TGJ: Ascent to Ryoku Mountain and the Temple of the Clouds

Tiger’s Great Journey Continued…

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

Tiger was walking alone along the ridge of the mountain. Blake had wanted to come
along, but Tiger had to tell him that he needed to do the last leg of this journey alone. “Blake, you’re a good friend, and you’ve been a great companion, but I need to do this on my own.”

Blake was a little put off at first, but then he came around. “I understand, Tiger. I will be with you in spirit. I’m honored to have shared this much of your great journey with you.”

Tiger thanked him and then started off.

He had taken one last look at the parchment map he had found when he and Blake started
this great journey. It was now complete. Creativity, the last of the twelve leadership traits,
represented as a book with empty pages, had appeared on the map. He was now on the last leg of his Great Journey to Ryoku Mountain and the Temple of the Clouds.

The air was crisp and mild, and the sun felt good on his face. He let his mind rest on thoughts and images as they came and went, keeping him company. He knew where he was
going this time, as he walked purposefully without hurrying.

In the distance, the temple sat on the mountain peak. White clouds bumped into the towers reaching up from the solid stone structure. Tiger wasn’t sure how far the walk was, as distance could be deceiving here, but he was content to enjoy the fresh air and beautiful vistas that surrounded him.

After about an hour, the path turned away from the edge of the ridge into the end of a broad meadow. Tiger could hear sheep bleating up ahead. After a few minutes, he saw them in the meadow grazing on grass. The herd looked to be well-fed and well-cared for. He saw tents a
little farther ahead along the path he was following.

As Tiger approached the encampment, one of the shepherds saw him and waved to him. Tiger waved back, and the man walked toward him.

“Good afternoon,” the man said.

“Good day to you, sir,” Tiger replied while extending his hand. “My name is Tiger.”

“My name is Kai,” the man said. “Where are you from?”

Tiger thought for a moment, as this wasn’t as easy to answer as one might think. “I’m
from California.”

“Is this far away?” Kai asked. “I have not heard of this place.”

“Yes, it is far away.”

“Then you must join us for tea. It is time for all of us to gather for a break from our work.”

Tiger smiled and said that he would be delighted to do so. Tiger knew that many of the people in this area would take a refusal of hospitality as an insult, and he didn’t want to be

Kai guided Tiger to the center of the campsite, where many of the shepherds and their families had gathered for tea and a break from work. Kai introduced him to the group who were sitting on blankets and small folding chairs. His presence caused quite a stir, as they were not used to visitors, especially from far away.

Tiger’s hosts were curious about where he came from and marveled at his gi. Tiger thought about how he should answer them and decided to tell them the Story of Shotokan Karate
Leadership Schools.

He told them how karate was a system of self-defense that gave its practitioners enormous energy, confidence, and freedom. He told them about the great and humble leader, Gichin Funakoshi, and how he had a dream to see karate practiced by people from all around the
world. And he told them how Shotokan Karate Leadership Schools had created a system that used karate as a platform to train young people to be leaders so that they could transform their world.

The shepherds were very attentive and asked Tiger many questions. When he had finished, Kai asked Tiger if he would like to stay for dinner. But Tiger told him he had to move on and excused himself. Kai asked him where he was headed, and Tiger told him that he was going to the top of Ryoku Mountain and the Temple of the Clouds.

Kai looked at Tiger very seriously and nodded. He said, “Many times members of our community sought to visit the Temple that lives in the clouds. They would journey for many
days without ever coming closer. After many more days, they would return. I am afraid that
perhaps Ryoku Mountain and the Temple of the Clouds is only a mirage.”

Tiger smiled at Kai and thanked him for his hospitality. He turned away and continued his journey. Tiger suspected that the Temple of the Clouds was only to be found by those few who knew the way.

In the middle of the afternoon, when the sun was at its warmest, Tiger gazed at the distant
Temple; it appeared to him that it had moved a bit closer.

As he walked, Tiger thought about the many adventures he had embarked on through the
Book of the Empty Mind. He remembered the day at the beach when he met the Old Man, and how important he had become to him. With each leg of his journey, Tiger’s grasp of what he had said evolved. “Tiger, what you see with your eyes is merely the surface of all that there is to see” was his admonition. Tiger had come to realize how this applied to leadership, karate, and the relationships he shared with all the people in his life.

The trail that Tiger was following had returned to the ridge. The Temple of the Clouds
was only visible at certain times, as rocks and boulders obscured the view.

The daylight was failing now; the air became crisp, but Tiger was comfortable in his gi as he walked on. Tiger saw that he was no longer on a trail. He was now walking on a path made of the rock, which had been worn smooth by the passing of generations of feet. He felt proud to share this path that so many had walked on before. He thought about how many passages it had taken to polish the stones. It occurred to him that Sensei had polished and honed his character and skills through years of training.

As the dusk slipped into darkness, Tiger had reached a great staircase. Every twenty steps, a torch flickered at either side to light the way up, with the towers of the Temple beckoning in the distance.

Tiger put his foot on the first step and began his ascent. They were taller and longer than normal, and it took extra effort to ascend them. A test of my resolve, Tiger mused. He arrived at the first pool of light after twenty steps. The next step was twice as high and had the figure of a bowing karate-ka carved into it. This time a figure in seiza was carved into the stone. On the next step there was a carving of a karate student in forward stance; then came the step with a student doing a front kick, followed by another one with a carving of a student sword-hand blocking in back stance, which was followed by a step with a student who was roundhouse kicking. Continuing his arduous climb, Tiger saw another step with a student performing sideelbow strike in side stance, then one with a student performing a step-in-punch middle-body, another one with a student side-snap kicking; followed by one with a student side-thrust kicking, and yet another one with a student performing a pressing block and spear-hand thrust in forward stance.

As he climbed the steps and saw the different carvings, Tiger came to understand the meaning of it all. The carvings represented the basic karate skills, and the steps stood for
repetition, which was necessary to master these skills. When Tiger reached the top of the
staircase, the final carving was the same as the first: a figure bowing. Tiger looked back down the staircase and realized that he hadn’t even thought about how many steps he had taken to get here.

Tiger took one last look at the flickering staircase, turned, and moved on. The path had
changed into an avenue wide enough for five men to walk down. He charged ahead and saw that the path turned to the right.

As he arrived at the turn, Tiger came to an abrupt stop. The path ahead was paved with stone and lined with twelve free-standing granite columns, six on each side about five yards
apart. Much farther ahead, Tiger could see there was a stairway leading to the Temple of the
Clouds. He was awestruck by the strength and immensity of the structure. It stood alone on an open field atop Ryoku Mountain. It appeared to be about a hundred feet high and twice as wide and long, and made of thick sturdy timbers.

Tiger stood up a little straighter and walked on. As he approached the first of the columns, he looked up and saw the symbol for the Black Belt Shoka Leadership Trait of Courage—a small child standing up to a large man. The next column displayed Courtesy—a figure bowing. Then came Integrity—a handshake; Humility—a child sitting in seiza; Self Control—a closed fist in an open hand; Trust—two figures sparring; Endeavor—a figure in side stance; Responsibility—a belt tied in a square knot; Cooperation—two figures stretching each other simultaneously; Justice—a dove with the Scales of Justice in its beak; Compassion—a hand reaching up and another hand reaching down to give a hand up; Creativity—an open book with blank pages.

