If you’re a Naruto fan like me, then you were probably also just as intrigued by the way they fought using chakra and ninjutsu. I personally also used it as inspiration for training actual martial arts.
But one thing I always liked about Naruto is how realistic the hand-to-hand combat scenes seemed, and how they used real martial arts techniques. So that’s what I’m going to address in this post: What martial arts are used in the Naruto series?
The characters from the Naruto anime use a vast variety of real martial arts, the majority using Boxing, Muay Thai, and Capoeira. Some of the characters have unique fighting styles: Kabuto can be seen using joint-locks and throws identical to Aikido, and Neji’s palm-striking style is based on a traditional martial art named BaGuaZhang. Rock Lee’s fighting style uses elements of Taekwondo.
But, this information only covers the surface of the martial arts styles used in the Naruto series. In the rest of the post, I’m going to detail the specific styles unique to certain characters, as well as where the writers drew the inspiration from.
Most Common Fighting Styles In Naruto
First I am going to analyze the hand-to-hand combat style of most of the characters in the Naruto series. The vast majority of the ninjas in Naruto use very similar fighting tactics.
Just about all of them are adept at not only punching, but kicking as well! And on top of that, they can move very gracefully, spinning and jumping around while throwing their combinations.
The fighting style of the Naruto characters seems to be a combination of Boxing, with Muay Thai, Karate, and Capoeira style kicks mixed in.
Most of the characters know how to box, as most of the hand-to-hand confrontations in Naruto consist of back-and-forth punching. But the fighting scenes in Naruto are very different to the fight scenes in other anime.
The reason why is because the scenes aren’t rushed, and we can see the nuances of their attacks. For example, easily found images of the fight sequences I needed, whereas it was very difficult to do the same for the post I made on Martial Arts Used In Dragon Ball Z.
Anyways, the way fight scenes are drawn is the reason why I could find this gif of Sakura throwing a perfect right hook/overhand right.
Sakura lands a perfect overhand right.
Sakura throws the hook with the perfect mechanics, putting her whole body into it, similar to an overhand strike in real-life boxing. The punch starts from her legs, as it should. She twists her right leg and pushes it against the ground, which brings more force into her punch.
Superhuman strength put aside, the way she throws the hook puts a lot of energy into it. Notice how she also twists the rest of her body into the punch. Her hips swivel to the left in a quick motion, and by the time she lands the punch, her upper body is facing towards us, whereas she was facing away before throwing the punch.
Below, you can see the exact same punch thrown by Former UFC Champ Tyron Woodley. This is a great image to compare with for several reasons. For one, Sakura and Tyron are both orthodox fighters, meaning they stand with their left side forward.
Former UFC Champ Tyron Woodley (blue shorts) lands a perfect overhand right to win the Championship.
Sakura and Tyron are both also punching with their right hand. Not only that, but they are throwing the same type of punch. The overhand right is characterized by dropping your head to the left, while throwing your right hand over your head to strike your opponent.
The overhand is also notorious for the amount of power it generates. In fact, the image of Tyron Woodley above was the punch that knocked out then-Champion Robbie Lawler, to win Woodley the Championship.
The most interesting thing about fight scenes in Naruto is how insanely accurate they can be, the prime example being Sakura’s punch and Woodley’s punch. Although Woodley’s punch is from a different angle, you can clearly see that his hips and upper body twist to his left, the same way that Sakura does.
If you compare the two images for yourself, you’ll see that the Naruto animators put a lot of effort into making fights seem realistic. Most of the fights scenes in Naruto feature some good boxing moves.
Muay Thai & Taekwondo
Aside from being able to box, it seems that most characters in Naruto are very adept at throwing kicks as well. Most characters have shown a variety of kicks, from Muay Thai style roundhouse kicks, to Karate style axe kicks, and everything in between.
In this section, we’re going to look at some of these kicks, as well as where the kicks are seen in real life. First, let’s start with Muay Thai.
Muay Thai is a martial art from the country of Thailand, that features punching and kicking. Muay Thai is very popular for it’s simple effectiveness, as the kicks in Muay Thai have been able to end fights, despite not being as flashy as the kicks in Taekwondo or Karate.
Sasuke lands a Muay Thai style Roundhouse kick on Naruto.
