The Bridge of Responsibility by Marty Callahan

Tiger’s Great Journey Continued…

An Adventure Story for Youth Who Want to Change the World

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

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.

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: Able to Respond by Marty Callahan

Tiger’s Great Journey Continued…

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

“Students,” Sensei said, “the Black Belt Shoka Leadership Trait we will be developing this week is Responsibility. Here at Shotokan Karate Leadership Schools we look at the root of the word responsibility and we see ‘able to respond’. With that thought, Team Leaders, please take a couple of minutes and discuss with your teammates the meaning of responsibility. Then prepare to share with the rest of us what you talked about.”

The students engaged in a lively discussion for several minutes. It went on a little longer than Sensei thought it would, but he could see that the teams were really getting into it, so he let it go. After some time had passed, Sensei called the class to order.

“Jerry, please tell us what your team was talking about,” asked Sensei. Jerry was the Team Leader of the Velociraptors, a three-person team that included Fabian and Kenji.

“Remember, Jerry, that when you speak you are addressing the whole class and not just talking to me.”

Jerry stood up and took two steps towards the front of the room so that he could be seen and heard better by all the students. Jerry had studied responsibility before and he knew that he was being responsible right now by putting himself in a position where he could be easily seen and heard. Sensei noticed this, too, and smiled inside, because when Jerry first came to Shotokan Karate Leadership Schools he challenged everybody and was headed for trouble. Now here he was not only acting responsibly but about to lecture the class on responsibility. It was a transformation.

“We said that being responsible means being trustworthy and dependable,” began Jerry.
“It means that people can count on you to do what you say you’ll do when you say you will do it. It means that you are able to respond in the way you say you will.”

“Thank you Jerry. That was perfect,” replied Sensei, as Jerry proudly turned and moved
over to sit down with his team.

“Tiger, tell us what your team talked about.”

Tiger stood up and moved to where the other students could see and hear him and began.
“Taking responsibility for something means that you will make sure something will happen or won’t happen. The reason we take responsibility so seriously here at Shotokan Karate Leadership Schools is because in self-defense, if you are not able to respond to an attack you may be seriously hurt or end up dead.”

“Excellent, Tiger,” said Sensei as he sat down.

“And it’s not enough,” Sensei continued, “to just know what responsibility means; we have to be responsible every day. Can someone give me an example of being responsible at

Hands shot up. Sensei called on Sara, who stood up and made sure she could be seen and
heard. “My mom wants me to look after my little sister when she has to run errands or do stuff. I like to do it, and my mom always thanks me and says I’ve been responsible when she comes home. And my little sister can be a real pain.” All the students laughed.

“One more example, and then we’ll start training,” said Sensei.

Hands shot up again and this time Sensei called on Erik.

“Feeding my dog—my dad says I’m being responsible when I feed my dog,” Erik answered.

“Erik,” Sensei said, “Feeding your dog is another way to be responsible.” Then Sensei called on Harerta, the Class Leader, to have the teams spread out and get ready to practice. Harerta, in turn, told the Team Leaders to have their teams line up. She then walked back to
where the shoes were lined up on the floor and picked up a pair of shoes that had been thrown down instead of put in their place. She called to the class, “Whose shoes are these? They need to be arranged properly.” John, one of the new students, hurried over and, looking a little embarrassed, took his shoes from her and put them down neatly with the others. “Thank you,” Harerta said simply, not wanting to call any more attention to him.

Harerta then told the Team Leaders to perform an inspection. Each Team Leader
examined their members’ uniforms. A few students did not have their belts tied correctly. Others did not have the sleeves and cuffs rolled up properly. And one new student, Jim, even had his pants on backwards. When the class heard this, they all laughed and laughed. Harerta asked them to quiet down, then said to Jim, “You’re not the first student to put his pants on backwards, so don’t let it bother you.” And with that she sent him to the changing room.

After dinner and homework one evening, Tiger got out his Shoka Leader Handbook and
began looking at the requirements for Senior Class Leader. He had just earned his Class Leader rank and wanted to see what would be required of him to advance to the next level. He knew that he would be learning new skills and a new kata, and he was ready to go to work. Tiger felt that he was beginning to understand the responsibility that came with the knowledge and skills he was learning. He looked at the list of requirements and saw that some of them were repeats of previous requirements. He knew this was because these were important and needed to be stressed over and over. The ones that were new to him he read more carefully.