These pillars were the Traits of the Black Belt Shoka Leader, the foundation upon which a leader stood. Tiger passed the last column and ventured into the darkness beyond.
After he had walked about fifty steps, he saw a circle of light. As he approached it, he saw a man sitting cross-legged at a table with a teapot and two cups.

“Sit, Tiger, and let us speak,” he said.

Tiger sat down as the man poured a cup of tea for both of them. The man was trim and in
excellent health, and he gave the impression of being a lot older than he looked.

“The journey of a Black Belt Shoka Leader is a long one,” the man said. “What wisdom
do you have to share with me?” Tiger thought for a moment about all of his experiences in the dojo, in his life, and with the Book of the Empty Mind.

“I have come to realize that for me to be able to receive all that I could from my journey; I had to release my mind. The first time I opened the Book of the Empty Mind I did not know
what to expect; it was new, exhilarating, and mysterious. I learned a lesson but perhaps missed its deeper meanings. As I practiced Heian Shodan as a Team Member, I just wanted to put all the moves in the right spot. When I practice Heian Shodan as an Assistant School Leader, I am still learning new things about the kata that I have performed thousands of times. Releasing my mind allows me to be able to receive whatever lesson or insight there is for me that day, because I am in a receptive state. By letting go, releasing, I can hold on to so much more that is important.”

The man picked up his cup and sipped. “Thank you for sharing your wisdom, Tiger. Your
insight will help you in your journey. You may proceed.”

“Thank you, sir,” Tiger said as he stood up. And as he did, the light faded and the man
was gone.

Tiger looked toward the Temple of the Clouds and began walking again when torches
started to rise up along the sides of the avenue. As the light grew brighter, he saw that he had walked into an area that was perfectly flat, and along the sides stood many students in karate-gis.

A powerful male voice shouted, “Kihon!”

Immediately Tiger was surrounded on all sides by dozens of karate students who lined up
along with him.

Then the voice commanded, “Yamae, make forward stance, now step-in-punch upperbody, twice middle-body. Ich, ni, san, shi, go, rok.”

Tiger kiaied at the end of each combination, as the voice put him and the other students
through the basics at a blistering pace. “Step-back rising block, reverse-punch middle-body. Ich, ni, san, shi, go, rok. Return. Step-in outside-forearm block, side-stance side-elbow strike, downward-back-fist strike. Ichi, ni, san, shi, go. Step-back, back-stance sword-hand block, frontleg front-kick, forward-stance spear-hand thrust, ichi, ni, san, shi, go.” The voice continued to take the students through their basics at a relentless pace. The students had run through all of the basics except for the last.

In front of each student there appeared a light, much like a firefly hovering in the air. The
voice said, “Punch ten times at the small moving target, and stop your fist within a quarter of an inch without hitting it.” The light jerked to the right of Tiger and stopped. “Ich.” Tiger punched and kiaied, his punch stopping a quarter inch from the target. Again the target moved, down to the center. “Ni.” Tiger punched and kiaied. Now the target shot up to the left. “San.” The target moved; “shi,” the target moved; “go.” This continued until the final time, “ju.” Tiger punched again with kime, stopped a quarter inch from the target and kiaied.

Everything turned silent as the students stood, and the lights hung in the air. “Yame,” the
voice said. Tiger returned to the ready stance. He was still flanked on all side by students. “You may proceed,” the voice said. As rapidly as they had appeared, the students shot out into the fading torch light, leaving the Temple as a beacon for Tiger to Follow.

Tiger continued on his path toward the Temple of the Clouds. He was now halfway there.
The light again arose around him, but this time he found himself in a large square. Tiger stopped and stood at the ready, waiting for his instructions. He could see hundreds of students surrounding him on the edge of the darkness.

“Kata!” this time the powerful voice was female. “Yame” Tiger stood ready. “Rei” Tiger bowed. “Heian Godan.”

“Heian Godan,” Tiger said clearly in loud, firm voice.


All of his training had come down to this day. As he performed the kata, Tiger realized
that each movement came from a place deep inside him, flowing out of him like water. When he finished the last movement he stood ready and watching for more imaginary attackers.

“Yamae,” replied the voice.

He then returned to natural stance and bowed.

“Bassai Dai!” said the voice.

“Bassai Dai!” Tiger thundered.


Tiger was still for a moment, as his surroundings melted away. He performed the first
move. In his mind he saw and heard each attacker. The fluidity and kime of his movements made his performance memorable. To all who were watching, there was no doubt that he was stopping the many imaginary opponents who were attacking him. Each technique was crisp and smooth, and his kiais were loud and powerful. When the last one rang out, it reverberated back from the adjacent peaks like an answer to his cry. He held his attention.

“Yamae,” said the voice. “Proceed.”

With that, the light faded, and Tiger walked toward the Temple. As he moved closer, he
could see the temple’s features. Carved on the beam above the open doors was a tiger enclosed in a circle—the symbol of Shotokan Karate. Below that were the carved images of the Twelve Traits of a Black Belt Shoka Leader. Tiger walked into the temple and stood in the center. As he did, a spotlight arose that highlighted the center arena.

Tiger prepared himself for what lay ahead. Another voice spoke this time, “Kumite.”

Tiger surveyed his surroundings and saw that there were again many students surrounding him.

One stepped out and walked over to face him.

“Rei,” Came the command. Tiger and this unknown opponent bowed to each other.

“Hajime” The sparring match began.

Tiger kept his mind empty, as his opponent closed the distance and attacked his head. Tiger stepped back, blocked the punch, and then front kicked to the middle-body, while stepping-in and punching to the upper-body. His kick was blocked, his punch ducked, and his
opponent countered with a side-thrust kick to Tiger’s mid-section.

Tiger moved quickly to close the distance, but his opponent moved just as quickly back. Tiger stopped as if to retreat and his opponent moved back toward him; then Tiger sprung the trap. He stepped-back and quickly stepped-forward, firing a punch to conceal the front kick he unleashed at his opponent’s mid-section: it was a solid blow. His opponent drew back, and then shot-in at Tiger. Tiger reacted smoothly, stepping to the left and blocking his opponent’s punch with an upper-level inside-forearm block. His opponent spun and Tiger stepped-in and caught him with a perfectly timed punch to his throat. Tiger’s control was excellent as the punch stopped a quarter of an inch from the target.

“Yamae,” the voice said, and Tiger moved back to his starting position.

“Bow; and step back.” Tiger bowed and backed up to the edge of the room.

Light suddenly illuminated his surroundings. Tiger now had a clear view of the platform at the front of the room. It was an open stage and as wide as the room. He could see figures
standing on the steps that led from the center arena up onto the platform. Then he heard Sensei’s voice calling him to come forward.

