TGJ: The Plains of Endeavor by Marty Callahan

Tiger’s Great Journey Continued…

An Adventure Story for Youth Who Want to Make the World a Better Place

In his imagination, Tiger struggled on with his friend, Blake. The surrounding landscape
looked the same as far as they could see, just as it did when they first entered the Plains of
Endeavor.

“It seems like this will never end!” lamented Blake. He saw the path meandering through
the endless fields of emerald green grass swaying in the blustery wind. A footpath veered off into the distance. It looked like it was a shorter and an easier walk than the path they were on.

“Should we take that path?” Blake asked. “It could shorten our journey.”

“No,” replied Tiger. “The map shows that we’re on the right trail.”

“If we don’t find another way, our feet will give out before we get out of here,” Blake
said.

But Tiger remembered that Sensei had once said it was important to stay on the path you
are on. He had said, “Endeavor means to be willing and able to continue on despite facing great obstacles. Other paths will deceive you and lead to nowhere. You may get lost and never return. The road is long, but you will be successful in reaching your destination. There are no shortcuts.”

“I’m sorry, Blake, that this is taking so long, but we need to stay the course. Trying another route, hoping for a shortcut, will only get us into a lot of trouble. This journey is not
easy, but eventually we’ll find our way.”

Just then an eerie sound came from fairly close by. They were both startled so much by it that they nearly jumped out of their skins. They knew what it was, but hearing it in this place, at this time, creeped them out.

When the howl came again, they saw a wolf on a knoll a couple hundred yards away. It was a magnificent animal in many ways, but a dangerous one nonetheless.

Would it attack? The wolf had a bad rap. It was a predator. But was it the ruthless killer that so many believed it was? And what about the belief that dogs, man’s best friend, were descended from wolves?

So much was not known. And what would this wolf be like? Would he be curious or ravenous? Is he traveling alone, or is his pack with him? Tiger and Blake would have to find out.

The boys decided that the best thing to do was to keep an eye on the wolf up on the low rise as they kept moving.

The trail dipped and turned slightly, and as they rounded a huge boulder what they saw in
front of them gave them the fright of their lives. The wolf was standing in their path, not more than fifty feet in front of them and looking directly at them.

The boys froze.

He was nearly as tall as they were it seemed, but apparently he didn’t want to eat them.

The boys relaxed somewhat after realizing that he wouldn’t attack. But what should they do? He was blocking their path.

“Why don’t we circle around him,” suggested Blake.

“Good idea,” replied Tiger.

As they began moving around him in what they hoped would be a wide enough arc, the
wolf began circling them. But he wasn’t menacing. . . . He was smiling?

His eyebrows were raised, and his jaws were relaxed.

“Look, Blake, he wants to play.”

“He’s probably never seen people before, and he looks young,” added Blake.

The boys jumped and crouched, and the wolf jumped and crouched.

Tiger barked, and the wolf barked back.

Then, just as suddenly as he had appeared, he ran off out of sight.

“Well that was cool.”

“I can’t believe it,” said Blake.

That was the reprieve that they both needed. They were suddenly refreshed, and the long journey through the Plains of Endeavor seemed closer to an end.

As they walked the last leg of the trek, Tiger thought back on the lesson of endeavor. “Keep training” was a continuous admonition that he had heard, not just from Sensei, but from
all of the Black Belt Shoka Leaders in the dojo. Now he understood what it meant. But he also knew that sometimes it was necessary to take a break from the hard work and have a little fun along the way.

As they kept on, darkness fell and it began to rain. The friends were exhausted, but each
pitched in to set up the tent. They ate some of their food and, before lying down to sleep, looked at the map. Another word and image had appeared. This time it was ENDEAVOR and a karateka, or student, standing in a side stance. A side stance was the best stance for building strength in the legs and hips, but it required one to spend long periods holding this difficult position. This was a good stance to use for endeavor.

Back in Tiger’s bedroom, his father watched him sleeping peacefully. He gently took the
book from Tiger’s grasp, closed it, and put it on the nightstand. He quietly wished Tiger good night and turned off the light. He walked toward the door and took one last loving look at his son before closing it softly.

