Kata Lab # 1310: Kata In Nature

17 Nov

Go – smell a pine tree;
liberate your weary lungs
from gasoline fumes.
Go – find a rosebush
and with unembarrassed lips
give it a soft kiss.
Whistle at a bird!
Be the village idiot,
Shamelessly human. 
(See Endnote # 1)


Welcome to the current installment in my Kata Laboratory Series, Kata Lab # 1310: “Introduction To Kata Metaphysics: Kata In Nature” ©


In my experience, most karate-ka practice kata exclusively within the Dojo. Their sole sojourn outside of the Dojo is the floor of a tournament venue. By remaining within these sterile, static environments, karate-ka deprive themselves of the most wonderful kata experience, to wit: kata in nature.

Practicing kata in nature opens the door to what I call the environmental aspect of kata bunkai (analysis). This aspect relates to understanding the connection of the kata, and the performer to the natural environment. Each (environment & performer) affects the other through the performance of kata. The environment affects the manner and feel of the performance. Conversely, the performer leaves his mark on the environment via the performance; “footprints in the sand”, if you will.

The purpose of the within Kata Lab is extremely simple – experience your kata outdoors. Experience, understand and absorb your kata outside of the sterile, static Dojo environment.

Kata Lab Experiment: (Recommended Reader Experimentation)

Select one kata that you will practice. I recommend a kata that you wholeheartedly enjoy performing;

  • Perform the kata wearing different clothes (unless you are outside at a nudist colony, PLEASE wear clothes). Ask yourself,
  •           How does a jacket, hat or gloves affect kata?
  •           Does wearing winter boots differ from summer sandals, if so, how?
  • Perform the kata in different environmental conditions. These conditions should take into account varying surface, atmospheric and other factors. Experience and understand how the various conditions affect your kata. For example, does your kata change when
  •           performed in a park, on a grassy hillside?
  •           performed when you are by yourself or around an audience (especially an audience of non-karate-ka!)
  •           performed in a city parking lot with gravel, noise and observers watching you?
  •           performed in the darkness of night versus the light of day?
  • Also consider how your performance affected the environment – did you leave footprints in the sand, bend a tree branch, have a crowd of onlookers applaud (or jeer) your performance, and the like;
  • As your awareness of the effects of the environment on kata increases, repeat the lab experiment with your other kata

Benefits of performing kata in nature:

  • initially, performing kata in nature prepares you to better defend yourself in the event of an attack;
  • allows you to begin to absorb the kata within yourself, wherever you may be (you are in the kata and the kata is in you!);
  • stirs the desire to perform your kata wherever and whenever you desire, regardless of whether you have privacy or not;
  • begins to foster an understanding of how you interact with your external environment;
  • leads to an understanding that you affect your environment and your environment affects you, each are intertwined and each leave a mark upon the other by way of the shared kata experience;
  • ultimately you are one intertwined with your surroundings.


Practicing kata outdoors in nature initially serves a martial purpose – you may have to defend yourself outside the Dojo, in adverse conditions (ice, sand, hot, cold, windy conditions). Therefore, it is prudent to practice such defense in those conditions. Because of your experience, you begin to understand the impact of environmental conditions upon your kata. Eventually, you come to understand, via the kata, how you interact with your environment and it interacts with you – this is the environmental aspect of kata.

Consider this:

A lemon doesn’t consider
itself to be “bitter.”

A snail does not know
it is “slow.”

A skunk does not think
he makes such a “stink.”

An onion does not try
to make you cry.

Nature largely ignores
man, with just cause.
(See Endnote # 2)

Please remember, the mandate of the kata laboratory is


HANKO Sensei John Szmitkowski

Cum superiorum privilegio veniaque (With the privilege and permission of the superiors)

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1. “Nature Lesson for Sheila“, from: Rhodes Dennis, Spiritus Pizza & Other Poems, (Video Links Media, Provincetown, MA 2000) p. 95.

2. “Hubris“, Id. P. 71.

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