Thursday, July 31, 2014

Shotokan Karate - Black Belt Challenge

By Rob Nielson, Clinical Director & Chief Instructor

        "The Ultimate Aim of the Art of Karate lies not in Victory or Defeat but in the                 Perfection of the Character of its Participants." - Gichin Funakoshi.

Cedar Ridge Academy offers a karate training program that I call the "Black Belt Challenge."  From its inception, Cedar Ridge Academy has promoted training in Karate as a means of assisting our students' growth. I have long felt a strong motivation to utilize Karate as a means of helping further the physical emotional and spiritual growth of those who participated in the discipline of Karate.  For those who wish to train intensively, the Black Belt Challenge offers a greater developmental opportunity. 

Any student who regularly trains in karate develops increased self-discipline, heightened self-confidence, respect, and an increase in self-control. In addition, exercise in the morning prior to school calms the students and improves their mood. Vigorous exercise is known to increase both serotonin and norepinephrine in the brain, neurotransmitters associated with feeling better. 

Exercise actually creates brain derived neurotropic factors that promote the creation of new nerve and brain cells (neurogenesis). We all are capable of growing new brain cells when the conditions are right.
Cedar Ridge Academy therapeutic boarding school Karate
Rob Nielson instructing a karate class.
Sustained exercise, one producing a light sweat is appropriate for stimulating neurogenesis. Ideally, the workout should last a minimum of an hour and a half, or one ultradian rhythm cycle. All three of these conditions are present in a properly conducted Karate class creating an enriched environment that generates team spirit (Ki) and a positive peer culture.  Combining these characteristics with the "novelty" of learning new motor skills, presents optimum conditions for neurogenesis to occur.  Traditional Karate training stands out as being uniquely designed for this type of neuronal growth. 

Recent research now connects aerobic exercise with neurogenesis in the hippocampus region of the brain dealing with spatial memory, navigation and the ability to stay on task, resulting in improved memory and cognitive processing skills.  Karate is specifically good for stimulating development in the cerebellum. The cerebellum is responsible for voluntary motor movement, balance, equilibrium, and muscle tone. Also known as the "Little Brain," the cerebellum plays a role in cognitive functions such as attention and language and in some emotional functions such as regulating fear and pleasure responses. Karate specifically benefits students in treatment by helping them function better neurologically.
         "To search for the old is to understand the new." - Funakoshi Gichin  
The legacy of mindfulness in Karate training is very deep and much of what seems like formality in Karate has deep underpinnings in Zen concepts. Due to lack of understanding, many contemporary martial arts schools overlook the value of Karate-do or the way of Karate and how it incorporates mindfulness extensively in the form "Mushin Mind."  Mushin Mind, sometimes referred to as “mind/no mind”, refers to a state of mind that is free from thoughts of anger, fear, or ego. Developing Mushin Mind involves conditioning the mind to attain a non-judgemental state.  
Therapeutic Boarding school Cedar Ridge Academy Karate Class
Beyond the physical activity, our students learn the bigger lessons involved in the art of karate.
"As a mirror's polished surface reflects whatever stands before it and a quiet valley carries even small sounds, so must the student of Karate render its mind empty of selfishness and wickedness in an effort to react appropriately toward anything he might encounter.  - Master Funakoshi



Thursday, July 10, 2014


Written by Robert Nielson, LMFT, Clinical Director at Cedar Ridge Academy

Sexually active/promiscuous girls should have proximity to members of the opposite sex when attending a therapeutic program!
To some, this statement will seem a little counter-intuitive.  When considering placing a daughter with promiscuity issues into a treatment program, many parents might disagree with my opening statement.  People may ask, why send a daughter to a place where problems with boys is one of the primary presenting issues among the girls?  Why should boys be anywhere close to a daughter who doesn't seem to be able to use good judgement when it comes to the opposite sex?  Actually, without boys around, girls struggle to resolve their issues and have no opportunity to acquire and practice a new skill set for relating to boys.

I have over twenty years of experience working with girls in a therapeutic setting.  During the first few years of my career in this field, I worked at an all-girls program.  More times than I could count, I strongly wished that I could find some boys to attend the group meetings.  I was working with a population of girls who mostly had been involved with one or more "bad" boys.  Despite the fact that they had been cheated on and deeply hurt these girls still seemed attracted to the boys who would cause most parents to cringe.  It would seem that after being deeply hurt and mistreated, a girl would readily come to the conclusion that certain kinds of boys are not capable of sustaining a healthy relationship. More often, girls recovering from unhealthy opposite sex relationships have a difficult time with this concept.  Helping girls recover from unhealthy relationships and directing them towards boys who are capable of empathy and caring becomes a central focus on therapy.

What drives girls to be prematurely sexually active is rarely a high libido.  They are looking to feel accepted and valued.  Loneliness and low self-esteem are common underlying features in girls who become promiscuous.  A common recurring theme with these girls is that they have an impoverished support network. They have few, if any close girlfriends.  the vast majority will say that they feel more comfortable with boys rather than girls.  What they are really saying is that there is a sense of uneasiness toward other girls.  Many grew up without a father figure.  When I ask most of the girls to list the kind of qualities they they want to see in a boyfriend, they struggle to identify any and, in fact many of these girls have never learned to discriminate good and bad qualities in the opposite sex.  They lack the social enrichment that comes from a variety of positive interpersonal contacts.  It is this lack that needs to be addressed if these girls are to develop the confidence in themselves that they need in order to seek out a positive opposite sex partner.

The more these girls can experience enriched interpersonal relationships with both genders, the more likely they are to expect good qualities in an opposite gender relationship.  Developing a rich experience of healthy friendship is one of the best assurances that these girls will choose wisely in seeking out a boyfriend.  Having a good peer support system helps mitigate the need for a boyfriend as a means of staving off loneliness.  That's why a structured, well-supervised co-ed program meets the needs of sexually active/promiscuous girls better than an all-girl program can.

Girls thrive in an enriched environment of healthy interpersonal relationships.  Girls who avoid developing healthy relationships are almost always avoiding some discomfort or insecurity.  Perhaps they haven't developed the skills necessary for positive peer interactions.  Helping these girls develop positive peer skills requires that they interact with boys.  The sagest environment in which they can develop positive peer skills requires that they interact with boys.  The safest environment in which they can develop these skills is one in which they are well-supervised and taught how to relate more positively to their peers of both genders.

These girls need to learn how to notice qualities and traits in the opposite sex in order to better predict the possibility for a healthy relationship with a boy.  They need to learn how to discriminate between a good prospect and a bad prospect for a positive relationship.  A structured environment provides opportunities for practice in honing skills of perception and judgment without the risk of a negative outcome.  Cedar Ridge has worked successfully with this type of girls' issue for eighteen years, keeping girls safe and helping them grow in their relationship skills. 

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