In the Most Unexpected Places

By Goeroe Silvia Smart

I train Poekoelan Tjimindie Tulen and have for quite a number of years. I love it. I love the lessons I learn, I love my Teachers, my teammates and the students and families at my school. I love the physical workout, the self-defense and the way my confidence has grown. I love the sense of family that comes with being part of the Tulen Community. The love I feel is deep and abiding, the connections are sure and real and strong.

“Expect the unexpected” is a saying we have in our art. And sure enough, Poekoelan happens in the most unexpected places.

 

My daughter attends an arts magnet school in our area, where she was recently in a play. One night last weekend, I was the adult behind the scenes. My job was to hang out in case there was an emergency. Since the kids are so professional and amazing, I was just sitting around in a backstage office, enjoying catching up on some reading.

 

Around mid-performance, my daughter came rushing in with a handful of performers who were waiting to go on stage. “My friends want to talk to you about self-defense!” Over the years, I’ve learned that when people want to “talk about self defense” it usually means they have some fears and they’re looking for answers to their frightening “what if”s.

 

I put down my book and sure enough, one by one, the kids told me about what they were the most worried about, what they’ve seen or heard and situations they were frightened they might encounter. They were open and so very pure.

 

“What do you do if someone grabs you and tries to punch you?” We have a hold called “Blouse Grip with Punch”. I had my daughter grab my shirt with one hand and punch me with the other, so we could demonstrate the defense. They thought that was pretty cool! I asked them if they wanted to learn it. My offer was received with such enthusiasm and joy that my whole spirit started to sing. This is what I love!

 

My new students stood behind me and we practiced the movement in the air. Then they got to do it with an “attacker” AKA, my daughter. They were so excited! They “got” the movement quickly and beautifully. Such eager and fast learners! So we did more. “What if someone’s choking you from behind?” “What if you get pushed to the ground?” “What if someone puts a gun in your face?”

 

The performers needed to get on stage, but they came back to visit me later and we did some more. For the rest of the evening, this became the backstage theme. The students practiced on one another, and they even started showing the moves to other performers and crew members too. They were on fire!

 

The Fantasticks

 

Experiencing the excitement and empowerment of the kids was incredible. They came to me with some very specific fears, fears that burdened them and held them down, and when they left, they’d faced those fears and learned very practical ways to handle some scary situations.

 

 (This is a photo of “The Fantasticks” performed at the Arts and Communication Magnet Academy, a public school in Beaverton, OR.)

 

This is a living art. It lives in each of us as we practice it and pass it along. The art thrived that night in the hearts of those of us in that backstage office. There I was, reading a book. Next thing I know, I’m teaching kids to flip someone over their back. When we stay open and ready, the greatest things can happen. “Expect the Unexpected!”

 

Poekoelan Finds You

I know I harp on this a lot, but you are really never too old to train Poekoelan. With age comes wisdom. You might be scared, yes, but you are not too old. The Poekoelan Community loves and cherishes all of our students, from the youngest newborn to the oldest Grampa. There is room for everyone here, this is what we do. Mas Cheryl, from our sister school, One With Heart Tulen Center in North Portland, has some words of wisdom about how she, a Grandma, started on her training path.

GBA Trainer Family

 

To the left, you’ll see some advanced students in our art. You don’t have to look too closely to notice some gray hairs. Really, there’s a place for you in Poekoelan no matter how old you are!

 

How Poekoelan Tjimindie Tulen Found Me

by Cheryl Hagen

My first Instructor, Bantoe Gerry, once said “Poekoelan Tjimindie Tulen finds you, you don’t find it.”

At first I wasn’t sure what he meant. But I now know this was true for me and my family.

When my granddaughter Tara was in first grade at Beach School she came home excited about an afterschool self-defense class called “No, Go, Tell, Yell.” After she attended the class we were invited to St. Johns to a place called One With Heart.  We had looked at other martial arts schools for the Tara and her brother, but hadn’t found a place that felt quite right. I was no longer looking. As soon as we walked into One With Heart I said to my daughter “sign them up.” I could feel the positive energy immediately.  I noticed everyone was talking and laughing; smiles everywhere, even the instructors. We sat down, watched, and signed Tara up that day.

Tara loves training. She tried for some time to get me to train with her; a grandma, granddaughter thing.  I told her I couldn’t do it because of my age and physical condition. I honestly didn’t think I could do it.  But many people saw more in me than I saw in myself. One student asked me why I didn’t train. I told her what I told Tara; I was too old and I wasn’t in good enough shape. She pointed out there is no better way to get into shape than to start working out. And she pointed out that there was one student who was older than me when she started training and was now close to earning her Black Belt. I wasn’t completely convinced, but Tara was relentless so I continued to think about it. Finally, at age 52, a smoker, not the best shape, I decided to give it a try.  I had nothing to lose and everything to gain. That was almost three years ago.

Poekoelan Tjimindie Tulen is much more than a martial art. Training has helped me meet and overcome life challenges and I know this is true for many people. There are times during training when I have felt frustrated because physical injuries make certain things difficult to do.  When I am frustrated Bantoe Gerry reminds me that Poekoelan is like a broken mirror, no two students will look the same.  Just like a mirror when you break it, all the little pieces are different, yet together they are complete.  So even though I have had to make modifications in my training I can see that I am part of something bigger. And my part is as important as any other.

Today my daughter and three of my grandchildren train. We are growing together. Since I began training, my physical endurance has improved.  My brain is more alert. My stress level has gone down.  My self-confidence rises with each challenge I overcome. I am more patient than ever before.  And I have just about quite smoking.

I am continuously finding new strengths I never knew I had.   I tell my story because if one person takes the challenge I took from my granddaughter, that person may find strength they never knew they had.  Bantoe Gerry once told me “Poekoelan Tjimindie Tulen finds you, you don’t find it.” I never thought I would train a martial art. I certainly wasn’t looking for one.  I feel so fortunate that Poekoelan found me.