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Japanese Running Techniques

Japan, without a doubt, is one of the most unique places in the world. The country is characterized by its long history of isolation and therefore completely independent development - just think of the famous Samurai warriors depicted in countless movies or the modern pop culture that spread like wildfire among young people!


Just like the culture, the country's sports are well distinguished from the rest of the world. Among the most prominent are martial arts like Sumo wrestling and Judo,the latter being also present in the Olympic Games. More often than not, it's not only about the physical activity but also philosophy and principles, as it is the case with Aikido - the concept being defending attacks without harming the opponent.

But only few of us know that Japan is also a country obsessed with running and that throughout history, the Japanese also developed specialized techniques - each for its purpose and effective in its own way.

Ninja Style Running

Everyone familiar with the Anime Naruto might remember this iconic way of running, Ninja Bashiri which – despite being quite exaggerated in the series - was a real thing.

Ninjas - being spies and assassins - always had to be as effective as possible with every movement, so running leaning front was the way to go while the arms remain close to the body. This way they could run faster without losing their balance and always were able to draw their weapon quickly.

Breathing was an important part of this technique as well, since they had to be as quiet as possible to avoid being detected by the enemy, meaning they were training not to breathe at all for quite some time.

While being perfect to sneak into someone's property, Ninja Bashiri is not quite recommended for running a Marathon...


Japanese Long-Distance Walking

From the 17th until approximately the 19th century, which is also known as the Edo Period, the Japanese practised quite an interesting way to walk long distances called Namba Aruki. While looking rather funny, the technique was useful to conserve energy and - when mastered - could also be applied to running.

To walk Namba Aruki you first take a step with your right foot, turn your hips towards your right leg while moving your whole upper body in the same direction while your hands remain on your hips all the time. You will copy the movement with your left side and continue all the way like this. As soon as you get familiar with the movement, try to proceed the same way, but this time with your hips not moving at all. This way you will not only be less tired afterwards, but it's also beneficial for your back.

The technique was developed by messengers that had to cover distances of 300-400 kilometers in only 6 days, so consider to include this technique in your next Ultra-Marathon!

Do it with a smile!

A more modern approach to running was pioneered by Dr. Hiroaki Tanaka with Niko Niko (which basically means "smile"). It's quite the opposite to the "no pain, no gain" attitude that many runners are following nowadays.

The formula for this technique is achieved by maintaining a heart rate of around 138 minus your age divided by two (e.g., if you are 30 years old, a heart rate of 123). The pace of Niko Niko lies at a point where the volume of blood pumped per heartbeat is the highest and lipid metabolism (or fat) is at its maximum. It might seem slow, but on the long run it's super effective!

Some nice side effects include reduced anxiety and a feeling of well-being and calmness. It also increases the chance to experience a runner's high and enter a meditative state.

And by the way - the inventor himself managed to improve his time for finishing a Marathon from 4:11 when he was in his thirties to 2:40 when he was older than 50!


Spiritual Japan

There is truly so much we can learn from the Japanese and their way of life - and while it might be a bit complicated to visit the marvellous country at the moment, we invite you take part in our Tokyo Spirit Run 23rd of July and try out some of the unique Japanese running techniques by yourself!


July 23rd - Aug 8th 2021 - Tokyo Athletes Challenge


Run-on each day of the scheduled Olympic Games from July 23rd - August 8th, 2021.(Will take place even if the Olympic Games may be postponed).


Picture 1 : Michael DeMarco via unsplash
Picture 2 : mwangi gatheca via unsplash
Picture 3 : David Edelstein via unsplash