I’m Too Old to Start Training!!!!!

I can’t tell you how often I hear this! In the past twenty plus years I’ve known so many wonderful people that started training Poekoelan in their 40’s 50’s and 60’s that I just have to smile. You are NEVER too old to start training! You might be afraid, but you are NOT too old! We have a saying: You are limitless! You can do this! Your Teachers and Instructors believe in you and we are there to guide you and support you every step of the way. And some of us are even older than you are!


I will let my wonderful teammates speak for themselves:



I am now too old to STOP training!


It was 1995 – I was 45 years old. I had been watching our son, Mas Brendan, train with Goeroe Karin for at least a couple of months. Bantoe Katherine had tested for Gold … it felt like the ship was leaving the shore and I had to jump on or be left behind.


Honestly, I tried to ease into my training … and I was successful with that (my nature is not to be very hard on myself) until that fateful day when Bantoe Katherine convinced me it was time to see what it was like at the evening classes. You already know the story: Goeroe Jeff’s mat: me, 7-ft tall Mas Nick and Mas Cathy Cummins (Olympic judo practitioner) – I really did limp home from that one, but I also realized that it was all survivable. That experience was pivotal in my early training.


The most challenging thing about starting to train was letting go of the fear of failure – just stepping onto the mat for the first time is an accomplishment. Is it harder when you are in your forties? I think it’s really the same at any age. That first step is really the hardest. Of course, in PTT, there are many, many steps. The opportunity to visualize your fear – burn it – and watch intention emerge from the ashes – is always present.


I wish I could communicate everything I’ve learned about myself by training – but that’s not possible. I carry with me all the amazing experiences I have had with my teachers and my teammates – so many powerful events. You accept the gifts by simply saying “yes” – and it all flows from there. It is the beauty of this art that I had a very similar experience this weekend at GBA as I had 17 years ago when I first stepped on the mat. Accept, breath, flow and don’t be concerned with outcomes.


Gatong rajong,

Bantoe Farley




I started training a few months after turning 50.  I was feeling very old, tired, and overweight.  One day I had to run to catch up a walk signal and couldn’t believe how hard it was to get my body to move against gravity!  And I would avoid sitting on the floor because it was so hard to get up again!  It was depressing to see my future of increasing disability ahead of me.  I had once been in very good shape, when I trained in martial arts more than 20 years previously.  When my daughter started training in Karate, it brought back those memories and that longing to be able to move in that way and feel that good again.  But I thought I was too old, and I felt very intimidated by all those young, strong people training, and I just didn’t feel safe exposing my weakness in that environment.  I was afraid of others’, and my own, judgment.  


When the karate school closed my daughter & I eventually found Tulen Center and she started training there.  What a difference!  After a few months being there and watching how the instructors worked with people, I started to imagine myself letting down my guard enough to get moving again.  It took me a long time to get up the courage to walk onto the training floor.  Then one night I had a dream.  I was training a martial art, and the teacher in my dream said to me: “the hardest part is walking through the door.”  It was so true!  For the first couple of years, every time I went to train was not just physical exercise, it was an exercise in overcoming my fears and self-doubt enough to step onto the training floor. I was often the oldest and most out-of-shape person there.  Many times I lost the battle and stayed home, but I kept going back.  My instructors and the other students were very kind and patient.  They met me where I was, working with me to improve little by little.  Every time I finished class, I felt an achievement I didn’t get anyplace else.  At first I thought the training was all about the physical, but now I realize that breaking through the fear that held me back was and still is the biggest part of my training.  It’s no longer hard to get myself to class, but I am always pushing into the edge of my limitations, both real and perceived.  It’s not always comfortable, but it’s an exciting place to be.  The best thing about it is that I don’t have to worry about “trying” to move forward.  I know that if I just keep walking through the door, the transformation happens. 


Five years after stepping onto the training floor for the first time, I am amazed and grateful at my progress.  I can move in ways I no longer thought possible, I struggle much less with depression, I’ve lost more than 30 pounds, and I’m healthier than I have been in 20 years.  Growing older is not the depressing progression of infirmity it once appeared to be.  Most importantly, though, I look at the possibilities in my life in a whole new way.  The transformation is still very much in process, and I understand that it’s never “done.”  In Poekoelan, our sash color is the outward display of how far we have come and how much we have left to learn.  Every class we practice acceptance of our rank, and for me the acceptance extends to where I am in life.  It is exciting to know that the only thing I need to do to keep the process moving forward is to keep showing up for class.




