Why Shotokan Karate Just Might Be Right for Your Family
“You’re playing small doesn’t serve the world. There’s nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do.”
Parent, does your child sometimes not listen? Does he or she act out? Does he refuse to do homework or even go to school? Would he or she rather argue than do a
chore that takes 2 minutes? Are consequences a joke for him? Does she scream and throw temper tantrums? Does he threaten and swear? Does he argue and fight over everything? Does his school want you to put him on drugs? Is he, being recruited by a gang?
Or… is she afraid of her own shadow? Is he distracted and unable to concentrate?
It doesn’t matter which of these problems you’re facing, any one of them can make your life hell. They zap your strength, stress you out, and scare the living daylights out of you. Not to mention the looks you get from other parents… you know, the GOOD parents.
Have you tried everything your friends, neighbors, co-workers, psychologists, counselors, psychiatrists, and child specialists have suggested – tough love, soft love, bribing, negotiating, ignoring, positive thinking, education, therapy, counseling, tai chi, meditation,
etc., etc., etc. and nothing works.
Are you a moment away from calling the cops and letting them take
the damn kid away?
If even a little of this is your life, then Shotokan Karate Leadership Schools is
From our more than 8,000 students who have trained in the 30,000 classes
we have taught over the past 40+ years we know what it takes to turn a kid
from being shy or out-of-control into a child who is kind, respectful, responsible, considerate, trustworthy, and courageous. From observing the interactions between students and parents, we now believe that most parents in this situation suffer for the simple fact that they don’t know how to raise the child they have. But what’s more important is that their child suffers the most as a result of the inexperience of their parents.
Before introducing you more to Shotokan Karate Leadership Schools and our unique program please take a quick look at these U.S. Justice Department statistics:
• Alcohol is the leading cause of death among young people
• Homicide is second
• Suicide the third
• One million of our youth are members of 25,000 different gangs
• 20% of young adults are illicit drug users
• Millions of young Americans face a life in which their earning
potential is less than that of their parents
If parents knew what they were doing, would this be happening? The answer is clearly, no. Only truly bad parents (there aren’t that many of them) would wish this fate on their child.
Why are there no effective programs to help parents learn how to raise the child they have – not the child they wish they had?
Our training program addresses this issue. It starts with big ideas that will give you hope and help you to raise a child who lives out his dreams and makes the world a better place.
But, ignore these big ideas and your child will likely end up working for low wages, struggling to get by, feeling unfulfilled, and perhaps become a U.S. Justice Department statistic.
We’ll be the first to admit that we didn’t know what we were up against when we started.
But, after forty years of daily effort to provide our students with the very best
training possible we’ve gained a depth of understand that only comes from having kept at something for a long, long time. The primary question we’ve asked ourselves is ‘how can we better help the children who train with us and support their parents who
struggle everyday to do all they can for them?’
The modern world in which we live is complicated and difficult to navigate, especially for our children. Young people today are besieged by messages of violence, greed, and consumerism at every turn. They are encouraged to conform and follow the false promise of pop culture rather than think critically and become leaders. And for parents, the influence of pop culture can be difficult to overcome. How do we teach our children respect for themselves and others? How do we instill self-confidence and self-determination?
In other words, how can we provide them the tools to become leaders?
For four decades Sonoma County Karate Master Marty Callahan, founder of The Shotokan Karate Leadership School, has been doing just that. With a firm but gentle hand, Marty has guided thousands of young people toward achieving excellence in their lives through Shotokan Karate.
As a young man, Marty attended seminary with the goal of becoming a priest. Later he
changed paths and attended University of California Riverside, earning a B.A. in
psychology. “I feel what I do is similar to what a priest would do,” says Marty, with a smile. “I act as counselor, psychologist, trainer, and mentor to my students.”
Marty first began studying karate while in college. Having grown up in an abusive home, he was an angry young man interested in learning to fight.
The longer he trained, however, the more his focus shifted from fighting to character building and leadership skills. “Character development became the central focus of my training,” says Marty. “My teachers emphasized fighting, but I was more interested in becoming a better person. I realized that my anger was doing me more harm than good. Karate gave me the confidence to let go of it. I used to be a human ‘doing.’ I became a human ‘being.’ I was, and I am, being transformed.”
