TGJ: Two Heads Are Better Than One by Marty Callahan

Tiger’s Great Journey Continued…

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

Sensei called the class together and asked them to sit on the floor. He began the discussion by congratulating the students who had recently passed their tests. Tiger had been promoted to the rank of Senior Class Leader. He still wore a purple belt, but he was now ranked at fourth kyu, one of the ranks before black belt. This meant that he was a trainer now and responsible for the development of five Assistant Class Leaders and two Class Leaders.

“Now,” Sensei began, “let’s look at your Responsibilities of a Shoka Leader handbook to find out what new duties and responsibilities you will have.”

Sensei had a copy of the book with him and began to read, “Crucial to the training you are receiving here at Shotokan Karate Leadership Schools is becoming the person you need to be so that you can solve the problem you need to solve. When we talk about solving problems we’re talking about BIG PROBLEMS, not small problems. Big problems require working with many people. This means that you need to know how to cooperate and how to gain the Cooperation of other people.”

This was not complicated stuff. In fact, it could be said that it was common sense that you had to cooperate and gain the cooperation of others. Still, it seemed that many people lacked basic common sense. “We work at changing ourselves by first learning to be a part of a team and then leading a team. In class, the problem we are trying to solve is the problem of having to defend ourselves against people who are trying to hurt us. And we work in teams to stop the attackers and not be defeated by them.”

Sensei looked around before going on. “A Shoka Leader learns to see problems before they become too big and uses the brainpower and skills of many different people to solve those problems. Or to put it another way, a Shoka Leader takes on challenges that require him to become something more than he is right now. And in taking on these challenges, he or she helps the world to become a better place. He makes life better for other people. This is a great thing. The world needs more people who think this way. It is the Way of a Black Belt Shoka Leader.”

Sensei saw that the students were following these words, and so he continued, “Once you
master the skills of teamwork, you will become a Class Leader. You will work with several
teams at once and help them to solve the many and varied battles they have to fight to keep themselves and others safe.

“When you reach the level of Assistant School Leader, you will be working with everyone in the school—students, parents, visitors, guests, and friends, as well as anyone else we might come in contact with. That’s why there are many different people contributing to the school, all of whom help people learn about Shotokan Karate Leadership Schools and help our fellow students learn their skills. Take some time this evening to look at your Responsibilities of a Shoka Leader handbook and review what your responsibilities are. Now, let’s practice kata.”

Sensei walked through the class critiquing the students. The students had gotten used to
being critiqued, but it wasn’t easy. Many of the students did not like to have their weaknesses pointed out to them in front of others—or at least that’s how they thought of it. Sensei explained to them that there is a difference between criticizing and critiquing. Criticizing is a way of attacking another person, while critiquing them is a way of offering constructive feedback so that they can improve themselves.

Tiger had been working with Jason and Jolee. Each of them had as much experience as Tiger, and, like Tiger, they were Senior Class Leaders in the dojo. The three of them worked well together, because even though they were proficient in their own right, they understood how to cooperate and gain the cooperation of others.

Sensei listened in as they practiced Tekki Shodan. First Jolee asked Jason how he did the
second movement in which you raised your right leg high and then stomped on your imaginary opponent’s foot before hitting him with a backhand strike. She wanted to know what he did with his arms while he lifted his leg. Jolee had seen a couple of different ways in which this was done and knew that there was merit to each.

Jason did the movement slowly to show Jolee and Tiger what he was doing. It turned out
that Tiger and Jason did the movement the same way. They both kept their hands together and raised their arms up just enough to let the knee of their stomping leg come up high and close to the chest.

Jolee was used to doing this movement a little differently, but she knew that it would be better for the group if they all did it the same way.

This was cooperation in action, and it pleased Sensei to see his students applying it so easily.


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.