Ninja Fingers, Ninja Hands

By Stephen Cheney


The Ninja, that ancient group of disperse clans of Japan who practice/d the arts of Ninjutsu, the Dark Arts that included Intelligence collection and sometimes assassination, practiced a technique called Kuji-Kiri or Nine Hands Cutting, a mini-art form that can be viewed as Hand Yoga or Mudra.

Kuji-Kiri was composed of nine formations of a hand or hands. These were used when a Ninja, as required in their shadow tasks, found themselves having to remain still for extended periods of time. Such as in a cramped space long-awaiting a best opportunity to observe, move or attack. The benefits of the techniques were in their assisting in the control of both the mind and the body.


The effectiveness of Ninja fingers in hand manipulations is a tradecraft teaching for Ninja spies and assassins. It enhances their stealthiness as they must sometimes remain undetected for long periods of time in positions of absolute quiet and stillness. The skill of course includes other processes including reducing the heart rate and breathing rate while retaining a full alertness and not sleeping. Such abilities and the techniques used to achieve them are also useful when utilized by persons who are under stress or who need to remain calm and alert for long periods, including in fearful or dangerous situations. Such people may be soldiers, security officers, hunters, and even businessmen and workers.


What benefited the Ninja can also be used to the benefit of others:

  • The soldier who has to cope with the tenseness of waiting long hours before combat;
  • The businessman who is awaiting a meeting;
  • The student prior to a test; 
  • The patient awaiting an operation or appointment.

Who controls their time controls their future. Kuji-Kiri can be used by anybody as a tool for calmness. It can also be used as a learning or memory tool and for maintain alertness over long periods of time.


The selection of nine special finger-hand interlocking patterns has another purpose: memory and recall training. This method thus has an extra benefit in education. The teachings covered in the nine halls, houses or schools was voluminous. In quiet moments of inaction a finger pattern is pressed to send the mind into the hall to which the pattern has been selected to relate. And once there to recall all the teachings encapsuled. For instance, the hall where teachings allow the copying of other occupations to provide operational cover, such that of as a merchant.

A merchant is one who projects the thoughts of profit and loss. A merchant looks at others as either being customers, prospective customers or competitors, and makes conversation from that point of view irrespective of costume, though costume would be selected to conform. The merchant’s mannerisms reflect that of merchants. The merchant does not shyly hold back but initiates conversation relating to product knowledge of which he knows all there is to know and is well versed in salesman techniques of persuasion.


A Ninja presses hands together to assist recalling teachings such as those learned in the Hall of Surveillance and Intelligence gathering. A general or spy or any business person needs to know not just the safe outside public observations such as of a building, organization or person.  The more advantageous need is to take actions to know a building or organisation from the inside, or a person from the inside, intimately.

To know the internal structures, processes and faults and mind of another; the knowledge enclosed inside. That requires a learning to use the tools and methods of penetrating barriers both physical and mental. The mind can feel and know the world through the hands. Under stress a common sign is a wringing of the hands for reassurance; better to just touch the fingertips and broaden the mind, rocketing away from the problem at hand to soar in the vastness of the Universe knowing just how small daily problems really are. To wake from mistiness, confusion or fantasy the hands can slap the head connecting it to the reality of touch. We know reality by touching it, whether it is with our skin, or our sound in communication when vibrations reach our ears, or our eyes in photons that touch the far away and bring that reality to touch on our retinal nerves and thus our brain.  Sight and sound are all a touching.  From what we feel or choose to feel arises our feelings about other things and about ourselves.


The mind has the ability to project knowledge into other objects to assist it in recalling when seeing or feeling or smelling that object. Into computer memory sticks you can project learning, as a Ninja does with the Nine Halls, into hand patterns. Make your fingers memory sticks. The choice of Nine Patterns is to use them and to touch the subject matter ‘stored’ there. A touch memory aid. Similarly one counts on ones fingers, or better, selects a finger to contain a learned subject, such as Chemistry or other topic at school. Mentally impress information into that finger and when you grasp it recall the knowledge that you have learned from there. The link goes to the brain where the knowledge is actually held. This is compartmentalisation thinking to isolate memories from being mingled with so many others. Grasp a finger that you have assigned to Chemistry. Next in your mind’s schematic of that topic go down to major topic headings. Then subheadings and to finer detail in a way that is uncontaminated by other knowledge.


