How to Walk Like a Ninja: An Illustrated Guide

by Brett & Kate McKay on October 11, 2013 · 44 Comments

in Just For Fun, Manly Skills, Tactical Skills, Visual Guides

1. You’ll be tempted to hold your breath as you creep around. Don’t. It will lead to loud and harsh exhales. Breathe slowly and calmly through the nose.  2. As you vigilantly scan your surroundings, be sure to watch where you step. Watch for sticks, pine cones, and crunchy leaves outdoors, and toys, shoes, and table corners indoors.  3. Lower body for better balance and keep legs shoulder-width apart. Extend arms at waist level. Don’t move your waist at all, just your legs.  4. Start moving by balancing all your weight on your right leg. Move left foot forward, placing it lightly on the surface.  5. Put your left heel down lightly. Slowly shift your body weight towards the ball of the left foot by bending your left knee and slowly leaning forward.  6. With your body weight supported by the ball of your left foot, slowly advance your right foot forward as you did in the last step. Repeat until you reach your target.

With Halloween just around the corner, there’s no better time to learn how to walk silently through the night like a ninja. It’s an incredibly useful skill, allowing you not only to stealthily assassinate your archenemy, but also steal cookies from coworkers, check to see if toddlers are still sleeping without waking them, or sneak across your creaky wood floors to scare the bejeezus out of your roommate.

Inspired by Secrets of the Ninja by Ashida Kim. I stumbled upon this book back when I was in middle school. Definitely a fun read.

Illustration by Ted Slampyak

{ 44 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Luke October 11, 2013 at 6:27 pm

That’s all well and good, but how do you avoid making noise on creaky floor?

2 Jim October 11, 2013 at 6:31 pm

In samurai movies, they’re always hiding in your ceiling.

3 Gorges Smythe October 11, 2013 at 6:55 pm

The Boy Scouts used to teach this, but it was to sneak up on critters, not assasinate people or steal cookies. ;-)

4 Gernot_Freiherr_von_Donnerbalken October 11, 2013 at 8:13 pm

I’ve developped a similar technique to cross the wooden stairs in our very old house. I can tell out of experience it works !

5 Justin October 11, 2013 at 9:25 pm

Not sure if this is a typo, but it seems superfluous to put your heel down. Referencing the second last panel here: Put your left heel down lightly. “Slowly shift your body weight towards the ball of your left foot” … if the ball of the foot is going down first anyway, why not just keep the weight on it, and creep along tippy-toe style? Unless the caption should’ve read “towards the ball of your *right* foot”.

6 Paul October 11, 2013 at 10:09 pm

I love these illustrations, good job Ted!

7 Joey October 11, 2013 at 10:14 pm

Glad to see something like this show up on AoM. As a student of Ninjutsu I’d like to point out that this guide doesn’t show everything. Sneaky Ninjas! It isn’t just tip toeing like in the picture. It’s more of a walking sideways while stepping in a x pattern (foot over foot). I can’t tell you how many people I have been right behind and scared just because they turn around and i’m right there. Sometimes I don’t even think about it until they turn and jump. Just got used to walking quietly. LOL! Hope to see more warrior skill tips.

This guy explains it pretty well –

@Luke – A ninja travels along the walls. This avoided the bending of the wood for creaking. Also allowed them to stay in the shadows.

8 Jeremy Anderberg October 11, 2013 at 10:43 pm

@Justin – a good question. If you put your whole foot down, your weight is spread more evenly. It’s also just a lot easier when you actually try it; not sure I would have the muscle to walk very far. Although, seasoned ninjas with built up foot and ankle muscles are known to be able to run on their balls like that.

9 Darrell October 12, 2013 at 12:39 am

Haha, this is the exact technique I use to check on my sleeping kids! I didn’t know I was such an awesome ninja! It comes in particularly handy for when you’re trying to get tooth fair money under their pillows – it’s nerve racking man.

Justin, if you don’t put your heel down when you start to move the right leg, you end up balanced on just the ball of your left foot – it’s really unstable. Putting the heel down and then starting to move right leg is a lot more balanced than just tip toe method. Try it out and you’ll see. I’ve been trying both methods out in the living room. My wife is looking at me funny. That’s the second time that’s happened while reading an AoM article. The first was trying to whistle with my fingers. Actually I think she looked more annoyed then than perplexed.

