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If humans collect into tribes, then ceremonies and rituals force tribes to process change. Acceptance of tribal change must be acknowledged by the group formally to break through resistance in the hearts of the members. Ceremonies provide a script for forcing such acceptance, and they help cement leadership decisions by providing positive and public social acceptance.


Groups that do not consciously hold ceremonies will find that informal, less effective ceremonies will form up as a result. All too often, ceremonies are viewed as an unnecessary formality to be avoided. Because ceremonies are public, introverted people in leadership positions often will fail to hold them, and the tribe that they are tasked with leading will experience social consequences.

Examples of ceremonies in human tribes are all around us. The wedding and the funeral are the two most universal of all ceremonies.

In all cultures, when a woman and man separate from parents and become a family unto themselves, their tribe of family and friends will usually gather together, and a ceremony leader, religious or legal, will state to those present that they are now married, will officially dismiss the parents from their responsibilities, will grant permission to have children, will challenge the tribe to speak against the marriage now or remain silent, and will state the tribe’s acceptance for all to hear. The two will be asked to pledge sacred oaths to one another which often state the contract of the relationship. The participants will be forced to go through motions which symbolize their support of the marriage.

Often, the father of the woman is the most resistant to any relationship for his child of the four parents involved in any coupling. He is forced to escort her to her mate, release her, and step out of the way into a subordinate role. Friends of both bride and groom stand in attendance and escort one another to supporting positions. All dress formally for the occasion to symbolize its importance. The audience must rise out of respect for the bride when she enters, symbolizing respect for her decision. The lavish decor and food provided are a display of power by the families involved and also provisions to help drown the sorrows of those who did not support the marriage.

While a traditional Christian wedding may not be your tribe’s particular ceremony, some form of ceremony like this is an expected part of every culture on Earth. Failure to hold such a ceremony can create social tension and unease with decisions made that affect the tribe. Failure to hold such ceremonies can also symbolize and lead to the reality of leaving the tribe.

Funerals are also powerful ceremonies held universally around the world. At a tribal gathering, words to honor the fallen member and speak positively of their existence on Earth. The grief of the family is acknowledged, putting the tribe on notice to be extra patient with them. Announcement of the death and formal acceptance of it is represented by various steps intended to force each person to emotionally acknowledge the death has occurred and begin recovering from the loss.

Tribes that form as karate clubs or organizations, in my experience, are not good with ceremonies. There are many opportunities to hold them in order to help the tribe deal with change. When a new member joins the group, a ceremony with ritual steps in it that is repeated each time a new person joins will help them to integrate. This is particularly the case if the ceremony’s script calls for each person to welcome the new member in some way.

Imagine you are visiting a karate school and decide to sign up for lessons there and become a member of the club. What if the instructor asked everyone at the beginning of the next practice to gather around him and you in a circle, and then said, “Everyone, when someone new joins our club, it is our tradition that we work, each one of us, to make them feel welcome and to make them one of us. They are no longer ‘that new guy’ or ‘someone who is visiting.’” Turning to the new member he continues, “On behalf of our club, I welcome you as a new member. May we all work together to ensure that you get what you came here for, and that we support you in all of your life’s decisions, and provide help for you in your training so long as you request it from us.”

Then, each member of the group presents the person with a welcome card, some portion of their uniform, a club t-shirt,  a patch, a belt, origami cranes – anything to force them to acknowledge and welcome the newcomer.

What about when someone is promoted from one rank to another? How is this handled? Consider the wedding and funeral. What can you script for the members of the group to do in the ceremony to ensure that after the promotion they are not bad mouthing the recipient saying, “He is not qualified and sensei just did this for politics.”

Since this is 24FC, what about graduation? Have you considered that you need a similar wedding/funeral ceremony to mark the moment in someone’s training when they have become your peer and are no longer your follower? Good luck getting an instructor to mark that moment carefully. However, in other organizations, such ceremonies are common.

Not only the tribe benefits, but so do the people the ceremonies are for. These moments taken aside to recognize them help them mark milestones in their own lives. Humans need these moments to process their past and face the future. A boy turns 14, is given a knife, some water, and a mission: Do not come back without an eagle feather. Off he walks into the wilderness. When he returns, he is a man. He has had an adventure and survived. His adulthood is not questioned.

Our society today lacks such ceremonies to mark these events. We give a driver’s license at 16 without ceremony through the mail. The tribe complains and does not accept it. We allow marriage at 18, and the couple just go to a judge privately and skips the ceremony, and the tribe complains and does not accept it. We allow drinking at 21, and the tribe complains that kids drink too much and were acting like monsters. Our society no longer recognizes adulthood. We define adulthood as “the same age as me or older” with everyone younger being considered a child. As a result, many have trouble letting young people handle their own problems, and the helicopter parent has arisen to sooth all ills, provide all money needed, and act as creditor to a child couple who are in their 30′s and have their own children. The parenting never stops, and the confirmation of adulthood is nonexistent.

Karate has the same problem. Can you help to fix it?

Ceremonies are important. They need not cost $25,000.00. They can cost nothing but to wear nice clothes and recite lines and take steps as needed in a common place you always go. Without ceremonies, socially, we get along not so well with one another. You may not think you require the acceptance of the tribe, but you are lying to yourself. You are a human being, hard-coded as a social animal that desires acceptance. If you did not, you might walk about naked everywhere and poop in the neighbor’s lawn while killing anyone who offended you. You may have noticed that society gathers up such people, and with great ceremony, tosses them into insane asylums, jails, and electric chairs.

Attendance and active participation in ceremonies is not merely expected. Failure to play a role in a ceremony is to reject the social acceptance of change that the tribe has decided is both necessary and helpful. Thus, tribal response to such resistance usually involves strong social consequences, if not outright banishment from any future leadership role.