Summer Camps FAQ

Q. What ages do your summer camps serve?

A. Our summer camps are for kids 6-12.


Q. Can beginning kids who have never trained martial arts come to your camps?

A. YES! Our camps, much like the style we train, are focused on the individual. Your child will feel welcome and will be taught at the beginning level. Children who have been training a little longer will be taught at their level. We have lots of wonderful instructors in place at camps which allows us the flexibility to meet your child where he or she is.


Q. What hours are your camps?

A. We have half day (8:30-noon), full day (8:30-3:00) and extended care (3:00-5:30) options so you can pick what works best for you and your child.


Q. What are your camp dates this year?

A. Summer Camps are over for 2014 but we’ll post our dates for 2015 as soon as we have them available!


Q. Why do you only offer two camps?

A. We put a huge amount of effort into making our camps as fun and power packed as possible, for each and every camper. This takes a lot of time, energy and people power. All of us have family, friends, activities to do, and communities we like to give back to. In order to keep camps as special as they are, and in order to keep balance in our own lives, we offer only two camps per summer. Because of this, they are in high demand. Be sure to sign up early.


Q. What happens during a typical camp day?

A. Campers arrive by 9AM and then camp gets into full swing. The morning is spent learning martial arts and self-defense. Kids get an awesome workout (or two!) each morning. Sometimes we work out all together and sometimes we break apart by rank so we can work individually with the campers at their level/rank. Because we work out so hard, we like to have a small snack break in the morning. Lunch is around 12:00PM, when we head to one of the parks within walking distance from our school. We gather together to eat and relax in the shade, load up with sunscreen and then we play! We are back at Tulen Center by 3:00PM for pick up. Kids who are with us for extended care have some choices. They can join us for more work outs (usually in the form of fun games and challenges) or they can choose some quiet activities like playing with legos, art projects and games, to round out their big day! Pick up for extended care is 5:30PM. Kids ALWAYS sleep well during camps!


Q. What skills can I expect my child to learn?

A. Your child will learn some important life skills like discipline, self-control, respect and compassion. Your child will experience the pride that comes with honest achievement and the joy that comes from working together with teammates. S/he will learn effective self-defense skills that will last a lifetime. Specifics include use of the voice, striking and releases from grabs and holds. Your child will gain confidence that he or she will carry outward into the world. We create courageous leaders and upright citizens.


Q. This all sounds great, but will my child have fun?

A. YES!! Our style, Poekoelan Tjimindie Tulen, is based on animal movement. The monkey, the tiger, the crane and the snake teach us cool moves, and from these animals, we have created some really fun games. We do fun stuff throughout the day like nail painting, face painting, push up and cruncher contests…we have “tattoo parlors”, nifty art projects and guests who come in to teach skills like theater games, card games and magic tricks. Our days are full of fun activities with a nice balance of “down time” to relax and just hang out with our friends.


Q. How do I register?

A. It’s easy. You can call us: 503-291-9333. Or you can register online here.

Stranger Danger is Bunk

The great news is that the rate of child sexual abuse has gone down over the past two decades. FBI stats, as well as national surveys and studies are all showing this decline. This is a celebration-worthy accomplishment!

For my Teachers, my teammates and I, this is excellent news. For years we have worked with families, institutions, organizations and children to promote the awareness and prevention of child sexual assault. We have worked long hours, often for free, usually with very little recognition.

Over the years, we come up against the concept of “Stranger Danger” over and over again. Our job, then, becomes all the more challenging. Not only do we need to teach the knowledge and skills that can really and truly help keep kids safer, but we’ve also got to spend our precious time debunking this currently popular and ingrained theory, which really does NOT make kids safer at all!

Most kids are assaulted by someone they know. Assailants are family members, friends of the family, or people whom the family trusts, like a minister, neighbor or coach. My sense is that because of this, many grown ups find it awkward to talk with kids about sexual assault. Enter “Stranger Danger”, which is flashy, it rhymes, it’s cute, and gets lots of TV news time. Could it be that talking about strangers, abductions and kidnapping is somehow more comfortable for us grown ups?

Here’s the reality: Children are assaulted by people they know. Period. “Stranger Danger” is bunk, and teaching children to be afraid of strangers does NOT help our kids stay safer, it just makes them afraid of strangers! The US Department of Justice did some research on abductions. They found out that within the same year, there were 203,900 family abductions, 58,200 non-family abductions (friends and acquaintances) and only 115 stranger abductions! THIS is the reality we are talking about! THIS is what children are facing.

