Nanba Aruki, a walking style from the Edo period (1603-1868).
Nanba is a special walking method of swinging the arm of the same side of the stepping leg which is the opposite of the standard walking method (Western style) we do.
Walking is a skill which all humans learn in their childhood. It is necessary to survive in our world.
The Western way
The transfer of body weight to take a step in daily movements occurs automatically: the force creating the horizontal displacement is the resultant of two vectors; the strike from the leg against the ground and the weight of the body. The dynamic is such that, to produce a movement we must exert a force that goes against that of gravitation. The Western way is globally adopted and is the standard way of walking.
For martial arts purposes, the Western way creates a problem. The opponent can detect the pushing against the floor before the attack becomes apparent and can handle more easily the “ma-ai”. The attack is neutralized by controlling the space : Sen or initiative.
The Eastern way
The principle employed by more classical performers is very different. The transfer of body weight and using gravity will create a situation were it will be difficult to tell how the attack will executed. The application of this principle is masked either by its slowness or speed and the difference can only understood by the skill of taikan*. At the instant of movement, instead of creating a force against the ground, we take away muscular tension from the legs to allow our body weight to come into play and in doing so we transform the force into a horizontal displacement under the control of body weight. Whether it is with a stick, spear, sword or knife, or even empty-handed, the principle of movement that allows the transfer of body weight is associated with rotational body movements whose main axis is the body’s center line, seichusen.
* Taikan : an unconscious bodily feeling process to create bodily communication with opponent.
The idea in suri ashi is to slide your foot parallel with the floor. It will be easier if you lean your body slightly forward. This is how they teach the Noh walking. What happens here is that your ankles will be bent so that you can move your foot without or with a little lifting of your heel. You cannot take a large step. Why do you want to learn suri ashi?
1) no rocking of the hips,
2) no unnecessary twisting of the upper body
3) no ups and downs of the body.