TGJ: The Last Requirement

Tiger’s Great Journey Continued…

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

Tiger sat down at his desk and opened his Shoka Leader Handbook to the page that listed
the requirements for School Leader—Black Belt.

It had been four years since he started this great journey, and he was now within grasp of the rank that he had wanted for so long, that of Black Belt Shoka Leader. Tiger thought about the many lessons he had learned on his journey. The excitement he felt as he was approaching this goal was like a fire in his belly; it fueled his determination to achieve what he had worked hard for these many years.

Tiger took inventory of the work he had accomplished and the work he had left to do. He
had one last requirement to complete, and then he would hold the leadership rank of School Leader or Black Belt Shoka Leader.

Tiger had already completed many requirements.

First, he had been an Assistant School Leader I for three months.

Second, he mediated a dispute between two students. The dispute had arisen when two of the young Shoto Tigers had been practicing, and one of the students, Jimmy, accidentally hit Sadie when they were multi-step sparring. Tiger had sat the two students down and asked them to explain to each other how this made them feel. Sadie had said that it hurt and scared her. Jimmy said that he felt bad, because he didn’t mean to hit her, but because Sadie got mad, he got mad, too, instead of apologizing to her.

Tiger told them that sometimes people don’t do the right thing when they make a mistake, which will make things worse. He then asked Jimmy what he thought he should do. Jimmy said that he was sorry and that he liked to practice with Sadie.

Tiger then asked Sadie what she should do now that Jimmy had apologized. Sadie said that her side still hurt. Tiger turned to Jimmy and told him that when you hurt somebody you
have to apologize and make sure that the person is all right. The three of them waited a few
minutes; when the pain went away, Sadie said that she was all right. Then she asked Jimmy not to do that again. Jimmy repeated that he was sorry and Sadie said, “Okay.”

Tiger then thanked Sadie for accepting Jimmy’s apology.

The third School Leader requirement that Tiger had completed was to give the class commands. Tiger had been doing this for a long time, but he noticed that he kept getting better and better at it. He knew that this requirement meant that he would have to give the class commands as a Black Belt Shoka Leader would, not as a new member would. At first he had to learn all the words. Then he had to learn what they meant. Then he had to give each command in a powerful voice. Then he had to learn to give them at the right speed. And all of this developed over time.

The fourth requirement was to present himself impeccably dressed in his uniform to the
School Leader. Tiger took great pride in his uniform. He had a special place in his closet where it hung so that it would be wrinkle free and ready for him to put on when he went to class. He made sure to keep it ready to wear.

Requirement number five was to prepare a lesson plan and lead a group of three teams in
learning the material. He had finished this requirement a couple of months ago and had it signed off by Rachel, the current School Leader. He enjoyed teaching and looked forward to more chances to teach his fellow students. He felt really good when he saw the students he had taught perform well.

The sixth requirement that Tiger had completed was describing his leadership style to the
School Leader. He had determined what his leadership style was from reading the Book of Five Rings by Miyamoto Musashi. In it, Musashi explained ground, fire, water, air, and the void and their relation to leadership. A person who is grounded will proceed in a step-by-step manner. A person who possesses the fire element will rush in, determined to get things done. The person who is of the water element will lead by going with the flow. The person who leads from the air element will analyze the circumstances until he is absolutely certain and then create a detailed plan of action. And finally, the ultimate leadership style is shown by the person who is in the void. This person can adapt his leadership style to the situation he’s in and move freely from ground, fire, water, and air. Tiger saw his own style as being mostly ground with some water  element. He felt that most of the time, he wanted to have all his ducks in a row before proceeding. But he also knew that he wanted input from everyone and would decide which way to go after hearing from everyone.

The seventh requirement was to review again his long-term Shotokan Karate Leadership Goals with the School Leader. He knew that these reviews played a big part in getting him to
where he was now, within one step of becoming a Black Belt Shoka Leader.

For the eighth requirement Tiger had to show his School leader that he could tell a story and then lead a discussion about what it meant. The story he told was about what it meant to be a citizen in the United States. Tiger had memorized the preamble to the constitution: “We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.” The discussion centered on Justice, Tranquility, and Liberty. Afterwards the students walked taller and spoke excitedly with their parents as they left the school.

The ninth requirement was to show the Black Belt Shoka Leadership Trait of creativity by creating a solution to a persistent problem in the school. The Young Tigers, who ranged in age from four to eight, would often get out of hand when they played one of the leadership
games, and it was becoming difficult to quiet them down and go back to training. This was the problem that Tiger wanted to solve, and he knew that he’d have to be creative to do it. He also knew that he had to confer with Sensei on this, because there was a lot that he didn’t understand about how to teach.