I’m a mom. I know the panic that strikes when our little one goes missing at the Zoo or in a mall. I know how the fear of our children getting hurt – or worse – can keep us up at night or wake us up in a sweat. But I honestly feel that filling kids up with fear, keeping them on a tight leash and warning them against strangers is not only a disservice, but it’s giving them a false sense of reality as well. And it doesn’t make them safer! As adults, maybe it makes us feel better, gives us some sense of control, but it gives the very beings we want most to protect a false sense of security, an unbalanced sense of reality and it doesn’t make them any safer!

So, how do you explain to kids that actually, most adults are good people, care about kids and want them to be safe? How do you tell them that there are just a few “bad guys” out there, and one of them might be our neighbor, our soccer coach, our minister or our aunt’s new boyfriend? How do you teach this without creating a bunch of anxiety-filled and paranoid kids?

Well, it’s not easy! For sure, it’s a fine balancing act, and one that absolutely cannot be defined by a cute one-liner like “Stranger Danger”. My Teachers, teammates and I have worked together for years to find a way to empower kids while at the same time giving them a fair and reasonable sense of what’s real and what’s at stake. Kids are strong, and I believe that they are also smarter and more powerful than most adults give them credit for.

Our kids’ self-defense classes are called No! Go! Yell! Tell! All of us who teach these classes are martial artists with years of training and real-life experience. Many of us are moms. Classes are fun, high-energy, and super informative. Kids feel challenged and empowered and parents always feel grateful. Our classes open up honest conversations that can (and we hope will) continue at home. Honest communication equals safety, and that’s a fact.

So let’s enjoy hearing about a crime statistic that is going down, but let’s press onward and keep up the good work. Let’s make a pact to teach kids what’s real, to share information and teach skills that empower children and keep them safe. Get your kids training with us and you’ll be setting them up for success, you can count on it.
NGYT LogoPlaces you can train:

My School: Tulen Center

In SE and North Portland Portland at One With Heart

In Oakland, CA at Studio Naga

In New York

On Cape Cod

In the Netherlands

In Canada


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

Kindling Kindness

A martial arts teacher explains how bullies grow—or don’t.

By Goeroe Louise Rafkin who runs Studio Naga, our sister school in Oakland, CA.

At the end of every one of my martial arts classes, the kids shake hands with each other. It’s my favorite moment, and one that not every child is comfortable with, initially. As I watch them pumping their arms—some, eventually, with the enthusiasm of puppies—I think, this is why I teach. The training is about learning to get along, about respecting each other, about being connected.

But in 25 years of teaching martial arts, I’ve noticed a gradual slippage in the ways kids relate to other kids—and to adults—a sad trend away from kindness.

The news is everywhere: Bullying is epidemic. In the current frenzy about bullying at school, fingers are pointing every which way. Mostly they’re aimed at school administrators, who toss cash at the situation, both out of genuine concern and to guard against lawsuits.

Mandates for safe schools mean action, and there’s interesting work being done. Yet remedies to bullying have generally focused on the victim—“Learn to fight back,” or “Just walk away,” or, more popular these days, “Stand up to the bully.” All of these strategies can work, at times, and I support—and teach—them all; I’m especially committed to self-defense.

But since when has the best solution to a problem been the correction of the victim? As if the bully is an immutable object, when, in fact, the bully is another kid (or adult) with hopes and fears and insecurities, seeking a way to belong and get by. The popular assumption that bullies are misfits with rotten self-images is challenged by major studies, at U.C.L.A. and elsewhere, showing that bullies are actually considered “cool.” Bullies are often popular, wield power in their peer groups, have friends, and even possess a fair shake of self-esteem. What they lack is impulse control, empathy for others, and respect for authority.

So what is our responsibility? What can we do as parents, teachers, and neighbors, to teach a more inclusive and compassionate way of relating?

Because anyone with a toddler knows behavior is monkey-see, monkey-do from the get-go, the first thing we all can do is look at our own behavior. When is the last time you cursed a bad driver (modeling poor impulse control)? Called a coworker or family member an idiot (exhibiting a lack of empathy)? Undermined your child’s teacher or coach (showing lack of respect for authority)?

Was any of this in front of kids, yours or others? We’ve all done it, and worse. And these days, our kids bear witness to a lot more of our questionable behavior than in yesteryear. The imaginary wall between kids and parents has been all but erased; they’re listening to our telephone conversations, watching us work at home. Monkeys are seeing and monkeys are doing.

Since the 16th century, when fight-to-the-death life skills were eclipsed by the age of weaponry, martial arts training has focused on teaching a way of life, about how to live without fear, gain confidence, and be better people. We’ve got centuries-old traditions shaping our community. Yet martial arts philosophy is adaptable to both home and school. Away from my studio, I (too often!) have a salty mouth and can be as catty and demanding as the best, or worst. But around my students, both in class and out, I know I’m the “highest rank” and both my kicks—and my behavior—will be copied.

