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.


Imagine a world where everybody grows up learning self-defense just like they do riding a bike, swimming, learning first aid…

Raleigh Hills Self Defense 1


What would it be like for kids to grow up with the absence of fear, knowing that they are safe? Knowing they have a right to be safe, knowing they have the skills to stay safe?


Hi, my name is Goeroe Silvia, I run Tulen Center in SW Pdx. We’ve launched an Indegogo Campaign with the intention of raising $3500 or better for the Tulen Foundation. The Tulen Foundation is a national non-profit 501c set up to make self-defense and empowerment training available for people from all walks of life all across the country. Please donate here!

I think of self-defense training as a basic life skill. Kind of like swimming, first aid and fireMas Zoe and Mas Matt drills. People need to know how to protect themselves from all sorts of people and situations so they can live with confidence. Tulen Center provides free self-defense classes in elementary, middle and high schools in the Southwest Portland and Beaverton neighborhoods. We teach free classes at Rec Centers, Portland State University and wherever and whenever we can! There are costs associated with providing these classes and the Tulen Foundation helps defer them.

In the martial art we train, Poekoelan Tjimindie Tulen, the first six months to a year of sweeptraining is completely focused on basic and very effective self-defense skills, For people qualify, who want that depth of training but can’t afford it, the Tulen Foundation provides partial scholarships.

A lot of parents want their kids to learn self-defense but live paycheck to paycheck and struggle with the basics, let alone sending their kids to a martial arts school or self-defense workshops. Your gift will go directly toward supporting families so their kids can get these life skills that are so important in the world we live in today.

In the elementary school closest to Tulen Center, 34% of the kids qualify for free or reduced lunches and the Beaverton School District has the highest number of homeless kids in the state. The kids in our neighborhood can benefit from self-defense training and you can help them get it! You can donate now through PayPal or with a debit or credit card. Thanks in advance for your tax-deductable contribution!



Words from a Grateful Mom

I’m writing this review for you parents out there.

Short version: Send your kids here.  Especially if they’re girls.

Medium version: The school is not competitive, there’s no lockstep testing schedule, no tournaments; it’s just all about inner and outer strength, what each person can achieve and being the best you can be.  Many of the top people at the studio are strong women whom everyone respects, and everyone supports each other no matter how old or young, how experienced or inexperienced you are.  Send your kids here.

Longer version: My daughter started training when she was eight.  She trained for ten years, until she left for college; now she trains when she comes home on vacation, and trains at college with others in the area.  Training taught my daughter all the things that martial arts always teaches – strength, discipline, respect, responsibility – and way more.  It gave my daughter a variety of strong women to look up to, supportive men to work with, and a place where she was always loved for herself, even when the world was full of mean girls.  It taught her that goals and prizes don’t come on some set schedule – and that sometimes you think you’re ready and you still have to wait.  It gave her both pride and humility when as a child she was expected to teach adults of lesser rank; and it taught her patience and open-heartedness as some of her peers passed her.  It gave her friends of all ages, some of whom are her mentors and some of whom she has mentored, and all of whom support each other in the most amazing network.

I used to say that if my daughter ran away from home, I would know where she was, and I would know that she was in strong, good hands.  A mother is lucky if she can say that.  Send your kids here.

By Mas Naomi’s Mom


Mas Naomi (left) with Mas Goeroe Jennifer (center) and Pendekkar Amber (right) at a recent demo in Boston. Beautiful, strong and powerful women!

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.

Tulen Center Vision and Mission

Tulen Center Vision

Tulen Center is the Premier School for Traditional Martial Arts and Self Defense in Southwest Portland and Beaverton where empowerment, leadership, strength of character and compassion are cultivated by challenging each member of our community to grow to their fullest potential.


Tulen Center Mission

Exceptionality: We teach Poekoelan Tjimindie Tulen, an effective and Traditional Indonesian Martial Art based in self-defense.

Quality: Top notch Instruction with wonderful trained instructors. A compassionate yet disciplined approach is a key component of our school.

Commitment: As leaders in the Tulen Center community, Jeff and Silvia are committed to the lifelong development of their students and Tulen Center families. They nurture a sense of community that goes beyond the classroom to enrich all aspects of the individual’s life.