 

 

Marty Callahan has spent his life understanding and improving the lives of students both young and old.  His passion led to the founding of Shotokan Karate Leadership School in Santa Rosa, CA in 1981, with a dream to awaken the extraordinary leader in his students. Having inspired, taught, coached, supported, and trained over 15,000 students in 40,000 classes in Santa Rosa, Marty has become Sonoma County’s preeminent martial arts leadership instructor. His students, hundreds of whom have gone on to become leaders in their chosen fields, appreciate his engaging, student centered approach to teaching and they believe you will too.

 

TGJ: Courtesy on the Bridge by Marty Callahan

Tiger’s Great Journey Continued…

An Adventure Story for Youth Who Want to Make the World a Better Place

The air grew crisp as Tiger and Blake set out across a great forest at the top of the cliff on
which Tiger had discovered his courage. As they hiked silently up the sloping terrain of the
woods, Tiger enjoyed a sense of wonder about the towering trees, the colorful plants beneath them, and the birds and mammals he knew were watching as they walked gently and with great respect through the animals’ home.

Tiger carried the map that he had found with him. It was safely tucked away in his pack
in the pouch he had found it in. Just before starting this leg of their journey, he had referred to it and was using it as a guide. His destination was Ryoku Mountain and the Temple of the Clouds.

They trekked for miles through the forest until the trees gave way to a rocky and steep
plateau. As they passed the last of the trees, Tiger turned and bowed to the majestic forest they’d moved safely through. Blake giggled to see Tiger bowing to trees. He knew that this journey was not just important to Tiger, but it had totally consumed him. To Tiger becoming a Black Belt Shoka Leader was the most important thing he could possibly do with his life. It gave him a sense of order and purpose, and it made him feel connected to something bigger than himself. Nothing was going to stop him from getting to the top of Ryoku Mountain and the Temple of the Clouds. This was not an ordinary hike; it was a spiritual quest. Tiger was finding himself—who he was meant to be. He had seen so many people suffer because of problems in the world, and he wanted to play a role in finding a solution to at least some of those problems. But he knew that no one would pay attention to him as he was, so he would have to become someone greater. This journey would enable him to do that. It would transform him into the leader he was called to be.

Blake looked at the forest and saw the beauty and vastness that Tiger saw. He became
aware that all people rely on the wonders of nature, which must be respected. Tiger bowed again to the forest, took one last look at the explosion of life beneath the trees, and then turned and motioned to Blake to move on.

They walked for hours across the rocks, stopping now and again to rest or to scoop cool,
clear water from natural basins in the stone. Tiger became aware that he was able to walk farther and farther without resting, and that the muscles of his legs were becoming stronger. He liked the way his body felt as he and Blake climbed toward a high point. He wondered what awaited them on the other side.

When they crested the stony point, Tiger couldn’t believe his eyes. The land fell off
sharply into a great, deep canyon. “How will we ever cross it?” he asked. Blake raised a hand to point off to their right. “We’ll cross there,” he said. Tiger squinted and searched, and at last noticed what appeared to be a fine line across the top of the canyon. As they walked closer to it, Tiger could see that it was a narrow, rope walking bridge suspended high above the canyon floor. Noticing how it swayed in the breeze made Tiger feel uneasy.

When the two of them reached the beginning of the footbridge, Tiger realized that
because the bridge was so narrow, they would have no choice but to cross it single-file. The
flimsy bridge looked to be a mile long and a thousand feet above the canyon. The thought of
crossing it made him tremble. He was reminded again of something simple that Sensei had told him: “stay focused.” In this situation, he knew the goal was to get to the other side. This was simple to understand but very, very difficult to do.

Without looking down, Tiger gazed across the bridge and then placed his right foot
lightly on the first ancient plank. As he did, it dropped just enough to frighten him. He glanced back at Blake who was close behind. Blake had seen what had happened and nodded at Tiger to let him know that he was with him.

The bridge, which was made entirely of rope except for the wooden planks, swung a bit
to the left and then to the right, causing Tiger to grip the rope rails for dear life. He got a queasy feeling in his stomach and knew that he couldn’t look down. He focused his attention on the task before him and quieted his fears.

“Look straight ahead,” Tiger said to Blake. “Feel the strength of the bridge. It will move,
but it will not break. Stay focused on taking one step at a time.” Tiger didn’t know how he knew this, but he just knew it to be true.

He took a deep breath and felt his tense muscles relax a bit. Rather than tense up with
every motion of the bridge, he began to move in harmony with it. His fear gave way to an intense appreciation of the fine old bridge and the fantastic canyon below.

