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Every Hand Sign In Naruto (And What They Represent) Explained

"Naruto" has been one of the world's most popular manga and anime franchises since its debut in 1999. Its massive fanbase has played a major role in keeping it going — and boy, has it kept going. The "Naruto" manga series ultimately ran until 2014, spanning a mind-boggling 72 volumes, while the anime ran from 2002 to 2017. 

Like all fans, "Naruto" aficionados have favorite characters, favorite moves, and, perhaps most uniquely, favorite hand signs. Hand signs are used to perform ninjutsu, genjutsu, and other secret arts. They properly summon and mold a person's chakra, and are often performed in rapid succession. It doesn't hurt to slow the playback down a bit to see them in all their glory when you're binging your favorite episodes — there's more going on there than you might initially notice, and they're crucially plot important. One example of an extreme use of hand signs is the Water Release: Water Dragon Bullet Technique, which requires a staggering 44 hand signs in rapid succession.

Some characters completely master the use of hand signs, and can perform complex maneuvers using just one motion. Other fighters, like Naruto, learn to perform one-handed signs, which becomes particularly necessary after he loses his arm (though he later learns to work with a prosthetic). No matter how they're used, hand signs are key to "Naruto." We're here to break them down, from what they do to who performs them best.

Rat (子, Ne)

The Rat hand sign is performed by extending the right index and middle fingers. These are grasped by the other hand, while the left index finger is kept on top, with the left thumb remaining on the outside. Rat, which is used for nature transformation release, is deployed by the Nara clan. Additionally, Rat plays an essential role in the Nara clan's Shadow Imitation techniques.

In the anime, Shikamaru Nara uses Rat to trigger Shadow Possession jutsu. This extends a person's shadow over a larger area, allowing it to reach distant targets. When the person's shadow encounters the target, the victim is compelled to follow the user's movements. Rat can also be performed multiple times in quick succession, as it taps into a user's chakra reserves.

Ox (丑, Ushi)

To perform the Ox hand sign, a shinobi sticks all of their fingers out and crosses them, leaving the thumbs out. To do this properly, the left hand must face outward, while the right hand faces inward. Once this is complete, the user must lay the left ring and middle fingers on the right hand, making the remaining fingers look like a bull's horns. Also, both forearms must be held parallel to the ground.

Performing the Ox sign takes extensive practice, as it can be challenging to do quickly — even compared to other signs, it's an awkward one to deploy. Ox isn't used as part of a Nature Release; it's mainly used by members of the Uchiha clan for Fire Release techniques. This makes Ox a go-to sign for Sasuke and Itachi, who have a penchant for fire jutsu. Ox is also the fourth of six hand signs used in the Phoenix Sage Fire Technique. While the Uchiha Clan favors Ox, many outside the clan have also mastered its use.

Tiger (寅, Tora)

Tiger is one of the easiest hand signs to perform. The shinobi clasps their hands together with their fingers intertwined. The forearms are kept parallel to the ground, as the left and right index and middle fingers are raised together. Tiger is the hand sign used as the precursor for all Fire and Earth Releases, which means it's employed quite often throughout the "Naruto" anime.

Sasuke often uses the Tiger hand sign when performing fire jutsu, which forms chakra deep within the stomach. It's superheated and released through the mouth as vivid fire, which makes for a handy weapon. Some shinobi alter and enhance this ability by incorporating explosive tags, gunpowder, and other items, to typically devastating effect.

Tiger is used throughout the Land of Fire and Leaf Village, and is a favorite of the Sarutobi and Uchiha clans. The most devastating form of Fire Release that uses Tiger is Amaterasu, which Itachi uses in his fight against Sasuke.

Hare (卯, U)

Hare is performed by making finger guns with the left hand, which is then slid into the right hand with the pinky extended. This hand sign is used for a variety of moves, and is often deployed by Kakashi to perform Chidori jutsu. Hare is the second of three hand signs in this jutsu, which releases an immense amount of chakra in the form of lightning. A particularly massive amount of chakra accumulates in the hand, where it's converted and released as electrical energy. 

Chidori can be incredibly dangerous — so dangerous, in fact, that it's classified as an immediate assassination technique. That said, it can also be used to incapacitate an opponent via electric shock, if wielded very, very carefully. Kakashi eventually masters Chidori and teaches it to his disciple, Sasuke, who adopts it as his signature technique.