Excellence: In this safe yet challenging training ground, we create leaders of the future.

Diversity: We offer a loving and supportive community that is inclusive and accepting of everyone.

Wellness: We offer a variety of classes and programs that encourage health and wellness for our students, their families and our neighborhood.

Profitability: Being profitable is an important part of Tulen Center’s strategy, allowing us to maintain the highest quality of our instructors, facility, school and services.

Comprehensive: We provide high quality self-defense, anti-bullying, empowerment and leadership programs outside the walls of our school, in our local community.

Crouching Tiger

My very best buddy from High School is testing for his black belt this Friday. He trains a different style martial art than we do here at Tulen Center, but the spirit of it feels familiar. The style of Tae Kwon Do that he trains is traditional, based in compassion, even as the students learn to fight with all their heart, just like we do.

One summer, a few years back, my husband, my two kids and I were visiting Jon, his wife and his two kids in Western MA, and we had the opportunity to join his Dojang for a class. Both of our families were there and it was a wonderful evening, full of sharing and respect. Even though the style wasn’t Poekoelan Tjimindie Tulen, we all felt very at home and very welcome.

As part of the black belt testing process, students at Ashfield Tae Kwan Do are asked to write an essay. Jon sent me his, and I loved it. Jon’s a writer, he’s smart and he’s pretty funny. So I’m grateful he’s letting me share this with you. Enjoy!

Crouching Tiger
Essay submitted for the rank of black belt
Ashfield Tae Kwon Do
Master Roger Lynch
April 20th 2012

Jon visiting Tulen Center in 2008 learning Choke Front Second Variation

An author and father of two whom I admire once wrote that, the moment you become a dad you find yourself making some big promises. As you cradle that baby in your arms you silently swear to be a paragon of virtue; to be strong, kind, brave, prudent, smart about money, and good with tools. In short, you promise to be someone else, someone better, and someone who will instill in his children a sense of discipline, confidence, power and safety—which is why I thought I might need some help. So as soon as my sons were old enough I signed them up for a martial arts class.

We chose Tae Kwon Do because the school is close to our home and is run by a
man who conducts the classes the way Jesus would if he thought the best way for “peace and love to be multiplied” was to teach children how to use their bodies as weapons. A year after enrolling the boys I joined too. As I quickly discovered, when you take up a discipline like Tae Kwon Do at my age you’re probably not going to develop ‘abs of steel’. A starring role in the latest martial arts blockbuster “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Cellulite” is more likely. Why would my opponent bother with a wrist grab when I have love handles I kept wondering to myself?

Riding home from the Dojang (school) last month my oldest son, Julian, asked me
how I thought his class had gone. “I’m really trying to bump my game up a notch or two
and train as if I were already a red belt,” he said. I told him it showed. And then he
started talking animatedly about a match he’d had with one of our young black belts, Eli.

When I first met Eli he was a painfully shy, awkward teenager. Eli started his training when he was seven, the same age as my sons Julian and Oliver began theirs. Despite his formidable skills—his flying kicks have the hang time of a LeBron James dunk shot—Eli had to wait a long time to test for his black belt. This is because our Master won’t test anyone for the rank of black belt before his or her eighteenth birthday. However, the match Julian was referring to took place six months ago just before Eli
headed off to the Coast Guard. “Master Lynch said we were so fast he was having a hard time keeping up with our kicks and punches—that was my best match ever!” he said excitedly. He was right. Julian then remarked how much he loved sparring with Eli and that he missed his gentle presence and intense, wiry energy in the Dojang since he’d been gone. I realized that I love Eli too. For the same reasons Julian does. And that got me thinking that there isn’t a single man I’ve met who sits on the board of this school, past or present, that I wouldn’t be thrilled—ecstatic—to have either of my sons turn out like. Not one.

You just can’t imagine how good that feels to me as a father. I am privileged to
have my sons be part of something like that. I want them to understand that when you
find a place as special as this you don’t sit on the sidelines and watch, you join in. When
you discover something this good, you do whatever you have to do to support it and
while that will, inevitably, entail a lot of hard work and sacrifice, it’s neither. It’s service.

