Seals (印, in; English TV "Hand signs") are used to perform many ninjutsu, genjutsu, and other secret arts other than taijutsu. The exact amount of chakra necessary to perform a technique is manipulated through hand seals. There are different sequences of hand seals for every technique, requiring memorisation.
While techniques may require a number of hand seals to work, a skilled ninja can use less or even one to perform the same technique. An example of this is the Water Release: Water Dragon Bullet Technique, which requires a total of 44 hand seals to activate. Tobirama Senju, the Second Hokage, only needed to use one hand seal to complete the technique, a testament to his skill. In fact, by Part II, Sasuke Uchiha has managed to master the Chidori to the point of not needing a single hand seal to invoke it.
Basic Hand Seals
There are twelve basic seals, each one named after an animal of the Chinese zodiac.
- Bird (酉, Tori)
- Boar (亥, I)
- Dog (戌, Inu): This hand seal is commonly affiliated with the movie only Ice Release and with Danzō's Wind Release.
- Dragon (辰, Tatsu)
- Ox (丑, Ushi)
- Tiger (寅, Tora): This hand seal is commonly affiliated with Fire Release.
- Snake (巳, Mi): This hand seal is commonly affiliated with Earth Release and with Wood Release.
- Rat (子, Ne): This hand seal is commonly affiliated with the special Shadow Techniques of the Nara clan.
- Horse (午, Uma)
- Monkey (申, Saru)
- Hare (卯, U)
- Ram (未, Hitsuji)
Other Hand Seals
Besides the twelve basic hand seals, there are unique hand seals used for certain techniques. These hand seals are rarely seen, and can be considered unique to specific techniques.
This seal is most commonly associated with the creation of clones using techniques such as the Shadow Clone Technique, its derivative and the Multiple Wood Release Clones Technique, separate from the basic twelve seals, where index and middle fingers from both hands are crossed. This hand seal is also used in performing the Water Release: Water Shark Bullet Technique.
This is more of an initiation of a technique rather than a hand seal where the user simply claps their hands together as exemplified when Naruto Uzumaki for example summons chakra or is breaking genjutsu. The hand seal sequence for powerful summoning kinjutsu like the Summoning: Impure World Reincarnation and the Dead Demon Consuming Seal end with this motion; similarly, Jiraiya prepares to enter Sage Mode (summoning Shima and Fukasaku) by performing this motion and sustaining it. It is also used to perform the Chibaku Tensei technique. Once the seal sequence completed, the user's hands are held in this position until the desired effect is achieved.
Used in techniques such as the Summoning Technique, this is also more of an initiation of a technique than a seal. The user presses their hand to the surface that is affected.
Haku's Demonic Mirroring Ice Crystals technique can be done with a special seal, which resembles Tiger with middle fingers crossed over the index fingers. Interestingly, Orochimaru also uses this seal when giving the Cursed Seal of Heaven to an individual.
This is another one of the seals that are used in normal techniques, yet isn't one of the basic twelve seals. The "Yang Water" (壬, Jin) seal is used in techniques such as the Water Release: Water Dragon Bullet Technique and the Shrine Seal. In the anime, this seal is formed similar to the Dog seal, but the left hand is under the right, and the left's palm is facing up.
Five Elements' Seal
The fūinjutsu Five Elements Seal used by Orochimaru uses a single special seal, which consists in both hands' thumbs and little fingers touching each other tips, with left index and middle fingers and right index finger raised, with the latter touching the left middle. The left ring finger is placed over the right ring finger, with both the latter and the right middle folded down (just like the Ox seal in the left hand).
The Akimichi clan use a certain seal in their Multi-Size Technique, which also resembles the Bird seal from frontal view. However, it is confirmed that this is a different seal, as the Bird seal has been seen in a side view in techniques such as Water Release: Water Dragon Bullet Technique and the Shadow Sewing Technique. The index and little fingers are raised up, the middle and ring fingers are each folded on top of the hand opposite itself and interlocked with each another, and the thumbs are pressed together at their end segments.
In the anime, there are several "variations" to this seal, likely mistakes. Sometimes, it is formed like the Half Tiger, with the little fingers also raised. Other times, it is formed more similarly in fashion to the Bird seal instead, with index and little fingers raised, and with the thumb and middle and ring fingers are folded in and pressed against each other.
- This seal is therefore very controversial, as this seal was used instead of the Bird seal multiple times in the anime or in movies, likely a mistake.
Mind Technique Seals
The Yamanaka clan uses different seals to activate their techniques, such as the Mind Body Switch Technique and the Mind Body Disturbance Technique. Another seal was used to release the Mind Body Switch Technique and return to the original body. This seal resembled both hands' fingers straightened and crossed into an "X", similar to the Ox seal (however not a "+"), but without the left middle and ring fingers down.