As he walked forward, the students who had been sitting in the darkness all stood up. When Tiger approached the stairs, he began to make out the others who were on the stage. They were the instructors he knew from the dojo, and in the center stood Sensei. A little off to the side was the Old Man who had given him the Book of the Empty Mind. Just then Tiger recognized him. It was Master Funakoshi himself. He smiled at Tiger, and Tiger smiled back.

Sensei gestured to Tiger to come join them. When Tiger reached the top step, he bowed
first to Sensei and then bowed even more deeply to Master Funakoshi. He turned around and looked back over the many Black Belt Shoka Leaders who had come out onto the floor and begun training as single group of well-coordinated teams. They were performing basics and doing what good Shoka Leaders do everywhere, demonstrating the Twelve Traits of a Black Belt Shoka Leaders: courage, courtesy, integrity, humility, self-control, trust, endeavor, responsibility, cooperation, justice, compassion, and creativity.

Tiger blinked his eyes and heard Sensei say his name, “Tiger.”

He was back in the dojo, and Sensei was at the front of the room holding a black belt and
calling his name.

He had lived this great journey in the mountains in his imagination—and for real in the
dojo. It had transformed him. He was no longer the scrawny nine-year-old kid he was when he started. Now he was thirteen, a strapping young man, a fine leader, and a force to be reckoned with. He was now a Black Belt Shoka Leader, and he was here to receive the symbol of that rank—the Black Belt.

The one thing he had learned from this journey was that it was not enough just to be a
leader; he had to be a true leader: a hero. This great journey was not just for him; it was for all the people of the world. He knew that this was not the end, but rather the beginning. He had mastered the basics, but he still had so much more to learn. Now, his great journey would take him on a spiritual quest that would result in self-mastery, not for his own benefit, but to give him the opportunity to do as much as possible for the greatest number of people.

With that, Tiger stepped forward to receive what he had worked so hard for over so many




TGJ: The Last Requirement

Tiger’s Great Journey Continued…

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

Tiger sat down at his desk and opened his Shoka Leader Handbook to the page that listed
the requirements for School Leader—Black Belt.

It had been four years since he started this great journey, and he was now within grasp of the rank that he had wanted for so long, that of Black Belt Shoka Leader. Tiger thought about the many lessons he had learned on his journey. The excitement he felt as he was approaching this goal was like a fire in his belly; it fueled his determination to achieve what he had worked hard for these many years.

Tiger took inventory of the work he had accomplished and the work he had left to do. He
had one last requirement to complete, and then he would hold the leadership rank of School Leader or Black Belt Shoka Leader.

Tiger had already completed many requirements.

First, he had been an Assistant School Leader I for three months.

Second, he mediated a dispute between two students. The dispute had arisen when two of the young Shoto Tigers had been practicing, and one of the students, Jimmy, accidentally hit Sadie when they were multi-step sparring. Tiger had sat the two students down and asked them to explain to each other how this made them feel. Sadie had said that it hurt and scared her. Jimmy said that he felt bad, because he didn’t mean to hit her, but because Sadie got mad, he got mad, too, instead of apologizing to her.

Tiger told them that sometimes people don’t do the right thing when they make a mistake, which will make things worse. He then asked Jimmy what he thought he should do. Jimmy said that he was sorry and that he liked to practice with Sadie.

Tiger then asked Sadie what she should do now that Jimmy had apologized. Sadie said that her side still hurt. Tiger turned to Jimmy and told him that when you hurt somebody you
have to apologize and make sure that the person is all right. The three of them waited a few
minutes; when the pain went away, Sadie said that she was all right. Then she asked Jimmy not to do that again. Jimmy repeated that he was sorry and Sadie said, “Okay.”

Tiger then thanked Sadie for accepting Jimmy’s apology.

The third School Leader requirement that Tiger had completed was to give the class commands. Tiger had been doing this for a long time, but he noticed that he kept getting better and better at it. He knew that this requirement meant that he would have to give the class commands as a Black Belt Shoka Leader would, not as a new member would. At first he had to learn all the words. Then he had to learn what they meant. Then he had to give each command in a powerful voice. Then he had to learn to give them at the right speed. And all of this developed over time.

The fourth requirement was to present himself impeccably dressed in his uniform to the
School Leader. Tiger took great pride in his uniform. He had a special place in his closet where it hung so that it would be wrinkle free and ready for him to put on when he went to class. He made sure to keep it ready to wear.

Requirement number five was to prepare a lesson plan and lead a group of three teams in
learning the material. He had finished this requirement a couple of months ago and had it signed off by Rachel, the current School Leader. He enjoyed teaching and looked forward to more chances to teach his fellow students. He felt really good when he saw the students he had taught perform well.

The sixth requirement that Tiger had completed was describing his leadership style to the
School Leader. He had determined what his leadership style was from reading the Book of Five Rings by Miyamoto Musashi. In it, Musashi explained ground, fire, water, air, and the void and their relation to leadership. A person who is grounded will proceed in a step-by-step manner. A person who possesses the fire element will rush in, determined to get things done. The person who is of the water element will lead by going with the flow. The person who leads from the air element will analyze the circumstances until he is absolutely certain and then create a detailed plan of action. And finally, the ultimate leadership style is shown by the person who is in the void. This person can adapt his leadership style to the situation he’s in and move freely from ground, fire, water, and air. Tiger saw his own style as being mostly ground with some water  element. He felt that most of the time, he wanted to have all his ducks in a row before proceeding. But he also knew that he wanted input from everyone and would decide which way to go after hearing from everyone.

The seventh requirement was to review again his long-term Shotokan Karate Leadership Goals with the School Leader. He knew that these reviews played a big part in getting him to
where he was now, within one step of becoming a Black Belt Shoka Leader.

For the eighth requirement Tiger had to show his School leader that he could tell a story and then lead a discussion about what it meant. The story he told was about what it meant to be a citizen in the United States. Tiger had memorized the preamble to the constitution: “We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.” The discussion centered on Justice, Tranquility, and Liberty. Afterwards the students walked taller and spoke excitedly with their parents as they left the school.

The ninth requirement was to show the Black Belt Shoka Leadership Trait of creativity by creating a solution to a persistent problem in the school. The Young Tigers, who ranged in age from four to eight, would often get out of hand when they played one of the leadership
games, and it was becoming difficult to quiet them down and go back to training. This was the problem that Tiger wanted to solve, and he knew that he’d have to be creative to do it. He also knew that he had to confer with Sensei on this, because there was a lot that he didn’t understand about how to teach.

Ten, Tiger needed to describe a dream he had to make the world a better place. This was big. Tiger had never thought that he could do anything to make the world a better place, but here he was being required to do it to become a Black Belt Shoka Leader. It must be possible, otherwise why would it be a requirement? he thought. Then he remembered that part of the definition of being a Black Belt Shoka Leader was to see a problem, become passionate about solving it, and then become the leader that the solution to the problem demanded. That was the answer: become a greater person.