My Journey
This strikes at the core of what has been, for me, the most challenging part of this journey—that is, trying to figure out my place in the Dojang and Tae Kwon Do’s in my life. What is the meaning and purpose of all this training, beyond staying healthy and fit?
I often feel like the Emma Goldman of Tae Kwon Do: “If I can’t dance, I don’t want to
be in your martial art…” Taking myself, and the form, more seriously has been an
important part of the process for me. More specifically, learning how to channel my
natural joy and zest for life in constructive ways so my energy doesn’t distract from, but
contributes to, the work of the community has been crucial to my process. Like most
journeys or quests of this type, it’s involved a lot of searching.

In my case, it’s required my trying to stay more in the present moment during
class—in stretches and basics, not just when sparring or doing forms. My mantra for the
past six months has been focus, Focus, FOCUS. Honestly, that’s been a lifelong project
for me.

One of the most stressful moments in this effort took place when I was testing for
my yellow belt. Prior to demonstrating my test form, Master Markey asked me to
describe, “In one word, please” the most essential part of Tae Kwon Do. As the black
belts sitting on the board in front of me waited patiently for my response, I could feel the
stares of all the friends and family members gathered in the audience behind me. Hoping to buy a little time, I inhaled and stood up on my toes with my arms raised over my head, as if readying to perform one of the moves in Palgwe Pal Jang or Koryo. And then I found it. “Breath,” I said, exhaling and lowering my arms to my side. No matter what else I manage to accomplish in my training, I will always remember the look of astonishment and pleasure on Master Markey’s face when I came up with that answer. I felt as if I’d uncovered the secret of the universe. But this master student exchange, with its Freudian overtones of child-like admiration and parental approval, did not result in my cracking the code of an ancient practice. These moments, as gratifying as they can be when they happen, are more like flotation devices than Rosetta Stones. They buoy our spirits and help us stay afloat and remain calm when we find ourselves in a tight spot or trying to comprehend one of life’s inexplicable mysteries. Similar to the haikus Master Lynch occasionally reads before class, they’re little alleluias. They are our way of offering praise to the world.

Tae Kwon Do hasn’t unlocked the secret of happiness or blessed me with wisdom
beyond my years. It hasn’t mended my parents’ broken marriage, healed the wounds of
childhood or filled that empty space deep inside me. What Tae Kwon Do has done is gift
me a Dojang full of people who love me despite my shortcomings, or, more accurately,
because of them. I haven’t experienced a sense of community this powerful or a love this unconditional outside a twelve-step meeting. It provides me a spiritual practice that gets me through my toughest days (most of them anyway). And, best of all, for the first time ever, I’m actually meditating in the company of others—even if we spend the rest of class, trying to kill each other or learning how to inflict terrible, horrible, unmentionable pain on an unsuspecting attacker.

It Takes a Village
On Saturdays the Dojang transforms into a Korean version of Brigadoon, the
village of Scottish folklore that appears out of the clouds every hundred years. You never know who is going to show up. Former students return from college. A green belt and mother of two who took thirteen years off to raise her family comes back to continue her training. Black belts visit from strange, exotic, faraway lands like Japan and Turners
Falls. And, no matter how long it’s been since we’ve seen each other, time freezes.
Relationships pick up right where they left off. It’s an odd kind of intimacy. You can
stand next to a person for three, five, seven years without knowing much else about him
other than what brand of deodorant he uses (or that he doesn’t), but you share this intense bond together. Or, conversely, between bows and a quick handshake, you might learn about a huge death or tragedy in someone’s life. Two of my sparring partners, Dan and Louise, lost parents last year, Louise her mother, Dan both his mom and dad. Sometimes our toughest fights are the ones we face outside the Dojang.

One Tuesday in class we were learning how to perform the butterfly kick. Crescent kick. Plant. Spin counterclockwise. Fall on my ass. Repeat. Crescent kick. Plant. Spin counterclockwise. Fall on my ass. Mine was a beautiful kick (other than that last part). At the end of class, I was sparring with one of my teachers, Ms. Lorde. Ms. Lorde is a third-degree black belt. Pound for pound she is easily the most powerful person in the
Dojang. She’s also the reason they call what we do an “art.” During sparring lower ranks
are encouraged to try out any new kicks or combinations taught earlier. Mae West said
when choosing between two evils, she likes to pick the one she hasn’t tried before. So I tried my butterfly kick (again). Crescent kick. Plant. Spin counterclockwise. Land…Land! Ms. Lorde just stood staring at me, her feet cemented to the floor. I did another. This time, neither of us moved. And then (I feel like Dave Barry when he writes, “I’M NOT MAKING THIS UP”) she took both my gloved hands in hers and started jumping up and down shouting, “Oh my God, Jonathan! You ARE a butterfly!!”