Seal of Confrontation
The Seal of Confrontation (対立の印, Tairitsu no In), which looks like a half-tiger/ram, is the symbol of combat and is a universal sign of engagement between shinobi. It represents half of a seal that might be used to activate a ninjutsu. This motion is often used to concentrate chakra, and many shinobi are seen initiating simple, basic techniques as well as few complex ones after making this seal. Deidara also often used this when he detonated his explosive clay and Sai used it for his Super Beast Imitating Drawing. Madara Uchiha's and Hashirama Senju's statues at the Valley of the End are both forming the Seal of Confrontation whilst facing each other.
Seal of Reconciliation
The Seal of Reconciliation (和解の印, Wakai no In) while not used in battle or for techniques, is used in Traditional Shinobi Sparring as a demonstration that the two opponents are still comrades after sparring.
Seals of the Buddha Nature
There are nine Seals of the Buddha Nature (仏性印, Busshō-In) are used by the practitioners of the Holy Art:
- Confront (臨, Rin): Hands together, fingers interlocked. The index (sometimes middle) fingers are raised and pressed together.
- Peace (平, Pyō): Hands together, pinkies and ring fingers interlocked (often on the inside). Index finger and thumb raised and pressed together, middle fingers cross over index fingers and their tips curl back to touch the thumbs' tips.
- Fight (闘, Tō): Hands together, index fingers cross each other to touch opposite ring fingers, middle fingers crossed over them. Ring and pinky fingers are straight. Tips of ring fingers pressed together, tips of pinkies pressed together, but both sets of ring and pinky fingers are separated to form a V shape.
- Apology (謝, Sha): Hands together, ring fingers cross each other to touch opposite index fingers, middle fingers crossed over them. Index finger, pinky and thumb straight.
- Release (解, Kai): Hands together, fingers interlocked, looks identical to snake seal.
- God (神, Jin): Hands together, fingers interlocked, with the fingertips inside.
- Anger (烈, Retsu): Left hand in an upward-pointing fist, index finger raised. Right hand grips index finger, and thumb is pressed onto left index's nail.
- Sin (罪, Zai): Hands spread out in front, with thumb and index finger touching.
- Sage (仙, Zen): Hands form a circle, thumbs on top and fingers on the bottom, right hand overlapping left up to the knuckles.
- In buddhism, hand seals are called mudrā (मुद्रा) and are used in everyday life, but also in religious practices and even in dances. The probably most famous mudrā is called namaste.
- The Seals of the Buddha Nature are identical in formation and pronunciation to the Kuji-in of Buddhism. However, they are written with different kanji so as to show the different purpose for which they are used:
- Pyō (平; Literally meaning "Peace"), as opposed to 兵 (Literally meaning "Soldier").
- Sha (謝; Literally meaning "Apology"), as opposed to 者 (Literally meaning "Person").
- Kai (解; Literally meaning "Release"), as opposed to 皆 (Literally meaning "Everything").
- Jin (神; Literally meaning "God"), as opposed to 陣 (Literally meaning "Encampment").
- Retsu (烈; Literally meaning "Anger"), as opposed to 列 (Literally meaning "Split").
- Zai (罪; Literally meaning "Sin"), as opposed to 在 (Literally meaning "Existence").
- Zen (仙; Literally meaning "Sage"), as opposed to 前 (Literally meaning "Front")
- Rin (臨; Literally meaning "Confront") and Tō (闘; Literally meaning "Fight"), however, remain unchanged.
- ↑ Naruto chapter 5, page 7
- ↑ Naruto chapter 361, page 13
- ↑ Naruto chapter 1, page 49
- ↑ Naruto chapter 49, page 17
- ↑ Naruto episode 9
- ↑ Naruto chapter 49, page 7
- ↑ Naruto chapter 55, page 11
- ↑ Naruto chapter 137, page 10
Fanon Hand Seals
By Kogone Uchiha:
- Owl (Tiger without the long fingers)
- Turtle (Boar, only more bended)
- Wolf (Monkey with pinkie and pointer fingers crossed with thumbs pointing out.)
- Shark (Ox with all left hand fingers down and right hand fingers up.)
- Lion (Boar with one hand open.)
- Triceratops (Hare but reversed and inverted.)
- Bear (Dragon but horizantal.)
- Rhino (Snake but with right pointer finger out.)
- Beetle (Dog but with top hand grabing bottom hand.)
- Salamander (Snake with pinkie fingers up like in bird)
- Falcon (Horse but with top fingers down like others and thumbs pointed up.)
- Crane (Palms together fingers pointing up.)
- Hikari (Unique to M.E.W. 2; puts one finger under the two other ones, all three fingertips touching)
- Kanki (Unique to M.E.W. 2; two fingertips touching together, the third staying idle)
- Dolphin (Tiger but without the long fingers)
- Jin/Yang Water (Clap hands but with right hand facing down, fingers bent)
It is possible to use jutsus without the need for handsigns. As stated by Kakashi in the anime and manga, hand seals are used to focus chakra in a special way in order to use genjutsu and ninjutsu. However, if someone were to master focus through meditation, then it is possible to use jutsu without hand seals.
While the sage of the six paths founded ninjutsu, the legendary shinobi Kurisu Henley took the sage's ideas to fully perfect hand seals. He is also the creator of the one handed seals, albiet he never mastered it himself.