Ten, Tiger needed to describe a dream he had to make the world a better place. This was big. Tiger had never thought that he could do anything to make the world a better place, but here he was being required to do it to become a Black Belt Shoka Leader. It must be possible, otherwise why would it be a requirement? he thought. Then he remembered that part of the definition of being a Black Belt Shoka Leader was to see a problem, become passionate about solving it, and then become the leader that the solution to the problem demanded. That was the answer: become a greater person.

He’d read many stories about humble people who took action to solve problems that no one else was solving. And if they could do it, then he could do it too. And he knew that he was
far more likely to succeed because of the leadership training he was receiving at Shotokan Karate Leadership Schools. Tiger remembered a quote from Masatoshi Nakayama: “Deciding who is the winner, and who is the loser is not the ultimate objective. Karate-do [the way of the empty hand] is a martial art for the development of character through training, so that the karate-ka [karate student] can surmount any obstacle, tangible or intangible.” Tiger believed this and knew that his karate training was the foundation for him to make the world a better place.

The eleventh requirement was to lead a discussion about one of the Twelve Traits of a Black Belt Shoka Leader. Tiger had always been annoyed by the rude behavior of kids and knew
that courtesy was his favorite principle. He felt confident about being able to discuss this with the students in class. He would start the discussion by reminding students that good manners were your first line of self-defense, and that good manners made friends and bad manners created enemies. Sensei had discussed this in class many times, and Tiger agreed wholeheartedly. To him it was easy to see that it was much better to live your life making friends with good manners, rather than creating enemies with bad ones.

For the twelfth requirement Tiger had to tell the story of Shotokan Karate Leadership Schools to a group of ten or more people who were not members of the school. Tiger was
learning about public speaking at school and thought that this would be a good tie-in. So he
decided to talk to his teacher about giving him twenty minutes to tell the Story of SKLS to his class.

The thirteenth, fourteenth, and fifteenth requirements were to help Tiger prepare for his
Instructional Board Review. Prior to appearing before the Instructional Board, Tiger had to show the School Leader that he could perform the basics, sparring, and kata that were required for his final test.

The last requirement, which Tiger had not yet completed, was to perform the basics, sparring, and kata at the Instructional Board Review. This would be the culmination of all his hard work. He knew that he would have to keep in mind the Niju Kun that stated: “Do not clingto the idea of winning; it is the idea of not losing that is necessary.” Sensei had said that this applied to success in anything. If you focus on making sure that you don’t fail, then what is left is to succeed. Sensei used the example of facing eight opponents. You don’t have to defeat them; you just have to not be defeated by them. This was a different way of thinking about life that Tiger found intriguing.

Tiger sat down on the comfortable chair he had in his room and leaned back. He had been
working all day and needed a moment to rest. As he sat there, he gazed around his room and stopped when he saw the Book of the Empty Mind sitting on his book shelf. He got up and walked over to the shelf and retrieved the heavy volume. He sat on the edge of his bed and ran his fingers across the old leather cover. He smiled and opened the book.

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: The Meaning of Trust by Marty Callahan

Tiger’s Great Journey Continued…

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

After arriving at the dojo, Tiger found a place to sit and waited patiently for the class to start. He was excited about what he had learned since his recent promotion, but he restrained his exuberance enough to focus. Yesterday, Sensei had complimented him on the progress he had made with his kata, Heian Sandan. Tiger thought he was getting better, but until Sensei’s words, he didn’t know for sure. Now he felt confident and determined.

Wendy called for the class to line up. Tiger checked his gi once more. He wanted to set a
good example to his classmates. He remembered Sensei saying that leaders needed to set the example for those who followed them. Tiger bowed as he walked out on the mat and lined up with the other orange belts. His teammate Greg, who was standing next to him, was talking to the student on his other side. Tiger nudged Greg with his elbow and looked at him to remind him to stop talking. Tiger knew that standing quietly is a sign of respect to Sensei, the dojo, and the other students. Greg stopped talking, faced the front, put his heels together, toes open, arms by his sides, and didn’t move. Wendy gave the seiza command and the opening ceremony started.

Wendy led the warm-up exercises, and then Sensei had the students sit down with their
teammates. Sensei said, “The Black Belt Shoka Leadership Trait that we are studying this week is Trust. Please take a few minutes and discuss with your team the meaning of trust and being trustworthy. Why must a Black Belt Shoka Leader be trustworthy?”

After a few minutes, Sensei asked for everyone’s attention. Being the Class Leader,
Wendy was watching the class and noticed that two of the team members were still talking, so she walked towards them and, with a wave, got their attention and pointed to Sensei. They figured out what she was telling them and quieted down.

