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 and could use Fire Release techniques with only one hand seal.
Although rare, it is possible for a shinobi to be able to do hand seals with just one hand. The only shinobi seen so far capable of this are Haku, Minato Namikaze, and Guren. It is also possible for shinobi to form hand seals with one of their hands while using the hand of another person as a substitute for the opposite one. This can happen voluntarily, like when Naruto Uzumaki and Sasuke Uchiha joined hands to dispel the Infinite Tsukuyomi, or forecefully, such as Anko Mitarashi using Orochimaru's hand for the Twin Snakes Mutual Death Technique, or (in the anime) Obito Uchiha using Kakashi Hatake's for the Fire Release: Great Fireball Technique.
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.
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.
Canon Hand Seals
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 Clone 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, Hashirama uses it to enter Sage Mode as well, Gaara uses it for Quicksand Waterfall Flow at his fight against Kimimaro. It is also used to perform the Chibaku Tensei technique. Once the seal sequence is completed, the user's hands are held in this position until the desired effect is achieved. While entering its third transformation, the Ten-Tails has been observed to make this particular seal.
Used in techniques such as the Summoning Technique and several Earth Release techniques, 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.
The basic Ram seal is mirrored. To form the seal, the hands are joined together where the right hand thumb is on top of left hand, and the forefinger and middle fingers are facing vertically. This seal is used by Obito and Madara for Six Paths Ten-Tails Coffin Seal, and also for Sage Art: Yin Release Lightning Dispatch.
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.
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.
Twin Snakes Mutual Death Seal
A hand seal involving both the user and the enemy is used in the kinjutsu Twin Snakes Mutual Death.
Mangekyō Sharingan Activation Seal
Probably another seal used to gather and focus chakra, it was used by Kakashi in his first battle with Deidara, when he activated his Mangekyō Sharingan to use Kamui for the first time seen in the series. It is formed like the Tiger seal, except with the index fingers' end segments pushed down against each other, forming a house-like shape in the user's point of view. When Kakashi used it, he positioned it in front of his left eye.
Sasuke's Snake Seal
- As with the Akimichi seal, this technique also draws controversy with the Bird seal, as it seems similar from a frontal view. However, side view comparisons of this seal and the Bird seal in Water Release: Water Dragon Bullet Technique and/or Shadow Sewing Technique show that this is a different seal.
Daytime Tiger Seal
This seal is used in Daytime Tiger. It does not release chakra, but rather keeps it inside the body to use as energy and strength. This creates a missile type of technique which is not a body of chakra. This seal is actually based off one of the original Kuji-jin seals, the seal of the Outer Lion. In this case, the hands are meant to resemble a tiger. The index fingers (the "eyes" of the Tiger) glow green with the evaporating green sweat of the user (result of releasing the Gate of Wonder).
Great Shark Bullet Seal
Kisame's Water Release: Great Shark Bullet Technique requires this seal. Possibly a comparison to Guy's Daytime Tiger seal, which resembles a tiger, this hand seal is a thrust, but with both hands touching at the wrist and right hand above the left. The fingers are also folded in a way that vaguely resembles shark's teeth. This overall placement of the hands resembles a shark with an open jaw.
Tearing Earth Turning Palm Hand Seal
When Sumashi uses Earth Release: Tearing Earth Turning Palm, he uses a special seal that is formed by cupping the left hand and turning it so that it faces the ground and placing the right hand next to it with the index and middle fingers raised.
Non-canon Hand Seals
Hoshigakure Hand Seal
The signature technique of Hoshigakure Mysterious Peacock Method uses a hand seal that has the middle and other index finger pushed down and touching, with the right index finger and pinkie touching together to form an arch.
- This seal looks similar to the Bird hand sign on a frontal view, but is in fact a different hand sign from opposite angles.
In the anime, certain variant seals to aid in the activation of the Byakugan are seen. Most are some of the basic twelve seals, but several are different. In the manga, seals are indeed used several times, but of course, they cannot be seen with detail.
Water Formation Wall Seal
In the anime, a special seal is used instead of what is seen in the manga for the Water Release: Water Formation Wall Technique.
Fūma Curse Mandala Seals
Guren's Unknown Crystal Seals
Several "unknown" seals are used in Crystal Release: Crystal Encampment Wall.
Tornado Lightning Seal
In Naruto the Movie: Legend of the Stone of Gelel, Ranke uses an unknown hand seal to activate her Tornado Lightning. However, considering that neither she nor her comrades knew what chakra is, her technique is unlikely to be ninjutsu, and her "hand seal" is likely merely an attack gesture.