He’d read many stories about humble people who took action to solve problems that no one else was solving. And if they could do it, then he could do it too. And he knew that he was
far more likely to succeed because of the leadership training he was receiving at Shotokan Karate Leadership Schools. Tiger remembered a quote from Masatoshi Nakayama: “Deciding who is the winner, and who is the loser is not the ultimate objective. Karate-do [the way of the empty hand] is a martial art for the development of character through training, so that the karate-ka [karate student] can surmount any obstacle, tangible or intangible.” Tiger believed this and knew that his karate training was the foundation for him to make the world a better place.

The eleventh requirement was to lead a discussion about one of the Twelve Traits of a Black Belt Shoka Leader. Tiger had always been annoyed by the rude behavior of kids and knew
that courtesy was his favorite principle. He felt confident about being able to discuss this with the students in class. He would start the discussion by reminding students that good manners were your first line of self-defense, and that good manners made friends and bad manners created enemies. Sensei had discussed this in class many times, and Tiger agreed wholeheartedly. To him it was easy to see that it was much better to live your life making friends with good manners, rather than creating enemies with bad ones.

For the twelfth requirement Tiger had to tell the story of Shotokan Karate Leadership Schools to a group of ten or more people who were not members of the school. Tiger was
learning about public speaking at school and thought that this would be a good tie-in. So he
decided to talk to his teacher about giving him twenty minutes to tell the Story of SKLS to his class.

The thirteenth, fourteenth, and fifteenth requirements were to help Tiger prepare for his
Instructional Board Review. Prior to appearing before the Instructional Board, Tiger had to show the School Leader that he could perform the basics, sparring, and kata that were required for his final test.

The last requirement, which Tiger had not yet completed, was to perform the basics, sparring, and kata at the Instructional Board Review. This would be the culmination of all his hard work. He knew that he would have to keep in mind the Niju Kun that stated: “Do not clingto the idea of winning; it is the idea of not losing that is necessary.” Sensei had said that this applied to success in anything. If you focus on making sure that you don’t fail, then what is left is to succeed. Sensei used the example of facing eight opponents. You don’t have to defeat them; you just have to not be defeated by them. This was a different way of thinking about life that Tiger found intriguing.

Tiger sat down on the comfortable chair he had in his room and leaned back. He had been
working all day and needed a moment to rest. As he sat there, he gazed around his room and stopped when he saw the Book of the Empty Mind sitting on his book shelf. He got up and walked over to the shelf and retrieved the heavy volume. He sat on the edge of his bed and ran his fingers across the old leather cover. He smiled and opened the book.

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: The Dungeon of Creativity by Marty Callahan

Tiger’s Great Journey Continued…

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

In this place, Tiger was alone and in complete darkness. He became aware of this like a
person waking from a deep sleep, slowly, one detail at a time. There was no light, and he sat
against a cold, hard, lumpy surface. “Was he sitting on cobblestones?” he wondered. Slowly he unfolded his arms from around his legs and stretched out. He placed his hands on the floor and began to feel around. The floor wasn’t warm and it wasn’t cold, so he reasoned that he must be inside. “But where was he?” he asked himself.

Tiger stood up to explore his surroundings by touching surfaces with his hands. It was
pitch black. He felt stone walls, a corner, another stone wall, another corner, another stone wall, another corner, and now more stone wall and finally a door.

He felt around the door. It was made of heavy timber, about three feet wide. He thumped on it with his fist. It was solid, unyielding.

Then he realized where he was—in a jail cell.

“I’m a prisoner!” he gasped “But where exactly am I, and how did I get here?”

Tiger stopped and listened. At first he couldn’t hear a thing, but then the little sounds and
sensations we hardly ever pay attention to came into his awareness. A slight movement of air, a drip of water, then another drip, and a few seconds later another drip.

“I’m underground,” he realized.

“I wish there was some light,” he said. And with that, a candle on the wall to his left sputtered to life. The light was dim, but because he’d been in complete darkness, it nearly
blinded him. He quickly looked away and closed his eyes, then slowly opened them as they adjusted to the light.

He looked around and saw that his guess was right. He was in a cell, a dungeon to be

“But why did the candle light when I wished for light?”, he thought to himself.

He looked up and saw an air shaft. It appeared that he could crawl through it if he had to, but it was eight feet off the ground—too high for him to reach.

He put his ear to the door. At first he could hear nothing, but then he became aware of a
muffled sound. A few seconds later, he heard footsteps of several people who were coming his way. Tiger tensed up as he considered what these people might want from him.

They stopped outside his door, and he heard them unlocking the cell. He stepped back, and three hooded figures in black robes stepped inside as the door opened, their faces invisible in the dim light. Two of them held short lances, and one of them carried a torch. The one in front tossed a soft package wrapped in white paper at Tiger, who stepped to the side and let it fall to the floor. The lead captor hissed and waved his hand at the candle putting it out. They turned and slammed and the heavy door, locking it as they left.

Tiger waited, and after a few minutes, he dared to try his trick again. “I need light,” he
said, and with that the candle sputtered back to life. Tiger stared at it and marveled at what had

He looked at the package on the floor near his feet and then picked it up. It felt like food so he brought it up to his nose. It smelled really good. When he opened it, he found a chunk of
cheese with some dried meat. Tiger thought about whether he should eat it, and decided that if his mysterious captors wanted him dead, they would have already done it.

He took a small bite of the cheese and was satisfied that it was good. He was ravenous, but he reminded himself to eat slowly. This made Tiger think of his dad, who was a stickler for
chewing each bite thoroughly. He wished his dad were here to get him out of this place. The food made him thirsty, so Tiger thought to say the word “water” as he cupped his hands. As he did, his hands filled with water.

He drank his fill, sat back, and pondered this mysterious power he appeared to have.

“Key,” he said, but nothing happened.

“Food,” but again nothing happened.

“There must be rules,” Tiger thought.

“Light out,” he said, and the dungeon went pitch black. “Light,” he said, and the candle
came to life.

Tiger looked at the paper wrapping from his meal and said “Fire!” and the ball of paper burst into flames. He watched it for a moment and then said, “Out.” He didn’t want to waste a resource. He may need it to get out.

Then he thought about the Black Belt Shoka Leadership Trait of creativity and realized that if he were going to get out, he would need to create an escape plan. He tore off a small piece
of paper from the food wrapper and concentrated on it. “Fire,” he said, and it burst into flames.

He smiled. When his captors arrived, he was going to be ready.

Tiger sat very close to the door, listening intently. He knew that the success of his plan would depend in large part on his first move. Finally he heard the footsteps. They seemed to
come from the right side of the door. Tiger pressed himself into the corner near the edge of the door and waited. He looked at the candle and wished it out.

The footsteps stopped. He heard a bolt drawback, but it wasn’t his door. He heard voices and a shout. “Leave me alone!”

Tiger’s heart jumped. Was that Blake? He wondered.

Tiger heard the door close and then footsteps coming his way. He calmed himself and
emptied his mind. The bolt on his door drew back, and then the door swung open.

As his captors came into his cell, he threw the wad of paper at them and yelled, “Fire!”

The paper burst into flames in mid-air.

His captors jumped back in fear, and before they realized what was happening, Tiger was
out the door and running.

