Are you serious about mastering the Ninja’s self-defense system of Ninpo-Taijutsu (aka Budo-Taijutsu)? If you are, then this article may be just what the Ninja master ordered.
Because, I’m going to share with you a special walking method that, according to Soke Masaaki Hatsumi, grandmaster of the last remaining ninja schools in the world, is one of the two critical skills that you absolutely “must” be proficient in, if you are going to become a master of taijutsu, the Ninja’s body-art and unarmed self-defense system.
After reading this article, don’t forget to go get the special video lesson that I refer to, that will teach you what most students don’t know about this skill!
So, out of all the skills that the Ninja possesses in his little black Ninja “bag of tricks,” why is walking one of the 2 most critical skills. And why the one that I’m about to share with you?
After all, walking is walking — right?
The skill that I’m referring to is the Ninja’s yoko-aruki, or “sideways walking.” Also known as “Ichimonji-walking” or, in the Koto Ryu, as kane-uki (“crab-walking”), this method of walking has many different applications within the art of Ninjutsu.
Some of these applications include:
2) Traversing narrow passageways and paths
3) Walking up or down steep inclines and hillsides, and…
4) Advancing and retreating while using firearms
But, within the Ninja’s self-defense system known as ninpo-taijutsu, the yoko-aruki is the secret to being able to perform correct henka (“variation”).
If you are not familiar with the yoko-aruki, cross-step form of walking, I’ve provided a link later in the article to a video lesson that will teach you how to correctly perform the movement.
As a quick description, to properly perform yoko-aruki, I’m going to describe it from the perspective and idea of “ichimonji-walking,” or ‘walking while remaining in a correct Ichimonji no Kamae.
So… begin by taking up an Ichimonji or Seigan no kamae. We’re going to be moving in the direction that your lead leg is pointing toward. Please make sure that when you are in either of these kamae (“postures”), that your lead foot and knee are pointing directly forward at the intended target. This is a critical and basic detail of your bladed postures.
Next, shift your weight completely forward, over your lead knee so that 90% or more of your body weight is being carried by your lead leg. The idea is to slide your hips sideways, keeping your torso straight. Avoid the common but incorrect tendency to pitch the torso at an angle and lean from the waist.
Now, with your weight over your lead leg, bring your trailing leg forward and cross over your lead leg. You can do this by crossing either in front or behind the lead leg. Both versions are correct.
Also insure that, while you’re performing the crossing/stepping action, that your rear foot remains sideways in the universal “L” position, and that your torso remains bladed (do not allow your torso to turn while stepping). This is one of the biggest mistakes made, and if not done properly, will screw up everything from your balance to your punching, kicking, sword work, etc.
But, I can hear you asking…
How is this an advanced ninjutsu skill?
And, the answer is…
Because, in the words of Hatsumi-sensei, “If you can’t do yoko-aruki, then you cannot do henka.”
Henka is the ability to change and adapt to situations on a case-by-case basis. That means that, without this skill, you will have a difficult time varying a particular technique from the “model” (aka kata form), because you can’t move properly.
Remember that a ninja is never NOT in kamae. The thing to remember is…
“Kamae first – kamae last – kamae “always“!
And yoko aruki, sideways walking allows you to do just that – to remain in kamae, maintaining the benefits that kamae provides (distance, shielding, etc.), while having the ability to step or kick in any direction, as well as making minor adjustments to your footing and footwork, as-needed, from within your kamae posture and positioning.
So… if you want to become a master of ninpo or budo-taijutsu, then, in addition to Ichimonji no kamae (that’s a different lesson!), you must become very proficient with your yoko-aruki, sideways walking skill!