Marty earned his black belt in Shotokan Karate in 1972 and moved to Santa Rosa, California, in 1981 and opened the Shotokan Karate Leadership School, then called the Academy of Shotokan Karate.
The ultimate aim of the art of karate lies not in victory or defeat but in the perfection of the character of the individual. Shotokan Karate motto “When I opened my school, I wanted to share what I had gotten from karate with other people, kids and adults,” says Marty.
The Shotokan Karate Leadership School’s name says it all: It’s not about becoming a fighter; it’s about becoming a leader. Children don’t just put on a karate uniform and learn to fight, they learn respect for themselves and others, and are shown the path to realizing the potential hero that resides in us all. Together with like-minded board members (Shotokan Karate Leadership School is a non-profit organization under the auspices of Shotokan Leadership Institute), Marty has developed a unique and inspiring way to help kids find the potential hero that resides in them all.
Knowing that children love stories, they wrote and published a short book that tells the epic
story of a young boy named Tiger who suffers from a lack of self-confidence.
He has seen other kids being bullied and tormented and it has left him feeling scared, angry and helpless and he wants to do something about it.
Through Shotokan karate, Tiger embarks on a great journey encompassing 12 principles of leadership. Along the way he is forced to test himself, overcoming hurdles and obstacles, each imparting more knowledge and wisdom, and each bringing him closer to becoming a hero.
At Shotokan Karate Leadership School, each student is given a copy of this book, and each undertakes his or her own personal journey to becoming a hero. A huge map depicting Tiger’s mythical world hangs on the wall of the school, allowing each student to track their progress as they follow Tiger’s path toward becoming a hero themselves.
“By taking martial arts training and turning it into a story,” says Marty, “each child can become personally invested in the quest. It captures their imaginations. Kids thrive on stories, games and play; this is a story of leadership and how to gain the qualities of a hero. The kids love becoming part of it. They love the idea of becoming heroes and gaining the respect of their friends and family, and most importantly, themselves.” He pauses,
and adds, “Kids want to be heroes; we give them the opportunity to be the hero
they were meant to be.”
The results speak for themselves.
Over the 4 decades that Marty has personally guided over 8,000 students to higher levels of self-confidence and helped form their leadership ability. Many have gone on to become doctors, lawyers, teachers, contractors, engineers—community leaders.
“Through our program they freed themselves from the self-imposed
bonds that might have kept them from success,” says Marty. “We had a student once who was completely out of control, bouncing off the wall. His parents said he had ADHD and could not control his behavior. He wanted to be a hero, and after eighteen months of resisting the program he made the decision to change his behavior. He became a model student, helping others and demonstrating respect and leadership. We take kids who are so shy they won’t look you in the eye, and kids who are highly aggressive, and we transform them.”
The program typically takes three to five years to complete, after which students have a new understanding of power and what it means to be a leader in their community, in addition to the confidence that comes from knowing they can defend themselves in a time of crisis.
Ironically though, the karate skills learned at the school are intended to prevent fights.
Marty grins when he talks about watching his students’ attitudes
transform as they move through their program.
“I love seeing them go from being kids who are distracted and out of control
to young people who are confident, respectful, clear thinking, focused, and compassionate,” he says. “It doesn’t get any better than that.”
How We Are Unique
Our edge over every other form of behavior management whether it is psychosocial, philosophical, or pharmacological is that we address the deep-seated need to defend ourselves. Our training program makes clear to the student that with the proper
inspiration, teaching, coaching, support and training they can do that. Because the student knows he or she needs this they allow us to shape their character. For centuries martial artists have led their communities during times of peace and defended them in times of war. The defensive training systems that were needed were developed long ago, but until now the
leadership training was provided only to a select few. We have created a proprietary leadership training system unlike any other anywhere in the world. Now students who practice with us become leaders. Trained not only in how to defend themselves, but in how to face danger and be a force for good in the world.
When they graduate from The Black Belt Shoka Leader Program they are certified as Shotokan Karate Black Belt Leaders. It is a personal development process that transforms children into hero/leaders and their parents into leaders. It is truly unique in that there is no other leadership-training program like it in the world.