The names of the Nine Hands are:

  • Rin
  • Hei-pyo
  • Sha
  • Kai
  • Toh
  • Jin
  • Zai
  • Retsu
  • Zen

They reflect the Nine Halls of learning in which a Ninja may spend a life-time of learning and relearning.  Learning never ends.

In Japanese the words and their internal components often have multiple meanings and this makes the language rich in flexing the mind and its poetry so deep in content in just a few words. The names of the Nine Hands somewhat relate to their corresponding halls of learning. Retsu for instance is the gripping of a single finger by the other hand and Retsu means a column. That Hall is the eighth and is about Entrapment and Evasion.


A slight variation forms a single finger lock. The reinforcing of a finger is a combat technique at close quarters, such as folding the middle finger over the first finger to prevent it bending in a strike (always to a soft target such as the jugular notch). The art of Deception is required to get to the target to prevent it being blocked; a Kunoichi or female Ninja would prefer to slide the hand up the sternum to strike the throat as she is usually smaller and that path avoids the hand being easily seen by the target. What you cannot see you cannot defend. Impacting a target is easy, what requires extra skill is obtaining a path to the target. In sparring distance you use sight but in close quarter body distance such as wrestling and related close arts you use feel.


Blood is fed into the palm side of the hand through the radial and ulnar arteries which loop together. The veins extracting blood flow across the top of the hand. To remove a gripping hand from your person when the thumb is straight you can reach over their hand from the outer side and press a finger tip into the palm side of the thumb muscle about one third up from the thumb base. This compresses the radial artery and also a part of the median nerve and causes the thumb to release its grip.  When their thumb is bent and gripping you, a more vicious and damaging technique is used to release.


The gripping hand can also be released by digging a thumb tip into the median nerve in the middle inside of the forearm (a soft area) just before it enters the carpal tunnel of the hand. As nerve positions vary from person to person, it is best to always press deep in and then smear the nerve into the nearest bone for a pain reaction.  In this case you go in and then slide the pressure towards the base of the wrist until you feel bone.


Another way of hand release, such as to an underarm Bear Hug from behind, Is to form an extended knuckle and smash it into the nerves on the back of their hand, continuing to press and vigorously grinding your knuckle into the hand (a pen from your breast pocket is also a good tool for this).  When the attacker’s fingers raise, grab one and apply a bending back finger lock (mentioned in Retsu above), pull his arm away, turn and savagely counter while maintaining the finger hold.


From neuroscience we know that when one presses their fingers or hands together, their sensory input and motor control are joined in the Primary Motor cortex and the Primary Somatosensory cortex of the brain. These brain sections span both of the brain’s two hemispheres, each controlling one side of the body. Thus a loop is formed joining both sides of the body and mind in the brain’s independently working hemispheres. The largest proportion of touch receptors in the body is situated in the hands. The deliberate act of joining ensures same time activation of both the conscious and unconscious (always on) processes of the mind. Hand/finger joining uses touch deliberately for conscious proprioception to the cortex’s parietal lobe where the mind reconstructs external space (like teleporting the outside in); and also taps into the unconscious processing in the cerebellum where the body’s internal special components are coordinated. Thus the outside environment and the inside world become one. Your being is maximized.