The majority of students who make it to the rank of black belt, in any practice, not just Tae Kwon Do, are not, necessarily, the most skilled or talented martial artists in their disciplines. Some, like Ms. Lorde, clearly are. What it takes for most of us to achieve this milestone is, more than anything, a boatload of persistence and resilience. It is a long, long journey. There are so many setbacks and detours you encounter along the way—some good (e.g., children and school), some bad (e.g., injuries and family crises). When Ms. Lorde, or one of the other black belts, carries on like that in response to some small thing we did in class, well…Reactions like that have the half-life of plutonium. They can sustain you through a lot of the hard times and help you roll with all the little speed bumps life puts in your path.

The Heart is a Muscle
Ours is a family Dojang. The majority of us are not athletic, young twentysomething
year-olds like Eli or testosterone-charged teens like my sons. Consequently, some of the most impressive displays of Tae Kwon Do come from our hearts not our bodies, or surface in random acts of kindness.

It all starts with Master Lynch. In the kids class he sees where the children are, where they’ve been and where they’re ready to go. He doesn’t pander to them. And the kids know it. He teaches the adults the same way. He has a gift for finding that one special thing each of us does well and nurturing it. He brings grace and beauty out of clumsiness. Out of crudeness he gets poetry. He’s constantly asking us to stretch beyond our limits. He leads by example. I’ll never forget the morning Master Markey and Master White carried him into the Dojang to teach class following his abdominal surgery. Their love for him was so tangible that day you could have broken it like a board. Collectively, these men have over eight decades of Tae Kwon Do between them. Seventeen stripes adorn their black belts. But, to me, that tender exchange between the three of them was as powerful as any move executed by a Zen warrior on a field of battle.

Another of my teachers is a second degree and a breast cancer survivor. After she was diagnosed, our whole class sat with her in Muknyum (meditation) and prayed for her treatment to go well. She attended classes right up until the day of her operation. As soon as the stitches healed she started chemotherapy and resumed her training. Up all night. Sick. Sometimes she would just stop in the middle of one of her forms, like an exhausted caribou at a watering hole, and stand motionless in the middle of the Dojang. After a couple of minutes had passed she would continue on like nothing happened. I’ve never witnessed a more daring act of bravery in my life.

For some, just standing is an accomplishment. A young girl who trained with my sons in the kids’ class, suffers from a potentially life-threatening neuromuscular disease. Her parents are two of my teachers I’ve worked with the longest. They have three daughters, two of whom have the same illness. I don’t know how this family found the time to cook breakfast, never mind achieve the rank of black belt. In class, we’d take turns helping this student keep her balance and stay on her feet.

In the Dojang, life works the way it does in a family or in church: The less broken
take care of the more broken.

Giving Thanks
I keep coming back to parenting. Barbara Kingsolver wrote that mothers parent from the bottom up. That’s the way Master Lynch teaches class. We don’t separate ourselves by rank or skill. Everyone stays together. When a new student joins the Dojang, we all practice getting into Junbi (ready position) and learn how to bow all over again.

The Hyungs (forms) we study en route to our black belt are named after different elements found in nature—such as heaven, lake, fire, thunder, wind, water, mountain, and earth. They are patterns with set moves we repeat each time we demonstrate them, but, as in the natural world, there is room for self-expression. In class, we visualize ourselves moving like the wind (Oh Jang), leaping like flames in a wildfire (Sam Jang) or
ascending a steep mountain (Chil Jang). The images are powerful and archetypal and lend themselves easily to interpretation. Except for Koryo, which, simply, means Korea. The first of the black belt forms, the name “Koryo” derives from a proud dynasty whose spirit is reflected in its movements. In the opening move, we cup our hands in the shape of a circle (yin yang) and hold it out in front of us. Mr. Rawlings shared with me that when trying to make this form his own he pictures holding someone he loves and admires inside that circle. For me, this would include my wife Dana and my sons, Julian and Oliver, especially. Tae Kwon Do is a lifelong bond, one we will always share no matter what adversity life throws at us, or what conflicts transpire between us.