He raced down a long corridor. His captors had recovered from their initial surprise and were in hot pursuit. The hall was lit with torches, and as Tiger passed the first one, he yelled
“Out!” and the torch died. As he came to a corner, he saw steps leading up to a passageway. He quickly bolted up the stairs. “Out!” he said, as he passed another torch, and out it went.

At the top of the stairs the hallway split left and right. Tiger paused for a moment and felt a slight breeze coming from the right, so he turned that way. Behind him his pursuers were
making their way up the stairs.

“Out!” Tiger said, as he passed another torch. Out it went.

The hall had made several turns, and now ahead he could see a door. He ran up to it and
stopped to listen. He heard voices coming from inside. He could also hear his captors scrambling behind him trying to figure out which way he’d went.

He turned the knob slowly and pushed the door in. He saw the backs of three guards
sitting at a table. On the wall close to the door was a torch. Next to the torch were cloaks hanging on a wall. He stepped inside and slid behind the cloaks.

“Out,” he whispered, and the room went black.

“Where is he?” a voice hissed as the torch was re-lit.

“Where is who?” another answered.

Tiger looked down at his feet and tried to remember if the cloaks went all the way down to the floor, but he couldn’t recall.

“The boy, you fool.” Hisser, the head guard, said, “Where is the boy that ran in here?”

“We didn’t see a boy. The lights went out. He must have run through in the dark.”

“After him now!” Hisser shouted.

The guards jumped to their feet and flew out the door.

Tiger carefully peered out from behind the cloak that covered him. One guard had remained behind and was slowly turning and surveying the room. Tiger pulled the cloak back around him and waited, willing his pounding heart to be still. Then he heard the door open and
slam shut. The guard had left.

Tiger peeked from behind the cloaks once more and found the room empty.

It won’t take them long to send someone back, he thought. I have to act quickly.

Tiger grabbed a cloak and put it on. It easily concealed his white gi. He saw a length of rope lying in the corner and went to grab it. There was a knife on the table. He grabbed that too.

He eyed the other weapons: lances, short swords, long swords, and some armor, but
thought that they would be too hard to conceal and too noisy. He turned towards the door and spied one last item, which might prove useful. In the commotion someone had dropped their keys. He picked them up off the floor and stashed them in his gi under the robe.

Tiger thought about Blake and headed out the door to find him.

Out in the hall Tiger stopped at the top of the stairs. He emptied his mind and heard the faint movement of air, dripping water, and voices. He decided it was safe enough to proceed
down the stairs.

At the bottom, he turned to go back towards his cell, knowing that Blake was being held
in a cell nearby.

Moving quickly, Tiger remained steady and balanced. He remembered Sensei saying, “You can’t think correctly if you’re scared or panicked.” As Tiger approached the cells, he
looked around for places to hide. He shuddered when he saw an alcove with rings, chains and shackles attached to the wall. There was another dark passageway that he had not seen before.

Tiger moved cautiously towards his former cell to try to find where Blake was being held. He listened very carefully for a clue and heard muffled voices. He crept over to that door
and peered through the keyhole. He saw Blake sitting in a chair facing the door. Tiger could
make out at least one person standing, talking to Blake with his back to the door.

“How can I take advantage of this? I need to know the layout of the room.”

Tiger looked back down the passage and saw a torch. He went to get it but couldn’t reach
it, since it was mounted high on the wall. He looked further down the passage and saw another torch that he thought he could reach if he stood on the stair and stretched out.

He was extending his arm up to grab the torch when he heard a door open. He retreated
quickly back down the passage and into the dark corridor. A figure in a black robe came into
view and stopped at the door to Blake’s cell. He pulled out a set of keys and unlocked it. Tiger pressed back as new light filled the passage where he stood. A woman on the inside of the cell appeared at the door and spoke to the man.

“He has escaped,” Hisser said.

“How is that possible?” she replied sharply and motioned him to follow her. They walked out of Blake’s cell but turned around to keep an eye on Blake, as they whispered to each other in angry hisses about five feet from where Tiger was hiding.

“I don’t know. He was able to command fire; he surprised us and fled to the guard room. Those imbeciles let him run right past them after he had extinguished their torches.”

“Incompetents! I will deal with them in time. Have you searched the whole area? Did he
reach the cave exit?”

“We have looked and are starting the search over. We don’t know if he made it out. It also appears that there are items missing from the guard room; one of the fools lost his keys.”

Anger streaked across her face. “Did the boy get them?”

“It’s possible. If he did, he could be hiding somewhere.”

“Does he know of his friend?”

“I don’t know. We did not speak to him as you instructed. When we found them sleeping at the cave entrance, it appeared that they were just seeking shelter from the cold for the night.
We put them in the cells and they did seem to sleep as if in a trance or under a sleeping spell.”

“What of these strange uniforms? The symbol they wore upon their chests? What does the wizard say?”

“It appears that they belong to some guild we’re not aware of.”

“Find the boy!” she growled. “Tell those fools that if he isn’t back by the time I finish here, they will wish they had escaped with him. We don’t know how they got here or if more are
coming. Now it’s time to press the second boy for answers, being nice doesn’t seem to be

Tiger thought he could see fire burning in her eyes as she looked in his direction briefly before walking back to Blake’s cell. She slammed the door shut. The lock clanked and then
sudden silence fell.

Hisser turned and left.

Tiger knew that the time for action had arrived. He grabbed the torch, took it down,
moved quickly and quietly to Blake’s door, and went to work. Slowly Tiger worked the torch
back and forth along the bottom edge of the door. At first the old wood resisted the flame, but after a while it turned black, and then started to char and smoke. Tiger smiled to himself—his plan was working. He wasn’t sure how much smoke was going into the room, but he knew it would be enough.

Tiger could hear that the woman’s voice had elevated and become very shrill. He heard what sounded like a slap but couldn’t be sure.

Events unfolded rapidly. The bolt snapped back. Tiger barely had enough time to move before the door was jerked open. Tiger saw the woman at the same time she saw him. She drew her hand back to strike him when he tossed the torch at her feet and dove forward. As he did, the woman stumbled backwards and fell over Blake’s outstretched foot. She landed hard and didn’t move.

Tiger pulled the knife from his robe and cut Blake’s hands free. Blake stood up and thanked Tiger who said, “There’s no time. We’ve got to get out of here.”

Tiger pulled out the key ring out from under his robes. “See if one of these fit the door.”

Blake started trying the keys. The third one worked.

“Keep the key ready; we need to move quickly. But first I’m going to tie her up, so she can’t follow us.”

Tiger quickly bound the woman’s hands and feet with the rope he had found in the guard room. Then he picked up the torch, and he and Blake left quickly, with Blake locking the door behind them. As they moved toward the stairs, Tiger paused and reached out from the step to return the torch to its place on the wall. He said, “Light!” and it sprung to life.

“Cool!” Blake said. “How’d you do that?”

“I don’t know. I haven’t had the time to figure it out,” Tiger replied.

It was time to leave. Tiger knew that it wouldn’t take long for the guards to figure out something was wrong. He knew that he had to get creative again.

He looked at Blake. “You’re my prisoner,” he said.

