Jason Wilson, Founder and President of CATTA Says It’s OK for Young Men to Express Emotion

Teaching young boys ‘emotional stability’ through martial arts at Cave of Adullam Transformational Training Academy.

Absent fathers are the stuff of billboards, public service announcements and broken homes – especially in the black community. Jason Wilson can personally relate. That’s why he uses the memory of his own emotional pain as a compass to guide others. Specifically, young boys.

Wilson, a native Detroiter, started the Cave of Adullam Transformational Training Academy, or CATTA, in 2008. Taking its name from a cave in the biblical story of King David, the Cave of Adullam was a refuge for the embattled future king of Israel, who later found support from a group of 200 who came be known as “David’s Mighty Men.” The symbolism isn’t lost on Wilson, as he has – through martial arts instruction – created his own group of mighty men.

Now celebrating its 10th year, CATTA and Wilson stand poised to address some of the pertinent issues facing the community as it relates to young men.


“Young boys (and) men don’t have a safe space to express their emotions,” Wilson says. “You tell a man that he can’t cry, he can’t be transparent, you’ve got to always man up. You cut off 50 percent of his humanity. It’s good for our kids to have the goal of academic achievement. We need that. But we can’t get them there until they’ve learned how to have emotional stability.”

 Through his classes, Wilson helps students in grades 6-9 deal with and explore such issues as anger and aggression through the context of “musar shalem” – which, according to program’s website, means “complete discipline.” This includes mind and body, as well as teaching boys to channel negative energy in a positive way.

Wilson’s efforts have not gone unnoticed. His program has been spotlighted on national news programs and caught the attention of pastor and author T.D. Jakes, as well as Dr. Oz and others. And, Wilson was honored with an “Inspiration Award” at the 12th annual General Motors African Ancestry Network and Buick Black History Month Celebration last December for his work with CATTA.

His spiritual roots and Christian background are the foundation of what he calls his philosophy of life – simply: love, always. Wilson says that many boys end up making detrimental choices because they are not being taught how to make important decisions (such as how to react to a traffic stop by a policeman) in a controlled environment before the encounter.

“Everything I do must be rooted in love,” Wilson says. “Whether it’s discipline, whether it’s encouraging. We need more boys to experience love.”

Wilson believes that his 16-week program – with its emphasis on “biblical warrior-hood” and providing a space where each student focuses on sharpening, not surpassing, each other in training – is exactly what’s needed in a martial arts offering geared at today’s youth. “I don’t desire to create black belts,” he says. “What does it profit to be a black belt in a dojo but a white belt in life? We’re real big on teaching the principles.”

And those principles start mainly with the goal of transforming the culture, not the individual, he adds, because there should be an accurate definition of what manhood is. 
“You can’t use the word ‘masculinity’ to describe the totality of what a male is – it’s one adjective,” Wilson says. “When you define us by that, you understand why we act the way we do. That’s why it’s so important for our young boys and our young men (to) have emotional stability training. Our mission is to teach, train and transform uninitiated boys into men.”

To learn more about CATTA and how to enroll your son, visit thecatta.org.