To “Infinite” and Beyond

Sensei Marty Callahan discusses the benefit of taking the long view.

 

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.

“Nolan.”

“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.

“Good.”

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
Endeavor?”

“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
goal.”

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
anything.”

*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: The Desert of Integrity by Marty Callahan

Tiger’s Great Journey Continued…

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

As Tiger and Blake continued their journey, the landscape became barren. Tiger tried to
remember the last time he’d seen a tree or flowing water. His journey with Blake had taken them into a vast stretch of desert with red rock canyons and a sea of sand. The walking was difficult, but each day Tiger felt himself grow stronger and more aware of the beauty of life. He’d thought of a desert as a dead and desolate place, yet as they walked and talked he was fascinated by the colors and textures of the rock, the deep blues in the sky, and the variety of hardy plants and animals that lived in this harsh environment

One morning, Tiger awoke early and decided that, while Blake slept, he would walk the
hundred or so yards to the small ravine where yesterday they had found a pool of fresh water fed by a spring. The sand crunched beneath his feet as he walked. He wondered what the new day would bring. He reached the clear pool of water and kneeled to take a drink. Then he splashed water into a bowl-shaped depression in the rock and used it to wash his face. He stretched out on a great, flat rock and enjoyed the feeling of the rising sun drying and warming his skin and the stone.

A sound startled him—the clatter of approaching hooves. He jumped to his feet and
focused his eyes on a cluster of six or seven horses, each mounted by a boy not much older than him.

“Well, hello!” the rider in the lead shouted as he dismounted. “What brings you to this
one friendly place in an uninviting desert?” He let his horse drink eagerly from the pool.

Tiger sensed that something wasn’t quite right with these boys. They were too well
dressed and riding horses that they didn’t seem to know. “I am on a journey with my friend,” he said. “We camped near here last night.” Tiger wanted to give them as little information as possible.

“What is your name?” asked a boy who wore fine, tall boots and thick gold necklace.

“My name’s Tiger, and yours?”

The boy who was apparently the leader answered, “I’m Raven. We’re going to have some
breakfast; would you like some?” The boys removed from their saddlebags fresh bread and fruit and some fancy cheeses.

Tiger thanked them for their hospitality, but declined their offer of food.

They’d eaten and chatted only a few moments when Raven said to Tiger, “You should
join us. We will get you a fine horse.”

The invitation surprised Tiger. Join these boys? He didn’t even know them. He said to
Raven, “You’re saying you would buy me a horse?”

The boys exploded into laughter. Tiger couldn’t imagine why they found the question so
funny.

Raven caught his breath and said, “We don’t buy horses, my friend. We steal them. A few
days ago we passed by a ranch with a couple of beauties. We’ll give you a ride there, and you can take your pick.”

Tiger looked at them serenely. Now he understood what wasn’t right about these boys.

“Truly, you steal horses?” he asked.

“We take whatever we need from a town or ranch, and then we ride on,” said Raven.
“Sometimes we split up into pairs and ride up to a home and tell the people we’re orphans or runaways and we’re hungry. The people always invite us in, feed us, and give us a place to sleep. We get up in the middle of the night, take whatever money and valuables we can find, and ride off.”

A second boy pulled something out of a pants pocket. He said, “Look at this gold watch I
stole from a trusting old fellow just the other night!”

Tiger shook his head. “You lie to people and steal from them?” he said. “How does that
make you feel about yourselves?”

Raven shrugged and said, “Hey, it doesn’t bother me a bit. We only take from rich people. My belly’s full, and there’s money in my pocket. And there are a lot of people who do
what we do, and worse!”

Tiger rose to his feet. “Well, that’s not for me,” he said, and turned to walk back to his
campsite.

He found Blake awake and ready to resume their journey. “I was beginning to worry
about you, Tiger.” Blake said. “Where did you go?”

“I went for water, and I ran into some thieves. I learned something important from them.”

“What was that?”

“I learned the meaning of integrity. I learned that I could ride if I would do what I know
is wrong, but I would rather walk and stay true to myself.”

Changing the subject, Tiger suggested that they look at the map. As he carefully opened
it, an image of two hands shaking with the word INTEGRITY began to appear.

“Wow! There’s another image, Blake.”

Blake looked and said, “Tiger, this map is going to show you the way to the temple and
record the leadership traits you gain along the way.”

“I believe you’re right, Blake. It’s very special. Well, let’s get out of here, because those
boys may decide that letting me walk away was not a good idea.”

And with that, Tiger and Blake packed their belongings and moved out, leaving no trace
that they had spent the night.

 

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.