But what was this? Gazing far ahead, he saw that at the other end a large group of people
were moving single-file onto the bridge. Had the people not noticed him and Blake? The bridge was so narrow that it would be impossible for the two parties to pass. He and Blake had come so far, and they had started across long before the other group. Tiger decided to keep going and hoped the strangers would back off when they realized they had entered a bridge that was already in use and that they should have waited for him and Blake to make it all the way across.

The large group stopped. Tiger thought this was strange, but they were still too far away
for him to make out what they were doing. It appeared that most just stood and waited, while two or three people in the back knelt on the bridge. In time, the entire group began moving again, slowly, toward Tiger and Blake.

At last, the two parties moved close enough together for Tiger to see that a tall, powerful looking man was in front of what appeared to be several families whose members, old and young, carried trunks and cases and baskets. They seemed to be crossing the bridge while
weighed down with everything they owned in the world.

When Tiger and Blake drew close, he thought again about how far they had come and
how they could make it across the bridge in only a few minutes—if there was not this long line of people in front of them.

Tiger noticed that the man who appeared to be the leader wore a scowl on his face. He
ordered his people to stop. Then he shouted to Tiger and Blake, “Halt!” They stopped about
thirty feet from him. The man signaled to three young men, who carried swords and looked to be warriors, and the four of them stepped forward on the heavily burdened, swaying bridge.

Tiger was worried. These strangers looked mean, and there was no room on this bridge
for a fight. The leader had a red face and appeared angry as his men stepped up and stopped only a few feet away. Tiger greeted them with a deep, respectful bow. Why he did that he didn’t know, but it seemed like the right thing to do. At the same time, he watched them closely.

The strangers appeared to be surprised by Tiger’s bow, and the leader bowed slightly in
return; his warriors did the same. Then the leader stiffened his back and barked, “Go back, or prepare to fight. My people need to cross this bridge, and you are in our way.”

Tiger spoke to him calmly. “But we entered the bridge long before you did and only have
a short distance to go.”

“Silence!” the leader shouted as his warriors squeezed the grips of their swords. “We
have no time for this! We were forced to leave our village, and now we are escaping a fearsome enemy. We could not wait for you to pass over the bridge and are placing ourselves in peril while stopping to talk to you. Back off the bridge, or prepare to die!”

Tiger thought the pounding of his heart would split open his chest, but he bowed again,
this time lowering his eyes to the strangers’ feet. Then he spoke. “We are in no hurry to cross this bridge, but there is a great urgency in your crossing. So we will turn back and, if you so permit, to allow you to move more quickly, we will help your people carry their belongings.”

With those words, the looks on the strangers’ faces softened. The leader shook his head in
amazement. “You are kind; thank you. Please forgive my behavior, but we are weary and are in fear of our lives. We will be grateful for your help in getting across the bridge.” With that, he and his men bowed.

Seeming to remember something, the leader added, “We stopped a while back to loosen
some of the planks on the bridge to slow our enemy. I do not want for you to be hurt, so when we get to the other side, I will have a couple of our young men accompany you to the loosened planks and ensure that you cross them safely.”

“Many thanks to you,” Tiger said.

Blake and Tiger walked toward the fleeing people, hoisted two heavy trunks onto their
shoulders, turned around, and carried the trunks clear to the end of the bridge where they had started.

When everyone reached that side, the leader thanked Tiger and Blake again and wished
them a safe journey. The two boys, in turn, wished them the same and said they hoped the people would find a better, safer place to live. The two groups parted as friends.

Tiger, Blake, and two young warriors then set out once again across the bridge with the
warriors in the lead. From having walked back and forth along the bridge, Tiger and Blake now had their “legs” and could move fast without the fear of slipping. When they got to the loosened planks, the warriors made sure that Tiger and Blake crossed safely before heading back to catch up with their people.

Once they made it to the end of the bridge, Blake sighed deeply. “I thought we were
going to have to fight out there,” he said.

Tiger replied, “Sensei told me that sometimes there is no avoiding a fight. But most of the
time, we can use our training and our intelligence to prevent violence.”

“Like you did when you bowed,” Blake said. “I could see that the stranger, who was very
angry, started to calm down when you honored him in that way. And he changed completely
when you offered our help in carrying their possessions.”

“We learned an important lesson about courtesy today, Blake, one that we will probably
have to use often on this journey.”

“It looks like courtesy is our first line of self defense. That simple show of respect turned
a potential enemy into a friend. What could be better than that?” observed Blake.