Blake looked a little doubtful.

Tiger explained, “I took this robe from the guard room. I should be just tall enough to pull off being a guard. When I was in there, I saw a door that went out into the hall on the other
side. We’re going to walk right into that room and out the other side.”

They walked back up to the door to the guard room. Tiger whispered to Blake to hold his arms behind his back with his wrists crossed like his hands were tied. “Act as if you are scared,” he said. “It will make it more believable.”

Blake whispered back, “I am scared for real.”

Tiger nodded. “Me, too.” He was relieved to see that the door to the guard room was slightly ajar. He knew if he had to try several keys, they’d be on to him. He pushed open the door
with his left foot, while holding tight to Blake.

One of the two guards looked up at Tiger and asked, “What are you doing?”

Tiger tried to make his voice sound like a grown man, “The other guards spotted the boy down below. She told me to move his friend up to the top floor, because he’s trying to break out. You’re supposed to go down and help.”

Tiger had both guards’ full attention now. He continued to move Blake across the room.

“Why are you alone?” the second guard asked. “We’re supposed to work in teams.”

Four more steps to the second door of the guard room.

“She told me to go and kept my partner to help look. They just saw him; you should hurry.”

The guard closest to them was putting on his cloak while the second guard was walking
toward the cloak-rack, but Tiger had the feeling he wasn’t buying the story.

“You should wait here. You can lock him in here and come with us,” said the first guard.

“I’ve got to go,” Tiger said. As he reached out for the knob of the door, his cloak caught on Blake’s hand. The sleeve pulled back, revealing just enough of his gi for the guards to see.

“HEY!” shouted the second guard.

Tiger jerked the door open, pushed himself and Blake through, and slammed it shut. The
guards grabbed the door handle from the inside, and pulled. Tiger pulled from the outside with all his strength.

“Lock it,” he cried to Blake.

But the guards were much too strong. Tiger quickly let go of the handle and with that, the
door flew open and the guards fell back inside the room. Tiger grabbed the door again, pulled it shut, and at the same time Blake locked it tight.

“Watch out!” Tiger said. He used the butt of the knife to break off the key into the lock.

“Good work, Tiger,” Blake said.

“I couldn’t have done it without you.”

Tiger pulled the cloak off over his head, “This will only hold me back,” he said, as he threw it to the floor.

The two boys turned and moved rapidly up the corridor. As they rounded the corner they
entered a vast chamber and found themselves face to face with Hisser.

“Now you’re mine,” Hisser said as he pulled his cloak off in one motion revealing a black gi with a red dragon across the chest. “I’ve had enough of you two.”

He bowed to Tiger.

Tiger started to bow back but thought better of it. He remembered Sensei telling him to be aware at all times. Sure enough, Hisser tried an attack at that moment.

It was a savage kick to Tiger’s belly, but he shifted left and blocked it with his right arm.

Tiger circled to Hisser’s blind side, intending to create advantage. But Hisser turned and
lashed out with a wicked punch to Tiger’s chest.

Tiger didn’t see the punch in time to totally avoid it. Fortunately, Tiger turned his hips right at that moment and the blow only grazed him. It hurt but not as bad as it could have.

Tiger spun and back kicked Hisser in the chest. Hisser was jolted, but he kept his composure and countered with a quick powerful step-in punch.

Tiger threw his arm up and barely avoided getting hit hard. It was a last-chance reaction
that wasn’t elegant, but it did the job.

At that moment Tiger saw his chance. Hisser had lost his balance and Tiger reacted with
a devastating front thrust kick that caught him in the lower abdomen. Hisser flew back, hitting the stone floor.

Tiger looked around. In the midst of this battle, other guards had charged into the room. They had stayed to the back to give Hisser room to move. Now they were staring at him in
disbelief, shocked to see their leader in a heap on the floor.

Tiger gave Blake a look that said RUN and they both bolted from the hall.

The guards reacted, but too slowly. Before they knew what was happening Tiger and Blake were out the door and racing towards the exit.

The two boys saw daylight emanating from a large door at the far end of the hall. It was unguarded. Tiger assumed the guards who ran into the room with Hisser must have abandoned their post here.

After flying out the door, the boys saw there was only one way to go. Unfortunately, it led to a ledge requiring a long jump, because to get to the other side, they had to cross a chasm that dropped hundreds of feet down. If they didn’t jump far enough forward, they would fall to their death.

Tiger yelled, “We can make it!” He backed up and then ran straight towards the edge. Blake did the same. Both boys leaped high in the air.

As Tiger soared across, he remembered thinking this is a long, long jump! He then opened his eyes and found himself sitting safely on his bed at home.


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: Something Out of Nothing by Marty Callahan

Tiger’s Great Journey Continued…

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

Tiger sat quietly on the bench waiting for training to begin. He was observing the class
that was in session and watching how Sensei worked with the different students. Tiger’s next rank was Assistant School Leader I; a few months ago, he had reached the level of Assistant School Leader II. To proceed, he would need to demonstrate the Black Belt Shoka Leadership Trait of Creativity.

Creativity, Tiger had come to understand, was used when he faced opponents and got to
decide what would be the best way to defend himself when they attacked. Creativity was used in writing stories and in making those stories more interesting. Creativity was also vital to motivating students and keeping them engaged and interested in their training; for example, new drills and games improved students’ skills and got them thinking about how to be a Black Belt Shoka Leader. Leadership, Tiger realized, took creative thinking.

Kai, the Class Leader for this class, called the students to line up. The five teams that
were training assembled on the floor, and the team leaders performed their inspections. When they were ready, Kai knocked on Sensei’s door. It was Kai’s responsibility as the Class Leader to call the students to order, have them assemble in teams, have the team leaders perform inspections, and when all that was done to alert Sensei to the fact that the students were ready. Sometimes Sensei was there watching all of this happen, but on this day he had used the time to finish some paperwork in his office.

A moment later, Sensei came out and walked over to the center of the training floor facing the students. Kai gave the command to turn, face the guests, and bow. This was a practice
that had only been started a few years before but had made a big impact on the school. The
guests were primarily the parents or relatives of the students who were training in the classes, and the bowing was a constant reminder to those students to respect their parents. It also served to have the guests be more respectful while the class was going on. Sensei then turned and sat down in seiza, facing the front of the room. Kai gave the command “seiza,” and all the students sat down, more or less, at the same time.

After the bow-in ceremony, Sensei called the students to their feet. Kai stepped forward and faced Sensei. They bowed, and Sensei walked off the floor. Kai moved to the front of the room to begin the warm-up exercises. The students spread out and arranged themselves by
teams. Tiger was senior to Kai and was practicing in the class, but Kai was the Class Leader for this class, so he was the one leading.

Kai began by giving the command: “over to your right side.” The students moved through the warm-up exercises with intention, and when they were finished, Sensei came back
out. He and Kai bowed to each other, and then Kai stepped back.

Sensei began by asking the students if they had checked the Great Journey to Ryoku Mountain Adventure Map to see where they were and what they needed to do to reach their next level. Most of the students had remembered to do that, but a few hadn’t. Sensei then asked Kai to have the teams look at the Adventure Map, discuss their goals, and start working on the skills they needed.