One of the new requirements was to pick a school rule and explain it to his Assistant
School Leader how it might be interpreted differently by different people. An Assistant School Leader had previously explained to the class that recognizing that people see things differently was an important part of being fair and would help others settle their differences.

The next new requirement was to tell a story about how he used good manners to make
others feel better. He knew good manners could make others feel better, because the other day at his school when he saw Sally struggling to get out a door with a heavy box, he opened it for her. She smiled at him and thanked him. He felt great about this and so did Sally. He also knew that bad manners make others feel bad towards you, because another time at school, Joey cut right in front of him at the drinking fountain and knocked him down. This made Tiger angry, and he wanted to shove Joey back.

Another new requirement was for Tiger to show his Assistant School Leader that he was
willing to help all the students in his class. He knew that this was part of being a responsible
Shoka Leader. There were some kids who were not well behaved and whom he’d rather ignore, but he had to figure out a way to support them, too.

Next on the list of requirements was the Black Belt Shoka Leadership Trait of
Cooperation. He’d have to convince the students in his class to work together. Some kids already could do this, but there were a few who were still figuring it out.

He would also have to show his parents that he was becoming more of a leader by taking
the lead in accomplishing a home project. He remembered his dad moaning about all the
weeding that had to be done in the garden, so he thought weeding might be a good project to take the lead on.

One of the requirements was going to be very difficult. He knew what it meant to endeavor, but to endeavor in the face of six opponents attacking you at once would be really tough, but he was looking forward to learning and taking on this challenge.

Another requirement was to read the Niju Kun and be prepared to talk about one of the
twenty principles; he was to choose the principle that appealed to him the most. Tiger knew that Gichin Funakoshi was considered to be the Father of Modern Day Karate and a great man. He also knew that the Niju Kun was an important part of Gichin Funakoshi’s contribution to the world. So he wanted to give this the respect it deserved. He paged forward in the Shoka Leader Handbook and found the section on the Niju Kun and spent a few minutes reviewing it. He liked number twelve, the one that said, “Do not cling to the idea of winning; it is the idea of losing that is not necessary.” He thought about this and remembered that Sensei had talked about it recently. In defending yourself you didn’t have to beat up your attackers; you just had to not be beaten by them.

He was also going to be required to tell his class the Story of the Wooden Rooster and lead a discussion of the lessons contained in it. He loved to hear stories and wanted to be able to
tell a good story, so now was his chance to learn. But he didn’t know why storytelling and, in
particular, why the Story of the Wooden Rooster was so important to a Black Belt Shoka Leader. He made a mental note to ask his Assistant School Leader about this.

Tiger would also need to lead a class in the conditioning exercises. He remembered how some of the kids had been complaining about doing these exercises, and how hard they had been for him. He remembered how Sensei had stopped the class and asked them again if they wanted to be weak when they grew up or whether they wanted to be strong. Well, everyone wanted to be strong, and they all knew that to be strong you had to do things that were hard for you to do. They just didn’t want to be reminded of that. But they relented and went to work. When they were finished, Sensei thanked everyone for being such good students. He said that it was a joy for him to teach them. And the class knew he really meant it, because there was a sparkle in his eyes.

The last requirements were the karate requirements. Tiger would have to perform basics,
kata, and sparring. He was getting better at knowing the Japanese terms. Kihon, he had learned, meant basics. Kata was a series of movements against imaginary opponents. Kumite was an engagement with another student designed so that each student could improve. Often in kumite one student was the attacker, and the other was the defender. The objective was for both people to pretend that they were deadly enemies and to attack and defend with spirit and vigor. It was clear that in reality they were partners who wanted to help each other improve as much as they wanted themselves to improve.

All in all, working on these requirements was going to be challenging, but Tiger knew that once he had the skills he’d gain from completing these challenges that he’d have taken another step forward to being the Black Belt Shoka Leader who he wanted to be.

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 . . .