Dragon (辰, Tatsu)

The Dragon hand sign is not easily executed and requires a fair bit of training to master, as the finger placement isn't entirely comfortable. To use Dragon, a shinobi interlocks their fingers with the pinkies pointed to the ground, touching at the tips. Similarly, the thumbs are crossed and held above the interlocked fingers.

Unlike many other hand signs, Dragon isn't a precursor for nature transformation jutsu. Despite this, it has an interesting use when combined with a nature transformation jutsu. This produces a dragon-shaped manifestation, formed from a specific natural element. For example, when used in fire jutsu, it creates a dragon made of fire.

While this is undoubtedly cool, it's not entirely practical, due to the high energy levels and clunky hand movements necessary to pull off the Dragon hand sign. Despite this, it commands major respect. Who doesn't want to create a dragon out of water or fire and have it attack one's enemies? No wonder Kakashi, Zabuza, Tobirama, and Itachi all favor using the Dragon hand sign in their jutsu.

Snake (巳, Mi)

Snake is arguably the easiest hand sign a shinobi can perform, as it only requires the user to interlock the hands. Said hands are kept perpendicular to the ground, and the forearms remain parallel. Snake is used in a wide variety of jutsu, including Lightning, Earth, and Wood Releases. This means shinobi from all over use it, rendering Snake one of the most commonly used hand signs.

When used in Wood Release, Snake converts the user's chakra into a source of life. This can emanate from the body and be used to create trees, flowers, seeds, and whole forests in some cases. In Lightning Release, Snake helps increase the chakra's vibrational frequency to generate electricity. Because it's used in Wood, Earth, and Lightning Releases, Snake is used by Hiruzen, Hashirama, Kakashi, Sasuke, and many others. Yamato employs Snake in Wood Style: Transformation, which he's particularly adept at using. Snake is also useful in Shadow Clone jutsu. Suffice it to say, it has a wide variety of uses.

Horse (午, Uma)

Horse is a bit awkward to pull off, but it's used in a variety of techniques, so many shinobi take the time to master it. To perform the Horse hand sign, a shinobi must connect the tips of their index fingers while interlocking the remaining fingers at the ends of the knuckle. The right finger must always be on the top of this configuration, as the palms face inward. It's a very tricky arrangement to pull off, requiring time and skill to master.

Horse is vital in dispelling illusions created via genjutsu techniques. Though that's helpful enough on its own, it's definitely not the hand sign's only use. Sasuke and others use Horse to perform the Fire Release: Great Fireball Technique. This technique uses a great store of chakra inside the body, which is converted into fire that is expelled from the mouth. The Great Fireball Technique often manifests as a stream of flame, but it can also take the shape of a massive fiery orb. This chars everything it touches and can cause severe burns on a target. While the Uchiha clan is the sole user of this technique in the manga, there have been instances of others outside the clan using it in the anime.

Ram (未, Hitsuji)

Ram is performed by sticking the left and right index and middle fingers together as they point upwards. The right fingers are positioned approximately two centimeters below the left. The left ring and pinkie fingers overlap those on the right hand, which are tucked into the palm.

Ram is one of the most ubiquitous hand signs in the series, as it is often used by Naruto to perform his oft-deployed Multi Shadow Clone jutsu. As the name implies, Shadow Clone creates exact duplicates of the user, which can be used to support and/or perform combined attacks. Unlike other clones seen throughout the series, these aren't illusions, and can be used in physical attacks.

Naruto evenly distributes his chakra among the clones to perform this act, giving them each a fraction of his power. They can perform their own techniques, including Shadow Clone jutsu, which can grow the number of clones exponentially. Of course, Naruto isn't the only shinobi to use Ram, as it's used in a number of jutsu. For example, Tobirama Senju, who created the technique, uses it frequently.

Monkey (申, Saru)

Monkey is a relatively easy hand sign to perform. It requires the user to place their palms together and hold them parallel to the ground as they slide their right pinky between their left thumb and index finger. This is a pretty easy hand sign to knock out, which is helpful, as it's useful in a whole lot of jutsu. Sasuke uses it to channel his Chidori, for example, which he employs often.

Monkey isn't seen much outside of Sasuke's signature move, but it isn't his hand sign alone. Zabuza's Water Dragon Technique requires Monkey to be signed, and Monkey is often the second hand sign used in Water Releases. Monkey is also necessary for the Summoning Technique, which means it gets a lot of use throughout the series. Specifically, the Summoning Technique uses Monkey as the fourth of five hand signs.

