In many movies, especially from the 80's when Ninjas were involved they would use their ninja stars as a deadly weapon. An example clip is here.

Is this realistic? Can a ninja star penetrate and be accurate enough to kill a person?

  • 1
    Not a formal answer, but when I studied Ninjitsu we were taught that they were just to be used as a distraction rather than a killing weapon.
    – dave
    Feb 5, 2012 at 18:45
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    I don't know anything about this, but I recall hearing once (on Nat Geo I believe) that the edge of a shuriken can be imbued with poisons, making it a delivery mechanism for lethal toxins. If so, this would make accuracy and penetration less important. Feb 5, 2012 at 19:14
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    If you think about it, the design of the "star" shaped shuriken automatically limits penetration... You're only going to get the length of one point, which is pretty short. Death would be highly unlikely unless by some chance a major artery, like the carotid, were severed. As noted, the teaching of current ninjitsu schools is that they were intended as a distracting weapon. The idea of carrying around a bunch of sharp, pointy, poisoned weapons seems...Hazardous.
    – M. Werner
    Feb 6, 2012 at 16:01
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    Especially sharp, poisoned weapons which you throw by gripping the blade. Feb 6, 2012 at 16:40
  • 2
    Can a knife kill? It's just a blade like any other, some are shorter than others.... it must be possible to improve this question somehow. Feb 8, 2012 at 23:14

1 Answer 1


The question has been recently clarified to be whether shuriken could kill, rather than whether they were historically used to kill.

This issue was looked at in a German study that was looking for evidence on whether to support a ban on modern variants.

While the focus was on plastic and "cyclone" shuriken, they also looked at three "traditional metal shuriken with blunt edges and peaks produced for decorative purposes." I think it is safe to assume that traditional combat shuriken would be at least as effective than traditional decorative ones, so the results can be extrapolated.

The abstract explains that the experiment was done on "human skin" (presumably a cadaver), and compared it against modern shuriken that were tested against pig carcasses. The traditional shuriken were thrown from a distance of 2m by an experienced thrower.

Traditional shuriken were less effective at penetrating human skin than modern variants were at penetrating pig skin. However, the damage inflicted wasn't trivial.

[traditional] shuriken yielded maximal penetration depths between 0.9 and 2.3 cm.

I hope it is clear that a 2cm deep stab wound could be insignificant or fatal, depending on what part of the body is hit. The study authors seem to agree:

This study indicates that all three types of shuriken may inflict lethal wounds upon opponents in close combat.

While it is irrelevant to this discussion, this study struck me as poorly controlled. Why are they comparing damage done by a cyclone shuriken to pig skin from 4 metres, to damage done by a traditional shuriken to a human skin from 2 metres? Why not do both experiments against pig carcasses from the same distance?

  • +1 Interesting find! I haven't reviewed the study yet but would share your concerns about the study being poorly controlled if what you say is accurate. Still, this seems to indicate that a shuriken thrown could be fatal, which I didn't think likely. Feb 24, 2012 at 2:37
  • Also of note, the question wasn't recently clarified to ask if shuriken could kill, that was always my question. I reverted an edit that changed the question asking if they were typically used to kill. Feb 24, 2012 at 2:38
  • Sorry, @SonnyOrdell, I didn't mean to imply you had changed your intention. Until you reverted the edit, I (like Sklivvz) had interpreted this as an historical question. Your recent comment explaining the revert clarified this in my mind, and made this paper that I had already found relevant.
    – Oddthinking
    Feb 24, 2012 at 2:52
  • Ahh, OK. I hadn't even realized the previous phrasing was ambiguous. Glad it was cleared up and led to a good answer. Feb 24, 2012 at 3:21
  • Heck, in the right spot 0.9 cm could easily be fatal, if it nicks an artery...
    – Shadur
    Jun 18, 2020 at 16:38

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