One Families Pukulan Journey


Written by Mark Novak

“Nothing you can do is wrong.” This was one of the first things I was told when I walked into a class at One With Heart. My inner voice laughed skeptically. The concept that I could do nothing wrong was as absurd as it was revelatory. But the instructors prove it true again and again. It is not that everything I do is correct, but that there is no judgement in the Puklulan studio.

To enjoy learning anything, I first had to let go of the idea that doing something incorrectly was bad. The fact that we learn as much from errors as successes is a cerebral truth, but not an emotional one. I’ve always wanted to know instantaneously how to do things properly; as a writer, to pick up the pen and have the words flow out; as a blacksmith, to lift my hammer and know how to hit the hot steel to form art; as a martial artist, to be shown a lunka (“form”) and be able to perform it perfectly within moments. It’s a ridiculous idea, and yet I am somehow disappointed when, as a white belt, I am not performing at the black belt level. Puklulan gives me the space to learn that my disappointment shouldn’t stop me.

I was not born with an intrinsic knowledge of Indonesian, nor a familiarity with traditions therein, yet I performed a complex rice ceremony at a black belt test. My flaws do not define me, but actually give me a clear path to follow to success. This is why I study at One With Heart. I can see where I began - belt-less, unable to touch my toes, stiff and sore, recovering from back surgery - where I am now - white sash, much stronger and more flexible - and where I’m heading - moving with speed and strength as monkey, tiger, snake, and crane. Where I end up is still beyond my vision.

My wife has just begun studying at One With Heart. Just as I moved out of the Cun Tao program, she has moved in to explore what the program will mean to her. Right now, it is an opportunity for a life-long athlete to move in ways no other sport requires, providing unique physical and emotional challenges, in an environment that is safe and supportive to women.

I asked my eldest daughter why she enjoys Poekoelan, choosing Poekoelan classes over scouting events, dance classes, Trackers Camps, and just about anything else we have offered. She pondered it for an hour and then came back and said, “Because it’s fun!” I watch my daughter transform when she steps into the studio. In first grade, she began taking the children’s Cun Tao (“self defense”) class. The kids are asked to hold a “ready” stance, feet shoulder-width apart, knees bent slightly, toes curled to grip the floor, right hand flat in front of left, fingers pointed downward. In a room of rowdy children, she stood still, attention trained on the teacher. At 6, I watched her fall in love with Poekoelan. Now nearly 8, her focus and love have only increased.

We are a family of Puklulan students. At home, we discuss hold defenses, compare forms, and practice strikes. Two years ago, I knew nothing about Indonesian martial arts, but now I cannot imagine our lives without One With Heart. As different ranks, taking different classes from different instructors, we see so many aspects of the same school, as welcoming to adults as it is to children, providing strength, conditioning, speed, confidence, discipline, and community. And, as my daughter, wife and I agree, “It’s fun!” which is the best way to learn.