Thursday, April 21, 2005

*What Is Pekiti-Tirsia Kali?



"Kali, the original martial art of the Philippines in its truest form, is a systematic art of combat fighting based on the science of strategy and tactics. The fighting methods are ancient from its historical and cultural developments, yet the techniques are forever ultra advanced that its fighting values always remain new." - Grand Tuhon Leo T. Gaje, Jr. This definitive description of Kali by Grand Tuhon Gaje, Jr. provides perspective insight from its founding principles to its present application.

Unlike other interpretations of martial arts concepts where the fighting methodology is restricted and confined by the principles of animals, elements or mythology, Kali addresses combat and warfare through the analysis of true, tangible and functionally correct human characteristics and capabilities beginning with weaponry - edged and impact - used by every documented civilization since creation.

The combative strategies and tactics within Kali are developed within motion and the mechanics of the flow and are structured according to the characteristics of the weaponry employed - weather it be edged, impact or empty hands - combined with the principles of human anatomy, physiology and kinesiology as the foundation and basis for tactical manipulation and application. The art of Kali formulated from this perspective reflects and defines life itself. In the words of Grand Tuhon Leo T. Gaje, Jr. -Supreme Grandmaster of the Pekiti-Tirsia Kali system, "In Kali there is only Life, therefore it is a live art containing the understanding of the center of all arts."

The dance of Kali, the dance of Life, the dance of the Blade all reflect this principle and philosophy and reasons its timeless continuity in application from ancient tribal warfare to today’s modern, technological battlefield. The development of Kali in the Philippines for well over two thousand years has defined the capabilities of combat from the human perspective and remains the reason why its fighting values remain true and applicable in all forms and why it cannot be challenged by interpreters of both ancient and modern martial arts concepts.

The Pekiti-Tirsia system of Kali originates from the province of Negros Occidental in the Philippines and was formulated by the Tortal family of Negros and Panay islands. The family patriarch, Conrado B. Tortal, passed this system and its attributes onto his only grandson, the sole heir and its present guardian, Grand Tuhon Leo Tortal Gaje, Jr.

Pekiti-Tirsia Kali is close-quarter in-fighting combat system against multiple opponents based on the use of the Blade. Pekiti-Tirsia is a system of complete strategies and tactics utilizing all close quarters weaponry, at all ranges, that provide protection from strikes and attacks, destruction of opponents weaponry, and domination of any combat situation. The essence of close quarters combat is manifested in the flow - the continual combative process of offense, counter-offense and recounter-offense.


In the initial analysis of any fighting structure one must determine its classification as a style or as a system. A style is a collection or listing of technique according to general subject. A system is classification of technique according to the principles of form and function. Systemization is a formulative approach to problem solving or any operation with changing variables, whereas stylization can only address previously identified stimulus or controlled actions.

The Pekiti-Tirsia system of Kali is classified by methods or methodologies. Each method prescribes a specific strategy, a combative plan or principle, and accompanying tactics, techniques or skills of execution. Pekiti-Tirsia is a complete system where strategies and tactics, techniques and skills are encompassed into an integrated working composition.

For example, under the sixty-four (64) attacks system of Pekiti-Tirsia, seven (7) subsystems or methods and eight (8) combative drills are presented.

Each method addresses a specific strategy and then provides different tactics and techniques that simultaneously incorporate footwork, offensive and counter-offensive combative application and attribute development. Each of these components can be isolated and trained individually to perfect each particular movement and can be magnified through the analytical and study processes.

Within this structure each method complements and builds upon previous methods as instruction progresses. Furthermore, as each method and system is analyzed and explored in depth, not only is ancient knowledge based upon combative experience of hundreds of years handed down but also new questions and answers are provided. Principles and systems already thought to be understood become clearer in the light of more advanced systems. The whole is greater than the sum of its parts. This enlightenment by systemization is accomplished by the thought-provoking process of learning verses the rote memorization process of a particular style.

The distinguishing characteristic of Pekiti-Tirsia and of the Filipino martial arts is the principle that weaponry is instructed first and then progresses into the final stage to empty hands skills. The strategic reasoning behind this structure is that:

1. The nature of warfare is the utilization of weaponry - not empty hands.

2. Attribute Development - the use of weaponry and bladed weapons in particular, develops and enhances combative attributes and application at a more intensive level and faster rate than empty hands training.

3. The Filipino methods of empty hand combat are derived directly from the application of weaponry verses having completely different styles of empty hands skills and weaponry technique. This principle of parallel methodology and transferable technology in its truest form can only be found within the Filipino martial arts. In the modern application these methods and skills transfer from bladed, impact and other edged weapons to empty hands combat and directly back to weapons including modern firearms.

PEKITI, in the title Pekiti-Tirsia, prescribes that combat is instructed at close range first and then extended out to medium and long range. Close range fighting encompasses the full use of each particular weapon and all natural weapons of the fighter. The mechanics of technique execution and attributes such as sensitivity at close range enable the fighter to naturally engage opponents at greater ranges whereas a fighter trained only at long or medium range lacks the reciprocal ability to close.

TIRSIA, within the title Pekiti-Tirsia, prescribes quartering. Quartering is the strategic principle of closing, attacking and controlling the opponent through footwork and striking methods. Tirsia is a word derived from tertiary. Tertiary - meaning three or of the third - in the system of Pekiti-Tirsia defines quartering by symbolism with the triangle and numerically through the structure and application of the striking methods.