Tiger told Blake that they should move out of sight, because the enemies the fleeing
people feared were probably on their way. From the bridge, they headed off to the left and up a gentle slope to nearby hills. Safely out of view, Tiger and Blake could see a small band of warriors far to the south making their way to the footbridge. They were carrying swords, staffs, and clubs, and they jogged in tight formation. Even from this distance, Tiger and Blake could hear the pounding of their feet. The boys knew that they were not to be trifled with. After watching for a while, they looked at the map.

“Wow, Blake!” Tiger said excitedly. “There’s an image now of a person bowing on the
map above the footbridge and the word COURTESY.”

“This map is so cool!”

Tiger smiled his agreement and then carefully folded the parchment and placed it back in
its pouch. He knew this was no ordinary map.

 

Marty Callahan has spent his life understanding and improving the lives of students both young and old.  His passion led to the founding of Shotokan Karate Leadership School in Santa Rosa, CA in 1981, with a dream to awaken the extraordinary leader in his students. Having inspired, taught, coached, supported, and trained over 15,000 students in 40,000 classes in Santa Rosa, Marty has become Sonoma County’s preeminent martial arts leadership instructor. His students, hundreds of whom have gone on to become leaders in their chosen fields, appreciate his engaging, student centered approach to teaching and they believe you will too.

TGJ: Respect is Earned by Marty Callahan

Tiger’s Great Journey Continued…

An Adventure Story for Youth who Want to Make the World a Better Place

Tiger now wore a yellow belt and served his team members as an Assistant Team Leader.
He was working hard in class, and he was happy to have karate in his life. It felt good to be
getting better at punching, kicking, blocking, and striking. All parts of his life seemed to be
running more smoothly now that he was training and had the responsibility of making time for classes and for practicing at home. It surprised him to realize that he was buckling down to his homework and getting it done faster. His mother told him one day, “Son, you are getting better at a lot of things since you made the decision to become a Black Belt Shoka Leader. You’re better at taking care of your clothes, better at cleaning your room, better at getting your homework done, and you’re better at handling the problems your little sister makes for you! I’m proud of you.”

Tiger loved going to the dojo and breaking a sweat as he trained and practiced his new kata, Heian Nidan. But there was one thing he didn’t quite understand.

“Sensei,” he said after class one day, “Why do we do so much bowing?”

Sensei smiled and nodded. “We do bow a lot—for Americans,” he agreed. Sensei told
Tiger that in Japan, where the art of karate came into its own, a person bows to show his or her respect for another person or for an honored place, such as a temple.

“We bow when we walk into the dojo, because we appreciate this place and what happens here,” Sensei said. “When you bow at the door, and before stepping onto the mat, you
show that you respect the art of karate and also your teachers and the masters who passed down this tradition for thousands of years.”

Then Sensei asked Tiger, “Do you respect your home, and your school?”

“Yes, Sensei, very much,” Tiger replied.

“Do you bow before walking into your house or your classroom?” Sensei asked.

The question made Tiger laugh, “Of course not, Sensei.”

Sensei said, “But don’t you respect your home as the place where you find shelter and
love and food and a safety? And your school, for all the learning you get and the friendships you find there?”

“Yes, Sensei,” Tiger replied. “I respect those places, but I don’t bow. In America we express it differently. We wipe our feet, remove our hats and shoes, and don’t slam doors.”

Sensei nodded. “That is true. But to show your respect to your home, school, and other
important places in your life, you can pause before entering and leaving, and be aware of the
importance of these places in your life. You can do the same when you meet another person. You can make a mental bow.”

Tiger smiled. He liked the idea of making an imaginary bow to all of the people and places he honored in his life.

Sensei continued, “When we come into the dojo to practice the art of karate out of
Courtesy, we bow to show our respect. We are grateful to every person who shares this journey with us, so we bow also to our teachers and fellow students. And when we spar with another student and pretend he is an opponent, we are careful never to take our eyes off of him or her, because in a situation of danger out in the world, we want to respect the person who is posing a threat but also watch him carefully so he cannot catch us off guard.”

“Thank you, Sensei,” said Tiger with a bow. It felt good to show respect in this way.

“You’re welcome, Tiger,” Sensei said.

Tiger knew he was fortunate to have a wise man as his teacher. Tiger enjoyed for the first
time in his life being both a student and a teacher. He liked to welcome new students in their white belts and to help them learn the ways of the dojo and the first techniques of karate. And in every class, he learned something from his Class Leader and from watching and speaking to everyone in the school, even those who had less experience.