Another person who inspires me in the Dojang is my training partner, Dan, whom I have been blessed to have as a guide and companion on this adventure. Dan is a black belt and advanced student in two other martial arts. I’ve both marveled at and benefited from his ability to synthesize the myriad disciplines he’s studied. Observing Dan’s process made me realize that I’ve spent a lot more time thinking about what I need Tae Kwon Do to do for me—for example, helping me write and be a better father to my kids—than I have thinking about what I need to do for my Tae Kwon Do. Of course, there is a strong kismet between the two. The things I most need to work on in life— patience, balance, grace, and focus—are the same skills I’m trying to concentrate on in my training. What’s more, there’s hope!

On a recent trip to New York City I was practicing one of my forms in the hotel’s fitness center when I found myself confused about the position of my hands between moves. Four years ago that conundrum would have sent me dumpster diving into my computer bag searching for the wrinkled, folded up worksheets with the pictures of all my forms. You know, the ones that always manage to illustrate everything except the one move you’re seeking to clarify. (I don’t have much experience with weapons training but if I had to pick one to use in a fight I would become a master at drawing those tiny diagrams as nothing frustrates and brings a grown man to his knees faster.) However, this time I wasn’t panicked. I was simply curious. Because, while I didn’t know what my teachers would say, I understood enough to appreciate that there wasn’t a clear answer to my query. It was the sort of question that generates a kind of Talmudic dialogue among the black belts in the Dojang that reminds you that Tae Kwon Do is not a science with set rules and laws. It’s a tradition, handed down from one generation to the next. Becoming a black belt means that I am now part of that dialogue.

Like the bell Master Lynch rings during Muknyum to indicate the beginning of class—the first chime, to honor our past teachers, the second, our current instructors and the third, the future ones we will soon join—if someone asked me what to call my black belt test I would answer, “A good start!”

One Student’s Story…Why Mas Brad Trains Poekoelan Tjimindie Tulen

Sometimes, the students say it better than I can…

Mas Brad

Dear Pendekkar,

I want to thank you and Goeroe Jeff for believing in me.  I honestly wanted to walk off the floor a number of times during the “Men’s Class in 2010” – I did not think this was for me.  I am so glad I kept training with your encouragement as well as Goeroe Jeff’s.  The Tulen community is so special – the encouragement from Mas Rob H, Mas Divonna, and Mas Twila to keep me going.  I made the decision to keep training after seeing M. Rob F. while walking my dog and I said I think I will keep training, and I did.  So did he.  I was amazed when I made that decision and very glad I did.

I have not felt as good spiritually and physically since my 20s.  It has been an unbelievable experience.  At first I was sore after class but my body has adjusted and keeps getting stronger.  For me, martial arts is not something to dabble in like a spin class at the gym.  As Mas Goeroe Agoeng Barbara says, you need to practice every day.  I feel I need to come to class at least 2-3 days a week and practice at least 2 times – luckily I am a Golden and you and Goeroe Jeff have allowed me to practice during off hours.  Not practicing makes Poekoelan very frustrating since I am slow to learn set movements.

As I’ve said before, the humbling nature of Poekoelan has really helped me.  (I am such a “know it all” but keeping my mouth shut at class is a good thing.)  Mas Cy really helped me with set 2.  Mas Hirsh has been an inspiration to me.  Mas Emily, Mas Rowan, Mas Lisa and the home grown SWTC Black Belts are awesome.  M. Rob H has taken me under his wing and that has been great.

I feel my training has become much more focused now that I have lost weight and feel comfortable in third phase.  Learning the basics of the holds was very hard and set one still seems impossible.  My goal for this year is to try to clear my mind for evening classes which is very difficult but that is improving.

My general recommendation for adults is try it for 3 months and then make a commitment.  The situation with the Men’s class is almost better than private training since you get a black belt to instruct(sometimes 2) and adult attackers that are pretty friendly and since I am down to 161 😀 – I am easier to throw…..

Mas Brad

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