Part of getting better at supporting people from different backgrounds is making changes, especially to language.
I’m a cis, straight, white woman, so I’ve gotten used to the fact that I will always be discovering things I need to adjust and change. In this particular case, it’s my usage of the word “kata” to describe exercises used for learning test driven development (TDD). I’ve written a few medium posts that use this problematic phrase so I’m changing them. This post is intended to give a bit more of an explanation about why I’m making the change.
This name, “kata” was appropriated from the Japanese martial arts community. My colleague, Jennifer Tu, has been practicing karate and judo for many years and works with katas on a daily basis. In this very interesting tweet thread, she points out why using “kata” to describe TDD exercises is disrespectful and an oversimplification.
While this covers the word “kata” there are other names that appropriate culture as well. If you see the words “dojo” and/or “koan” they all belong to the same family. If the word is not being used in the context of martial arts, it is being co-opted. If, in addition, the word is being used by a western person, it’s time to get highly suspicious and suggest that a change be made.
I am removing the word “kata” from my writings and replacing it with the word “exercise.”