Now for a little input from our students…
“I can’t imagine the person I would have been if I hadn’t practiced
Jackson started training in Shotokan Karate at age 4. He stopped at age
17 when his family moved. A few years later he realized how much it
had changed him and how much he missed it. As a young adult he now
wants to resume his training.
Jackson Reynolds. age 21
SRJC Student in the fall of 2012
“My son Braden’s confidence and interpersonal skills have changed
tremendously over the past year. SKLS has played a crucial role in the
improvement we have seen. Thank you, Sensei, for your attention to
detail and the guidance that you have given my son.”
Kirstin Mather, mother of Braden Mather
Full-time mom, part-time photographer
Lives in Santa Rosa
Braden started training with us in February of 2010
“My son, Jared, trained with you about 25 years ago when he was 8
years old. We enrolled him in your school because he was being
bullied at school. He left feeling much more confident and went on to
become a physician. He now practices medicine in Portland Oregon.
We are very grateful for what you did.”
Janice Shipley, At the iLearn Fair in Santa Rosa, CA Feb. 4, 2012
Text from a call that came into our school in June of 2011
“Sensei, my name is Dean. I was your student 15 years ago. I’m calling
because I want to thank you for giving me the foundation for a
wonderful life. The training I received from you has helped me in
innumerable ways. I have a wonderful life and I don’t believe it would
have turned out this way without the training that I received from you.
Thank you from the bottom of my heart.”
Patti was the mother of four kids ages 8, 10, 17 and 19. Jolie, age 8, and
Rex, age 10, had been taking karate for two years. School was ending
and the two kids felt pressured. They wanted to take a break from
karate. But Patti told them, “No, you can’t.” They asked why. She told
them, “Because karate teaches you what school can’t teach you. Things
like respect, how to be with yourself, and self control.” She asked them
if they wanted self control and they said yes. She had talked about this
before with them and they had said they wanted to control their lives;
they didn’t want someone else to. She had told them that karate would
give them courage, integrity, humility, and it would teach them to be
responsible and caring adults. They wanted this for themselves.
They saw the difference between what they learned at school and
what they learned at karate. And they could see the difference
between themselves and their friends who weren’t taking karate.
And Patti was learning too. “I’m learning about what I need to do as a
parent. I have to provide support and parent enforcement. The kids
are at an age where they’re not strong enough to put their foot down
on themselves. Even my 19 year old daughter has a hard time. She’s a
freshman in college and I was telling her every day ‘You’ve got to wake
up early and get your Mustang warmed up so you can get to class on
time.’ But she complained and said, ‘Mother, I’m an adult now. Let me
make my own decisions.’ So, I backed off. Well she got a boyfriend, got
distracted and ended up dropping out of school. Now she has no job, is
back living at home, and we have to start all over. It’s not going to
happen again. Now I know what I have to do as her mom.”
Patti Rudolph, July, 2012
How Karate has Affected My Life
It has been nearly two years since I started karate and it has
affected my life in several different ways. I can recall one particular
moment in time when this occurred. During my freshman year at the
Junior College, I felt like I was more of a follower than a leader. When I
was in my English 100 class one of my classmates asked “Are you
more of a follower or a leader?” I replied back “A follower because I
am good at listening and taking orders from people”. After saying
those words I realized that I was not satisfied with being a follower. I
decided to replace my old submissive habits with confidence and
ambition. I accomplished this goal by taking a Karate class at the JC
early in the morning.
It began with me having to wake up early so I could arrive to class
on time, which took lots of discipline. Then when I first began sparring
with another student I felt like I had to step up my game and to draw
from my inner strength. I had to have the will to attack my opponent
and to defend myself when they struck. Over time my skills improved
through sparring and practicing the katas repeatedly. By the end of the
semester I had advanced in rank 8th kyu yellow belt. After ranking up I
felt much more confidence in myself because I had the ability to
defend others as well as myself. I knew that if the situation demanded
it I could be a leader.
