The protection of the body by the use of armor and shields has been the focus of combatants for centuries. Initially, armor and shields were made of bone, hides, and leather followed by stronger metals of bronze and then steel.
Plate armor was used by Greeks and Romans but disappeared from disuse after the Roman Empire collapsed. Mail emerged around the 1st millennium BC, succeeded by the renewal of plate armor around the 13th century AD.
Today's sophisticated armor; IOTV (Improved Outer Tactical Vests) uses Kevlar and ceramics, providing bullet and heat resistance. Unlike metal armor of the previous centuries that weighed approx. 60 lbs, the IOTV weighs a mere 4.8 lbs and boasts airflow, comfort, storage, easy remove-ability, and most importantly, maximum protection and durability.
Earlier cultures allowed armor exclusively to nobles, being prohibitive for large numbers of soldiers. Today, traditional armor and shields are used mainly for ceremonial purposes.
Martial arts have throughout history addressed weapon protection in many forms. One extraordinary example of this comes from the Ninjas who used their armor (a secret costume with hood and face mask) to aid them in developing a highly systematic method of combat and espionage.
The armor was not just used for protection but to assist in disguise, avoiding detection, and storage. Ninja armor allowed for full and easy movement despite thin metal plates stitched into the cloth of the body, jacket and hood.
Trousers were reversible with different colors to camouflage in different environments - black for night operations, green for forest maneuvers, and white for snow strikes. As well, special compartments were built-in for storing waste of bodily functions when the time and place were unavailable.
Beneath the hood, the cowl (a cloth wrapped around the head) was soaked in a special antiseptic resin to use as a bandage or as a filter to purify dirty water for drinking when on the move.
Sophisticated shoe designs (with a gap between the big and second toe) were equipped with bottom spikes for traction and climbing. Odd shaped soles threw trackers off their trail, often sporting animal prints or reversed soles, which left tracks pointing in the opposite direction.
A utility belt (a sash tied around the waist) held a writing kit for intelligence gathering, small weapons, and waterproof containers with potions, poisons, and blinding mixtures.
Ninja means, "one skilled in the art of stealth," or "one who endures." The armor served for invisibility, and their endurance helped them triumph.