ill-informed online debates concerning arms, armor and warfare, and is a common consumer of assorted paramilitary woo, broscience, and shared misconceptions about history and the world.
The term "mall ninja" is pejorative; no one self-identifies as such. More often, they self-identify as weapon "experts," martial arts aficionados, and otherwise Really Cool Guys.
 Common beliefs
There are many different varieties of mall ninjas, with wide-ranging fixations, but all of them idolize combat while having very little first-hand experience of it. It is entirely possible to be very interested in warfare and weapons whilst knowing their complete reality (viz., if you point a gun/sword/knife/deadly object at a person, you should expect to kill them, and face the moral, psychological, and legal consequences of killing them; also, one can often expect one's opponents in battle to carry weapons), but mall ninjas focus on the honor and glory of warfare, and are characterized with seeing the "glorious" aspect of fighting without acknowledging that they would probably find it terrifying or repugnant if they were dropped in the middle of a real war zone.
Common foci of idolatry among the mall ninjas include:
 Japan and Japanese weapons
Often fueled by depictions in anime and otaku culture, the idea that Japanese items and weapons are "just better" is a very common meme among mall ninjas (indeed, it is what gives them their name) and is mostly fueled by fascination with the exotic. In a way, it is a kind of folklore: because of the intense pride that Japanese culture has in its history and symbols, media produced in Japan often has the same spin. When consumed by someone with no idea of what's realistic, that kind of cultural pride can be mistaken for reality.
Among the most common assertions is that the Japanese katana is the sharpest, best performing, or otherwise coolest sword ever designed. There exist hundreds of videos on YouTube of katanas pitted against various substances and objects, as well as hundreds of forum arguments about if a katana or other Japanese sword could really cut through a person in one stroke, etc. However, while the katana can cut through various objects, so can any other reasonably well-made sword. Moreover, it can only do so in the hands of a skilled user, and merely holding one does not make a person anywhere close to that. This is yet one more example of where real life diverges from movies.
The reputation of the katana and other traditional Japanese swords and edged weapons is due to the forging techniques developed in Imperial and Shogunate era Japan, which involved concentrating the hardest but most delicate steel in the blade edge and layering softer and stronger steel around it to create a powerful combination of sharpness and strength. However, you can trust mall ninjas to buy terrible, overpriced replica blades over the internet and then act like they're carrying an actual tool of war. Most of these swords are made of 420 or 440A stainless steel, and are about as far removed from authentic swords as a bottle rocket is from a ballistic missile. Others are made of a zinc-aluminum blend that, while more expensive, is even less effective as a weapon.
Japanese swordsmithing itself also went through several periods of quality, refinement, and even decline. The apex of ancient Japanese swords was in the Kamakura period (1185-1333, before the Katana was even formally invented), followed by the decline of the Shinto (literally "new sword," 1596-1781) period, followed by the almost total lack of swordsmithing in the Shin-Shinto (literally "new-new sword," 1781-1876) period when blades were banned for carry. There was a revival in pride and use after the Russo-Japanese War that reached its peak in World War II, wherein high demand for officer swords combined with mass production meant that quality reached its nadir. Mall ninjas tend to know little of this and demand katanas anyway despite the history. It is extremely expensive to have one made (generally costing around three to five thousand USD for a "real" one), and equally so to buy a genuine antique katana of any value, and many "old" swords bought are just as likely to be from declining periods as resurgence periods. High quality antique katanas generally start around $10,000, and only get more expensive from there.
Other Japan-related follies that mall ninjas consume include various dubious forms of martial arts. Learning "ninjitsu" is a frequent topic. While people have coined informal schools based on "ninja" techniques, historical ninjas were hardly pajamas-wearing stealth assassins, but more like "that farmer who inconspicuously just stabbed that guy with his sickle and ran into the crowd." Most serious martial arts instructors have nothing but contempt for ninja, self-proclaimed or historical. A variety of phony martial arts forms exist primarily to capitalize on mall ninjas.