Running a school with zero tolerance for bullying, I’ve had to think deeply about our community values. We have slogans: “Cliquey is icky”; “You can’t say you can’t play.” But the most central tenets of martial arts are civility and respect—not always culturally lauded these days. Last fall, when the president of the United States was called a liar by an elected representative during a congressional address, I felt we’d reached a new low. “You can disagree without being disagreeable” is a phrase easily understood by kids, though it takes guts to use it with adults.

As the head of my school, I am often on the receiving end of what I’ll politely call “disagreeable behavior” by parents. There are those that challenge my school policies (no, there is no exception, not even for you), and those who strongly question our rules (children must wear uniforms, even if they don’t feel like it that day). Last week, a parent was outraged that his child, underage for the school yet “gifted,” was not allowed in. In each of these cases, parents tried to verbally bully me into their way of thinking; in two instances, I was criticized personally.

In martial arts, our code of conduct doesn’t depend on context but is applicable to everyone—parents and kids—all the time. This challenges those who want special treatment or who think the rules shouldn’t apply to their kids, for whatever reason. But a single set of rules creates a safe container for everyone. We don’t put up with disrespectful behavior on the training floor, nor is it okay for kids to bow respectfully in class and then treat their parents like servants.

Decades of martial arts experience have shown me that compassion can be taught. Last year, at our Tilden overnight camp, a young boy new to our school brandished a pocketknife at another threateningly. We set up an apology session where each talked about what they felt. It went . . . okay. But that night, during the great game, “Five Minutes of Fame,” in which kids talk about their lives, the new boy spoke: 27 foster placements before a forever home. The next day the bully and the bullied became buddies; compassion and understanding won out over fear and anger.

When kids come to Studio Naga, they are taught to say hello, to ask about my day, and to respond when I ask them about theirs. They are required to mentor newer students, to clean bathrooms, to empty trash. And at the close of every class, the last thing we do is exchange the Indonesian phrase gotong-royong. Roughly translated, it means, “I learn from you, and you learn from me,” or, more formally, “We share a goal.”

In martial arts, we bow an awful lot, but it goes both ways: I to them, them to me. We share the responsibility of what we create. It comes back to all of us, really. Those fingers are pointing right at me.

Published in The Monthly, East Bay’s Premier Magazine of culture and Commerce

For information about our upcoming Anti-Bullying Training Seminars:

For information about summer camps with Goeroe Louise:


The Rose

The symbol of Poekoelan is a red rose lying on a black background with bamboo on either side. The rose is beautiful yet if you grab it, it has thorns. The bamboo symbolizes the flexibility we strive for in body, mind and spirit. In a heavy windstorm, the oak tree may fall over or break, while bamboo bends, and then snaps back. The black background shows the mystery of this art. There is always more to learn!

We have all sorts of kids training at our school. Big kids, small kids, kids who do well in school, kids who struggle with academics. We have kids who can stay focused for a whole class and kids who are easily distracted. We have kids from all walks of life and from all possible points on any given spectrum. There is a place for each and every one of them in this art.

Our Teacher, Mas Goeroe Agoeng Willy Wetzel, said that as his students, each of us is like the rose. We are all different and yet we are all beautiful.

As an instructor, we get to learn just as much from our students as they learn from us. Say I have a student on my mat that has trouble focusing. If I find myself getting irritated, I am encouraged to look inside myself and figure out why that bothers me. Maybe there is something about myself that needs changing, some way in which I could be more understanding or set boundaries more clearly or compassionately. If I am working with a student who interrupts me or other students, or talks out of turn, I get to find joy in their enthusiasm. As I teach them how to protect themself, I also get to guide them to find and harness their own self-control.

When we bow onto the floor to instruct, we are taught to open our hearts. If I look for the beauty in each student, then that is what I find! This principle holds true even when I work with students who challenge me in some way. As I dig deeper to find more patience, this gives our students breathing room to be who they are, and at the same time, it makes me a better teacher.

As instructors we are reminded to let go of our ego and to focus on reaching the student who is right in front of us. I might discover a new way to explain or demonstrate a particular move or strike. One of our instructors might see a special glimmer of strength or speed we can nurture as the student develops. A shy student is accepted exactly as she is and begins to feel safe speaking up. She finds strength in her voice and a new confidence with friends, family and in school.

We are taught to practice compassion as a primary principle in our lives and on the floor as we teach. All of this makes us stronger instructors, and what joy it brings to us as well!

One of the many gifts of the rose is that it teaches us to look for beauty in each and every person that walks through the door of our school and onto the training floor. Some days, I think I am the luckiest soul alive, to be surrounded by so much vast beauty! My heart is full to overflowing almost every single day, and for this I thank my Teachers and that amazing flower, the rose.