In this guide I’m going to show you how to learn and practice Namba Aruki, a walking style from the Edo period (1603-1868) that is said to be more efficient than how you walk right now. Sure, you’ll look like an idiot walking like this out in public, but who cares if you get to walk like a samurai, right?
How You Walk Right Now
Normal people walk by swinging their right arm and left foot at the same time and vice versa. When you do this, you’re twisting your upper body and hips an unnecessary amount. They’re actually going against each other here, squishing the side you’re stepping with.
It also causes you to push off using your feet with each step which means you’re using a tiny muscle to lift your entire body (this gets tiring). Normal walking is basically you falling forward over and over again. The only reason you don’t fall on your face every time you take a step is because you catch yourself with your foot, over and over again.
This is a lot of energy being spent!
How Namba Aruki Works
Namba Aruki on the other hand makes your movements more efficient. It will feel strange at first, but essentially you’ll be walking in a way that makes your upper body more stable, keeps your hips straight forward as you walk, makes you more controlled, and doesn’t require you to lift your entire body with your feet. This type of walk is good for people who do Japanese martial arts, wear kimonos and/or swords, and enjoy hiking. Most likely, the hiking part will be the most applicable to you. In fact, some of the theory behind Namba Aruki resembles the rest step which is used to climb up steep hills with very little effort at all.
Learning To Namba Aruki
We’re going to use a step by step program to make you a Namba Aruki master. This won’t happen in one hour, one day, or one week, but it will happen over time. If you practice this for around three months you should be able to see the difference and possibly be able to apply this walking style to your normal walking style (if you don’t want to look like a weirdo walking around town).
Step 1: Big Steps
The first step is to over-exaggerate your steps. This isn’t at all how you’ll be walking when after Namba Aruki becomes more comfortable, but it will teach your body the basic motions that it needs to know in order to get used to it.
To begin, You’ll be taking really big steps, almost like lunges. Put your hands on your hips, and do the following.
- Step with your right foot.
- Turn your hips towards your right leg, so it’s almost like you’re trying to face your upper body to the right. In reality, this will be straightening your upper body out so you’re facing straight forward. When you walk normally, your upper body would turn to the left. This is to counteract this though it’s a bit exaggerated right now.
- Swing your elbows (hands still on your hips) to the right as well. This will help you to turn your body.
- Step with your left foot and switch everything. Upper body should turn to the left (towards your left leg). Continue walking like this.
As for visuals, it should look something like this:
Make sure you’re really torquing your entire upper body to the side of your forward foot. This will help you to complete the next step. I’d recommend practicing this for a few days, at least. It will build the muscles necessary to do Namba Aruki properly if you don’t have them already. You might feel a little bit of soreness in your hip muscles (who knew they existed, right?). If you do, you’re doing things right.
Step 2: Swing Your Arms
Now we’re going to do the same thing as before, except this time you’re going to swing your arms. Since it’s Namba Aruki, you have to swing the same arm as the foot that’s forward. This will feel awkward at first, especially since you’ll be taking big steps still. This will be difficult to do, but it will make the next step easier. So, do exactly what you did in Step 1, except this time swing your arms.
Remember, same hand, same foot. Practice this for a few more days until it becomes comfortable.
Step 3: Bring It In
Now it’s time to make it a bit smaller so it’s more like normal walking. You still want to swing the same arms as the foot that’s forward, but don’t swing it too much. Nice and small, like normal walking (but Namba style). Also turn your hips a little less too. Now that you’ve gotten used to this (and hopefully stretched your hips out) you can turn more subtly. The goal should be to turn your hips just enough so that they don’t actually move at all. There is a skill in doing this, for sure. When you do this in front of a mirror, your hips should always remain facing directly forward. Same with your shoulders. It’s as if your upper body doesn’t move that much at all.
You’ll also want to place each step before doing the next one. This means you aren’t “falling” forward as you would with normal walking. You’re stepping, placing, and then lifting your back foot to do your next step. Take it nice and slow at first, but as you get used to this you should feel a lot more stable when you’re walking. Each step is a piece of art. Place your foot solidly before moving on to the next step.
Step 4: Speed Up
Step 5: Test It Out
Got a hike you want to go on? Have a long walk through downtown planned? Want to join the armies of old people who power walk through the mall before it opens? Now it’s your turn. After this walk has become natural feeling to you (and only after) come up with a test to see how well it works. Hikes are the best, I think, because you get all kinds of different elevations (it’s great for walking up hills and mountainsides). Either you’ll find you need more practice or you’ll find it’s a really nice way to walk for long distances, despite how silly it may look.
If you’re finding the Namba walk difficult, take a look at your hips. Make sure you’re not turning them too far (only step 1 and 2 are exaggerated). Your upper body should just remain facing forward at all times, and your hips and shoulders should be level. Check yourself in front of a mirror to see if any of these things are happening. If they are, correct them and practice some more.
If you actually do go through with the Namba Aruki practice regimen and you do this for a few months, be sure to let me know how it goes for you! I’m always interested in how these crazy theories pan out on other people besides myself.
Let the Namba Aruki revolution begin!