The ultimate aim of the art of karate lies not in victory or defeat but in the perfection of the character of the individual.

Shotokan Karate motto

Learn how Shotokan Karate is changing lives, building character, and creating leaders

The modern world in which we live is complicated and difficult to navigate, especially for our children. Young people today are besieged by messages of violence, greed, and consumerism at every turn. They are encouraged to conform and follow the false promise of pop culture rather than think critically and become leaders.

For parents, the influence of pop culture can be difficult to overcome. How do we teach our children respect for themselves and others? How do we instill self-confidence and self- determination? How do we give them the tools to become leaders?

For three decades Sonoma County Karate Master Marty Callahan, founder of The Shotokan Karate Leadership School, has been doing just that. With a firm but gentle hand, Marty has guided thousands of young people toward achieving excellence in their lives through Shotokan Karate.

As a young man, Marty attended seminary with the goal of becoming a priest. Later he changed paths and attended University of California Riverside, earning a B.A. in psychology.

“I feel what I do is similar to what a priest would do,” says Marty, with a smile. “I act as counselor, psychologist, trainer, and mentor to my students.”

Marty first began studying karate while in college. Having grown up in an abusive home, he was an angry young man interested in learning to fight. The longer he trained, however, the more his focus shifted from fighting to character building and leadership skills.

“Character development became the central focus of my training,” says Marty. “My teachers emphasized fighting, but I was more interested in becoming a better person. I realized that my anger was doing me more harm than good. Karate gave me the confidence to let go of it. I used to be a human ‘doing.’ I became a human ‘being.’ I was, and am, being transformed.”

Marty earned his black belt in Shotokan Karate in 1972 and moved to Santa Rosa, California, in 1981 and opened the Shotokan Karate Leadership School, then called the Academy of Shotokan Karate.

By Jim Brumm

Marty Callahan, Sensei and owner of Shotokan Leadership Institute presents a certificate of advancement to a student

“When I opened my school, I wanted to share what I had gotten from karate with other people, kids and adults,” says Marty.

The Shotokan Karate Leadership School’s name says it all: it’s not about becoming a fighter; it’s about becoming a leader.


Shotokan Karate Leadership SchoolChildren don’t just put on a karate uniform and learn to fight, they learn respect for themselves and others, and are shown the path to realizing the potential hero that resides in us all.

Together with like-minded board members (Shotokan Karate Leadership School is a non-profit organization under the auspices of Shotokan Leadership Institute), Marty has developed a unique and inspiring way to help kids find the potential hero that resides in them all. Knowing that children love stories, they wrote and published a short book that tells the epic story of a young boy named Tiger who suffers from a lack of self- confidence. He has seen other kids being bullied and tormented and it has left him feeling scared, angry and helpless and he wants to do something about it. Through Shotokan karate, Tiger embarks on a great journey encompassing 12 principles of leadership. Along the way he is forced to test himself, overcoming hurdles and

obstacles, each imparting more knowledge and wisdom, and each bringing him closer to becoming a hero.

At Shotokan Karate Leadership School, each student is given a copy of this book, and each undertakes his or her own personal journey to becoming a hero. A huge map depicting Tiger’s mythical world hangs on the wall of the school, allowing each student to track their progress as they follow Tiger’s path toward becoming a hero themselves.

“By taking martial arts training and turning it into a story,” says Marty, “each child can become personally invested in the quest. It captures their imaginations. Kids thrive on stories, games and play; this is a story of leadership and how to gain the qualities of a hero. The kids love becoming part of it. They love the idea of becoming heroes and gaining the respect of their friends and family, and most importantly, themselves.” He pauses, and adds, “Kids want to be heroes; we give them the opportunity to be the hero they were meant to be.”

The results speak for themselves. Over three decades Marty has personally guided over 8,000 students to self- confidence and leadership. According to Marty many have gone on to become doctors, lawyers, teachers, contractors, engineers—community leaders.

“Through our program they freed themselves from the self-imposed bonds that might have kept them from success,” says Marty. “We had a student once who was completely out of control, bouncing off the wall. His parents said he had ADHD and could not control his behavior. He wanted to be a hero, and after eighteen months of resisting the program he made the decision to change his behavior. He became a model student, helping others and demonstrating respect and leadership. We take kids who are so shy they won’t look you in the eye, and kids who are

highly aggressive, and we transform them.”

Shotokan Leadership School 2The Shotokan Karate Leadership School currently has five instructors and around 80 students, including children and adults. The program typically takes three to five years to complete, after which students have a new understanding of power and what it means to be a leader in their community, in addition to the confidence that comes from knowing they can defend themselves in a time of crisis. Ironically though, the karate skills learned at the school are intended to prevent fights. A sign outside reads: It’s not about fighting; it’s about not fighting.

