TGJ: The Bridge of Responsibility by Marty Callahan

Tiger’s Great Journey Continued…

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

The reason became clear as to why Tiger and Blake had to stay on the path they were on.
There was an enormous river in front of them, blocking their path and extending as far as the eye could see in both directions. The water was running fast and deep. The boys knew that if they tried to swim across it, they would surely drown. But here was a bridge that spanned the water. They had done the right thing by staying on the path. This appeared to be the only way to leave the Plains of Endeavor and reach the Chasm of Cooperation, the next leg in their journey.

Tiger and Blake started crossing the bridge. When they were halfway across, they suddenly stopped. A section of the bridge was missing. One of the supporting beams had broken off, and the planks were missing. The remaining beam extended to the other side. Tiger and Blake looked down at the rushing water below and then looked at each other. They wonder whether they would be able to cross the remaining beam. But it was the only way to the other side.

Tiger thought back to the day when he first asked his parents if he could take karate. They wanted him to be more responsible. They said they needed him to do his chores and his homework, practice, and go to class without complaining. And Sensei had said that responsibility was “the ability to respond” or to act in the way the situation required. Tiger had promised his parents that he would be responsible. So he asked himself now how best to respond. What skills did this situation require?

He knew the answer to his own question: balance.

Tiger remembered Sensei telling the class that karate required great balance and control. He had said that balance was a key ingredient for any endeavor to succeed, and that great balance was the balance of mind, body, and spirit.

Sensei said, “To balance your mind requires you to empty it of all negative thoughts and emotions and see clearly what you want to do and how you are going to do it.”

“To balance your body requires you to take all the necessary steps that are needed to prepare your body for the endeavor.”

“And to balance your spirit,” Sensei had said, “it is necessary to get your emotions in balance and to reaffirm your commitment to carry out your plan.”

While looking down at the rushing water far below, Tiger again heard in his head the voice of the Old Man who had given him the Book of the Empty Mind. He still didn’t know who this old man was, but he knew that what he said was important. “Empty your mind of all
negative thoughts and emotions,” the voice said to him now. “See only what you want to have happen. Prepare yourself and bolster your spirit.”

Tiger turned and said to Blake, “I know what we have to do. In our minds, we must block out the river and what could happen if we fell in. The log is what’s important, not what could happen. We have walked on many logs that were on the ground and never fallen off. This log is just another log on the ground to walk across. Blake, do you know the story of the Boastful Champion?”

Blake said he hadn’t.

Tiger said, “There was a young, boastful archer who could not calm his mind. He challenged an old master to an archery contest and made two incredible shots. The old master then brought him up to a mountaintop, walked out onto a shaky log over a deep canyon, and made a clean shot by hitting a tree on the other side of the ravine. The young man, who thought he was the better archer, couldn’t calm himself enough to do the same. We have to calm our minds and be at peace inside. Then we will have the balance we need to cross.”

“Ok,” Blake agreed. “What’s your plan, Tiger?”

Tiger then described how he would go first, because he had better balance. But just in case, the rope would be tied to Tiger’s waist and anchored to the bridge. If he fell, the two of them could work together to get Tiger back up. Blake was strong and could hoist Tiger up, and Tiger could climb the rope and pull himself back up. He’d done it many times in the past when climbing into his cousin’s tree house. Then when Tiger got across the bridge, he would anchor the rope and Blake would cross.

Tiger proceeded carefully, placing one foot in front of the other. He heard the rushing water below but was not distracted by it. As he reached the middle of the log, a gust of wind picked up. He clenched the log with his feet and bent his knees and just barely avoided being tossed into the rushing water far below. He continued on, and when he was a few feet from the other side, he saw that the log was wet and mossy. Just as he noticed this, his foot slipped, and he fell down into the river below.