Sensei directed the class’ attention to Tiger’s team and asked them to tell everyone what
they had just talked about. Greg began to speak, “Trust means to know that you can count on someone to do what they say they are going to do. As Shoka Leaders we are being trained to solve big problems. And to solve these problems, we will have to work together. We have to know that others are depending on us, that the success of the whole project is depending on us, and that we are only as strong as our weakest member.”

“Thank you, Greg. That was very good.”

Sensei continued, “Trust is having faith in someone or something. It is having confidence
that the right thing will happen without trying to control it or make it happen. A trustworthy friend is dependable and responsible. It means that you can count on him to do what he says he will do. This is a crucial trait for a Black Belt Shoka Leader, because followers need to trust their leader.

“Trust is also like building a tower. It takes a lot of work stacking up the blocks to make
it tall, but take one away and it could come crashing down. You earn people’s trust over time but lose it in a flash.” Sensei paused to let his words sink in.

“And trust is the firm reliance on or belief in the integrity, ability, or character of a person
or thing. Trust is also important in our daily lives. When you get sick, you can depend on your doctor to her best to make you well. Trust is what you feel when you tell a secret to your best friend and you know he will keep it a secret if you ask him to. Trust is a small word, which can make a big difference—whether or not you have a successful team or friendship. To fully understand trust, you must practice it every day in the dojo, at home, and in school.”

“Your Class Leader, Wendy, is now going to tell you story. It’s called ‘The Boy Who
Cried Wolf’ and is one of Aesop’s Fables.”

Wendy stood up and walked over to the front of the room. She stood proudly in front of
the class. She had known in advance that she was to do this, so she was well prepared to tell the story.

Wendy told the students about a shepherd boy who thought it would be funny to cry out
“wolf” and see what the townspeople would do. When the townspeople came rushing up to help him, he laughed at them. The townspeople didn’t like this at all. A few days later, the boy did the same thing, and when the townspeople came rushing up, he laughed at them again. Then about a week later, a wolf actually came and attacked his sheep. This time the boy cried wolf for real, but the townspeople ignored him, and the wolf killed his sheep. That night, when the boy didn’t come back, the townspeople went out looking for him and found the slaughtered sheep and the boy hiding in a tree. The townspeople asked him if he had learned the lesson of trust—that if he told the truth, people would trust him but, if he lied, they wouldn’t.

As soon as Wendy had finished, Sensei asked the teams to discuss what the story meant
to them. When Sensei asked for a volunteer from one of the teams to talk about what they had discussed, Tiger raised his hand and was called on.

“We said that trust is the strong belief in the integrity of a person or thing,” Tiger noted.
“It is the confidence you have in someone to fulfill a task or the faith that something will do what you need it to do.”

“That’s excellent, Tiger,” Sensei said. Tiger beamed with pride.

Sensei told Wendy to have the class spread out to begin training. She told the students to
do this, and made sure that they were evenly apart. Sensei began the class by having the teams do a combination that he had prepared. They did it first at slow speed to adjust their form. Then they did it at medium speed to find the proper timing and rhythm. Finally they did it at full speed to simulate actual combat.

After working on the combination for twenty minutes, Sensei had the teams work
independently on Heian Shodan, the first kata. Tiger was the leader of the Hornets, and Greg and Stacy were members. Tiger was happy for this opportunity, as he remembered that one of the requirements for the Assistant Class Leader rank is to teach a new student the kata, Heian Shodan. Stacy was new to Shotokan Karate Leadership Schools and didn’t really know the kata yet. Tiger knew it well and was confident that he could help his teammate improve. As they begin, he noticed that on the first movement, Stacy was stepping her right leg out to the right, instead of her left leg out to the left. Tiger pointed this out to her, and she told him someone else had said that the right leg moves first. He nodded, knowing that this could have happened. Stacy started to make the correction, but it took several repetitions before she got it right. Stacy was confident that Tiger would continue to help her get better. Greg was doing well, too, and Tiger complimented him on his stances, telling him that they were long, low, and strong—just the way they need to be. Tiger was happy to see his team improving. Sensei glanced over and noticed how well they were doing and that Tiger really cared about his team.

When kata practice ended, Wendy led the students through the conditioning exercises
that were designed to strengthen all the major muscle groups, and then she proceeded with the closing ceremony. Class ended with Tiger feeling really good about his progress.

On his way home, Tiger talked to his mom about what they did and how well his team
performed. He told her that he really enjoyed leading his team. His mom smiled inside, knowing her son would be a fine leader someday! Tiger was exhausted and ready for bed. He thought about the boy who cried wolf and then took the Book of the Empty Mind out from under his bed. It had been a long day, but Tiger turned the page, closed his eyes, and resumed his journey.


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: 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.