There is much mystery and misinformation when it comes to one of the most secretive sects of warriors seen throughout history, ninjas.
Over time, light has been shed on many of the practices, rituals, and tactics utilized by the stealthy warriors. There are still some topics that are not fully understood when it comes to ninjas.
One of those topics is Kuji-Goshinjutsu.
Kuji-Goshinjutsu is a practice ninjas use when they would recite syllables while performing complex symbols with their hands.
Many enemies of ninjas that did not understand these hand signs assumed that supernatural abilities were a threat when these hand signals were performed.
In many popular shows and anime you will see a ninja perform some feat of magic or spell work after completing a series of complex hand seals.
The truth was a bit more subtle and complex than that.
Ninjas would often perform these hand signals and recitations as Buddhist prayers asking for protection, forms to invoke self-discipline and concentration, and to intimidate opponents who had no idea what they we’re up against.
Many people do not realize that the roots of ninjutsu are quite flavored with a hint of Buddhism, Shintoism, and Taoism. This spiritual influence is reflected in many of the training methodologies employed by ninjas as well as their philosophies.
There are nine different hand signs used by ninjas of the past. (Buddhist meanings)
1- Rin, to confront
2- Pyo, to soldier on
3- To, to battle with
4- Sha, against a person
5- Kai, with everyone or entire group
6- Jin, the formation
7- Retsu, in a row
8- Zai, to presence
9- Zen, to move forward
The nine hand symbols have the influence of Taoism as that they are supposedly divided into Yin and Yang. 5 of the hand signals fall in the Yin category while four of the hand signals fall in the Yang category.
Each symbol has a meaning and intent. Performing the hand signals in specific orders will create specific outcomes, according to the philosophy of the ninjas of the era.
So now when you see a ninja in an anime or movie begin to perform a series of complex hand signs you have a better understanding of just what the origin is of that practice.