8 reasons why there is nothing better than practicing karate in the forest.
Reason #1 – Opening hours
The forest as a dojo is open permanently. 24 hours a day, as long as life lasts. Provided that the green oasis does not fall victim to a bulldozer.
Reason #2 – Membership fee
The forest charges a monthly membership fee of no less than zero euros (but also accepts dollars and renminbi, as far as I know).
Reason # 3 – Connectedness
Rarely is one so close to nature and can feel a more intense connection with Mother Earth than in a forest. In addition, the wood has a calming effect and is simply good for the soul. Fun fact: In Japan, where karate originates from, there is even a medical research branch for forest medicine. Shinrin-Yoku: The Japanese Art Of Forest Bathing.
Reason #4 – Diversity of the subsoil
In contrast to a boring gym, the ground here is uneven, rough, smooth, slippery, muddy, hard, soft, prickly, hilly, even, covered in leaves, stony, lined with branches. On the one hand, this requires more attention in order to prevent injuries. On the other hand, it is exactly what makes the forest so valuable as a practice site. It trains the senses, strengthens the muscles, hardens the body (mainly the feet), is perfect for balance, and offers endless training variety. Ever tried Gohon Kumite backwards and uphill, or kata on a fallen tree trunk?
Reason # 5 – Seasons
The forest is a joy and a challenge in any of the four seasons. For example, in winter I love cold morning training. At this point I quote an Aikido school (Yoshinkan) from Munich: “Kangeiko (寒 稽古) has always been a multi-day winter training in Japanese martial arts. By confronting the cold, will, mind, and body should be strengthened and concentration on the essentials be achieved.”
Reason #6 – Weather and times of day
A sports hall is warm, dry, bright, and cozy. And therefore a little boring. A high kick at low temperatures and with wet leaves and branches under your feet feels completely different and demands different skills than the same technique in a heated, clean Dojo. Balancing on a tree trunk becomes even more challenging when it has become slippery from the last rain. The general mood of karate training varies with the weather and time of day and therefore offers very interesting new insights.
Reason #7 – Exercise equipment
A decent quality forest offers an abundance of natural training equipment. My favorite are fallen trees. They are great for balancing (and slipping), practicing kata, jumping, kicking, push-ups, partner exercises and much more.
Branches become swords, benches turn into steppers, uneven surfaces are great for Kata and Kihon practice.
Reason #8 – Training ideas
In the forest, completely different training approaches are possible than in a sports hall. To give just one example: in our forest, there are many fallen trees and branches. Person one is blindfolded. The second person tries to lead person one through the obstacle course solely through words and verbal instructions. With karate techniques, of course! It takes very precise timing, clear announcements, and good technical execution to get over thick tree trunks undamaged and to avoid getting stuck between branches.
Reason #9 (Bonus) – Photo location
As a little icing on the cake, the forest is wonderfully suitable for film and photoshoots. These are not only beautiful memories of shared outdoor adventures but also opportunities to create artistic works with extraordinary perspectives. Ideal for the club website, Instagram, Facebook, and so on.
The forest is the ideal dojo. For me, it is the mixture of nature, the beautiful and calming view of the trees, as well as the almost endless exercise possibilities. Training is possible alone, in pairs, or in a group. And it’s free at any time of the day or year.
I am very lucky to have a forest on my doorstep. This is because I consciously chose where I live. Sometimes I train there in a karate suit, in the morning fog or in the sunshine; when it’s gray and muddy, warm, cold, or a mixture of everything. Sometimes I do a spontaneous short session in street clothes whenever I feel like it during a walk.
The forest helps me when I’m in a bad mood. A few rounds of karate in the forest and I ALWAYS feel better. If I have been in a good mood before, it will be even better afterward.
And the forest teaches humility. I always thought I could do certain things already quite well. However, training is more difficult in the forest. I lose my balance, slip, or have a hard time executing even basic techniques correctly. This makes me feel like a beginner, and that can be frustrating!
The forest reminds me that my Karate journey has only just begun…
2020, Oliver Schömburg (Olliwaa)
P.s.: A forest dojo remains open, even during Corona lockdown.