An important part of the kicks in Muay Thai is what part of the foot you hit with. In Karate, a roundhouse kick should hit with the ball of the foot. However in Muay Thai, students are taught to strike mostly with the shin bone, as it is harder than the bones in the foot. Sasuke himself demonstrates the perfect Muay Thai style Roundhouse kick in the image above.
There are a lot of details in Sasuke’s kick that makes it realistic. First, notice the part of his leg that hits Naruto is closer to his shin than his foot. Also, there is a lot of weight in Sasuke’s kick, noted by the way he moves his hands as momentum to keep his balance.
This style of kicking can often be seen in MMA due to its effectiveness, as I mentioned earlier. Below, you can see an image of Holly Holm landing an identical kick to Sasuke (albeit from a different angle).
Holly Holm (left) knocks out Ronda Rousey with a roundhouse head kick to win the UFC Championship.
Although we are looking at Holly’s kick from the right, compared to viewing Sasuke’s from the left, we can clearly see the similarities. It’s hard to see Holly’s foot from this angle, but she lands with the same part of the foot as Sasuke does.
Also, notice the identical arm swing when Holly throws the kick. Her left hand is down, with her right hand up, identical to Sasuke’s hands’ position. It is amazing how similar Naruto fight scenes are to real-life MMA fights. If you are interested in Muay Thai, check out a post I made on learning Muay Thai called How Long Does It Take To Get Good At Muay Thai?
If you want to see more Muay Thai in anime, I also recommend taking a look at What Martial Arts Are Used In Attack On Titan?, as Muay Thai is one of the two main martial arts used.
Next, we’ll see some more specific martial arts used by characters in Naruto.
Outside of the typical fighting styles seen used by most characters in the Naruto series, there are more specific martial arts used by certain characters. One of those characters is Neji Hyūga.
Neji’s fighting style is special, because his whole clan’s fighting style (known as the Gentle Fist) is based on the martial art known as BaGuaZhang (八卦掌) which is a Traditional Chinese Martial Art. First, I’ll quickly describe BaGuaZhang, and after that, we’ll look at how this martial art influenced the fighting style of the Hyūga Clan in Naruto.
BaGuaZhang literally translates to “eight trigram palm” (sound familiar?) in Chinese. It s a martial art that mainly incorporates palm strikes and circular movement. However, BaGuaZhang incorporates many strikes and throws into its fighting style, so is not considered entirely a striking or grappling art.
The yin-yang symbol, surrounded by the eight trigram symbols.
BaGuaZhang bases a lot of its teachings on Taoist ideas, such as Yin and Yang philosophy, as well as the Eight Trigrams that accompany it, each Trigram representing an idea. You may have noticed that this is the same symbol that appears on the ground when Neji or Hinata begin using their Eight Trigrams, Sixty-Four Palms attack.
The symbols that appear when Neji commences the Sixty-Four Palms are derived from Taoism.
As for the style of fighting, Neji pretty much all of Neji’s attacks are palm strikes, a staple of BaGuaZhang. Aside from that you may also notice Neji’s unorthodox fighting stances, as seen in the image below.
Neji employs a unique BaGuaZhang stance. A BaGuaZhang stance, used to circle around an opponent.
Kabuto has been seen using Aikido style techniques. A prime example is the video below, where you can see him throw Naruto, and then hold him down using a wrist-lock.
The wrist-lock/throw seen used by Kabuto is known as Kote Gaeshi in the martial art of Aikido. Aikido is a Japanese martial art known for its many joint locks and throws.
Below, an image of Kote Gaeshi demonstrated in real-life:
Two Aikido practitioners demonstrate a Kote Gaeshi.
There are many martial arts used in the Naruto series, and they are all placed well within the fight scenes. The animation style allows us to see the details in the character’s movements and strikes, unlike some of the other anime series.
And of course, there are likely more martial arts used in Naruto that were not covered in this post. The amount of work that went into the animation for Naruto‘s fight scenes is amazing, and I’m glad I could show you some of the martial arts used.
I hope this has been a good encouragement for you to choose a martial art and start training. If you want to see more posts covering martial arts in anime, check out the Anime page, or check out the Training Tips page if you’re ready to start training. Good luck on your martial arts journey and thanks for reading!