Now came the moment of truth: Would the rope hold? It did! Tiger’s fall was stopped.
He swung from the end of the rope about fifteen feet under the bridge. Both boys went into
action. Blake lay on his stomach and began to pull Tiger up. Meanwhile, Tiger climbed up the rope using his hands and feet. It was not easy, but together they made progress. Tiger got close enough to grab the bridge post and, with Blake’s help, pulled himself back onto the bridge.

They both rested for another try. When it was time to start again, Tiger decided that the safer way was to shimmy across the log rather than walk.

Tiger lowered himself down onto the beam and slowly inched his way along. In a few minutes he got across the broken part of the bridge and stood up. He then found a good place to anchor the rope and tied it off. Now it was Blake’s turn. He looked scared. Tiger knew that he was responsible for his friend. He brought him along on this journey and didn’t want anything bad to happen to him.

“I’ll catch you, Blake, if you fall—just like you caught me.”

Blake took his first step onto the log and started to lose his balance. He caught himself and stepped back onto the safe part of the bridge. He looked at Tiger.

“Blake, why don’t you shimmy across like I just did?” Tiger suggested.

Blake didn’t want to do this, because he thought it was the coward’s way out. Tiger knew his friend well and figured that this was what he was thinking.

“Blake, be humble. Admit that you have weaknesses. I’m not going to think any less of you.”

Blake looked over at Tiger. He realized that his friend was right, that he could trust him with his weaknesses. He also knew that this was an important part of teamwork—to be honest with each other about what you can and cannot do. Only then could the team function well. Without saying a word, Blake sat down on the log and easily shimmied his way across.

When he got to the other side, he pulled himself off the log, smiled, and said, “That was easy.”

They high-fived each other and whooped with joy.

They continued across the remaining portion of the bridge. It was a lot longer than it appeared, but they finally approached the far bank of the river where the bridge came to an end.

Looking ahead they saw that the trail entered a large, deep, U-shaped valley that traveled up and away from the river.

Tiger felt good. He had a better understanding of what it meant to be responsible. He knew that Blake had depended on him to get across the bridge, and he had depended on Blake.

He took out the map and saw the word RESPONSIBILITY with the image of a belt tied in a square knot. He had expected to see something. He just didn’t know what. Taking care of your uniform and making sure that your belt was tied correctly was one of the first
responsibilities of a Black Belt Shoka Leader.

It started to get dark. The two boys were exhausted, but they found a good spot to camp, set up their tent, and crawled inside. They ate a little of what was left of their food and fell asleep happy that they were another day closer to their goal.


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: Never Give Up by Marty Callahan

Tiger’s Great Journey Continued…

An Adventure Story for Youth Who Want to Change the World

The next day before class started, Tiger opened up his Shoka Leader Handbook to review
the requirements for Class Leader. He did not have to do this, but he enjoyed focusing on his future challenges and goals. Some of what he read was already familiar to him.

Tiger knew that he was responsible for wearing his Black Belt Shoka Leader Uniform
clean and properly tied. He already did so, but he also knew that sometimes his uniform got dirty without him even realizing it, so he’d have to inspect it carefully. What he didn’t know until recently was that he needed to wear the complete uniform in public. He had developed the habit of taking his belt off and throwing it over his shoulder and walking around like that. This was too casual, he was told by one of the Assistant School Leaders. If he needed to react quickly, his belt and the flaps of his uniform could get in his way. He would have to fix this.

Tiger also now understood that rules were created to keep people safe. He’d heard how a
few years ago a grandmother had tripped over someone’s shoes that were left in the walkway and had nearly gotten hurt. After that, the rule was established that all students had to line their shoes up against the wall when they came in.

Tiger was starting to understand that he had both a quiet voice and a powerful voice, and
that in giving the class commands he would need to use his powerful voice. Sensei also talked about the difference between a loud voice and a powerful voice. He’d said that a loud voice was annoying; then he demonstrated a loud voice and, boy, was he right. Everyone in the school either groaned or cringed when he did it.