At the beginning of class one day, when a new student began doing the warm-up exercises, her belt fell to the ground. She had not tied it correctly. Tiger believed he was the only other student who noticed. What should he do?

He sensed that the other student needed help with her belt, so he stopped his warm-up
exercises, bowed to his Class Leader, stepped over to the new student, and asked if he could
show her how to tie her belt. She smiled in gratitude for his help. With her white belt properly tied, both resumed their warm-up exercises.

After the class, Sensei approached Tiger to talk to him about what he had done for the
new student. “To step forward to help another is a sign of leadership,” Sensei said. He told Tiger he’d also noticed Tiger was showing other signs of becoming a leader. Tiger had begun to ask questions at the proper times during class, and he was resisting the temptation to stand and talk with other students when they should be practicing.

“It’s clear to me you are making time to practice your techniques and katas at home, and
that is another sign of leadership,” Sensei said. “Also, one day I noticed that two younger
students were arguing over whose turn it was to run and jump over the stack of kicking pads, and you stepped up to help them resolve the disagreement. This is another sign that you are becoming a leader.”

Sensei looked Tiger in the eyes and then continued, “Even the greatest Indian chief began
as a child eager to learn from others about what it means to lead and be a force for good in the world. Leadership is important because a tribe or a community or a nation cannot thrive and live in peace if everyone is a follower, and no one will take action when things are going wrong. It takes courage to step forward and point out that a problem exists and then work with other likeminded people to solve that problem.

“It is our nature to complain when we are experiencing something unpleasant. This is one
way to point out to others that a problem exists. The baby cries to get his mother’s attention to the fact that his diapers are wet or he is hungry. If the mother can’t hear the baby or doesn’t respond, the baby cries louder. Once the baby gets the mother’s attention, the mother goes about figuring out what the baby needs.”

“Life works the same way. When a problem exists in the world, someone has to speak up
to attract attention to the fact that the problem exists. Then, like the mother who must figure out what the baby needs, someone or some group of people must figure out what solution is needed.”

Sensei paused and looked at Tiger to see if he was following his comments. Tiger was all
ears and felt that Sensei was telling him things that weren’t readily apparent but made a lot of sense.

“Now this is a simplification of a complex problem, but it gives us a basis for understanding,” Sensei went on to say. “In life many different people are involved, but until a leader comes forward and moves those involved to find a solution, the problem will not go away; it will become worse.”

“In solving bigger problems there can be many competing interests. An extraordinary
leader is one who can bring competing interests together and work with them to arrive at a
solution that everyone can live with.”

“There is an old Chinese proverb that states: if neither party likes the settlement, then it is
probably a good solution.”

Tiger thanked Sensei. He felt that he now knew what it meant to be an extraordinary
leader, and he wanted this for himself. He knew that a time would come when he could use these skills to serve the world.

One day soon after, things weren’t going well in class. After practicing basics and three-step sparring, Sensei asked Wendy, the Class Leader, to oversee three teams as they practiced
kata. But three students were standing and talking about something that had nothing to do with karate.

“Students!” Wendy said. “Can you tell me why you aren’t you practicing your kata?”

One student answered, “I’m tired because I stayed up late last night.”

The second one said, “I wanted to tell these guys about the movie I saw.”

And the third one explained, “I don’t know what to do.”

Wendy turned to Tiger, who’d been practicing his kata. “Tiger,” she said, “can you
suggest to these students what they can do help themselves become better at following
instructions?”

Tiger thought for a moment about what he’d learned about how to do well in karate and
in life. Then he spoke to the three students. “First,” he said, “You’ve got to remember how
important good manners are. Would you agree that it is not good manners to be talking while others are trying to concentrate on their kata?”

“Yes,” the students answered in unison.

One added, “When I practice my kata in class, I wouldn’t want anyone to do what we
were doing.”

Wendy smiled and continued. “Courtesy is one of the best tools a person has for
becoming successful and happy. Courtesy is what helps us to stay on the path and to do what we know we need to do. ”

She added, “Our class runs only about an hour. We need to put that time to good use and
not waste other students’ time by talking about movies. Would you agree?” All three students nodded. “Courtesy also gives us the spirit to keep doing what we need to do when others are giving into the urge to talk or goof off. Courtesy is remembering what’s important and telling ourselves ‘No’ when we’re tempted to swerve off the path of doing what we know is the right thing to do.”

