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: A Lack of Control by Marty Callahan

Tiger’s Great Journey Continued…

An Adventure Story for Youth Who Want to Change the World

Many different kids were attracted to karate, including rowdy kids who didn’t pay
attention, who thrashed their arms and legs, and who wouldn’t keep quiet. They posed a major problem for their parents, because they did not obey rules at home and they were constantly getting into trouble at school. Some of these students had even been expelled from their schools. Their concerned parents enrolled them at Shotokan Karate Leadership School, because they needed to learn Self-Control and their parents had heard this school was particularly good at teaching it.

Over the years, Sensei had learned that children who were attracted to Shotokan Karate
Leadership Schools fell into two broad categories: those who needed to develop confidence and those who needed to develop self-control. He had also learned to separate these two groups, putting the kids who needed to learn confidence together in their own class. He had found that the kids lacking confidence would often get pushed aside by the more aggressive kids, so to give them a better chance, he kept them by themselves until their self-confidence grew. He also knew that the aggressive kids needed a strict training regimen, one that would frighten the shy kids and even the parents of the shy kids. To Sensei they were all good kids; they just needed different methods to help them thrive.

Sensei had also learned about a long-term study that found that children who scored low
on measures of self-control (even at the early age of three) were more likely to have health
problems, substance-abuse issues, financial troubles, and a criminal record by the time they
reached age thirty-two. These were alarming statistics, and Sensei wanted to do all he could to help these students prevent a bad future.

To learn self-control, students were required to sit perfectly still in seiza, to stop their
punches within an inch of hitting a hard surface, and to move slowly but smoothly. They were also taught to walk a straight line, introduce themselves to adults, and hold eye contact for two minutes. But perhaps the most important way they learned self-control was by controlling their breath.

Tragic stories were also used to instill this trait. One story was about a young man in his
early twenties who became enraged over not getting his way, so he jumped in his car and drove off at a high speed. He drove straight through a major intersection and killed a four-year-old child who was crossing the street with his family. The child’s mother saw the car coming and screamed at her son to stop, but he didn’t. The car plowed right into him, killed him instantly. It could be argued that there were two people who were out of control in this tragedy: the young man who was driving and the child who didn’t stop when his mother told him to.

This story and others like it had a big impact on these students. They came to understand
that their behavior could cause grave harm to others. They also began to realize that their parents new more than they did, and that they would be smart to listen to them.

Self-control, Sensei explained, meant to be in control of your mind, body, and spirit.
Controlling your mind meant learning to empty it of negative thoughts and emotions and to focus it on the task at hand. Controlling your body meant knowing what your arms, legs, and all other body parts were doing at all times. And controlling your spirit meant not allowing your spirit to drop or get too high.

Sensei frequently said, “Control yourself, or someone else will control you.” He would
demonstrate this by taking control of a student and pinning him to the ground in such a way that the student could not get up, no matter how hard he tried. Then Sensei would ask him if he liked this. The student, of course, would say no. Sensei would reply, “Well, let this be a lesson for you.” The out-of-control kids would eventually get it, but often the message would have to be repeated several times.

Sensei believed that in some ways kids were like horses. There’s a Zen saying that states
that there are four types of horses. The first type of horse, when asked to run, will run. The
second type of horse, when shown the whip, will run. With the third type of horse, you have to crack the whip in the air to get it to run. And with the fourth type of horse, in order for it to run, you have to beat it with the whip.

Children are like this, too. Some kids will do whatever you ask them to do, as soon as
you ask them to do it. Other kids have to be told that there are consequences if they don’t do
what you ask. Some children have to be threatened with the consequences. And with other kids, you have to impose the consequences before they will do what is asked of them.

The self-control training went on day after day. The students wanted boundaries and
limitations. They just didn’t know how to do this for themselves, and their parents didn’t know how to help them with it. Despite the apparent harsh training methods, the results were encouraging. One formerly out-of-control child summed it up when he went over to Sensei, hugged him, and said, “Sensei, I love you, and I want to be just like you when I grow up.”


From the ridge, Tiger and Blake looked down and studied the terrain. They decided to
follow the course that would take them to where the mountainside leveled off into a broad, green meadow crossed by a winding stream. They started down eagerly. After hiking for so long in the mountains, they looked forward to taking a rest in the long grass.