Stability of the body registers a corresponding stability in the mind. As seen in yoga, dance, martial arts, and meditation. A firm pressing of the palms together and bending the wrists backward towards the forearms towards a 90 degree angle or “L” shape” – as seen in some prayer gestures or martial arts bowing salutes prior to arranged combat – gives the weak wrist its highest stability. The anterior radiocarpal ligaments are stretched to tightly hold the wrist bones together. The brain registers all such inputs, being acutely aware of any body weak areas, such as the eyes, and makes natural reactive moves to protect those areas when threat or instability is detected. Stability as in balance, as in hand feedback, gives reassurances to the mind.


The Buddhist Tōdai-ji temple of Nara, which was once the capital of Japan, was constructed in 728 AD.  Ji (like Te) also means Hand and if you look at the fierce Niō warrior deities that protect the temple, they have a hand bent back in the Stop gesture. These deities justified the use of martial force to protect cherished values against evil. Much like the philosophy of the secluded Ninja clans who saw themselves as a force against the dominance of governments that were against independent ways. Buddhism though a philosophy of peace was in ancient times not adverse to self defence, its famous warrior Buddhist monks were an admired force.  The bent back hand that so firms the wrist is used in the Palm-Heel Tei-sho strike of Jujutsu (the Heel-Palm Sho-tei strike of Karate). Its power comes from the lower palm being backed by a strong wrist base and the forearm bones, whereas a fist always has the structure of too many compressible finger parts and an un-reinforced wrist. The opposite structure of the forward bent hand and striking with the taunt back of the wrist (Koken or Kakuto) is also powerful


To form a loop for stability to the mind and a folding together of both the outside and inside worlds, it does not matter what hand/finger formation you make so long as the hands/fingers contact one another. When a mindful person, sitting, wishes to contemplate what is before him/her, a simple bringing together of all the tips of the fingers seems to provide a focus or lens to bring to bear the faculties of the mind to a problem.

1...From Dragon Pearl: standing normally, place one heel out on the ground at 45 degrees to the front, your toes point upward. Press your palms together firmly and bring your wrists to your chest. Now breathing out, bend forward at the waist towards your placed foot. Keeping your back straight, bend forward towards your placed foot so stretching the calf muscle of your forward leg. Return to normal stance and do the other leg (or swing around 90 degrees and do the other leg).  Know your power to find what is missing.

2...From Dragon Pearl: in front of you press your thumb tips and first finger tips together, forming a void in the shape of a spade (as in cards) or spinning top. Send your vision and mind into that void as you slowly press your hands downward to the full extension of your arms. Know your healing power.

3...Grandmaster Kinjo Hiroshi, Hanshi, advised me that practicing push-ups on the backs of the wrists was an excellent exercise to develop wrist strength.


When one is in spiritual prayer often the hands are brought together, joining oneself to the higher realms of mind and spirituality. Thus you get a merging of the Spatial world of movement around you, and Time which seems to slow down, and Mind which expands and Spirituality which soars.

(Image: The Speed Painting of a Ninja - Youtube)


  1. It's a lot to take in but I will come back several times to learn all this.

  2. Hi Cheney,

    I have to agree with Anonymous: this is one of those posts that need to be read time and again till we grasp the full extent of what is being taught here. I had never heard of supporting the index finger with the middle finger before (imagine we strike an attacker with it, in the middle of panic and in a rush won't it hurt our finger?).

    Thank you for this wonderful class, Cheney. :D


    1. As you sweep your open hand towards the throat you sweep or fold your middle finger over the top of the first finger to support it. Single finger strikes are only to small soft targets and require accuracy.

    2. Cheney, what do you mean by small soft targets: children or small women?

    3. There is a misunderstanding. A warrior does not strike women and children. By small soft targets I do not mean small soft people: I mean small soft delicate spots on the human anatomy. These are gaps in the human armour, so to speak, and in these recesses is access into the nervous system. A powerful aggressive male may be likened to an armoured warrior or tank. You do not bother to strike at their strengths, their armour, such as their powerful muscles. Instead you strike at their Atemi/nerve points which have little or no muscle covering. You don't just waste your time and hit anywhere. To make each strike count and be effective it is important Where you hit and How you hit. You can pound all day against the strong chest muscles of a weight lifter and yet have an immediate finish just by using a poke in the eye (very weak point). Strategy and knowledge win battles. As in engines so in war, most energy used to accomplish an effect is wasted.