About month ago my sister announced that she was getting
married in two months. It’s been really stressful on our family. Being
the maid of honor everyone comes to me to tie up any loose ends of
there plans. Learning how to clear my mind in karate is something I
now do a lot in my daily life. It helps me find peace when things seem
like they’re going to explode and I’m able to think clearer in chaotic
I have always had a problem with public speaking and performing
in front of a large crowd of people. In the past I would be so nervous
that I would almost go into an anxiety attack! I would build the task at
hand up so big in my head it would feel very overwhelming. This
semester I was faced with these two problems multiple times. Not only
did I have to speak but also I had to perform in front of a large crowd
three times. But through my study of Karate, I was able to overcome
my fears and do well while really stepping up into a confident
One of the many important things I learned through my study, and
it was a key to overcoming my fears, was the absence of mind.
Through practice I was able to learn how to emotionally detach myself
from a serious situation and just react when necessary. This was so
helpful. I was able to step back from the situation, look at it for what it
was, determine the best course of action and overcome my fear of
public speaking and performing. Through karate I have become a
stronger person spiritually, mentally, and physically.
This semester I learned a really important thing while taking karate. A
piece of advice I use a lot in my everyday life. This semester we
learned that our biggest enemies are ourselves. With me that is very
very true. I am constantly beating myself down, saying stuff like “I’m
not good enough”, or “I am going to fail.” I wouldn’t just do this
sometime, I would do this with almost everything I do, sports, school,
anything. One thing in particular that I liked was when we used
ourselves as targets. It helped me put myself in check and realize that I
won’t achieve greatness if I don’t allow myself too. So now when I get
down on myself I look in a mirror and think to myself, “I am my own
blockade, I can do this, and I can achieve this goal.” Because I believe in
my own potential and know that if I tear myself down then it’s over
before it even begins. So this class did wonders for my self esteem and
confidence and I am really glad I took it.
Karate In My Life
When I signed up for a karate class I was expecting a self defense
course, yet self defense was the least important lesson that I learned in
my karate class. I never thought that this class were more focused on
training your character instead of your body.
I did gained all the benefits of exercising and self defensive
tactics, but the most important lessons that I learned was becoming a
better person overall. I learned discipline, humility, courage, the
responsibility that comes with power, pride in what you do, respect,
control my nerves, and more; however, the most important lesson was
confidence on myself. I was able to rapidly incorporate karate in my
very day life, without even realized.
I notice that I start to participate more on class, without being shy.
I improve my social skills inside the classroom and attend study
groups, I was able to focus more and retain more information. Being
able to express yourself without having fear of being judge is really important for personal development. I was very pleased with the
results of karate.
Now that the semester is over, I realize that it is just the
beginning. Seeking perfection of character every day, knowing that
you will never be perfect takes lots of practice and discipline in all
senses. I want to be better everyday, and I now know I can.
Spring ’10 Karate Final
Dear Sensei Callahan,
I’m not sure you remember me, but my name is Benjamin Wright son
of who is now Marta May. I was instructed in Shotokan in my early
years at your dojo on Hall Road. I wanted to contact you and thank you
for your instruction. You taught me discipline and honor, which have
given me an advantage when interacting with my peers. I cannot find
the words to describe the attributes I have developed from your
lessons, but these attributes give me confidence as I prepare to leave
for college. I will be going to school at the Art Institute of Chicago and
I’m thankful that I have retained so much martial arts training in such
a dangerous city.
Thank you for your assistance in my conditioned development.
Sincerely: Benjamin Wright
NOTE: Spring, 2013, Benjamin is 22 and a student at the Art Institute
of Chicago and will be graduating in June, 2013 and then heading to
“You’ve helped me grow exponentially.” January, 2012
“Karate has saved my life.” November, 2011
I had been training with Sensei Callahan for about 5 years. I was a
first-degree black belt. I was a pipefitter and worked for North Bay
Construction. I was working about 10 feet below ground in a trench
when a steel plate that was used to hold the walls of the trench up fell
on me. It weighed several hundred pounds. My workmates saw it
happen and thought that I must be dead. The steel plate slammed me
into the ground with my face was buried in the dirt. I couldn’t get my
breath. Then I heard Sensei’s voice telling me to ‘breath from my
center’ as he had said to me many times during class. I focused my
attention on my lower abdomen and began to breath again ever so
slowly. My co-workers got the steel plate off of me and I was taken to
the emergency room. X-rays showed my spine in dramatic curves.
Afterwards the doctor who oversaw my progress was amazed at how
quickly I recovered. Within a few weeks I was back at work again. I
attribute my survival and quick recovery to my karate 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.