Why does Naruto run like this?

Naruto running

It looks silly to me, and I'm not seeing the advantage.

  • 1
    ... wind resistance?
    – Gnemlock
    Oct 23 '18 at 21:39
  • 9
    Why do ninjas run with their hands at the back? on Anime & Manga SE.
    – Lexible
    Oct 23 '18 at 21:55
  • 20
    I've tried it, I got up to 67kmph, but then I tripped and immediately regretted having my arms behind my back.
    – Daft
    Oct 23 '18 at 22:07
  • 1
    I’ve looked it up and some people say it’s about throwing shuriken? Maybe so you wouldn’t have to move your arms back before throwing and have a little more control/less reaction time. I don’t know of Kishimoto saying anything about this, though. Oct 24 '18 at 3:53
  • 3
    I think it acts as a spoiler (like on a Formula 1 car) to keep then from lifting off the ground. :) Oct 24 '18 at 13:58

This isn't at all unique to Naruto. In fact, it's so common, it has its own TV tropes entry: Ninja Run.

It seems to be a stylistic choice in anime and manga. I suspect it originated in order to emphasize the line of action, which is a concept in art, especially comics and animation, to draw a character with their body following a specific line or curve in order to emphasize the concept that the character is moving by drawing the viewer's eye in the direction of the movement the artist is trying to depict. The arms splayed out behind emphasize the line of action that is parallel to the ground, as the characters are supposed to be running across the ground very quickly. This stylistic choice made more sense in the days when all anime had very few frames of animation, so the illusion of movement through actual animation was minimal.

  • 5
    –1 The run described on TV Tropes is different than that of the Naruto ninjas. Also: most of your answer is rank speculation.
    – Lexible
    Oct 23 '18 at 22:23
  • 2
    @Kai instead of the "Nina Run" trope, look at "Airplane arms" (see the last paragraph about Ninja and Samarai) Oct 23 '18 at 23:01
  • 1
    Not sure how well the idea of too few frames works here. They would still need enough frames to animate the legs. And if you only show from the waist up, you could only get away with this if it were already an established style.
    – Misha R
    Oct 24 '18 at 3:45
  • 3
    It’s not for frames; it’s like that in the manga, I’m pretty sure. Oct 24 '18 at 3:53
  • 3
    @Lexible the entry on TV Tropes reads: "alternatively, both arms can be kept back in this fashion".
    – SQB
    Oct 24 '18 at 7:10

You can see this in loads and loads of anime. If you see characters run like this - they are probably ninjas or samurais. In those shows you can often see that different characters run in different styles even if they are all skilled fighters. The running style is a result of the "fighting culture" the character is from.

As to why anime shows ninjas running like this, there is no distinct answer. It is considered that it should reflect some technique from ancient Japanese martial arts - there are different theories as to why anyone would do that and none of them is convincing enough.

But apparently it is a myth that ether ninja or samurais were train to run with their hands behind their backs. There is no historical evidence of that, so probably it is just a stylistic decision in anime and manga to add some mystic vibe to legendary Japanese martial arts.

  • 2
    If you claim, that there is no answer and that competing theories are all unsatisfactory, you should really list those theories so we can make up our mind ourselves. Failing that I don't see value in someone saying "there is no answer" without explaining herself.
    – Minix
    Oct 24 '18 at 10:15
  • 3
    @Minix See, my source of information is not internet, but Ninja Museum in Kyoto where I specifically asked the question and tend to believe them. Hence, I am not really up to do the full research on internet theories to include them in my answer as none of them is relative to my answer. As I said, there are no evidences that any school in Japan used this style of running, so any theory of why a ninja would do that is doomed. There is something about aerodynamics, holding weapon and spending less energy... One should just try to run like this to see how ridiculous it is, really :)
    – Shana Tar
    Oct 24 '18 at 13:33
  • 1
    That is very interesting information, that would increase the quality of your answer immensly, in my opinion.
    – Minix
    Oct 24 '18 at 18:53

When I was in Army training (20 years ago), I had a fellow soldier run with his hands clasped behind his back. He said it limited his breathing during the slower training runs.

This guy was what I'd call a true runner, as he normally ran sub 4 minute miles. He would normally run/sprint the 2 mile PT test in 7.something minutes.

I've also talked to other runners more recently and they've said that while running, your body should be perpendicular to the road. They went on to say that when running downhill, your arms should be trailing behind you to maintain balance.

The guy in the above anime is running bent over forward, so it may also be to maintain balance.

Ok, so this is long after this Question was asked and answered, but I think I just found the most real answer someone could get.

While randomly viewing YouTube videos, I found one where a lady talked to a real ninja and showed him the Naruto running style. He said it was accurate and explained that swinging your arms wastes energy, leaning forward puts your center of gravity in front of your feet, and your arms are there to help maintain balance.

This ninja also demonstrated (a little) this technique.

In a previous video, the same ninja mentioned that swinging the arms and torso would also swing the swords at the belt, which would get in the way while running, and demonstrated why he kept his right hand at his belt while running.

  • @TheLethalCarrot, is that better? How else would I edit it if not? Oct 24 '18 at 15:10
  • It might be better if you tailored this back to the question, for example, how these techniques apply to the style in question. Though to be honest it isn't bad at the moment
    – TheLethalCarrot
    Oct 24 '18 at 15:13
  • 1
    I find the claim that this guy ran sub 4 minute miles, especially for multiple miles in a row, dubious. The world record is 3:43, and that was set in 1999 and hasn't been beaten since. It sounds like a typical "army story" to me.
    – Omegastick
    Oct 29 '18 at 9:14
  • @Omegastick, a 3:55 mile is still sub-4 minutes and doesn't beat the record, so believe what you want to. (I don't know that 3:55 was his mile time, I'm just using it as an example.) Oct 29 '18 at 14:55

IIRC, in medieval Japan, samurai would run this way because they believed it to be more efficient, and it it allowed them to run while carrying weapons without waving them all over the place.

Then some European sailors turned up, they both noticed the differences in running styles, and soon some foot races were had and it was discovered that the upright posture with swinging arms was a more effective manner of running, so this running posture fell out of favour until it came to be associated with the ninja in Japanese popular culture.

  • 4
    [Citations needed.]
    – Valorum
    Sep 1 '19 at 23:08
  • 2
    @Valorum That’s why I said IIRC, which means “If I Remember Correctly”. It looks like I might have seen it in an Answer on this question on the anime StackExchange: anime.stackexchange.com/questions/4221/…
    – nick012000
    Sep 2 '19 at 0:24
  • Ah, ok. In which case this answer is basically repeating info that's already in the accepted answer.
    – Valorum
    Sep 2 '19 at 6:14
  • 1
    @Valorum It’s not repeating information from the accepted answer to this question.
    – nick012000
    Sep 2 '19 at 7:46

Pretty sure it's for less wind resistance and better reaction time, so they can move both hands at the same time to, say, start Suiton: Suiryuudan no Jutsu (Water Style: Water Dragon Jutsu), without having to stop pumping their arms.

  • 1
    I must admit I'm not entirely sure why having their arms behind their back would help with your latter point.
    – TheLethalCarrot
    Feb 17 at 17:30

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