More than 20 years ago, a contentious relationship with an undergraduate thesis adviser inspired Jennifer Jordan, EMBA '12, to bolster her self-confidence with self-defense classes.
She sought out a class for women, but when it wasn't offered at the time she needed it, she enrolled in an Indonesian martial arts class instead. Today, she is a fifth-degree black belt in Poekoelan Tjimindie Tulen, a traditional martial art form.
The practice, which encompasses a whole system of healing and spiritual practice, has helped Jordan in every aspect of her life.
"As a kid, I wanted to be athletic, but I had horrible asthma," says Jordan, who grew up in Hingham, Mass. "I don't have asthma anymore, because of my [Poekoelan] training. More than that, it has given me a sense of confidence. Something tangible in me shifted, in knowing I could draw a line in the sand and back it up."
She has been training in, as well as teaching, Poekoelan since 1988. She trains and teaches at One With Heart Tulen Center in Portland, Ore., where she lives. Jordan emphasized that anyone, from 3-year-olds to those in wheelchairs, can do it. "It really is an art for everyone," she says.
During this past Independent Activities Period (IAP) at MIT, Jordan taught two non-credit courses in self-defense and in Poekoelan. In her teaching, she focuses on basic self-defense principles: awareness, assessment and action.
"We also say 'breathe,' and we practice positive self-talk," she says. "Position yourself for safety. Keep your eye on the threat and then act."
The training is useful even for times when someone is simply standing in your space. "You can use this at a meeting, if someone is standing too close to you," Jordan advised. "You would say, 'You are standing too close to me. It makes me uncomfortable. Take a step back. Now what was it you wanted to tell me?' It's just basic repositioning so you can keep your boundaries."
These principles can be applied anywhere, and Jordan used them when she ran the investor relations program for Cadence Design Systems, Inc., a $2 billion software company. Today, Jordan is continuing her Poekoelan training, even as she completes her final semester as a member of the first MIT Executive MBA program class. She says the experience at MIT has been "tremendous."
"We've been blessed to have really great professors," she says. "The best-of-the-best have really spent time thinking about who this audience of executives is."
The frequent cross-country trips to Cambridge for the EMBA program haven't interfered with Jordan's schedule, as for the past 10 years she has flown out to Massachusetts once a month to train with Barbara Niggel, who is head of Poekoelan Tjimindie Tulen Martial Arts Worldwide. Jordan is also a managing director of the Golden Seeds Angel Investor Network, based in Boston.
Once she graduates in June, Jordan is open to new career opportunities, but one constant will be her training and teaching in Tulen.
"I really believe that anything you put out comes back to you one-hundred fold. When you get an opportunity to teach, you learn. In this art, it's truly limitless!"