TGJ: Small in Comparison to the Vast Universe by Marty Callahan

Tiger’s Great Journey Continued…

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

It was a Thursday evening. As the clock stuck 6 pm, Aaron, the Class Leader, gave the
command to line up. The students who were ready quickly but calmly came onto the floor and began to organize themselves by teams. The students who were not ready moved a lot faster to avoid being late. Once all were in their places, Aaron gave the commands to face the guests, bow, turn, and face the front. Then he continued with the commands to sit in seiza, meditate, stop mediating, bow to the front, and bow to Sensei.

The students had learned that the front of the room was a special place called shomen, or
front. The reason Gichin Funakoshi and Masatoshi Nakayama’s pictures were on the front wall was because they had made major contributions to the art of Shotokan Karate. They were the karate ancestors, and showing respect to them was akin to showing respect to one’s parents, grandparents, and family elders who had done so much to make life better for others.

Also on the front wall were the American and the Japanese Flags, because this was the
United States, but Shotokan Karate came from Japan. Shotokan Karate Leadership Schools
believe it is their duty to do all they can to maintain good relations between the U.S. and Japan.

After the warm-up exercises, Sensei came back out onto the floor and asked Aaron to discuss Humility with the class. Sensei was confident that he could turn this topic over to Aaron, because although Aaron was only ten years old, he had spent much time studying character traits, particularly the character trait of humility.

Tiger was very curious to hear what Aaron had to say because he knew that it wouldn’t be
much longer before he’d be doing what Aaron was doing right now. Also, Tiger thought humility meant to be put down and, if it meant that, he was confused as to why it would be a leadership trait.

“Humility,” began Aaron, “is the quality of being humble. And being humble means to see
yourself as small in comparison to the vast universe.”

Aaron explained that there was a lot of benefit to seeing yourself as being small. If people
thought of you as being insignificant, they would leave you alone. This didn’t mean that you
didn’t respect yourself or conduct yourself with dignity. It meant that when you looked at the world as a whole, you recognized that you were only a very small part. After all, there are nearly 7 billion people on earth and you are only one of them.

Sensei once asked students to think back one thousand years in the past to the people who
lived in this very part of the world. Then he asked the students, “Where are these people now? What has happened to their ideas and the things that they held dear? Some of them are still with us, and some of them have gone away. And that is what is going to happen to us. One thousand years from now, people may remember our ideas, but they will not remember the vast majority of us. People will know little or nothing about us. So it’s better to relax, do the best we can with our lives, but don’t get a big head about it.”

When Aaron finished talking about humility, Sensei thanked him for a job well done. Facing
the front of the room, Sensei said, “Let me add one more thought before Aaron has you begin your discussions. Once I lived in a house that didn’t have a shower, so we had to take baths every day. I used to take a cup and pour water over my head in order to rinse off. It was my habit to sit up straight when I did this. One day, the water was particularly hot, and it hurt as I poured it over my head. For some reason, I decided to lean forward and pour the water over the back of my head instead. When I did this, it didn’t hurt at all. This seemed strange, so I tried it again. I sat up straight, and poured the water over the top of my head, and it hurt. Then I bent over, and poured the water over the back of my head, and it felt warm and soothing. I repeated this several times and kept having the same sensation: hot and uncomfortable on the top of the head and warm and gentle on the back of the head. You see, this is the power of the bow. This is the power of humility.”

With that Sensei turned the students back over to Aaron to discuss in teams how they could
learn to be more humble through their training.


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 Continued: The Book of the Empty Mind by Marty Callahan

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

The Book of the Empty Mind 

In his imagination, Tiger had just finished practicing karate on the beach and was
walking along the waterline with his parents. They had walked for about a half hour, combing the beach for whatever they could find, when he saw an old man sitting very still in seiza, Tiger wasn’t sure if he had seen the man before, but he looked vaguely familiar. And seeing someone at the beach sitting in seiza was unusual, so it attracted Tiger’s attention.

As they got closer, Tiger could not help but look at him. He was sitting perfectly still, like
a statue. When he was close enough to see the old man’s face, Tiger was surprised to see that he was Japanese.

“Hello,” said the old man, and with that Tiger jumped. He wasn’t expecting him to speak.

Tiger recovered and then answered, “Hello, how are you?”

“I’m fine,” said the old man, “and how are you and your parents?”

Tiger’s dad said, “Fine, thanks. Come along, Tiger, let’s leave the gentleman alone.”