Tiger was teamed up with Hiro, Charlie, and Mason. The team talked about what they
needed to learn and decided that it would be best for Tiger and Hiro to pair up, and for Charlie and Mason to pair up. The students agreed to work for ten minutes in pairs, then demonstrate to each other what they had worked on, and critique each other’s performances.

Tiger needed to work on creativity, and one of his requirements was to tell a story and lead a discussion about teamwork. Hiro also needed to work on storytelling, but he needed to tell
the story of the Shotokan Karate Leadership Schools to a group of ten students. Tiger had decided that he would tell a story based on his adventure when they were climbing the giant
staircase and had to create a plan and team up to get through the challenge. Hiro and Tiger began by discussing their ideas.

Tiger said, “I’m going to tell a story about a group that has to climb a series of rock faces to achieve their goal. They will need to create a plan to get all of their members to the top. It will require them to work together.”

“And I’m going to review the story of Shotokan Karate Leadership Schools, because I have to tell it in class today,” said Hiro.

The two boys went to work. After a few minutes, Sensei called the class together and asked for the students to sit in a semi-circle. Then he called on Jennifer, an Assistant Class Leader. Jennifer had chosen to work on the class commands requirement. She would have to be
able to give those commands before she could become a Class Leader.

Jennifer gave the commands, and then Sensei asked her if she could tell the students what the difference was between criticism and a critique.

She told them, “Criticism is used to hurt you, while a critique is a way to point out to you
your weaknesses.”

“Correct, Jennifer,” said Sensei, who had asked Jennifer this question, because she was overly sensitive when anyone said anything to her about her weaknesses.

“Now, Jennifer, I would like Kai, our Class Leader, to critique your performance of the class commands. Is that okay?”

Jennifer hesitated for a moment, and then answered, “Osu.”

“Good,” replied Sensei.

Sensei had a soft spot in his heart for kids with physical and interpersonal challenges. Having experienced this with his own family, he knew firsthand how difficult these challenges can be to a child, especially when that child didn’t have the adult support that they needed. From when he first began training others in karate, Sensei saw it as a way to empower kids to overcome the challenges they faced in their life.

Kai stood up and told Jennifer that she got all the commands right but that her voice was
a little weak.

Jennifer looked at Kai and responded again with a low but powerful, “Osu.”

Kai smiled and Sensei replied, “Great, Jennifer, you’re going to be a fine leader

“Thank you, Sensei,” replied Jennifer.

Now it was Hiro’s turn. He stood up and looked at the class. He felt himself starting to become nervous so he stood straight and tall and made sure his weight was evenly balanced on both legs and that his feet were in firm contact with the floor. He looked around the room at the other students and found a friendly face in Tiger. He looked at him, took a breath, and began to speak.

“The Story of Shotokan Karate Leadership Schools begins with a man named Gichin Funakoshi. Funakoshi was born in the mid-nineteenth century in Okinawa. He was a sickly child who was not expected to live long. His family was very poor. His parents started him training in karate at an early age, because they believed that it would strengthen him. When he grew up, he became a school teacher and taught elementary school in the backwoods of Okinawa, a third world country at the time.” Hiro paused briefly when a young child, who was in the dojo with his mother, started to fuss.

“Not only did karate training strengthen him, but it inspired him. He felt empowered by his training and wanted to share this with other people. He had a dream. His dream was to see
karate practiced by people all around the world. So he devoted the rest of his life making this a reality.

“Before Funakoshi, karate was practiced in secret with its principles, techniques, and essence passed down from teacher to student by word of mouth. In the pursuit of his dream,
Funakoshi organized karate’s techniques and training methods into a written system, and
established an organizational structure and instructor training program that spread karate around the world.”

Hiro was feeling good about how he was doing. He had memorized this story and spent a
lot of time rehearsing.

He continued, “Where others taught martial arts with the emphasis on fighting, Funakoshi
emphasized karate’s spiritual essence and the refinement of character. Having been a school
teacher, scholar of Chinese classics, calligrapher, and poet, Funakoshi encouraged study and the practice of the more genteel arts to balance karate. His dream, and the strength and refinement of his character, drew people to him; once drawn, he engaged them in his mission and energized them to take action. Shotokan Karate stands out, because Gichin Funakoshi was a leader of the highest order.

“Early in his training, the founder of Shotokan Karate Leadership Schools, Marty Callahan, recognized karate’s potential to change ordinary people into leaders. He began taking karate, because he wanted to learn how to fight. But, after becoming good at it, he realized that if he used a little bit of common sense, he probably wouldn’t have to fight. And he realized that he was changing as a person. People were looking to him for guidance in ways that had never happened before. From this experience, he concluded that the major contribution the martial arts could make in our day and age was to transform the person who practiced karate into someone greater than who they are, and inspire them to change their world as Gichin Funakoshi had.

“This is how Shotokan Karate Leadership Schools got started.”

When Hiro had finished, the students burst into applause. Sensei congratulated Hiro on doing such a nice job and then shifted the conversation to the topic of kata. He began with a

“When you practice kata, do you see the attackers?” Several students raised their hands, but Sensei signaled for them to wait. “If you answered yes, you are at the beginning of a wonderful experience. If you answered no, then perhaps you should look more deeply into the practice of kata. I would like you each to tell me why kata is so important to our training.”

Hands shot up.

Charlie said, “It’s fun.”

“Good exercise,” Stacy added.

Greg ventured, “I think it’s hard.” The younger kids giggled.

Sensei said, “It can be hard, hard to learn some of the moves, hard work. But why do we
practice kata?”

“Coordination and timing,” Hiro said.

“To learn how to use our techniques in motion,” Tiger responded.

“What about creativity? Our ability to create is our most important asset. We learn how to be creative from practicing kata,” Sensei continued. “What else do we learn from kata?”

Stacy answered, “It exposes our weaknesses and strengths.”

Anna added, “It can be relaxing, or a really tough work out.”

Sensei smiled. “Kata is what you make of it. If you allow yourself, kata can be an adventure, a battle against many opponents, a meditation, or a story. The possibilities are infinitely variable.

“And in the past, there were two branches of karate: shorin and shorei. The shorin branch
was typified by light, quick movements, and the shorei branch was typified by heavy, powerful movements.”

Sensei continued, “Each person has a body type which lends itself to one of the branches. Solid, powerful people are more suited to shorei style, and slender, quick people to the shorin style. Gichin Funakoshi, the founder of Shotokan Karate, had the good fortune to have both a shorin instructor and a shorei instructor. But after practicing with both of them, he came to the belief that both styles should be together as one. He reasoned that a small, light person would benefit from practicing movements designed for someone who was heavy and powerful. And that a heavy, powerful person would benefit from practicing movements designed for someone who was light and quick. And this is what he did in creating the Shotokan style of “karate”.

Sensei looked around at the students. “Alex, you are a brown belt now, and it is time for me to assign you your personal kata. What type of kata do you think would suit you best?”

Alex thought for a moment. “I think I am a combination of the two types, shorin and shorei, but I think I am more shorin.”