Tiger had also learned the lesson of good manners, and he wished that the kids in his
school would learn some, too. It seemed that every day kids were acting rude and out of control. He wondered why the principal and teachers allowed this. But he’d also heard that there were rules that the teachers had to follow. He didn’t understand this.

Tiger read that he would have to explain to his parents the meaning of confidence and do
three things he couldn’t do before. He now knew that confidence was a belief that people had in themselves, which allowed them to succeed without fear. He’d seen lots of kids at school who didn’t have the confidence to raise their hands and speak up, and he wondered just what it was that they were afraid of. He wanted to understand and help them.

Tiger also wanted to find out more about the Shoka Leadership Structure. He was going
to ask his Assistant School Leader to explain more of this to him. He was on the path to become a Black Belt Shoka Leader and he wanted to learn more about how it worked. He’d read that it was time for him to set a target date for becoming a Black Belt Shoka Leader. This would be exciting, because it would give him a concrete goal to work towards.

Tiger had been a Team Leader for about two months and had been learning Heian
Sandan, but it hadn’t been going so well. One day he was having a lot of difficulty with it and
was incredibly frustrated by his inability to improve. He felt like a failure. Sensei saw Tiger
looking dejected and walked over to him and asked him what was wrong.

“I just can’t do my kata! I practice it over and over, but I still can’t do it right! I’ll never
be any good!” said Tiger.

This wasn’t like Tiger to give up so easily. Sensei said gently, “The journey to become a
Black Belt Shoka Leader is not easy, Tiger. It is long and hard. That is why Shotokan Karate
Leadership Schools only select students who have what it takes: intelligence, imagination, and spirit. And you have what it takes, Tiger, or we would not have accepted you as a student.”

Sensei called out to the class. “Come here and sit down. There is something important
that we need to talk about. Tiger is feeling frustrated with his kata. He’s starting to think that he’s never going to get it right. We need to talk about this because it’s common for a student to feel this way.

“Try this, everyone. Sit in seiza and clear your mind.”

The students gathered and sat down in seiza. Some of them were already quite capable of
quickly emptying the mind, but others needed more time. Eventually they all quieted down.

“Now ask yourself ‘What is . . .’ and complete the question with whatever you want to
know or whatever is frustrating you. In Tiger’s case he would ask himself, ‘What is Heian
Sandan?’ Then wait for an answer. The universe will send it to you. It might come instantly or it might come over time. You might have to repeat the question many times, but eventually the answer will come.”

“Wendy, what question would you like to ask the universe?”

“I would like to know what one-step sparring is all about,” Wendy replied.

“Great, then your question is ‘what is one-step sparring?’” Sensei told her.

“Who else has a question?”

Nolan raised his hand.


“I want to know what a side thrust kick is. I have to do that kick for my Assistant Class
Leader rank,” said Nolan.

“Then that’s your question.”

“Does everyone get the idea?”

“Osu!” responded the students in unison.


The students spent a few minutes doing this and then continued practicing.

About ten days later, Sensei saw Tiger working on Heian Sandan and knew that his
question had been answered, because the way Tiger was doing his kata was impressive. He saw Wendy doing one-step sparring and Nolan doing yoko kekomi geri—side-thrust kick—and he knew that they, too, had had their questions answered.

Upon seeing this, Sensei gathered the class and said “A wise man once stated: ‘Obstacles
are things a person sees, when he takes his eyes off his goal.”

Upon hearing this familiar thought, Tiger perked up. Wow, he thought, that is amazing.

Sensei went on, “I hope that the problems you faced recently have taught you that Black
Belt Shoka Leaders know they will encounter difficulties along the way, but they keep their
attention on their goals. They don’t let the difficulties they encounter deter them from finishing what they start. Another wise person said that the surest way not to fail is to be determined to succeed.”

Nolan raised his hand. After Sensei called on him Nolan asked, “Is this what it means to

“Yes, Nolan, endeavor means to ‘never give up.’”