Before long, they discovered a spring that bubbled up from the rocks and drank the cold,
clear water. “Let’s follow the stream,” Tiger said. Blake nodded. As Tiger continued down the flank of the mountain, he took in the beauty of the scene and thought about all he had learned on the journey and how much stronger he’d become. The creek the boys followed grew wider and deeper as smaller streams flowed into it. They watched it become a true river. Then they saw it disappear.

Rounding a bend, Tiger and Blake could see that the river vanished over a falls. They
walked cautiously to the edge and gazed over. Both gasped. The water threw up a great spray as it fell a scary distance into a pool that emptied into the meadow they’d seen from the ridge. Tiger could tell from the dark-blue color of the water that the pool was deep. He looked for a route that he and Blake might use to climb down the falls. But the rock face was slick and covered with moss—it would be a disaster to try to climb down.

“We’ve got to jump,” Tiger told Blake. Instantly, Blake’s head shook as though his hair
was on fire.

“No way!” he shouted. “We’ll hit rock on the way down. We’ll drown!” Blake’s face
turned red with panic as he gulped for air.

Tiger placed a hand on his shoulder. “Blake,” he said calmly, “we’re going to be OK.
We’re going to hold hands and jump out, away from the rock. We’ll stay vertical and hit the
water feet-first. Then we’ll swim up to the surface and ride the flow into the stream and right out into the meadow. But first, we have to control our breathing and our fear. Let’s take a deep breath, in our noses and out our mouths.”

Blake’s first breath was choppy, but his second was deeper and smoother. His third was
even better. Tiger could see that he was calming down.

The deep breathing was helping Tiger, too. He knew he was strong and athletic enough to
make the jump, but the idea of stepping off the edge and freefalling had made him jittery.

He recalled all the times Sensei told him that proper, even breathing was important for
control of his emotions and body. He remembered Sensei relating a story about the time when Miguel, one of the adult Black Belt Shoka Leaders who worked on a construction crew, was in a ten-foot-deep trench fixing a large pipe. One of the massive iron plates that held up the walls fell directly on him, pinning him face first in the dirt. Miguel couldn’t breathe. His body had instinctively tensed as a resistance to force. His fellow workers saw this and thought that the plate must have killed him. Then Miguel remembered what he had heard Sensei say many times in class, “Breath from your center.” He focused his breathing in an area of his body about three inches below his navel and took a breath. Meanwhile, his fellow workers scrabbled to get the iron plate off of him. It took about five minutes for them to do this, which must have felt like an eternity. To this day, Miguel swears that his breathing is what got him through. If it weren’t for his Shotokan Karate training, he would have perished.

As Tiger and Blake stood there on the edge of the waterfall, Tiger made sure he was
breathing in deeply and breathing out smoothly and evenly.

“Ready?” he asked Blake.

No longer panting and red-faced, Blake answered, “Whenever you are.”

“Good,” Tiger said, taking hold of Blake’s hand. “Take one more deep breath, hold it,
and when I give you a nod, jump.”

Both boys inhaled deeply. When their lungs were full, Tiger nodded.

As they jumped, neither boy screamed. Holding hands and holding their arms out to their
sides for balance, they remained in a fully standing position with their toes pointed downward until they sliced into the pool. They let go of each other as they plunged into the cold water; then both kicked their legs and rose quickly to the surface.

“Whoa! That was great!” Tiger shouted, after taking a big breath. “Pretty cool what a
little controlled breathing lets you do.”

Blake gazed up at the towering waterfall and remembered how afraid he’d been. Then he
said simply, “Awesome!”

The boys swam to where the pool emptied into a wide stream. As exciting as the jump
was, both looked forward to spending some time stretched out on the warm grass of the meadow.

After they had rested and dried off, Tiger pulled out the map. It didn’t surprise him to see
another image on it. This time it was a fist enclosed in another hand and the words SELFCONTROL.


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

TGJ: Courtesy on the Bridge by Marty Callahan

Tiger’s Great Journey Continued…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Many thanks to you,” Tiger said.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“This map is so cool!”

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


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