Land of the Sky's Seal
In Naruto Shippūden the Movie: Bonds, an unknown seal is used to focus chakra in prepration for attacking from the Flying Destruction Machine. The seal is formed by pressing the knuckles of each hand together, with the back of the hands facing outwards.
Land of Demons' Seals
- Taruho used the Shadow Mirror Body Changing Method, which used hand seals like:
- Tiger, but with little fingers pressed inwards instead
- Tiger/Ram with left hand, and right hand with thumb up "punching" the left
- Boar, but with left hand pointed upwards instead
- Right hand facing down above left, left hand facing up below right; Each hand's index and middle fingers folded, and ring and little fingers straight.
- Also, the Shrine Seal used by Shion (Yomi also used a technique by repeating the same seal names, although he only held his palm forward the whole time) uses a numerous amount of different seals with different names as followed:
- Hatsu: Right palm facing forward, fingertips directing to the right
- Jin: Right hand Tiger/Ram facing down, placed under the eyes pointing towards the left
- Kai: Right hand Tiger/Ram, pointing up with arm straight, facing forward
- After completing the first three seals, Shion begins to levitate, the seal lights up, a barrier is formed around the seal, and the spheres inside the seal move around the circle (Yomi did not have to do this)
- Min: Both palms pushed forward, fingertips pointing about 45 degrees up/forward
- Shin: Both palms pressed together (like a clap)
- Gan: Left fist "punching" right palm
- Reppyō: "Rep" seems identical to the Snake/Earth seal. "Pyō" Each hand in half Tiger/Ram, arms stretched with fingertips pointing forward
- Shōzen: Both hands in fists, left left above right; looks similar to the Rat seal
- Mika: Seems identical to Min
- Dan: Each hands revolves around one another into Tiger/Ram, right hand behind left
- Raku: Left hand raised up facing down with middle and ring fingers folded and index and little fingers straight pointing towards the left, right palm pushed down facing down pointing forward
- Shō: Left palm facing down in front with fingertips pointing right, right fist punching left palm from below
- After completing these 9 seals, the stone tablets in the shrine will arise in front of Shion.
- Fu: Hold Shō
- Sai: Hold Shō
- Dan: Hold Shō
- Gika: Hold Shō
- Ragu: Left hand pointing diagonally up/right 45 degrees, right hand middle and ring fingers folded index and little fingers straight pointing diagonally up/left placed in front of left forearm
- Bagi: Right palm facing left with fingertips pointing up in front of user, left forearm behind right seal and left fist placed above right elbow
The first four of these are unseen and it may be that she only shouts these words while holding Shō. Yomi did not use these last six seals.
Hiruko's Storm Release Seal
- Hand seal usage is not limited to shinobi. Shima and Fukasaku as well as the Ten-Tails have been observed to make hand seals, and Madara Uchiha's Susanoo has also been seen making seals while pulling a meteorite toward the earth.
- In the anime, a kunoichi known as Hanare could use a mind reading technique that required the use of her eye by "weaving seals" with her right eye. How she does this exactly is unknown. This was not a dōjutsu kekkei genkai as it could be copied with the Sharingan.
- In the tenth Naruto: Shippūden opening sequence, Naruto, Sakura, and Sai perform a technique using three-handed seals.
- In Hinduism and Buddhism, hand seals are called mudrā (मुद्रा) and are used in everyday life, but also in religious practices and even in dances. The one most significant with synonymous association with ninja would be the Kuji-In set of Mudra.
- The usage of hand seals in the arts of Ninjutsu in Naruto is likely a reference to the powers of Horiki, being fantastical powers said to be gained in esoteric Japanese Mikkyo Buddhism through intense meditation to become in tune with one's buddhahood. In the lore of ninja and ninjutsu, the secrets of Horiki were said to be gained from its beginnings in ancient Heian era nobility, then revived in practice and was responsible for their mythical powers.
- ↑ Chapter 90, page 5
- ↑ Chapter 15, page 8
- ↑ Chapter 120, page 4
- ↑ Chapter 699, pages 7 - 8
- ↑ Chapter 50, page 13
- ↑ Naruto: Shippūden, episode 375
- ↑ Chapter 5, page 7
- ↑ Chapter 361, page 13
- ↑ Chapter 1, page 49
- ↑ Chapter 49, page 17
- ↑ Chapter 663, page 12
- ↑ Chapter 674, page 1
- ↑ Naruto episode 9
- ↑ Chapter 49, page 7
- ↑ Chapter 55, page 11
- ↑ Chapter 137, page 10