      Most lessons would assume a male on male fight. Women fighting women is a different kettle of fish, as is a child fighting against a bully who is also a child. For instance a woman fighting a man should kick using instep or shin upward at a 45 degree angle into the groin. Whereas a woman kicking a woman needs to use the ball of her foot and strike straight into the groin. Children should not be taught deadly arts for the good reason that they have developed no self controls. They may go too far and who wants a dead child in the playground? In martial arts the really deadly techniques are taught usually after black belt when the student has achieved a very high level of self control; they will not go on a killing rampage but can control their emotions. Thus child soldiers in Africa are given weapons and kill without remorse for they do not comprehend the finality of death. The martial arts teach one to respect life, knowing through long practice of techniques how easily it is to terminate life. Life and Death are the ultimate realities for adults and warriors.

      The problem and need of Self Defence is that deadly responses are needed to be known as the situation of street battle is life and death, however the student in a short Self Defence course has not had years of learning self control. Thus when teaching dangerous techniques to save one’s life; they must be first practiced repeatedly in slow motion otherwise there are sure to be injuries due to excessive emotions and excessive determined attempts to win. Speeding up comes with demonstrated control. The harmonious mind must dominate the body and not the uncoordinated body dominate the mind.

  3. It's true that hands can point out to a lot of what's going on inside a person's mind. Many people dedicate themselves to the study of body language but sometimes you just don't have enough time to read it so taking a quick glance at the hands can tell you a lot.

  4. The deliberate projecting of the mind to imprint mental images, memories or data to exist in a virtual reality outside of the brain’s own electrochemical storage and onto-into a finger, or some another convenient object, is like an opposite process to RV where the task is to extract information from the electromagnetic reality of another region or from the electromagnetic experiences of other minds elsewhere, without a prior input. All atoms radiate vibrations whether they are in pattern clusters inanimate or biological. Being receptive to all such things, you put your ‘finger’ on the pulse.

  5. The world is full of deceptions and misconceptions. Ninja are taught to take advantage of this reality. Man is the measure of all things as it is man who does the measuring. To those few who already know: in the image of a Ninja seen in a dark forest above, the person there displayed is not a Ninja.

  6. I like these lessons but I prefer your poems, Stephen. Those dark mysterious ones of yours. But I do admit that we need to learn more about ninjas and samurais cause in all walks of life we need focus, and we need to learn how to move around people without being spotted to achieve our goals!

    1. You like my poems? Then I should publish more of them.

    2. Celeste: One reads body language in order to perceive the outward signs of internal processes. However, while you do that you should also send your mind into theirs. As knowing their mind is the ultimate goal. Try mind-merging and see how you go, but do not stare at the other, use soft-focused eyes, the same as you need to do in combat. This projection crosses the space between you so that there is no space between you; you both occupy the same space. Hypothetically speaking. Play the game of sending your mind into a photograph, turn around to face the camera, have a look around the area.

      In wading through a crowd you use Tai Sabaki and keep your head vertical so that you can turn on a dime; as well keep your body very relaxed so that every contact or push on you dissolves into nothing as you slide around it. To not stand out in a crowd you do not stare at anyone’s eyes, soft-focus; mentally you project nothing: so you become nothing. Neither a threat nor an interest.

    3. I do like your poems and I see that you published one today, thanks!
      That is a great tip, obrigada (it's thanks in Portuguese)! Not staring someone but using the corners of my eyes, or peripheral vision? I will practice.