The old man said, “It’s no bother. I’m just taking a break from reading my book.”

When he said this, Tiger noticed a large, very old looking book in his lap.

“My name’s Tiger. What’s your name?”

The old man didn’t answer for a moment and then said, “I once had a name, but now
people just call me the Old Man.”

Tiger found this odd, and he asked him what he was reading.

Tiger’s dad said, “Tiger, don’t wear out your welcome.” To the Old Man, he said, “Sir,
my son could talk to you all day. Is it all right if he spends some time with you?”

The Old Man looked at Tiger and then looked at his dad, “Yes, I’m sure we’ll have a
delightful conversation.”

Tiger’s dad told Tiger they’d be leaving in twenty minutes. Tiger’s parents wandered
down the beach, laid out their blanket, and sat down. They were close enough to see, but not so close to hear the conversation Tiger was having with the Old Man.

Tiger asked the lingering question again, “What are you reading?”

“Why don’t you sit down,” replied the Old Man.

Tiger sat across from him.

“This book is quite old and very special. But first, tell me about your Shotokan Karate

Tiger looked at the Old Man with genuine surprise. “How do you know I practice
Shotokan Karate?”

The Old Man didn’t answer at first. Then he turned his head towards Tiger and said, “I
saw you.”

This confused Tiger, because where he had been practicing was a good half-mile from
here, so the Old Man could not have possibly seen him.

“Tiger,” began the Old Man, “what we see with our eyes is merely the surface of all there
is to see. I am sure that your sensei has talked to you about the empty mind?”

Tiger nodded.

“When you learn to empty your mind, you will see things that cannot be seen, you will
hear things that cannot be heard, you will smell things that cannot be smelled, you will taste
things that cannot be tasted, you will touch things that cannot be touched, and you will
experience things that others will never experience. You will come to know beauty and truth in a way that a common man cannot possibly know,” the Old Man said, as he continued to sit quietly.

“The teachers who told me this gave me this book. They knew that it would take a
lifetime to learn all there is from karate.”

Tiger was about to ask a question when the Old Man lifted his index finger as if to signal
to wait.

“I began my journey over one hundred years ago, and my teachers began their journey
one hundred years before that and their teachers one hundred years before that. Our history
extends back thousands and millions of years to the dawn of man.”

Tiger could no longer contain himself. “I’m studying to be a Black Belt Shoka Leader,”
he blurted out.

“I know,” said the Old Man.

Tiger sat for a moment to let this new information sink in. He was full of questions, but
he remembered one of the first lessons Sensei had taught him about self-control. Sensei had said, “When you are full of questions, stop and wait until your thoughts have settled and then ask the right question.”

Tiger let his thoughts settle and then asked, “Did you come here to see me today?”

The Old Man replied, “Yes and no. I came today, because I felt in my heart that it was
important to be here, but I didn’t know that I would meet you.”

Tiger smiled.

“Tiger, a few minutes ago we spoke of the empty mind. You will find, as you continue
with your training, that mastering this will be very important. As a youth who has just begun his journey to become a Black Belt Shoka Leader, you must realize that it is very difficult to clear away the thoughts in your head. But at the same time, it must be done.”

“Now,” said the Old Man “let’s talk about this book. It is called, The Book of the Empty
Mind. As I mentioned, it was given to me by my teachers, and it is a priceless resource for the person studying to become a Black Belt Shoka Leader. To use this book you must open your mind and become quiet inside. The experiences you will have will be quite vivid, so keep your spirit strong.”

Tiger asked, “What are the journeys you’ve taken? How do you know where you will go?
Will I take the same journeys you took?”

The Old Man smiled; he saw the same excitement and enthusiasm in Tiger, which he had
experienced when he first found out about the book.

“The journey one takes when reading the Book of the Empty Mind is different for every
person, Tiger. The book will show you things that will be important on your journey. Where you go will have a lot to do with where you are. Every student needs to learn different lessons to become a Black Belt Shoka Leader.

“And to answer your final question, yes, in the proper time you will be able to use the
Book of the Empty Mind. But first we must discuss the concepts you must learn to be able to use a powerful tool like this.”

The waves broke calmly and steadily on the shore, as the Old Man took a meaningful

“Responsibility,” the Old Man continued, “is an important lesson to be learned from this
book. I must impress upon you, Tiger, that it is irresponsible to misuse this book. So here are the rules.

