Karate Black Belt Challenge for Brain Development in Students –  Part II

A Holistic approach to therapy at Cedar Ridge Residential Treatment Center

by Rob Nielson, Clinical Director & Chief Instructor

Students arrive at Cedar Ridge Residential Treatment Center for the primary purpose of working through behavioral issues. That purpose is closely followed by needing to catch up in their academics and, hopefully, raise their grade point average enough to enroll in a good college. Mood disorders, attention issues, and impulsivity all serve as obstacles to the task of students learning better habits and making better choices. These changes are usually viewed as needing understanding as well as resolving resistances. Less understood is how much of a role exercise plays in this process in order to optimally prepare the brain for learning. Done correctly, exercise plays a huge role!

Being physically fit plays a significant role in becoming mentally fit and achieving behavioral changesKarate Black Belt Challenge Cedar Ridge Academy Therapeutic Boarding School  Black Belt Challenge Therapy Karate Black Belt Challenge Cedar Ridge Academy Therapeutic Boarding School

If you plant a garden, basic wisdom states that the garden will need nourishment to grow well. We could say that proper fertilization, weeding, watering, and sunlight are all essential elements for a good garden. The young minds that arrive at Cedar Ridge deserve the same attention. Good exercise, ample sleep, and good nutrition are essential elements of a holistic approach to the target goal of behavioral change. Our brain cells don’t necessarily keep getting better. Like our muscles, the brain needs exercise. Without exercise, muscles atrophy and a similar process happens within the brain. I’m not talking about thinking exercises, although they are, of course, valuable. I’m referring to cardiovascular aerobic exercise. Studies prove that being physically fit plays a significant role in being mentally fit. Add some complex motor skill development, rhythm, and shifting patterns that involve movements in all directions and you have a topnotch offering.

Karate helps attention deficit, depression, anxiety, drug issues, and impulse control

Black Belt Challenge for Students  Black Belt Challenge Therapy Cedar Ridge Academy Therapeutic Boarding School troubled teens Karate class


What I have observed firsthand  – and what Karate masters have long maintained – is now solid science. Clinically, the Karate at Cedar Ridge is inherently good for, and specifically tailored to help with issues like attention deficit, depression, anxiety, drug use and impulse control. Our exercise routines provide a premiere format for teaching students mindfulness skills. The Karate class is an ideal delivery method for teaching Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT) skills, along with the historically known benefits like improved self-esteem, self-confidence, improved concentration, and being in good physical shape.  The recently published book Spark substantiates the value of vigorous exercise for brain development.