Footwork Vs. Toe To Toe

First, Pekiti-tirsia is a combat bladefighting system, not “stickfighting” as many FMA have become. However, the system can be and is employed with many types and combination of weapons, or as Tuhon Gaje has termed, the Edged-Impact Weapon Strategy. In Pekiti-tirsia we regard all weapons with the same lethality as bladed weapons. A Bolo, steel pipe, hardwood flatstick, or rattan stick can all maim and kill, it just takes more application the farther away you get from an edged weapon. This principle dictates that you do not want to be hit with any of these weapons and protecting yourself should be your first priority.

Tuhon Gaje has always taught footwork as the foundation of the system and the key to all fighting strategies. Footwork provides protection, offensive and counter-offensive maneuvering and quartering. Footwork is one of the first signatures you see of the system. Regardless of how you employ your weapon, which will be detailed next, footwork is vital to survival. It is your first method of protection. The same is with modern military strategy. All great military leaders have employed some form of maneuver warfare. Fireteams to Battalions to Divisions and above can employ maneuver on the battlefield. However, while the principle is the same, maneuver of military forces does not equate equally to how hand held weapons engage in combat.

Next, let’s look at the structure and systems of Pekiti-Tirsia and what specific strategies are taught. Pekiti-Tirsia is composed of three (3) principle systems. The DOCE METHODOS ( the source of 64 attacks), the Advanced CONTRADAS, and the CONTRA-TIRSIA DUBLA-DOS. These systems teach how to employ and engage other weapons in close quarters combat.

The foundation system, DOCE METHODOS, is comprised of 12 methods that define every manner and method in which a bladed weapon can be used to strike with. Doce Methods defines attacks by angle, motion or energy, weapon anatomy (strikes with the edge, point, back of blade and butt) and manipulation (i.e. Florete). Doce Methodos also teaches the different ranges of combat. Specifically, Tirsia Largo (long range), Tirsia Corto (close range), and Pekiti-Pekiti (lit. close-close or extreme close range fighting including grappling). Note that “medium range” is not defined within the system and for good reason. Medium range is where both combatants can strike equally and have equal range of weapons. Tuhon Gaje has always taught to “Bridge and strike through” this area or range. To “get in and get out” is to bridge or close the gap from long to close range and back out again. Tuhon Gaje teaches specific footwork and striking combination Bridging techniques from specific methods.

The main strategy of Doce Methodos is the principle of PASUGAT (Illongo) or CONTACT. Meaning all of the methods, which are the specific tactics executed, are all based on techniques where weapons make direct contact with each other. For example in 5 attacks : 1 contacts 1, 2 versus 2, etc. the same in Break-In, Break-out. The same in Panastas/Sungkete and back to the first counter-offense method and technique taught which is Quatro Cantos or Four wall.

All of the Doce Methods teach contact of offensive and counter-offensive techniques. The only exception to this is the method of Pekiti_Pekiti where the application of diagonal and vertical strikes with the punyo or butt are taught through the drills of Sagang labo. #1 diagonal punyo strikes obviously cannot be countered with another #1 punyo. #2 punyo strikes can be countered with another 2 which is back to the application of Pasugat or Contact.

The Doce Methodes teaches the fighter how to engage an enemy “toe to toe” or more correctly how to close the gap and protect yourself from your enemies strikes directly with your weapon. In the end you must be bale to engage any opponent in what Tuhon Gaje terms “Blow by Blow”/ Power versus power. This is the direct contact tactics of the system of Doce Methodos. Also, the Doce Methodos is taught with the solo Blade/Baston. Once you understand the full capabilities of the solo blade, each method is applied to Doble or two weapons of equal length, solo Daga/Knife, to the Handblade/mano Mano/Pangamut and so on through all weapon categories.

The advanced system of the CONTRADAS is composed of the Contradas, Recontras, Recontradas, and other advanced combat methods. This is not a series of numerous multiple techniques but a system of attacks that continually counter and recounter any angular attack. Basically, any angular attack (slash or thrust ) can be countered by the Contradas, which can be countered by Recontras, and both can be countered by Recontradas. As Tuhon Gaje has always taught, you have three strikes to enter and control/quarter/terminate your opponent or you should range back out again. The further you advance in the system the more it is simplified.

The main strategy of contradas is the principle of PASUNOD (Illongo) or to FOLLOW. Meaning the opponents angle of attack is evaded with footwork and the hand directly hit with the Contradas. For example, a diagonal #1 strike countered directly with a #2 diagonal strike. This is the basic drill of the Contradas. There are also Contradas for horizontal, and vertical attacks and thrusting. The same for Recontras and Recontradas, they all attack the weapon hand. Once the weapon hand is attacked then direct attacks can be followed up with. The difference in systems is the Contradas or Pasunod is executed from the same side as the attacker (i.e forehand #1 countered by backhand #2 which is again Contradas), where the counters follow the attacks. Doce Methodos or Pasugat is forehand to forehand or backhand to backhand where attacks meet and make direct contact.

Today, Tuhon Gaje begins students with the basics of the Contradas system and advanced ranging footwork. Depending upon time, you will go through many of the Doce Methodos.

Footwork or maneuver is always executed in combat regardless of what strategy (Pasugat or Pasunod) and tactics you employ with your weapon. The Pekiti-Tirsia system teaches the fighter to enter “blow by blow” with the direct protection of the weapon or, to evade and attack directly to the weapon hand. In the end, both systems are one.

The philosophy of Pekiti-Tirsia Kali:

We believe in life, not in death.

We believe in health, not in sickness.

We believe in success, not in failure.

Written by Guro William Schultz
Excerpts from the Pekiti-Tirsia Kali Instructors Guide
By Maginoo-Mandala Tim Waid
© Copyright 1996 Timothy D. Waid