Keep up the great work AoM!

10 Dom October 12, 2013 at 12:35 pm

i know this is tagged as ‘just for fun’ but I feel like I should point out that Mr Ashida Kim is a massive fraud. On the other hand, I also owned ‘Secrets of a Ninja’ as a kid and I’ll forgive all of his fraudulent activity because of the awesomeness of ‘Monkey steals the peach’

11 Daniel October 12, 2013 at 12:50 pm

Does wearing socks help?

12 Zeb October 12, 2013 at 2:06 pm

It is about time the silent art of ninja-walking has been addressed! Now, off to practice sneaking up on people…and finish with a whistle through my fingers—that oughta get ‘em!

13 Rob October 12, 2013 at 2:40 pm

@Luke for squeaky floors you take a step but don’t put any weight on the forward foot Then rock back and forth between your feet putting more weight on the forward foot each time. It takes some skill work but works

14 David October 12, 2013 at 3:03 pm

Ashida Kim (who’s really a white guy, not Japanese or even Asian of any type) has already been debunked and disproven by many who openly practice and teach, with credentials, ninjutsu. Although, I also have a copy of his book, and it is a fun read. And most of what is in the book is based on knowledge that is available from other sources, so it must have some truth to it.

15 Z October 12, 2013 at 4:38 pm

@ Jeremy… Wouldn’t that be very painful…running on one’s balls like that? :)

16 Eliott October 12, 2013 at 5:09 pm

Make sure you pick your feet up while stepping so they don’t drag along the floor. Don’t have keys,spare change, etc. rattling around in your pockets. Wear clothing that hugs your body.
And you need to include opening/closing doors: slowly turn the knob to insure the door unlatches/re-latches silently. Carry WD-40 in case the door hinges are squeeky, or lubricate them beforehand. And above all else, stay focused and listen to your movements. If you find yourself in a pickle, quickly create a distraction with a smoke bomb and sneak away in the confusion.

17 Nate October 12, 2013 at 5:48 pm

@Luke, It’s all about knowing the surface you’re walking on. My friends and I like to play night paintball in an old warehouse, so quiet walking is sort of a learned skill. A creaky wooden floor is hard to navigate, but if you know where the support beams are below, you can mentally place a foot where the step would be much quieter. Going up and down stairs? Place your steps on the outside edges, as close to the railing as possible. Getting closer to your target? Keep an ear out for cover noise/distractions and use it to your advantage. Also be mindful of the noise your clothes make; jeans and outerwear are difficult to sneak around in.

18 Andrew October 12, 2013 at 5:54 pm

Just the sort of thing that is appropriate for halloween. And good timing as well, as we need some time to practice it. Thanks so much!

19 William October 12, 2013 at 6:04 pm

The Boy Scouts did indeed teach stalking back in the day. I got good enough at it that I could walk up on individuals and sometimes groups in the middle of their yards and even stalk cats. It’s a perishable skill, unfortunately.

20 Douglas Beaumont October 12, 2013 at 6:25 pm

I got this book in middle school too! Still have it. Awesome.

21 markknife1 October 12, 2013 at 8:41 pm

Practice Luke. Find an all wooden floor and practice there.

22 kermit October 12, 2013 at 11:09 pm

Sometimes the samurai would leave certain squeaky floorboard or steps alone. The members of the household would get in the habit of walking around them – if a squeak was heard in the middle of the night, it was a subtle intruder alert.

Also, when crossing a field at night, avoid walking under the trees – that is of course where most of the pine cones and dry branches are, waiting for someone to step on ‘em.

23 bfajeremy October 13, 2013 at 12:04 am

Similar to a combat glide in terms of the stationary waist (helps a rifleman maintain steady aim) but different in that a rifleman walks heel-toe, heel-toe in order to move faster. When you’re about to bring overwhelming force to bear, stealth is important but not as essential as when you’re a lone assassin on a deadly mission.

24 Alex October 13, 2013 at 1:29 am

@Luke: You should move near the walls and on the stairs stay on either side but never on the middle.