“First, you must learn the lessons meant for you from this book. The lessons are for the
person to whom the book is given. This rule is drawn from the Dojo Creed, Seek Perfection of Character, and it will challenge you immensely. Second, when you are called to, and you will know when the time has come, you must pass the book along. If you refuse, you will have broken the faith of the Black Belt Shoka Leader. This rule is drawn from the Dojo Creed, Be Faithful. You must complete the circle. Third, you must continue on despite whatever obstacles you might face, and you must share what you have learned with others. This lesson is drawn from the Dojo Creed, Endeavor. Fourth, you must recognize others for the contributions they make to your life. This is drawn from the Dojo Creed, Respect Others.”

At about this time, a strong wind began to blow sand across the shore directly towards the
Old Man and Tiger, but it circled around them, as though an invisible barrier surrounded and protected them. “And fifth, to harm others on a journey is never allowed. As Black Belt Shoka Leaders, we train to stop conflict, and you must exercise this principle as you find your way back from your journeys. This rule is drawn from the Dojo Creed, Refrain from Violent Behavior, and so you must strive to control your mind, body, and spirit in all situations.”

The Old Man paused and looked deep into Tiger’s eyes. Tiger felt an enormous strength
and resolve coming from the Old Man, and it took a major effort on Tiger’s part to hold his gaze. Tiger knew, then and there, that he was in the company of a true Black Belt Shoka Leader. It made him want this for himself even more than before. He understood how important it was for him to take this journey and become someone greater than he was right now.

Tiger was pulled out of his encounter with the Old Man by his father’s voice in the distance. “Tiger, it’s time to go. Let the gentleman get back to his reading.”

“Okay, Dad,” Tiger called out.

As he turned back to the Old Man, Tiger noticed how serene he seemed. The Old Man
smiled and spoke, “Tiger, I must ask you two very important questions: First, are you prepared to take on the responsibility of being a Black Belt Shoka Leader?”

Tiger didn’t hesitate. “Yes!” he replied.

“And, second, are you ready to commit all that you have to become a Black Belt Shoka

Again, Tiger’s answer was “Yes!”

Tiger looked at the Old Man. Until this day Tiger had not completely understood the
commitment it would take to become a Black Belt Shoka Leader. But now he knew, and he made up his mind to make that commitment.

The Old Man picked the book up and held it in his hands. It had become a prized possession for him.

“Tiger, there is only one page in this book with writing on it. That page is inscribed with
the 12 Traits of a Black Belt Shoka Leader. They are Courage, Courtesy, Integrity, Humility,
Self-Control, Trust, Endeavor, Responsibility, Cooperation, Justice, Compassion, and
Creativity. These are the guideposts on your journey to become a Black Belt Shoka Leader; be mindful of them. The rest of the book is empty like the Empty Mind. It is your job to fill this book with the story of your journey as a Black Belt Shoka Leader. The book is large and thick to remind you to live a large, productive life and to make a difference in the world by bringing positive change through your leadership. The book is heavy to remind you of the weight of responsibility that comes with being a Black Belt Shoka Leader. Remind yourself of this every day as you use it as a vehicle for your Great Journey.”

The Old Man handed the Book of the Empty Mind to Tiger, who, upon accepting it,
became very much aware of the grave responsibility the Old Man had given him.

Tiger looked at the Old Man and bowed deeply.

Tiger said, “It’s time for me to go. Thank you very much for your words and this book.”

The Old Man nodded.

Tiger stood up, backed up two steps, and looked again at the Old Man who was smiling
at him. He was certain that he had seen him before, but he couldn’t place where or when. The Old Man then spoke for the last time. “Your sensei is a wise and capable man; listen to him carefully.”

Tiger smiled and turned and ran over to where his parents were waiting, somewhat
impatiently. As they started to walk in the direction of the car, he showed them the book the Old Man had given him.

They all turned back to wave at the Old Man, but he was nowhere in sight. “Where did he
go?” his mom said.

Tiger said nothing and felt the weight of the book as he held it tightly. He looked forward
to his Great Journey.


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.


Student Spotlight – Richard Wantuck

What Does Karate Mean to Me?

by Richard Wantuck

I was introduced to the Shotokan style of karate when I was in my early 20’s. At that time, I was instantly attracted to the concept of this traditional martial art – the idea that a
person could defend himself by activating the intrinsic power of one’s own body, without the use of weapons. As a beginning practitioner, I initially trained under an
accomplished, black-belt student of Sensei Masataka Mori – who was an original student of Masatoshi Nakayama, the 1st chief instructor of the Japan Karate Association. Nakayama,
in turn, was a direct disciple of Shotokan’s original founder, Master Gichin Funakoshi. In those earlier days, I began to learn the basic karate techniques and kata, a process which helped me begin to imagine how I might also become accomplished in this noble art.

