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.