TGJ: The Canyon of Cooperation by Marty Callahan

Tiger’s Great Journey Continued…

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

Tiger looked gloomy. He and Blake had been walking for days since they had crossed the
Bridge of Responsibility. The road had led through the valley but then began climbing upwards as the valley narrowed. The road became a rocky trail as the walls closed in upon them. Is this trail a dead end? He wondered. As he looked at the map, it seemed that this was the right way, but he wasn’t really sure. While resting, Tiger looked up at the rock walls of the slot canyon that loomed above them. The sky appeared to be just a thin strip of blue sandwiched between the two tall vertical walls. He wondered what was above, and where the trail led them.

They continued their journey with Blake in the lead. As the trail twisted to the left, Blake
came to a sudden stop. Tiger walked right into him. Blake exclaimed, “The trail has hit a dead end.” Sure enough, as Tiger could now very plainly see for himself, they were surrounded by rock walls on three sides.

“Oh, no,” said Tiger. “We’ve come all this way, and now this.”

Tiger could feel himself becoming disheartened and knew that this was not good. Sensei
had said dozens of times that self-control meant control of the mind, body, and spirit and Tiger knew that he was losing his spirit and had to get it back.

He remembered Sensei telling the class that spirit was directly connected to breath. And
to control your breath meant to control your spirit. With this thought, Tiger slowly drew in a breath and even more slowly exhaled. After doing this three times, Tiger was ready to take on this new challenge.

Blake had been examining the canyon, trying to find a way out. The walls were about six
feet apart and smooth with only a few handholds. This was too far apart for one person to climb, and he could barely see the top. There was nothing to tie the rope on either.

Tiger looked at their situation and remembered a demonstration he had seen. He said to
Blake, “Once I saw two people climb two trees next to each other that were about this same distance apart. They did it by turning back to back, hooking their arms together, and then using their feet to walk up the trunks. It was amazing. Before anyone knew it, they were at the top. I think we could do the same thing.”

“I don’t know, Tiger, I’ve never done anything like that before!”

Tiger replied, “We can do it, Blake,” and looked straight at Blake, who could see Tiger’s

“Tell me again how it will work.”

“First,” said Tiger, “it will take a high degree of cooperation. We will have to communicate with each other, verbally and non-verbally, about every move we’re going to make. If we work against each other, we’ll both fall.”

Blake considered this and then said, “We’re a pretty good team, Tiger. I feel confident that we can do this.”

The two boys thought more about how they were going to do this climb and then
practiced a few times to see how it felt. At first it was very awkward, but by shifting their weight around and trying a few different leg positions, they were able to “walk” up the walls together. They had to synchronize their movements with each other and communicate clearly what they were about to do. Neither boy could see the other, so they had to move slowly and feel what the other was doing through their backs. They also continually reminded each other of what to do and what to avoid.

After practicing and talking about the plan, Blake tied one end of their rope to their
backpacks and the other end around his waist. That way, when they got to the top, they could hoist their packs up.

They both felt good about their plan and were ready to go. They turned back to back so
that each of them was facing a wall. They interlocked their arms together and made sure they were snug.

Tiger said to Blake, “Okay, now put your right foot on the wall and lean against me.”

With that they started walking up the wall. It was difficult in the beginning, but they soon
got the hang of it. Inch by inch, they made their way toward the top, being careful to stay

Tiger was getting very tired; his legs were screaming in pain. He told Blake that he had to
stop. Blake was relieved, because he was hurting, too. They rested for a moment by pushing their heels into the wall, which took the weight off their calves and relieved their muscles enough for them to regain strength for the final climb.

As they started the last push to the top, Blake’s foot slipped, but Tiger stayed steady; Blake caught himself and stopped.

“That was scary,” said Blake.

“Tell me about it.”

“My legs hurt.”

“Mine, too.”

They rested again. Tiger knew they would have to push themselves beyond what they thought they could.

“We’ve got to do a better job of coordinating our effort,” Tiger said. “It will make it easier on both of us.”

Blake agreed, and they decided that Blake would count to three, and then they would both move their right leg up. Because they were back to back, this would balance their movements better than if one of them moved his right leg and the other his left.

The plan worked. Onward they went, getting nearer to their goal with each step.

As they approached the top, the canyon walls grew closer, which made it more difficult. Their knees were pressing into their chests, when they found a small ledge just below the top.

Tiger said to Blake, “Okay, I think I can grab the ledge and get on top of it. Do you have
anything to grab a hold of on your side?”

Near Blake was a small tree growing out of the wall, its roots firmly embedded in a

Blake told Tiger, “Yes, there is a tree I could grab onto, but we have to go sideways a few feet. Can you still reach your ledge if we go to your right?”

“I think so. Let’s try it,” replied Tiger.

Slowly they worked their way over towards the trunk of the tree. When they were close enough for Blake to grab hold of the roots he said, “Here we are!”

