Ninjutsu is a Japanese martial arts style popularized by action movies and iconic images of sneaky men in black pajama suits. However, the actual discipline of ninjutsu is no joke. There are at least 18 different skill sets that take many years to master. One such skill set is called shinobi iri, the art of stealth entry and escape. To master shinobi iri, ninjas must learn running skills, or hayagakejutsu. These running techniques can help you improve your own running ability, even if you're not training to be a lethal ninja warrior.
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Taking the Right Stance
In cartoons and comedies, ninjas are often depicted as running with their hands on their swords and leaning sharply forward. This is actually a real ninjutsu training method for running. This running stance combines stealth with speed. Ninjutsu initiates are instructed to crouch low in the "Hiryu" posture and run with their upper bodies leaning ahead of their center of gravity.The arms are held back and the legs are required to work much harder to propel the body in this unnatural stance. The deep leaning posture forces you to constantly move faster to maintain your balance. According to Blackbelt magazine, this technique was traditionally used to force the runner to cover ground much faster than their enemies.
Ninjutsu practitioners move in silence. This isn't some sort of trick; it's the result of well-developed stabilizing muscles. Ninjas run on the balls of their feet and absorb the impact of their weight throughout the rest of their body. This light stepping technique gives ninjas powerful legs and core muscles, as well as strong connective ligaments and joints. Ninjas historically would conduct missions with a full arsenal of weapons and items to aide in their victory. These items might have weighed them down, but ninjas were trained to properly carry this weight while still maintaining stealth and speed. You can use this same running technique by wearing a weight belt or training with a weighted sledge.
Running with Nature
One key philosophical component to Ninjutsu is harmony and acceptance of nature. Ten-mon and Chi-mon are the studies of meteorology and geography respectively, key components to planning any ninja mission. To develop harmony with nature, Ninjutsu initiates would often train high up in the mountains to improve their lung capacity and run along challenging forest trails to heighten their senses. You can incorporate rolls, leaping jumps and stalking in your normal running routine to take your training to the next level. This technique takes you beyond simply jogging for fitness and teaches you how to run in harmony with the natural environment.
Breathing In, Breathing Out
From its earliest inception, ninjutsu practitioners have recognized the importance of breathing and meditation in their training. The key to sustaining endurance and stamina while running lies in optimizing your breathing patterns. One method of increasing your breathing ability is to practice holding your breath for extending periods of time. This increases your lung capacity and helps maximize your explosiveness while running. Another key technique is measuring your breathing patterns while you run, being conscious of how many breaths you take per step. Some of the best ninjutsu practitioners run at the same pace as Olympic sprinters, which is one breath for every five to eight strides.