    4. Yes, you engage your peripheral vision. The human eye is binocular, that of a hunter, to track by triangulation in 3D. It is designed to best detect movement across its visual field rather than motion towards it. So it is easier to see movement swung at you than it is to see a straight strike coming at your eyes. Slightly movement crossways helps your two eyes to track, and mind to calculate speed. However with a straight-to-vision strike all that is seen is a small mass enlarging slightly, so difficult to judge speed to block or avoid. So the Roman legionnaire’s favoured sword thrust to the eyes. When driving in traffic, a front car slowing or stopping changes its size, but not much, so judging its distance from your car on size alone is not easy. Better to notice the horizontal edge of your car’s bonnet and its changes of distance to that of the rear wheels of the car in front of you. You will then see the distance more clearly as that distance expands and contracts. Less impacts.
      In a fight stare at nothing or you will be limited by tunnel vision. Rather, softly look passed the attacker to see all in front of you at once. You will then see their initial moves of foot or fist; so long as you have sufficient space between you. The need for visual wholeness is why there is a reminder at the beginning of many Kata: your hands are moved to be out in front of your face for you to look to them and then beyond them, just as you do at your opponent. It is for the mind, and the gesture in Kata practice is not meant to be rushed.

  7. Having given an exercise to strengthen the wrists here is an easy Isometric one to strengthen the fingers, and it can be practiced anytime nearly anywhere without others noticing:
    Press firmly the thumb-tip’s pad against each of your finger's fingertip pads in turn. Repeat. Do same on other hand.

    1. It seems simple but this finger strengthening exercise engages many arm muscles so strengthening them too!

  8. Another finger strengthening exercise is as follows:
    Lay your hand flat on a table, palm down, and fingers together. Keep the hand pressing hard on the table as you slowly draw in the fingers, till you raise up the ridge of knuckles, forming a triangular or pyramid shape. Do this a couple of times with each hand. A hand weapon is thus formed that has more structural support than the standard thrust with the flat hand's fingertips. Especially when you slide your thumb underneath to rest its pad under and near your fingertips. This hand formation gives a longer arm weapon than does a fist (so for equal arm lengths your pyramid-hand hits first before his fist does). The supported fingertips still need to be thrust into soft targets and not into hard ones such as bone.

  9. A finger, one single finger can kill a person? I'll be damned, now I have to watch out for my girlfriend's fingers. Stephen, what are you teaching women here, man? They will get us all killed! hehehe But great lesson, for real, thanks.

  10. A single finger point strike would not normally kill anyone even if reinforced, even if the finger is seriously hardened by conditioning processes. As what happens, in say a frontal strike by finger to the jugular notch, is an immediate reaction backward by the opponent. Moving in the direction of the force is JuJutsu strategy and lessons the danger. So if you just thrust forward his head will naturally move back on impact (unless your other hand holds the back of that head – preferred). If you go in and then hook downward collecting the bone at the bottom of the notch and pull downward the opponent will naturally drop down to relieve the painful pressure and to be able to continue breathing. So the hook strike is actually a finger throw. On their knees and gagging, the opponent is completely distracted and open to a finish-off strike.

    Finger strikes into the eyes are not very accurate in a melee, if only one or two fingers are used. Instead you spread the stiffened fingers and thrust or rake and by doing that a finger then has high chance of contact. A better method is that from grappling rather than of the karate type of sparring thrust which is blockable. There you have say your palm on their face and it is easy then to dig the fingers as in an eagle claw. This shows why pressure point fighting is not really used in sparring type fighting, where the target is moving and accuracy of such fine motor skill strikes is difficult. In body on body contact however, as in wrestling or Jujutsu, a limb or body part is often immobile and pressure points can be successfully attacked, as there is counter pressure from body/ limb mass or from the counterpressing ground.

    More usual and effective when using a single finger is not striking with the point but with the finger’s knuckle. That provides a hard small area point and penetrating impact. And there is a killing target pertinent to its use. Unlike the throat where if you smash the larynx, by using anything, where you can prevent the opponent/ patient from dying by use of an immediate tracheotomy and a pen casing; the knuckle target on the head has no such life saving operation and death comes long before any hospital and surgery is possible. The strike is like lightning, quick and deadly.


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