The Puppet Technique is the core skill of a puppeteer's (傀儡使い, kugutsutsukai) fighting style, whereby they control a puppet.
The modern version of the Puppet Technique used by shinobi was first created by Monzaemon Chikamatsu of Sunagakure. Monzaemon originally intended the Puppet Technique for purely entertainment purposes, but by collaborating with shinobi he adapted the skill for combat. In the years following the technique's creation, Suna's shinobi became pioneers in the art of puppetry, with its Puppet Brigade being given the specific mandate of finding new ways to use and exploit puppets for battle.
Performing the Puppet Technique involves emitting chakra threads (チャクラの糸, Chakura no Ito) from a user's fingers to connect to a puppet, with the fingers' movements controlling the puppet's actions. Less experienced users will connect all ten of their fingers to a single puppet, with each finger controlling a specific joint or mechanism. As a user becomes more experienced they require fewer threads to control a single puppet, until finally they can control a puppet using only one thread. With this growing mastery, users also become able to control multiple puppets at a time, ten being the normal limit (one per finger). No matter how many threads are being used per puppet, the user's will plays a large role in a puppet's movements, thus creating an inevitable time lag between the user's commands and the puppet's response.
Controlling a puppet requires most of a puppeteer's attentions and maintaining the threads is a constant drain on their chakra. Not only does this mean a puppeteer is vulnerable when they are controlling a puppet, it also tends to mean they cannot fight very well without a puppet, as their combat style relies so heavily on them. As such, puppeteers try very hard to hide or at least keep their distance from opponents. In the event that an opponent gets too close, some puppeteers have devised countermeasures: certain puppets created by Sasori, such as Sanshōuo and Hiruko, are intended to be controlled from the inside, acting as shields for their puppeteers; Chiyo replaced one of her arms with a Mechanical Light Shield Block, giving her a defensive option to use in emergencies; Kankurō is in the habit of disguising puppets as himself, causing opponents that attack him to instead fall into his puppets' clutches.
Because puppeteers rely on their puppets for almost all aspects of combat, keeping the puppets safe is of paramount importance. At the simplest, this means not allowing the puppets to be destroyed or otherwise disabled. More than that, it is also vital to keep how a puppet works secret from opponents. If an opponent knows what weapons or traps a puppet is outfitted with, the puppeteer will lose the advantage of surprise that so often gives them the upperhand. If an opponent knows how a puppet is designed – which, unlike weapons and traps, cannot be greatly altered by the puppeteer – they can focus their attacks on the puppet's structural weaknesses.
If a puppeteer does lose their puppet in battle (or if they merely opt not to use one), the chakra threads remain a versatile tool. The threads can be connected to opponents to impede their movements, such as by tripping them, or to take control of their body, using them as a puppet. To prevent opponents from noticing that they're being manipulated, puppeteers will use a minimal amount of chakra to create the threads, rendering them invisible. If chakra threads are attached to weapons, such as kunai, this not only allows users to throw multiple weapons at a time, but also allows them an easy method of connecting their threads to distant targets. Puppeteers can attach chakra threads to faraway targets even without this subterfuge, giving them a quick way to bring objects to their side.
Centuries before Monzaemon created his version of the Puppet Technique, the Ōtsutsuki clan used a different version that had fewer of the above drawbacks. The Ōtsutsuki were able to control their puppets (or other people) remotely from seemingly any distance. The novelization of The Last: Naruto the Movie explains that this was achieved by placing orbs of chakra within the puppets' bodies, allowing the Ōtsutsuki to control their puppets through thought alone. Over time, these puppets became mostly autonomous, requiring no conscious effort to control and only needing the Tenseigan to power their movements. In Gaara Hiden, after Kankurō studies reports of the Ōtsutsuki's puppets, he achieves a similar effect by using imperceptibly thin chakra threads; although this doesn't make his puppets autonomous, it does significantly increase the range he can control them from.
- White Secret Technique (白秘技, Shirohigi) - practised by Monzaemon and Chiyo.
- Red Secret Technique (赤秘技, Akahigi) - practised by Sasori and Kankurō.
- Black Secret Technique (黒秘技, Kurohigi) - practised by Kankurō and Shinki.
- Sasori converted himself into a puppet in order to overcome many of the Puppet Technique's shortcomings: he can control one hundred puppets simultaneously, experiences no time lag between command and movement because his puppets are directly attached to his "core", and close combat doesn't have any lasting impact on him since his body isn't flesh and blood.
- In Naruto Shippūden the Movie: The Lost Tower, Mukade could use this technique to control thousands of puppets at a very long range. He achieved this by connecting his chakra threads to pipes that distributed chakra across Rōran, expanding the number of threads and distance he could cover.
- In some Naruto video games, Kankurō demonstrates greater versatility in hand-to-hand combat than puppeteers are said to possesses, as he mixes his puppet control with haymakers and other forms of taijutsu.
- Rin no Sho, page 180
- Sha no Sho, page 269
- Naruto chapter 280, page 9
- Naruto chapter 272, page 12
- Sha no Sho, page 223
- Naruto chapter 126, page 5
- Naruto chapter 265, page 5
- Naruto chapter 269, pages 4-5
- Naruto chapter 70, page 17
- Naruto chapter 213, pages 18-20
- Naruto chapter 126, page 13
- Naruto chapter 106, page 14
- Naruto chapter 251, page 3
- Naruto chapter 266, page 5
- Naruto chapter 272, page 9
- Retsu no Sho
- Naruto chapter 271, pages 5-8