Marty grins when he talks about watching his students’ attitudes transform as they move through their program. “I love seeing them go from being kids who are distracted and out of control to young people who are confident, respectful, clear thinking, focused, and compassionate,” he says. “It doesn’t get any better than that.”

Shotokan Karate Leadership School is located at
3082 Marlow Rd B1 Santa Rosa, CA 95403 (707) 575-1681


Child safety at SKLS

Child Safety is More Than Just a “Stranger Danger” Campaign

By Shotokan Karate Leadership School in Santa Rosa, CA

Child safety isn’t just about “stranger danger.” Child safety is a topic that no parent, guardian, or child should be without knowledge of. Parents and guardians should make child safety part of a child’s day-to-day life by practicing some important skills to keep children safe. One way to promote safety in kids is through martial arts training. Martial arts teaches discipline, focus, and techniques that can be used to defend oneself against an attacker. The skills learned in martial arts can provide a child with the ability to protect themselves and give them a sense of security when faced with a potentially dangerous situation.

Parent and Child safety at SKLSToday children need to be empowered with positive messages and age-appropriate skills that will build their self-confidence and self-esteem while helping to keep them safer. They need to learn how to recognize and avoid potentially dangerous situations. And, if ending up in a dangerous or scary situation, children need to do everything they can to get out of that situation. They don’t need to be told the world is a scary place. They watch the news, hear adults talking, and may even experience violence firsthand. Rather, they need to know their parent, guardian, or another trusted adult is there for them if they are in trouble. And they also need to know most adults they encounter in their lives are good people. In specific situations such as being lost outside, the child safety messages need to be tailored to those circumstances. Children should… 

  • Not wander away from where they first became lost because staying put may increase the chances of being found. If that place becomes too dangerous, children should go to the nearest safe spot and wait for rescuers. 
  • Make noise either by yelling, blowing a whistle, or attracting attention in some other way. This will help in bringing someone to their rescue. A simple child safety technique is yelling, “You’re Not My Mommy” or “You’re Not My Daddy” and running away. Many Martial Arts schools teach simple break away techniques to help ensure children are able to get away if and when needed. Some have engaging video and software-based curriculums as well. 

Parents and guardians should make child safety part of a child’s everyday life in a reassuring way by practicing some of these skills. Whether it’s Parents should make child safety a everyday thing at SKLSchecking first with a trusted adult, taking a friend, or avoiding and getting out of dangerous situations, there are easy “what-if” scenarios to practice with your children to make sure they “get it.” Make outings to a mall or park a “teachable moment” to help reinforce these skills. This practice will help them know what to do if they become lost or are in danger. Practice these skills on a regular basis to make sure they become second nature. 

One way martial arts can help promote child safety is by teaching kids how to defend themselves in dangerous situations. Many martial arts programs incorporate self-defense training as part of their curriculum. This can help kids feel more confident in themselves and better equipped to deal with dangerous situations, whether they are on their own or with a group of friends.

Please visit for information about our martial arts school in Santa Rosa, CA!

Self-Esteem for Kids and Adults at Shotokan Karate Leadership School

Martial arts provide a strong foundation and an individual can continue to build on it as they grow older. It is not only great for the physical aspect but it teaches you how to be humble and disciplined. You learn how to respect other people and their opinions no matter what they are. It helps you become more confident in who you are.

Self-esteem is a psychological term used to indicate a person’s total emotional assessment of his or her own value. It is important for adults as well as children to have a high self esteem. Even though children are not usually aware of what self esteem is, they feel its presence or absence in many situations. Your kids are the ones who suffer the most as they don’t know how to deal with lack of self-esteem. Most of the time the kids go into a shell and they find it hard to come out of their comfort zone. In many cases kids need help from someone who is very close to them. Sometimes joining a self-help group helps as it builds confidence and helps kids in overcoming their shyness.

effective way of getting back your self-esteem  However, the most effective way of getting back your self-esteem is to enroll yourself in self-defense classes like some kind of martial arts training program such as karate or judo. It has been found to be very useful for both adults and kids. After attending these self-defense classes, most of the kids have found a way to overcome their lack of self-esteem and they’ve started feeling a lot better about their overall self-worth.

Martial arts is a great way to boost self-esteem in a number of ways. It can give you a physical outlet for aggression and stress, make you stronger and more fit, help you learn how to defend yourself, and give you a sense of accomplishment from mastering new skills. When you feel good about your abilities, it can translate  into a greater sense of self-esteem and confidence in other areas of your life, too.

people of all ages and gender At  Shotokan Karate Leadership School you can see people of all ages and gender fighting it out among themselves and getting this feeling of self-belief. It is not only beneficial for them in the short-run, but in the future also they may face a lot of difficult conditions and this training would definitely help them cope with any such uncomfortable situation.

For adults, especially for women, it would be helpful in dealing with people who may be stalking them and have the wrong intentions and ensure that they avoid a state where they lose all their self-esteem. 

Please visit for information about our martial arts school in Santa Rosa, CA!