I came to Fifth River Poekoelan thinking I'd spend a few hours learning some self-defense moves and that would be that. After going through the workshop, though, I felt more confident than I had in a long time. And when I saw the class' teacher, Bantoe Jessica Forney, demonstrate a form, I was in awe; it was just one of the coolest things I'd ever seen. The next thing I knew I was signed up for an intro session at Fifth River and my world forever changed.
Fifth River practices Poekoelan Tjimindie Tulen, an Indonesian martial art built upon kung fu and pentjak silat. Unlike some arts, Poekoelan involves striking from standing AND from the ground to form a more comprehensive set of skills. Poekoelan also emphasizes flow and fluidity, and when combined with the movement of the art's four animals, something powerful resembling a beautiful dance emerges.
There's a home for everyone at Fifth River: adults, children, people new to martial arts, seasoned black belts, etc. There are those who enjoy the skill involved in learning how to fight, and there are those who embrace the self-defense aspects and animal movement. I fall in the latter category. Every time I come to class, I find myself overcoming challenges that ask me to face my own perceptions and fears. Although I find it difficult at times, I always leave having learned something new about Poekoelan and about myself. And then I can't stop coming back. (It doesn't hurt that Poekoelan is a lot of fun.)
While the art itself is incredible, what stands out at Fifth River are the teachers. Not only are they extremely well-educated and passionate about Poekoelan, they're just great people who are great teachers. They're always there to help me improve, but only in ways I feel most comfortable. I don't know how many times I've found myself doing something beyond what I thought I was capable. And it's with regularity that I see the teachers stay later to help people perfect a hold or practice a form or just chat. They're just extremely patient and encouraging.
When I think about it, it's not just the teachers that embody the qualities I love but everyone who trains at Fifth River. It's not every day you get to work with such a compassionate circle of smart, friendly, hard-working people.
The school offers martial arts classes for ages 3 and up. They also provide private instruction, self-defense workshops and breathing workshops, healing arts, and group activities, including birthday parties and morale events.