Excerpt from Journey to Blackbelt and Beyond-[source link]
“Nanba aruki was a style of walking that would have seemed very natural to the Japanese during the Edo period (1603-1868). It is thought that the word nanba means ‘difficult place’ and aurki means ‘to walk’. So one interpretation of nanba aurki is to walk away from a difficult place. In other words nanba walking was designed to get you out of a trouble or do difficult jobs more easily.
The bushi walked in this style and farmers tending the fields used a variation of it. It is difficult to walk in a sodden paddy field in the usual way so the farmers adopted a stance with the right leg and arm forward and shuffled forwards in this semi-sidewards position, pushing the hoe in front of them. This variant of nanba walking (where the same leg and arm remain in the front) is called hitoemi and essentially means to move the body along a single line as one mass. Hitoemi is used extensively in many sword arts as well as in bojutsu and other weapon arts.
The principles of nanba aruki are inherent in the classical Japanese martial arts including karate, aikido, jujitsu and kobujutsu. This style of movement is more energy efficient, less fatiguing and quicker than the more Western (sport/athletic) way of moving and suits martial arts in particular. The centre of gravity is kept low and centred; and the upper and lower parts of the body remain unified all the time. In the Edo period, samurai messengers and couriers (hikyaku) would travel between Edo and Kyoto (310 miles) in as little as 6 days running in nanba aruki :- that’s 50 – 60 miles per day, carrying a load!” – Journey to Blackbelt and beyond – Nanba Aruki
How to Nanba Walk
Demonstration of Nanba Karate
Native American Scout Training
Crawling and Animal Stalking uses the coordination of the hands and feet in the same way as the nanba walking. Pretty interesting, take a look: