Russian President Vladimir Putin has a famously unusual walk. His right arm remains stiff by his side, whilst his left arm swings freely. Rumours have circulated that either a childhood bout of polio might be to blame, or that it might be a sign of early onset Parkinson’s disease.
Finally a group of Dutch neurologists have figured out the answer. They say Putin’s odd walking pattern is not due to any type of former or current ill health, but due to the training he received while in the Soviet Union’s spy agency – the KGB.
The neurologists analysed YouTube footage of Putin and a training manual of the former KGB to reach their conclusion.
According to this manual, KGB operatives were instructed to keep their weapon in their right hand close to their chest and to move forward with one side, usually the left, presumably allowing subjects to draw the gun as quickly as possible when confronted with a foe.
The second chapter of the manual gives the following instruction: “When moving, it is absolutely necessary to keep your weapon against the chest or in the right hand. Moving forward should be done with one side, usually the left, turned somewhat in the direction of movement.”
The neurogologists found a similar walking pattern in Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev and three other highly ranked Russian officials, with all walking with a consistently reduced right arm swing.
Their conclusions were published in the British Medical Journal this week.
“We propose that this new gait pattern, which we term “gunslinger’s gait,” may result from a behavioural adaptation, possibly triggered by KGB or other forms of weapons training where trainees are taught to keep their right hand close to the chest while walking, allowing them to quickly draw a gun when faced with a foe. This should be included in the differential diagnosis of a unilaterally reduced arm swing.”