Tiger said, “Good. Now we need to unhook our arms but we must keep our backs together. When I say ‘go’ we’ll push off of each other. You grab the tree and I’ll grab the ledge. Do you think you can?”

“Yes, I’m ready when you are!”

“On three!” cried Tiger.

“On three!” cried Blake.

They each took a deep breath.

Then Tiger counted out, “One . . . two . . . three!” Blake lunged for the tree and caught it easily. Tiger reached for the ledge just as his foot slipped off the wall. His left hand caught the lip giving him barely enough time to grab the ledge with his other hand.

He did not have the arm strength to muscle over the top, but his foot found a small crack where he could take some of the weight off his arms.

He rested a moment and gathered his wits.

Glancing back, he saw Blake scrambling over the top.

Seeing him gave Tiger a final burst of energy. He pulled up on his arms while throwing his leg upwards, caught the ledge with his foot, and hauled himself onto the top.

Tiger collapsed with exhaustion and lay on the ground breathing heavily, but with a big smile on his face. “We did it!” he shouted without getting up. “We did it,” he repeated.

“Well, when you’re done taking it easy,” Blake joked, “you can help me pull up our

Tiger chuckled and hopped to his feet. “Yes, sir.” He said with a grin.

Once their packs were up, they looked at the map and the word COOPERATION and an
image of two students stretching each other appeared. The students were standing side-by-side in side-stance grasping each other’s hands – one over their heads and one down by their sides – and pulling against each other.


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 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: 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: Small in Comparison to the Vast Universe by Marty Callahan

Tiger’s Great Journey Continued…

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

It was a Thursday evening. As the clock stuck 6 pm, Aaron, the Class Leader, gave the
command to line up. The students who were ready quickly but calmly came onto the floor and began to organize themselves by teams. The students who were not ready moved a lot faster to avoid being late. Once all were in their places, Aaron gave the commands to face the guests, bow, turn, and face the front. Then he continued with the commands to sit in seiza, meditate, stop mediating, bow to the front, and bow to Sensei.

The students had learned that the front of the room was a special place called shomen, or
front. The reason Gichin Funakoshi and Masatoshi Nakayama’s pictures were on the front wall was because they had made major contributions to the art of Shotokan Karate. They were the karate ancestors, and showing respect to them was akin to showing respect to one’s parents, grandparents, and family elders who had done so much to make life better for others.

Also on the front wall were the American and the Japanese Flags, because this was the
United States, but Shotokan Karate came from Japan. Shotokan Karate Leadership Schools
believe it is their duty to do all they can to maintain good relations between the U.S. and Japan.

After the warm-up exercises, Sensei came back out onto the floor and asked Aaron to discuss Humility with the class. Sensei was confident that he could turn this topic over to Aaron, because although Aaron was only ten years old, he had spent much time studying character traits, particularly the character trait of humility.

Tiger was very curious to hear what Aaron had to say because he knew that it wouldn’t be
much longer before he’d be doing what Aaron was doing right now. Also, Tiger thought humility meant to be put down and, if it meant that, he was confused as to why it would be a leadership trait.

“Humility,” began Aaron, “is the quality of being humble. And being humble means to see
yourself as small in comparison to the vast universe.”

Aaron explained that there was a lot of benefit to seeing yourself as being small. If people
thought of you as being insignificant, they would leave you alone. This didn’t mean that you
didn’t respect yourself or conduct yourself with dignity. It meant that when you looked at the world as a whole, you recognized that you were only a very small part. After all, there are nearly 7 billion people on earth and you are only one of them.

Sensei once asked students to think back one thousand years in the past to the people who
lived in this very part of the world. Then he asked the students, “Where are these people now? What has happened to their ideas and the things that they held dear? Some of them are still with us, and some of them have gone away. And that is what is going to happen to us. One thousand years from now, people may remember our ideas, but they will not remember the vast majority of us. People will know little or nothing about us. So it’s better to relax, do the best we can with our lives, but don’t get a big head about it.”

When Aaron finished talking about humility, Sensei thanked him for a job well done. Facing
the front of the room, Sensei said, “Let me add one more thought before Aaron has you begin your discussions. Once I lived in a house that didn’t have a shower, so we had to take baths every day. I used to take a cup and pour water over my head in order to rinse off. It was my habit to sit up straight when I did this. One day, the water was particularly hot, and it hurt as I poured it over my head. For some reason, I decided to lean forward and pour the water over the back of my head instead. When I did this, it didn’t hurt at all. This seemed strange, so I tried it again. I sat up straight, and poured the water over the top of my head, and it hurt. Then I bent over, and poured the water over the back of my head, and it felt warm and soothing. I repeated this several times and kept having the same sensation: hot and uncomfortable on the top of the head and warm and gentle on the back of the head. You see, this is the power of the bow. This is the power of humility.”

With that Sensei turned the students back over to Aaron to discuss in teams how they could
learn to be more humble through their training.


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