PEKITI TIRSIA and the Military

Who looks around in the martial arts and martial sports scene, will soon find two very different training methods: There are those hierarchical-military like systems, whose teachings are based on command and obedience, designed for uniformly instructing a big group of students. Further, there are the family like systems, that teach a small number of humans according to their personal knowledge and individual abilities.

If one follows the above classification then Pekiti-Tirsia Kali clearly falls under the category of the family oriented systems: First, Pekiti-Tirsia Kali is the martial art of the Tortal family, represented by Grand Tuhon Leo T. Gaje. Second, some of the characteristics for the Pekiti-Tirsia system teaching process are the family-like, personal and relaxed atmosphere, that Grand Tuhon creates and the way he responds to the peculiarities of the individual person. Yet, in recent years the Pekiti-Tirsia system has been mentioned more and more often in the context with military commando units and special forces. How come?

The primary focus of training for soldiers became discipline – but not in the sense of self-discipline, but to become part of a group and to follow the Commander. Corresponding to that, only those methods of martial arts training were useful for military mass training, that were suitable to drill soldiers in a way that they are disciplined to follow commands. Many of the martial arts in Europe and USA (especially those of Japanese or Korean origin) have their roots in those military branches and often this origin is easily recognized in the training.

This was also experienced by the Armed Forces of the Philippines. In the second world war, it have been the Filipino warriors, who refused to back down after General Mac Arthurs withdrawal, and, who continued to fight despite of inferior weaponry. By showing great virtue and by application of Kali strategies (Bolo Battalion) these people delayed the advancement of the Japanese Army until the Americans managed to re-organise their war machinery in their home land, finally successfully fighting the Japanese.

But despite the fact, that this World War II veterans are still celebrated as heroes in parades and their contribution has also been acknowledged in the USA, the Filipino government didn’t learn their lesson (in contrast to the Americans, who early realised the importance of special forces units like the Delta Force and the Navy Seals). The Filipino Armed Forces (as many others did all over the world) continued to train and act according to the methods of the colonial army (maybe because military elite units could have been considered as a danger to democracy). Until today the encounters between the Armed Forces of the Philippines and the militant separatist in the south of the Philippines show, that conventional military tactics are almost useless if used against guerrilla fighters.

Some years ago this was understood by the leaders of the Filipino Armed Forces and it was decided, that some of the special units should additionally be trained in the strategies and tactics of the almost forgot Filipino martial arts.

The first ones, who understood this situation and also put the program into action were the Force Recon Marines. The Recon Marines which is short for Force Reconnaissance are specialists for Deep Reconnaissance and Direct Action and they spent many of their missions in small teams in hostile territory. They usually can’t hope for extensive air dispatch – in combat these people have to stand on their own. The Recon Marines motto is “Swift, Silent – Deadly” or “Outnumbered – But Never Outfought” In the Philippines – may it be friend or enemy – the Force Recon are the most respected, admired and feared among the special units. (Information about the US Recon Marines can be found here:

Solution Pekiti-Tirsia Kali

The Pekiti-Tirsia training of the Recon Marines is under the guidance of Grand Tuhon Gaje and in case he can’t be there personally (as for example at his last visits in Europe and Canada) his nephew Rommel Tortal takes over. Convinced by the success of the Recon Marines, the Seals and other Elite Units start to train their teams in Pekiti-Tirsia. Army and Air Force have big interest in Pekiti-Tirsia training as well.

When I met Grand Tuhon last January in the Philippines, we have been to the Armed Forces Philippines Central Command in Cebu. The interest in the training program was so high, that the leading officers didn’t want us to leave. But we have been scheduled to train the Force Recon marines and the present Special Forces from the US in Cavite (as has been reported in the news, US Special Forces met with the Force Recon to prepare themselves for the operations to come in the south of the Philippines). It showed that the US Special Forces have high interest to improve themselves in good knife work.

Why did the Recon Marines decide to go for Pekiti-Tirsia? Obviously one of the more important reasons is, that the Pekiti-Tirsia combat methods, with their strict orientation towards blade and direct counter attack using the Pekiti-Tirsia COMBAT (Counter On Motion Before Attack Time) principle, convinced the Recon Marines. But my cross-training with the Recon Marines revealed to me another important reason. They choose Pekiti-Tirsia because the Recon Marines and Pekiti-Tirsia people share the same philosophy: training with the Recon Marines shows what attitude or philosophy somebody needs to have, if he wants to survive in extreme situations. To be second is not good enough and success is only in the team. The Force Recon Marines are known to be the best there is in what they are doing. Their training is a product of their mental attitude towards life.

What it means for us…

Today Pekiti-Tirsia Kali is such a practical and realistic system, because Grand Tuhon and his ancestors tested and refined it again and again in real life. Grand Tuhon says, Pekiti-Tirsia Kali has been developed and tested in the laboratory of pain.
Same is true for the Recon Marines: Almost every day the Recon Marines risk their lifes and prove anew the effectiveness of the Pekiti-Tirsia strategies and tactics in close quarter combat. After every mission a debriefing session is done and experiences are exchanged. What did the Recon Marines experience? Where have been dangers or maybe casualties? How could these situations have been solved in a better way? Of course, when discussing this matters, the Pekiti-Tirsia system has been thoroughly checked many times and practical questions have to be answered. And this one for sure: The Recon Marines risk their life on every mission and if it comes to combat training there is no way, that they would lie to themselves for convenience or whatever reasons. The tradition of the Laboratory of Pain in the Pekiti-Tirsia Kali is still on.

Of course the trainers who are in charge of teaching Pekiti-Tirsia to the Recon Marines must be able to comprehend the situation and practical problems of the soldiers. Hence the Pekiti-Tirsia trainers engage in cross-training with the Recon Marines. Survival in Jungle Environment, Combatant Swimming and Diving, Parachute Jumping, Mountaineering, Moving under Fire, Shooting while moving, Survival Resistance Evasion Escape, Snipering, and more is on the schedule. A one-of-a-kind opportunity for the Pekiti-Tirsia instructors to benefit from the treasure of knowledge of this experts.

For Pekiti-Tirsia it is good to know: The system has been successfully reality tested in the past, it has been tested yesterday, is tested today and it will be tested tomorrow again. And even under this very special circumstances there has been no need to change the nucleus of the Pekiti-Tirsia strategies and tactics. Without doubt: The system today is as up-to-date as ever before.

Discipline, Courage and Determination

The Recon Marines learned to value Pekiti-Tirsia, because our philosophy is quite similar to the philosophy of the Force Recon Marines. Believe in Success, Life and Good Health are essential for the Recon Marines as well. The Philosophy is the foundation for self-discipline, courage and determination. A Recon Marine can’t afford a mistake. Because the Filipino Recon Marines have to rely more on their personal abilities (the quality of the man) as on advanced technology or quantity of soldiers, Pekiti-Tirsia is the choice of this men. Because if you fight at the sharp end, the training is honest!

Author: Uli Weidle, 26. June 2002