“You’re right,” said one of the students.

Wendy looked into the eyes of the student who had quit practicing because she couldn’t
get the kata right. “Part of courtesy is controlling our emotions, and this isn’t easy,” Wendy said. “We’re all human, and sometimes we’re angry or sad or discouraged. But we have to keep on, don’t we? Just think of all the emotions the President must feel as he deals with so many problems, but if he’s not good at controlling emotions he can’t lead the country. We can’t ignore our emotions, but we also can’t let them control us. If your feelings are bothering you or making you want to quit try changing how you’re doing what you’re doing, but don’t quit.”

“Thank you,” the three students said one after the other. Tiger realized that this small
group of students had just been discussing some very important lessons on how to treat other people. He was reminded of what Sensei had said before, that good manners make friends and bad manners create enemies.

“Well, let’s get back to practicing kata,” Wendy said.

The students resumed their training, this time with more focus and concentration.

Tiger had been an Assistant Team Leader for about two months and wanted to advance to
the rank of Team Leader. He had looked at the list of requirements at the back of his copy of the Shoka Leader Handbook and had fulfilled them all except the last two: He had to test in front of the School Board of Review and schedule a time for him and his parents to meet with Sensei. Tiger had to get through the test first and then the meeting with Sensei would be to review his progress, decide on his new assignment, and set his next goal.

On exam day, Tiger’s chance to show the members of the School Board of Review what
he could do, Tiger arrived at the school about an hour ahead of time so that he would feel calm and prepared. When the exam began and his name was called, he rose quickly from seiza, and with a deep breath cleared his mind. Before he knew it, the test was over. He’d done well.

When Tiger got home, he pulled out the Book of the Empty Mind from under his bed and
turned to the next chapter. He laid back, closed his eyes, and in his imagination he continued on his journey to Ryoku Mountain and the Temple of the Clouds.

 

Marty Callahan has spent his life understanding and improving the lives of students both young and old. His passion led to the founding of Shotokan Karate Leadership School in Santa Rosa, CA in 1981 with a dream to awaken the extraordinary leader in his students. Having inspired, taught, coached, supported, and trained over 15,000 students in 40,000 classes in Santa Rosa, Marty has become Sonoma County’s preeminent martial arts leadership instructor. His students, hundreds of whom have gone on to become leaders in their chosen fields, appreciate his engaging, student centered approach to teaching and they believe you will too.

 

 

Tiger’s Great Journey by Marty Callahan

An Adventure Story for Youth who Want to Make the World a Better Place

Believe in Yourself

 

Tiger pushed open the door and took in the sights and sounds of a place unlike any he’d
ever seen.

Located on an ordinary street in an ordinary town, this open room seemed anything but
ordinary. There were people of all ages, dressed in white uniforms, called gis, tied at the waist with belts of different colors: white, yellow, orange, green, purple, brown and black. They bowed to each other and moved with varying degrees of grace and power as they practiced kicks, punches, blocks, and leaps on a firm mat that covered most of the floor.

Tiger had made the decision to walk through this door because of what he had seen
happen after school a few days ago. Joey, a younger boy a grade down from him, had been on his way home when three bullies cornered him behind the Art Building. They were a few years older than Joey and loved to torment younger kids. They took his hat, spit in it, threw it on top of the building, and then laughed about it. A few other kids were around and they started laughing, too. Tiger had been walking across the basketball court about 100 feet away and saw it all. He could see the pain and humiliation on Joey’s face and wanted to do something, but felt powerless. This was the third time Tiger had seen these bullies in action and, now, he was determined to do something about it.

Before he died, Tiger’s grandfather had talked to him about karate. He had told him that,
when practiced properly, karate could be a force for good in the world and that it’s true purpose was to stop conflict by emptying the self of negativity. Tiger didn’t understand this at the time, but he loved and trusted his grandfather and knew him to be a wise man. His grandfather had practiced Shotokan Karate and recommended it to Tiger when they last spoke about it.

“Welcome to Shotokan Karate Leadership School,” said a man wearing a black belt. He
looked strong and kind and looked directly into Tiger’s eyes as he firmly shook the boy’s hand. Tiger’s heart leapt inside, he knew that he had come to the right place.