Bird (酉, Tori)

Bird, sometimes called the Rooster, is made by connecting the middle and pinky fingers while the ring and index fingers intersect. The thumbs are pressed together at the tips, forming a triangle-shaped hand sign. Bird is used in the Wind Release nature transformation, allowing the user to perform various wind-based jutsu techniques. Bird must be performed quickly, making it especially challenging to master.

Naruto uses Bird whenever he employs Rasengan, which manifests a spinning ball of chakra in the palm for use as a weapon. He's one of a select few shinobi to know or even master Rasengan, which begins as a close-range move and evolves (for some) into a projectile attack. Additionally, using Bird in various Wind-type chakra techniques can channel its energy into weapons, making them even deadlier.

Dog (戌, Inu)

Dog is one of the simplest hand signs to perform, as it only requires placing the left palm on top of the right fist. Dog is used in nature transformation techniques, with a specific focus on Water Release. It is often used by the people of Krigakure (aka the Mist Village), such as Kisame and Zabuza, who have mastered various Water Release techniques that are used throughout the anime.

Dog is also often used by members of the Yuki Clan to perform Ice Release. This Release utilizes both wind and water to create ice. While that may not sound particularly imposing, Ice Release can counter fire-based attacks and accomplish a whole lot more besides. For example, Haku develops the Evil Mirrors Technique, which creates a series of mirrors composed of ice that attack a target at great speed.

Boar (亥, I)

Boar, sometimes called Pig, is accomplished by creating a partial fist and sticking the palms together. The fists are pointed toward the ground while the forearms remain parallel. Though this is not a comfortable hand sign to perform, Boar is required for any basic nature transformation technique. Most shinobi learn to master it early in their training, and it's used often throughout the anime.

Boar is also needed for the various summoning jutsu. It's one of the first signs demonstrated in the series, as it's used by Jiraiya, member of the Legendary Sannin, to summon toads. In addition to using Boar, a person must also offer a blood sacrifice, which is often done by biting the tip of the thumb before beginning. Of course, to do this, one must first sign a blood contract with a species, or it won't summon anything. Interestingly, if someone attempts to summon an animal without signing a blood contract first, they are transported to a place where the desired species resides. When executed correctly, a person's chakra is molded into the creature that is summoned, and the amount of chakra used determines the animal's size.

Elemental hand seals

Elemental hand seals are different from standard hand seals in several ways. There are five types: Fire, Water, Wind, Earth, and Lightning. Each is accomplished using one hand. Fire is done with a flat hand, with all the fingers extended. Water uses a flat hand with all but the index finger extended, as this is placed beneath the thumb. Wind features an extended thumb and pinky, while the remaining fingers are tucked into the palm. Earth requires the index and middle fingers to be extended with the other fingers tucked into the palm. Finally, Lightning is done by extending the index and pinky fingers, with the remaining fingers tucked into the palm. Elemental hand seals are used by shinobi (and non-shinobi) via their Shinobi Gauntlet. A technique must be written and sealed into a scroll and placed inside the Shinobi Gauntlet for this to work. 

The nature of the technique in question determines which of the five elemental hand seals are used. Once this is accomplished, the technique is executed. A Shinobi Gauntlet enables anyone — even a non-shinobi — to use complicated jutsu without any training – aka cheating. These unique items aren't seen in the original "Naruto" or "Naruto: Shippuden" series, but they are featured in "Boruto" and its associated books, movies, manga series, and games.

Special hand signs

While there are 12 signs related to the Chinese zodiac and five elemental hand seals used with the Shinobi Gauntlet, there are far more found throughout the franchise. Some clans have hand signs unique to their associated techniques, and many are seen only briefly in the anime (if at all). Still, at its core, the "Naruto" franchise has three types of hand signs: Those mentioned, and the special hand signs primarily used in traditional shinobi sparring.

The special hand signs are, specifically, the Seal of Confrontation and the Seal of Reconciliation. The Seal of Confrontation resembles an amalgamation of the Tiger and Ram, and symbolizes combat. Essentially, it is a sign of engagement between shinobi used to concentrate chakra, primarily for simple and basic techniques. Deidara uses the Seal of Confrontation to detonate his explosive clay, and others use it for various techniques throughout the series.

The Seal of Reconciliation is different from the other hand signs in that it is used only for sparring. It isn't used for any battle techniques and is more of a symbolic hand sign used to express the friendship that continues after a match concludes. To begin a sparring match, the opponents make the Seal of Confrontation, which effectively states, "I've come to face you in battle." When the session ends, the fighters lock their fingers together to make the Seal of Reconciliation, showing that they're still friends.