Sensei nodded, “Yes, I agree. There are three shorin kata that we will choose from, Bassai Dai, Kanku Dai, or Empi. Have you been shown all of these?”

“Yes, I really liked Empi,” he replied.

Sensei took a moment to consider and then replied, “Well, I believe that Bassai Dai would be a better fit for you. Let’s have you begin with Bassai Dai as your personal kata. In six months we’ll see how you’re doing with it, and if we need to make a change we will, alright?”

Alex said, “Osu.”

Sensei looked at Hiro now. “What type of kata do you think would work for you, Hiro?”

Hiro spoke without hesitation, “I would be shorei, because I am solid and powerful.”

“That’s right. Jion is the shorei kata that will be a good fit for you,” Sensei said. “Now, spread out and start practicing your katas.”

The class went to work.

A few days later, Tiger was standing before a group of students. Since he was working on attaining the Assistant School Leader I rank, he was required to create a lesson plan and then teach it to three different three-person teams. There were nine students in class this day, so Tiger had everyone he needed. They listened attentively as he spoke.

“Today we will be working on two different combinations. The purpose is to understand
how to connect the basic techniques together. One combination will be an attack combination, and the other will be a defense combination. When we finish practicing the combinations separately, we’ll practice applying them one against the other. This is how you will learn how to use the combinations.”

In his study of creativity, Tiger had learned that human beings had the miraculous ability
to create something out of nothing. We could be faced with a problem, and, from nothing, create a solution to that problem. In this case, Tiger was confronted with the problem of how to teach three teams to use a complex sequence of basic techniques. He had taken several techniques and put them together in an attack sequence and then created a corresponding sequence of techniques for a defender to use to stop these attacks. And he had done this out of nothing. He had imagined it all in his mind and put it down in a lesson plan that he was now going to present to this class. He could hardly stop marveling at the miracle of this.

“Charles, Rex, and Cash, you will be the first team performing this exercise. Bella,
Angelina, and Kameron, you will be the second team. And Sammie, Kabir, and Maxwell, you
will be the third team. First, spread out and we’ll practice the combinations.”

Tiger started with the first combination. He explained the movements, demonstrated them, and then counted as the students performed. As he was did this, he walked around correcting mistakes and fixing techniques.

When he had the sense that the students could do the techniques properly, he then explained the rhythm of the combination and reminded them that rhythm will make the
combination flow easily from one technique to the next.

Tiger observed the students working. He saw that some of them were being lazy. After a few moments, Tiger spoke, “I see that some of you are not taking this very seriously. This is not
the way to practice. You must make an effort to give every moment your complete attention.”

Tiger realized that he was beginning to sound a lot like Sensei.

“Look around you. What do you see?” Tiger said rhetorically.

“You are three teams. As a team, the team members have to work together or you won’t be successful. Together your three teams make up a class. For the class to be successful, the teams have to work together. And this class is only one of many classes that make up the school. So, for the school to be successful, the classes must work together. Does this make sense?”

“Osu,” replied the students.

Tiger knew that this would be a good time to review the importance of teamwork, so he directed the teams to briefly discuss what it takes for a team to work together effectively.

The students held their discussions; after a few minutes, Tiger called them back.

“People need to have a common purpose,” said Charles, the spokesperson for the first

“Open communication,” said Angelina for the second team.

“The team members need to have a strong bond,” said Kabir, the Team Leader for the third team.

“Tell us more about that, Kabir,” said Tiger.

“People who understand and respect each other will work together better than people who don’t.”

“That makes sense,” said Tiger. “Thank you for that, Kabir. So, we must first work together as teams, then as a class, and finally as a school. This is how we become leaders, and not just any kind of leaders, but extraordinary leaders. This is what it means to be a Black Belt
Shoka Leader.”

With that, Tiger brought the class back to practicing the combinations. The teams were ready to perform the first combination at full speed. Tiger explained that this meant going all out but still executing the techniques with precision and rhythm.

He counted in a powerful voice. “Ich, ni, san, shi, go, rok, shich, hach, ku, and ju.” And with the final count, the class kiaied with unmistakable power.

Tiger then took the teams through the second combination in the same way. When they were finished, he brought them together facing each other. Because there was a single attack combination and a single defense combination, and the teams consisted of three people, one of the team members observed while the other two practiced. After practicing back and forth for a few minutes, a lively discussion was held about what was being done and how to do it better. When the discussion was complete, one of the team members stepped out and the observer stepped in to practice. In this way the team members kept rotating in and out—first participating and then observing.

Tiger was pleased to see how the students were working together.

“You’re looking good,” Tiger told them.

“Osu!” responded the teams.

When they were ready, Tiger took them through the drill, letting one side attack ten times and then the other and then the observer.

When it was over, Sensei, who had been observing from the side, stepped forward. Tiger turned towards him and stopped.

“Very nicely done, Tiger, thank you,” said Sensei.

With that, they bowed to each other, and Tiger stepped back, feeling good about the lesson he had just presented to the class.

“You’ve heard me say many times: ‘Practice the basics.’ Why?” asked Sensei rhetorically. “Because the basics set a foundation for all that you do. Just like a bicycle must have wheels or a house must be built on solid ground, our techniques must come from a place of strength, beginning with a firm connection to the ground.

“As a white belt, one of the first things we learn is to stand in place with our feet firmly on the ground. Then we learn to stand in a forward stance or a side stance, both of which require us to root ourselves to the floor. These exercises are intended to help us become strong, develop balance, and remind us of our connection to the ground. This is the foundation for our technique.”

“When we start learning the first kata, Heian Shodan, we are practicing basics. For example, the first movement is a down block in forward stance. The seventh movement is a rising block in forward stance. And the eighteenth movement is a sword-hand block in back stance. From a technical perspective, katas are basics combined in a sequence. At first we are unsteady, but as we practice, we get better and can do more complex sequences of movements.”

Sensei knew that he was giving a lot of information, so to help keep the students’
attention, he moved slowly from right to left in front of the teams, making eye contact with each student.

“Using your hips is another important skill that you learn as you practice basics. Vibration is the quick, sharp movement of the hips forward and back. Rotation is the forward and back turning of the hips. And thrusting is using the legs to drive the hips forward, back, or to the
side. When you add to this kime—the full contraction of all the muscles of your body—you will feel a flow of energy from head to toe. This will give you an enormous power that you must learn how to control. While working your way up to the rank of Black Belt Shoka Leader, orFirst-Degree Black Belt, mastering the basics is what you must focus on. First-Degree Black Belt means that you have mastered the basics, and that you are now ready to learn advanced material.

“Be mindful, there is no point when you know it all. Your own personal journey has no end point. There are a thousand lessons in a simple punch, which is perhaps not so simple after all.”

“Now, at this point in your great journey, you need to renew your resolve to become a Black Belt Shoka Leader. Take a moment to review your target date and discuss it with your Assistant School Leader or School Leader. Listen to what your leaders have to say. Their insight will help you on your path.

“And lastly, make a training plan and remember to master the basics.”

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 over 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.