Sensei looked around and saw that Tiger had something on his mind.

“What is it, Tiger?”

“I think endeavor means to keep trying, because each time you perform the kata, you
learn something new, even though you may not think so. We can learn from the mistakes we
make. Each time we do it, we get better and better! Each time we do it, we get closer to our

Sensei looked over at Tiger and smiled. “That’s right, Tiger.”

On his way out of the dojo, Tiger was given a list of quotes about the importance of
endeavor. He saw that all kinds of people over the years have talked about the need to endeavor. It seemed to Tiger that all of the quotes were saying in different ways that to endeavor is to have the determination to complete a task in the face of overwhelming adversity. It is the willingness to continue on despite enormous obstacles.

*Albert Einstein, the famous scientist, was one of the people who were quoted on the list.
He said: “Learn by making mistakes over and over until you get it right. Anyone who has
never made a mistake has never tried anything new.”

* Likewise the Buddha said: “There are only two mistakes one can make along the road to
truth: not going all the way, and not starting.”

*Tiger also learned that Theodore Roosevelt, the twenty-sixth President of the United
States, had said: “The only man who never makes a mistake is the man who never does

*Charles R. Swindoll, the author, educator and preacher, said: “We are all faced with a
series of great opportunities brilliantly disguised as impossible situations.”

*The famous swordsman, Tsukahara Bokuden, who lived from 1490 to 1571, said: “Fall
seven times, get up eight times.”

*Winston Churchill (1874 to 1965), a British Prime Minister known for leadership during
World War II, said: “Never give in—never, never, never, never, in nothing great or small,
large or petty, never give in except to convictions of honor and good sense.”

When he arrived home that evening, Tiger did his homework, took out the trash, and helped
his mom get the table ready for dinner. Afterwards he did the dishes and got ready for bed. He was still excited about the day’s training when he pulled out the Book of the Empty Mind and started to imagine . . .

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: The Super Human in All of Us by Marty Callahan

Tiger’s Great Journey Continued…

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

One cold and rainy day, Tiger’s mom was driving him to the dojo, when traffic came to a
standstill. There was an accident up ahead. After a while, traffic started moving again and Tiger and his mom passed the scene. Two cars were off to the side of the road and the drivers were talking to each other. No one was hurt but one of the drivers seemed to be upset. The other driver was on her cell phone. Tiger and his mom passed by and then speed up. When they arrived at the dojo the class had already started.

Tiger knew that because he was late, he would have to follow a specific set of procedures. He’d been told that this was to prevent unneeded disruptions to the class. Concentration was important in karate, and if students were allowed to walk in and out of class whenever they wanted to, it would be difficult for the other students to stay focused.

He checked in, put his shoes and jackets in their places, found a spot off to the side, sat
down in seiza, and began to meditate. The warm-ups were still going on, so he bowed and took his place on the floor.

When Sensei came out, he told the class that the leadership topic for this week was Integrity and asked if anyone knew what integrity meant. Several students raised their hands. Sensei called on Harerta, who told the class that integrity meant honesty.

Sensei told her she was right and added that integrity also meant wholeness of self. He
explained that in mathematics there is the term integer, which means a whole number. Integrity and integer have the same root, which means untouched or undivided and, hence, whole. So integrity was the wholeness of self—mind, body, and spirit as one.

Sensei explained that we develop integrity when we defend ourselves, because to succeed
we must make a super-human effort. An ordinary effort will not be enough. We have to go above and beyond. And when we do, we are using our mind, body, and spirit as one. We are whole and complete.

Being honest can also require a super-human effort, Sensei went on to explain. In many
cases it might be a lot easier to lie, but don’t do that. Lying will only come back to hurt you. As hard as it might be to tell the truth, it is much easier to do so up front than to pay the price for lying later.

“There is a super human in all of us,” Sensei said in summary. “You will find this quality when you exercise your integrity and integrate your mind, body, and spirit.”


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.