Mas Christina Training with Mas Goeroe Agoeng Barbara



I started training when my daughter opened her new school as a way to support her endeavor, and to hang out with the lovely people who were her friends and students.  I had always admired and respected the practice of Poekoelan, and a part of me had always looked for a way to try it.  I was 62 years young.


I think the first “secret” for me was to have very small goals.  They were as follows.

  • Have fun
  • Be safe
  • Enjoy the process
  • Fear not


I had no ambition other than that.  No one was more surprised than me when after MANY months in Cun Tao I was awarded a white sash.  I would have been perfectly happy to remain a white sash forever.


Worried about falling?  I still don’t do it full on.  Bones are kinda old, and joints are kinda stiff.


Worried about fighting?  Never fear.  No one is allowed to really hurt older people.  Everyone in all the schools has heard the cry “DON’T HURT MY MOM!”  Except for minor bumps, and a small bruise here and there to brag about, I rarely even notice a strike.


As I recall my incredible promotions from sash to sash– to brown sash which brought everyone to tears, and my equally incredible promotion to black belt (MORE TEARS!)  I also recall that in Poekoelan, each person has their own test, and Poekoelan or not, we are testing every day of our lives.  So why not test with a warm, supportive group who will carry your load when you are having trouble doing it yourself?


Poekoelan is truly the “broken mirror” form of martial arts.


Xoxoxoxo Mas Mom

NPR, All Things Considered: Teaching Violence, and Control, to Children, by Goeroe Louise Rafkin

Please listen to this awesome radio piece. Goeroe Louise is a fifth degree black belt in the art of Poekoelan Tjimindie Tulen



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And just so you know, May is FREE self-defense month at Tulen Center: http://tulencenter.com/welcome-to-tulen-center/free/

Pre-registration has begun for our summer day camps: http://tulencenter.com/about/summer-camps/

XOXO Pendekkar Silvia

The Gift of Meditation

The gym was full. The crowds were loud. This was our son’s big wrestling season finale. Districts! Even the grandparents were here to cheer him on!

It had been a good year. Henry, who at the time was 10, was in his first year of wrestling, and was undefeated so far. He was ready to face his final match, a kid in his weight class who had several more years of experience.

My husband had checked in with Henry, so we knew he was nervous as he anticipated the big match. Up in the stands, we chatted amongst ourselves whiling away the eternal wait.

Henry was next. I searched the crowds looking for him and there he was! There was my son in cross-legged position, we call it “silat”, with wrists on his knees, thumb touching middle finger, back straight. And though I wasn’t close enough to see or hear him, I knew he was breathing deeply in through his nose and out through his mouth.

Henry Meditating at Districts 2011 Before the Final Match

Sitting in silat position is one of the ways we do our meditation in Poekoelan class. The art that we train is very physical. We learn to strike and hit, to defend ourselves against attacks. We push our bodies and build our strength. The practice of meditation brings balance. We learn to quiet the mind and connect to spirit. This art is Compassionate Balanced Action.

When I do my daily meditation, it’s a chance for my brain to rest. I can literally feel it relaxing. The world is a busy place, and to be able to find some quiet and peace in the midst of it all is a real gift our art gives to each of us.

So the crowds were loud and the gym was vibrating with energy! In the midst of the chaos, Henry was preparing himself for his biggest match yet in the best way he knew how: by breathing deeply, quieting his mind, and setting his intention.

I’ve taught a lot of kids over the years and this is one thing I know to be true: when we share a genuine gift with children, one that they sense is pure, honest and authentic, they know it, they feel it and they “get” it. And what a gift! To know that no matter what, be it scary, sad, overwhelming or negative, they always have a tool they can rely on. They can do their meditation and face their challenges from this place of internal strength, being calm and clear. I am so grateful to receive this gift, and so blessed that I get to pass it on.

Terima Kashi Banyak,

Pendekkar Silvia