“I’m the teacher,” the man said. “You can call me Sensei, which means teacher in
Japanese. Many years ago, I too set out on the journey you are about to begin, the journey to learn the art of Shotokan karate and to become a force for peace in the world.”

The words surprised Tiger, who imagined great leaders—presidents, kings and queens,
generals, inventors, people of fame and power—and had trouble seeing how he could be like
them. “How will I become a leader?” he asked Sensei.

The man with the black belt replied, “You will be amazed by how the time you spend
here at Shotokan Karate Leadership School will change your life and allow you to serve the
world.” Sensei explained to Tiger that as he mastered the basics of karate, he would first learn how to follow and then how to lead. He would start by being a Team Member, and then rise in rank to Team Leader, Class Leader, and then School Leader. And as he was rising in rank, his belt color would change from white to yellow to orange to green to purple to brown and, finally, to black. This was the path of a Black Belt Shoka Leader. Sensei also explained to Tiger that Shotokan was the name given to the style of karate taught by Gichin Funakoshi, the man who is considered to be the Father of Modern Day Karate. Master Funakoshi was a poet and he used the pen name, Shoto, and kan meant a building. The first time the word shotokan was used was on the front of the first karate school in Japan – a school that Master Funakoshi’s students built for him. Later on the name was given to the style of karate that Funakoshi taught. And Sensei  explained that Shoka was the term used at Shotokan Karate Leadership Schools for a student at the school who is training to be a leader.

“School members with more experience than you will guide and help you along,” Sensei
said. “What you learn here about Shotokan Karate, and about making good decisions, will make you the sort of person others will want to follow as you make the world a better place. Here is the list of leadership traits that you will develop.” Sensei read from a large sign prominently displayed on the wall: “Courage, Courtesy, Integrity, Humility, Self-Control, Trust, Endeavor, Responsibility, Cooperation, Justice, Compassion, and Creativity.”

Tiger felt a twinge of doubt. He was just a boy after all. Could he become the sort of
person who leads others? Could he possibly learn to perform the techniques of karate as well as the kids and adults he watched practicing on the mat? He saw that two boys bigger and older than him were training by pretending to fight. They came close to hitting and kicking each other! Tiger imagined himself out on the mat, and he felt the sting of fear, afraid that he would not be able to do what the other students were doing. He thought, what if I try, but fail?

Without Tiger noticing, Sensei, a forty-year-old man with kind eyes, who looked to be
thirty, had been observing Tiger quietly and had seen a special quality in him. He had trained hundreds of kids and knew that this was an important moment for the boy and sensed what he was feeling. Sensei invited Tiger to sit down with him on one of the benches along the back wall.

“Tiger,” Sensei began, “your journey to become a Black Belt Shoka Leader will involve a
series of adventures beyond the ordinary to discover what is missing in the world. This great
journey will test you to your limits. It is designed to determine if you have what it takes to
become a leader. Can you overcome the dangers? Do you have the knowledge, the skill, and the capacity to serve?” Sensei paused and looked into Tiger’s eyes before going on. “It is natural that you would doubt yourself, but don’t let that stop you. It takes a person of great courage to ask these questions and to search for the answers until they are found. The person who takes this journey must understand that, to succeed, he must become someone greater than who he is. He must overcome many obstacles, endure many failures, and stop powerful enemies. But despite this, he must continue on, because finding the answer is vital to his journey and to his life.

“I believe that you are such a person, Tiger. I believe that you can make a difference in
the world. But it won’t happen unless you believe that you can. Let me ask you, Tiger: Do you believe that you can make a difference in the world?”

Tiger didn’t say anything at first. He just sat there looking at Sensei for the longest time.
And Sensei didn’t say anything either; he waited patiently. Then Tiger opened his mouth to
speak. “Yes,” was the only word to come out, but it was clear, concise, and full of promise.

—–

From the very first day, Tiger had felt at home in the dojo—the karate practice hall. He
couldn’t believe that one full month had already gone by; he felt as though he’d been doing
karate his whole life. Each day that he went to class, he wore his uniform and white belt and
joined his classmates. There were boys, girls, men, and women in a full assortment of belts. All of them had sincerely welcomed him into the school.

Tiger’s Home Class met on Tuesdays at 5 pm, and his Team was the Hornets. He had
found out that it was through his Team Leader, Class Leader, and Assistant Class Leader that he would learn much of what he needed to know in order to achieve each of the early Shoka Leader ranks.

