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



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