25 Stephen LaFollette October 13, 2013 at 6:32 pm

Woolrich Allegheny (Grey) throw

26 Gerald October 13, 2013 at 6:58 pm

works ok, but my bones make cracking noises ^^

27 Jason October 13, 2013 at 7:15 pm

@ Justin: to do this technique and be effectively silent it has to be done extremely slowly and not putting your heal down would wear your calve muscles out very quickly.This is partially because when your next foot moves out you’re basically balancing on the one foot until you find, for example, a non-squeaky spot on the floor.

28 Andy Kerr October 13, 2013 at 8:42 pm

Ninja Tooth Fairies: This shouldn’t be necessary for swapping teeth for coins if you follow this advice: I make the switch as I’m tucking the kids into bed. They’re can stay up watching for me, but they’ll never see me—the money was there before their head hit the pillow. :-)

29 Nick October 14, 2013 at 10:52 am

Sweet man. Doesn’t have to be all traditional “manliness” material, this is one of those off beat skills and posts that keep things fun and interesting, and what keeps me coming back!

30 michael October 14, 2013 at 2:47 pm

i believe native americans called it fox walking.

31 Claude October 15, 2013 at 8:45 am

Love this. Now if I could just learn that smoke bomb disappearing trick.

32 David Russ October 15, 2013 at 9:02 am

Ashida Kim is a well known fraud. As a practitioner of Bujinkan Budo Taijutsu, I will say that walking quietly has more to do with proper body alignment structurally and walking in a proper manner. All of which evolves from good budo training. I have been accused of sneaking a few times myself.

33 Kirk October 15, 2013 at 11:05 am

For the next illustrated guide, how about walking like an Egyptian? Cue The Bangles!

34 Jim October 15, 2013 at 3:08 pm

Great guide! I’ve always had a problem with being a really loud walker, this helps!

35 aka October 15, 2013 at 11:28 pm

Memorize squeaky floorboards. Also, as you improve your balance, you will find you can be stealthier. If you are good enough, you can stand on a squeaky floorboard, but make no additional noise by eliminating the little twitches and shifts that keep you balanced. Pay attention to the pressure exerted by each zone of your foot and keep them as neutral, and as smooth as possible.

36 T. Hill October 16, 2013 at 12:01 pm

Japanese folks of old, did not simply leave the floor boards loose… They installed a specific type of floor called a “nightingale” floor. Where the floor boards met the joist, two nails were set to rub together, to make noise. No matter how one walked on these floors, they would always sing.

This was due to thiefs and assassins being kind of a menace.

37 Ben October 18, 2013 at 4:45 pm

The residences of many powerful people in medieval Japan were actually built specifically so that the floors would squeak when walked upon, then they could tell if a ninja was coming (in theory).

38 J. October 19, 2013 at 4:00 am

…umm…squeaky floor? Not a problem when you’re walking on the ceiling.

39 Mr. Philstivus November 1, 2013 at 6:28 am

Those of us involved with Taijiquan need not worry about noisy stepping, as we simply levitate toward our intended targets …

40 Michael H November 8, 2013 at 5:29 pm

My ankle cracked every time I tried it.

41 Kyle November 11, 2013 at 3:34 am

Creaky floors are normally dealt with by locating the offending board and applying baby powder in the joint. Another method that is used normally used when stepping on a creaky board or one of the infamous Nightingale Boards (a intrusion countermeasure often used by samurai) is to bring a pet cricket to let loose to fool any investigators of said creak.

42 WendyBird December 2, 2013 at 3:45 pm

I walk like this all the time, it’s a natural effect from growing so fast my Achilles tendon couldn’t keep up. Now it’s just a habit to tiptoe everyone, I startle people on an almost daily basis because of this, it’s good fun. :D

43 Divineprodigy December 3, 2013 at 10:35 pm

I would also recommend watching this

44 Tathal January 13, 2014 at 7:24 am

(haven’t read the comments, short on time)

One advantage of placing your whole foot on the ground before committing your weight to it is that even in the dark, you can feel what’s under your foot (especially if you’re bare-foot or wearing thin soles). That means that if you can’t look or miss a pinecone, or an acorn, or even a stick that might snap and give away your presence, you can use your foot to search for a better place to step.

Doing a lot of wall-sitting will make this style of sneaking a lot easier.

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