 Guns and other militaria
Often a specialized type of gun nut, a mall ninja with a thing for guns and contemporary warfare will often have been familiarized with it through various video games such as Counter-Strike and Modern Warfare, action movies, techno-thrillers (such as those by Tom Clancy) and gung-ho military fiction. This by no means is an indication of mall ninja status (they're legitimate inspirations), but it certainly does explain the level of realism they treat their passion with.
However, while mall ninjas may be able to rattle off firearm models seemingly on full automatic, they may not know specifics such as the cost of maintaining, the actual difficulty of using, or the legal status of owning said firearm models. They may also profess military training without offering evidence, or claim to know as much as someone who has military training. Idolization of the militia movement and mercenaries is also common. They are common prey to woo concerning warfare, unrealistic depictions of military activities and movements, and stereotypes about the best types of guns (e.g. .45 is superior to 9mm). They also tend to buy accessories for their guns that, more often than not, do nothing to improve weapon effectiveness, and would most likely make them the laughing stocks at their local shooting ranges. It's safe to say that anyone who claims that that the US Navy Seals are just like Spartans, or anyone who simultaneously claims to be sixteen yet was able to purchase hundreds and hundreds of dollars of expensive weapons that they likely have no access to, is probably not very familiar with reality.
 Everyday Carry
The idea of "Everyday Carry" (EDC) are the items you carry on your person on a daily basis. Normal people usually only carry the essentials such as a wallet, keys, a cell phone, a low-power flashlight, or even a small knife or maybe (around 1-3% in US states where it's legal and relatively accessible) a sidearm. Mall ninjas and other proponents of EDC, however, insist on carrying items that can be used in a survival situation. Such items commonly include a "tactical" flashlight (with super high candlepower output), a medkit, a kubotan, a CCW sidearm, two or more "tactical" pocket knives, a G-Shock brand watch, a Leatherman, a lighter (even if they don't smoke), and a passport. For reference, check the videos on the Nutnfancy YouTube channel where he talks about the stuff that he carries (he even has a special pair of pants for carrying all of that stuff).
Some mall ninjas come away with spiritual snippets they've culled from the following:
- Badly translated Buddhist, Taoist and Shinto texts.
- New Age claptrap
- Star Wars
- Dune (film and books)
- Monkey Magic, and various other films from the far east. (Check out Hong Kong's Once A Ninja - classic)
- Tibetan and Native American stuff
- Sun Tsu's Art of War
These are usually lifted out of context, by people who don't understand the ideas or cultures of the material. Some mall ninjas engage in meditation practices too.
 Bad idea distributors
Individual mall ninjas are not notable and easily dismissed as "just losers on the internet." But in large groups, they mobilize entire forums dedicated to supporting each other and each other's machismo. Such places form a substantial chunk of the clogosphere and are responsible for not only propagating but also forming an astounding amount of bad and potentially dangerous woo and broscience. They prolong the "life" of various scams and misinformation by providing an audience of consumers. Websites devoted to internet memes are frequently plagued with ads geared towards mall ninjas, generally in the form of websites selling cheap swords, Airsoft guns, and hilariously bad "self defense" classes.
Thankfully, it is possible to grow out of being a mall ninja. Most of those described are young (under 30) and can later learn that knowing ninja-fu or being able to wave around a big manly gun is not actually something that validates a person. The ones that don't grow out of it are probably stupid.
 See also
- ↑ The original "mall ninja" thread that coined the name. Warning: Do not read if you don't want your keyboard covered in the iced tea that you blasted out your nose in hysterical laughter. Also, the blog hosting the thread is run by a right-wing gun nut, so tread carefully around the links.
- ↑ http://www.squidoo.com/sharpest-weapon-ever
- ↑ They are pretty entertaining, admittedly.
- ↑ These swords are called Iaitō[wp], and in terms of weight, balance, etc. are actually more similar to genuine swords than the stainless steel crap you buy at Exotic Imports.
- ↑ A WEALTH of Yahoo Answers results...
- ↑ Bullshido.net is just one site devoted to debunking martial arts woo.
- ↑ From the Peloponnese or from Halo, take your pick.
- ↑ The Nutnfancy Project
- ↑ And Cracked, for that matter.