Over time, I practiced karate off and on when my life’s travels permitted me to find a
Shotokan dojo in which to train, but this inconsistency prevented me from advancing in
the art. It was not until I reached my fifth decade that I found the Shotokan Karate
Leadership School, where I began to train more consistently and seriously under the
direction of Sensei Marty Callahan, 8th Dan black belt. I steadily worked my way up in
rank and, in October 2019, I finally attained a life-long goal: 1st degree black belt!

Master Funakoshi’s Okinawan translation of kara-té means “empty hand.” It is a noble
martial art, deriving from ancient Buddhist roots. Karate was perfected over the course
of many centuries, and passed along from generation to generation. To me, there is a
profound significance in this connection through time. In fact, the Japanese word
Sensei, or teacher, can also be translated as one who has gone before. I truly appreciate that
my struggles to achieve a certain level of mastery of the art take me along the same path
experienced by countless other karate-ka over the centuries, and in all the continents on
Earth. Equally important, Funakoshi’s emphasis on character development and
training to be a “peaceful warrior” fits well with my own personal philosophy and
world view.

Karate embodies physical, mental, and spiritual components – these are the essential building blocks of character. I seek to develop my understanding and cultivate my abilities in all three areas. From a physical standpoint, it is exciting to experience increased stamina, strength, and agility through training. While there are always  higher levels of physical fitness that can be attained, I am pleased with the progress I have made thus far.
Similarly, karate’s dynamic movements enhance my mental ability to focus, and to think more calmly and clearly. This is especially true when attempting to
master new movements or skills that involve complicated, coordinated body movement. And in terms of the spiritual aspect, I have found that the further one explores the true meaning of karate, the more the spirit becomes engaged in a positive, holistic way. As a person who values life-long learning and personal development, karate is ideally
suited to my life’s experience.

I receive many tangible benefits from my practice of karate. Regular practice of the art helps me to stay healthy, physically fit, and mentally alert. These things are important to me because I want to live long and lead an active, productive life. My life has been blessed in many ways and I am grateful for my good fortune. This includes the enormous benefits of a close-knit family which provides love and support, a stable, safe community in which to live, and a bountiful, free country in which to grow and thrive. I want to sustain these values and help pass them on to future generations.

As I proceed on my journey, I realize that the philosophy of karate-do has become an
important influence in my life. Thanks to my training, I am able to focus on my
personal goals and physical wellness more effectively. I am also more patient and
understanding of my own potential, as well as my limitations. These insights help me
formulate and calibrate my plans and aspirations going forward. I look with a great
deal of optimism on my future prospects.

The attitude of karate provides a framework to guide my life’s path in a positive
direction. Our Shotokan dojo creed: seek perfection of character, be faithful, endeavor, respect others, refrain from violent behavior – promotes timeless values and a wholesome way of life. This is as it should be. I am grateful to my teachers and role models for setting this excellent example to follow, and I look forward to teaching young people the virtues of
karate-do for many years to come.

©Richard Wantuck, 2020

The Psychology of Winning

Positive Self -Awareness

Winners know who they are, what they believe, the role in life they are
presently filing, their great personal potential- and future roles and goals which
will mark fulfillment of that potential. They have learned these things, and are
constantly adding to their knowledge, through experience, insight, feedback, and
judgment. As a result they can continuously not only “play from strength” in the
game of life, but also avoid errors and correct weaknesses. They don’t kid others
and they don’t kid themselves.

Losers say, “Who knows what I could do if I only had a chance.”

Winners say, “I know who I am, where I’m coming from and where I’m

Make this moment the moment of truth about yourself. You have been
selling yourself short all of your life. You have the opportunity to experience more
environmental, physical and mental/spiritual abundance than you could use in ten
lifetimes. Open up your lenses to the possibilities and alternatives available in
your life. Change your attitude and your lifestyle and your many environments will
change automatically. Understand your own uniqueness. Appreciate the
difference in others. Relax and learn to respond positively to stress. Change for
the better that which can be changed. Remove from your presence those
negative influences that cannot be changed. Adapt and adjust to those negative
influences that cannot be changed or removed.


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.