Jerry, a tall thin boy who was a little younger than Tiger, was the Team Leader of the
Hornets. And Jacqui, a girl about his age with red hair, was the Assistant Team Leader, while Tim, a new student like Tiger, was the fourth member of the Hornets.

Wendy was the Class Leader for his Home Class. The Class Leader is responsible for
helping all the students in the class. The Class Leader assisted students with anything that might come up; for example, tying their belts, using the bathroom, removing a student who was creating a disturbance, and seeing that a guest who came into the school was taken care of.

She wore a purple belt and appeared to be quite capable. Since he had begun, Tiger had
always tried to show himself in the best way possible, because Wendy was an important person to him, especially now at the start of his training. Wendy had reassured Tiger that she would helphim with whatever she could. Tiger felt good about having all this support  from students who had experiences that he didn’t have yet, and at the same time felt a little nervous about not knowing what was going to happen.

Tiger remembered on his first day how Jacqui had asked him, “Are you a little scared?”
As an Assistant Team Leader, she wore a yellow belt and more confidence than Tiger yet
possessed. Tiger had nodded. “Don’t worry,” Jacqui had said. “We all were scared at first. Just remember that we’re all learning, even the Black Belt Shoka Leaders. And we’re all here to help each other, so have fun!”

He remembered his first day like it was yesterday. . . . “Line up!” came that first
command from Wendy. All the students stepped onto the floor and quickly found their places in line. Tiger felt good about starting out. He found his place with his new classmates after the yellow belts, orange belts, green belts, purple belts, brown belts, and black belts. “Seiza!” said Wendy, who gave the commands as the Class Leader. Tiger sat in seiza, the sitting/kneeling position used in Japanese martial arts to clear the mind and maintain a state of readiness. He joined his teammates in reciting the Dojo Creed. He liked the sound and the feel of everyone promising together to:
Seek perfection of character.
Be faithful.
Endeavor.
Respect others.
Refrain from violent behavior.

Tiger felt his body become warm and his heartbeat quicken as he and his teammates
performed the warm-up exercises, which included leaning forward and back from a wide stance, stretching down and across, and stretching the legs, hips, arms, and torso from a variety of positions.

Then it was time to begin the training. “Empty your mind,” Sensei told the class. Tiger
had never been told to do that before! But he liked how it felt to stop thinking about school and chores and other things, and to focus on how his body felt as he practiced middle-body punches, rising blocks, outside-forearm blocks, and side-snap kicks.

Tiger tried to focus his attention on his imaginary opponent, but he couldn’t help but notice how crisply and strongly many of his teammates performed the techniques. How he
wanted to become as good as they were. “You may have to practice a technique as many as ten thousand times before you master it,” Sensei told the class. That number boggled Tiger’s mind. Sensei said, “The way to become a Black Belt Shoka Leader is to practice every day.”

“Osu!” the students said together. Osu is a Japanese martial arts word that, when used in
this way, shows the teacher that the students are listening and that they intend to do their best. That first day had been incredible and inspired Tiger to dream about the changes that karate would bring to his life.

At the end of Tiger’s first month in the dojo, Sensei called him into his office. Sensei
carefully slid a heavy book bound in worn leather off the shelf behind him. Then he sat down next to Tiger and opened the great book. Tiger gazed at it in wonder.

“This is the Book of the Empty Mind, Tiger. One day you will understand the significance of it. Right now all you see are blank pages, but some day in the not-too-distant future, the true meaning will become known to you.”

Tiger looked closely at Sensei. He knew that something important was being shown to
him, and he sensed that this strong but gentle man would continue to play an important role in his life.

“Use your imagination, Tiger. It is your most powerful weapon. It will cut through fog
and confusion and clear your mind. Then you can envision a better future.”

Later that night, before it was time to go to bed, Tiger closed his eyes and begin to slip
into an imaginary world.

 

To be continued…

 

Marty Callahan has spent his life understanding and improving the lives of students both young and old. His passion led to the founding of Shotokan Karate Leadership School in Santa Rosa, CA in 1981 with a dream to awaken the extraordinary leader in his students. Having inspired, taught, coached, supported, and trained over 15,000 students in 40,000 classes in Santa Rosa, Marty has become Sonoma County’s preeminent martial arts leadership instructor. His students, hundreds of whom have gone on to become leaders in their chosen fields, appreciate his engaging, student centered approach to teaching and they believe you will too.