I am a new Naruto watcher and have always wondered what the difference between Ninja-Art, and Element ninjutsu are. Because in some cases. Naruto may say.. "Wind Style: RasenShuriken!", while Ino or Shikamaru may say.. "Ninja Art: Shadow Possesion Jutsu, or Mind Transfer Jutsu". What is the difference here, if they're the same I'm gonna look pretty stupid.
Most ninpo, or ninja art, are non-elemental and just uses chakra to produce some effect. Element ninjutsu (as you put it) applies Nature Transformation to the chakra molded in your body to turn it into one of the five basic natures. These types of jutsu can often times be much more powerful or produce a wider effect than some ninpo. Also, it may be the case that a number of ninpo are inaccessible to most ninja either due to it being a Hiden, or Secret Tradition (like Shikamaru's Shadow Possession), or maybe the jutsu in question is of particular high caliber and the ninja is not strong enough to perform it. Thus, learning some kind of element would be much easier. But aside from the Hiden, theres little difference between the two. Just one uses elements, or Natures, and the other doesnt.