The Rose of Poekoelan

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 our art. There is always more to learn!


We have all sorts of students training at our school. Adults, kids, teenagers, people who have achieved success in their careers and younger students who struggle with academics. We have students who stay focused for a whole class and students who are easily distracted. We have students from all walks of life and from all possible points on any given spectrum. There is a place for each and every one of us in this art.



Our founder, Willy Wetzel, said that each one of us is like the rose. We are all unique and we are all beautiful.

Growth in Teaching

As instructors, we get to learn just as much from our students as they learn from us. Say, for example, I have a student on my mat who 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. Perhaps it’s time to find inspiration in the way that I teach! What 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, find new patience and guide them to find and harness their own self-control.

Open Hearts

When we bow onto the floor to instruct, we are taught to open our hearts. If we look for the beauty in each student, that is what we find! As we authentically connect and accept, our students get breathing room to be who they are. We let go of our egos and 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 our lives as well!


How Many Roses? How Many Thorns?

One of our students recently told me about a lovely ritual her family does every evening as they gather together for dinner. They begin by asking this question: How many roses? How many thorns? This gives the family a common language to discuss their respective days as they go on to engage in deeper conversation. I thought it was sweet and wanted to share it with you.


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 Naga. Some days, I think I am the luckiest soul alive, to be surrounded by such vast beauty! My heart is full, and for this, I thank all of those who came before us, those who step onto the mat to train every week, and that amazing flower, the rose.

Ours is a workout in a community that respects the dignity and individuality of each person. Naga is a place to get strong, healthy and learn amazing self-defense. And yet, it is so much more!