Next time you’re feeling stressed, act like a ninja and perform these nine simple hand signals.
Whenever we think about the mysterious world of Japanese ninja, images of shuriken throwing stars and houses filled with trap doors dance around in our heads. But there’s actually a lot more to the art of ninjutsu, and one of their most intriguing practices has recently been brought to light as something we can all benefit from, with a scientific study proving just how effective it can be. It’s called the “Kuji Kiri”, or the “Nine Syllables”, a series of hand positions used by ninja as a process of meditation, and according to the findings of an experiment recently shown at THE NINJA exhibition in Tokyo’s Odaiba area, these special hand movements relieve stress while sharpening the mind at the same time.
The study, which was conducted by the Mie University School of Medicine earlier this year, details the findings of two main experiments. The first experiment measured the brain waves and heartbeat of fifteen test subjects, both before and after they made the hand gestures. According to the findings, alpha-2 (α2) waves in the test subjects increased in the following 3 – 30 minutes after making the gestures, indicating a heightened, yet relaxed level of concentration. The beta waves, connected to feelings of annoyance and uneasiness, decreased, and remained lowered for thirty minutes, while the theta waves responsible for deep relaxation also decreased, remaining low for ten minutes.
The second experiment measured the stress response of the subjects for thirty minutes after both making the hand gestures and not making them. The conclusion here showed that alpha-2 (α2) waves rose dramatically after the gestures were made, where they otherwise would have remained stable. On the other hand, the beta waves decreased dramatically, whereas they would have otherwise remained high. According to the group who conducted the study, this indicates that the body goes into a calm, relaxed state while the mind is able to maintain a sharp focus.
This calm-body-sharp-mind state was ideal for ninja, who were required to move with a cat-like covertness while taking part in clandestine missions. The findings of this scientific study, however, show that the ancient art of “Kuji Kiri” remains an important tool today for anyone looking to combat stress in their everyday lives. For an overview of the names and mantras associated with each seal, check out the short video below.
And for a look at how to make each of the hand gestures, check out this clip below.
Originally a Buddhist practice, this sequence of hand gestures was adopted by the ninja, who used to perform the hand signals twice a day, in the morning and at night, and also before entering enemy territory. Nowadays, the kuji kiri can also be seen in the Shugendo religion and holistic practices like Reiki, but its use is said to benefit a variety of scenarios, from sleepless nights to exam days.
Thanks to the results of this study, now we know that no matter what type of hurdle or stressful task lies ahead of us, there’s no better way to tackle it than like a ninja!