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Pekiti-Tirsia Kali

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Instructor's Program

About the Organization

Questions & Answers

Grand Tuhon Leo T. Gaje

Grand Tuhon's Blackboard


Actionbook

Video Female Special Action Force Officers from Philippines

Knifecamp

Interview with Mandala Uli Weidle

Round about the knife: Training Methods and Weapons of the Pekiti-Tirsia System

European Pekiti–Tirsia Festival has Video!

Good news from Sweden has Video!

Philippines Travel 12/2003-02/2004

To Teach & To Fight

Open Hands of Pekiti-Tirsia

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Interview with Mandala Uli Weidle

The following interview with Mandala Uli Weidle was made for the potku.net magazine by Marko Ronkainen on the occasion of the first Pekiti-Tirsia workshop with Mandala Uli Weidle in Helsinki, Finland.

Read here the pre-release. Questions by Marko Ronkainen. Answers by Uli Weidle:

Mandala Uli performing in dynamic Pekiti-Tirsia exhibition with Mandala Rommel Tortals Manila Pitbulls in Mega Mall, Manila, Philippines

Tell us something about your background and how did you get started with the martial arts?

I was born 1966 in Reutlingen, a city in the southern part of Germany, close to Stuttgart. At the age of 8 I started practising Karate because I was harassed by a bully twice my age. There was a new Karate school in town and according to what I saw in movies it seemed to provide the answers for my situation. To keep the story short, in the following years I trained 3 to 5 times a week, advanced and won a couple of tournaments. As two times federal state champion I discovered the hard way, that winning a tournament and successfully mastering a street conflict are not the same. That experience made me open my eyes and started my search for a martial art that teaches practical self-defence skills.

How did you get involved with the Filipino Martial Arts?

Looking back in time my involvement with Filipino Martial Arts was no accident. I had practised a variety of martial arts including Muay Thai, Western Boxing and Ving Tsun, which I was actually teaching for some years. All the time I was looking for a practical self-defence method. Well, for every martial artist with a focus in self-defence, the ultimate challenge is how to survive a knife attack. National and international martial arts magazines agreed that it is the Filipino Martial Art that offers the most practical answers to the questions raised in a knife culture. So looking back, it was all the time the FMA that I was looking for. Though it's easy to see when looking back in time, it took me many years to realize that.

When I got interested in FMA, at first it was only to learn about the street reality of knife attacks – i had trained some Chinese and Japanese arts, that taught weaponry in the advanced phase of training, but none of them really taught something that I considered useful for the reality of the streets. So I evaluated and tested many systems of FMA and when I finally found Pekiti-Tirsia in the USA, it was the first to satisfy my requirements. How should I know that, what was originally supposed to be a sideline, it should dramatically change my understanding of MA.

How do you see your evolution as a martial artist, if you consider what motivated you back then and motivates you now, what's different?

I kind of returned to the original motives that got me interested in Martial Arts in the very beginning. I kind of re-discovered those after I had forgotten about them being distracted because of tournament sports and rankings – all those shiny fake goals.

What is different now, is that now I understand better what that original motives really meant – what self-defence really is and how it is necessarily linked to a life style and a life philosophy. Now that I understand that, I realise the true power of it and I won't loose that anymore.

As a consequence of realising the power and value of the life philosophy of Pekiti-Tirsia Kali, which is to believe in life, good health and success and to respect others, who respect life as well, Martial Arts has become a positive force. Because of Martial Arts I am in the lucky situation that I live a life in good health conditions, a happy life I may say, having good friends and being able to focus on what I enjoy and really appreciate doing. With that life situation, helping others has become more important to me. Among other projects, I founded with the support of the PTE instructors a sponsorship program to help young students in Philippines with their school tuition fee and using that as a means to help the young Filipino re-discover the values and value in their own heritage before it is completely lost to Americanisation. It is a way for us to give back to the Filipinos.

Grand Tuhon Gaje and Mandala Uli Weidle, Negros Occ, Philippines 1996

How did you first meet Grand Tuhon Gaje and what was the impact of that meeting?

At first when I started training in the Pekiti-Tirsia, I learned from a first generation senior student of Grand Tuhon in the USA. I still remember my first meeting with him in New York, when I was getting hands on experience in what the system is all about: We trained empty hands, stick and knifes in all combinations. In empty hands I liked the system, because it was all practical and still different enough to surprise – it didn't do just the ordinary stuff, that everybody expects and is prepared to neutralise and re-counter.

Powerful and very street smart, the empty hand alone was an experience sufficient enough to make me study the Pekiti-Tirsia with genuine interest. The big surprise, though, was in knife: I thought my skills in empty hands especially Chi Sao would give me a small chance against the knife – I was so dead wrong! That was the time, when I realised that in the time before, when sometimes I handled a conflict situation physically, how lucky I was that never somebody skilled pulled a knife on me.

That Pekiti-Tirsia had become my primary art i realised, when I was about to demonstrate a specific counter technique of my prior art. It so happened that my partner attacked me early and with much more power and intend that I expected – I responded spontaneously with a counter that had clearly a Kali flavour. Since then Pekiti-Tirsia had become my primary fighting art, that never let me down when the gloves are off and the game is on.

While teaching Pekiti-Tirsia to my students, I got the impression that something was missing and I was seriously thinking about adding that missing part. I had a talk about that with my instructor from the USA. It ended up in a friendly match, after which he agreed that I start to develop extensions of the curriculum. It was about a year after that, when I met Grand Tuhon Gaje the first time. It so happened that Grand Tuhon started the very first training session with the material that I felt was missing in the curriculum of his senior student. That was without us having talked about that topic before hand. Some of what he showed was identical with what I had developed so far and others was far more sophisticated then I had ever imagined. That was the time when I understood, that the Pekiti-Tirsia system as taught by Grand Tuhon Gaje offers all I was looking for - it's there for me to be discovered and more then that, the system has all the answers already field and combat tested, before I am even able to ask the questions.

Is Pekiti-Tirsia your full-time job or do something else as well?

What was a passion has become my life. I teach, train and promote Pekiti-Tirsia as a professional. Like a pro-musician or a surgeon. Before it was not like that. I had an IT company in the 80s and made my living from that. When the martial arts demanded more and more of my time, I had to make a decision. In the mid-90s I choose to sell my company and live my dream now and not later.

What's you're view on this, it is often said that in order to be a skilled martial artist one has to practise, practise and practise. Does this mean that things like other career options and family will automatically have less time in life?

For people with a commitment and dedication to martial art, it is natural that MA influences all parts of life. That doesn't mean that all life should be MA only. The natural order of priorities are family+friends, then business and then the past times. For most, MA is a past time. For some it is a business, they choose to do it professionally. For a few it is like part of the family. That is the highest level of dedication. With that said, I should add, that no matter what importance martial arts has in your life, one of the lessons of martial arts is about importance of balance. If you focus the wrong way, you are in danger of loosing your balance. The priorities form a triangle and the triangle is only complete, when you have all three sides.

Filipino Martial Arts are quite popular in Germany, how many practitioners do you estimate there are in the whole country? How many Pekiti-Tirsia practitioners there are?

That is a tough to answer question. In the last years, there is a growing number of people, who for various reasons teach the FMA methods under different labels. Is that still FMA? According to numbers I've been told a couple of years ago by a martial arts friend, who cares about statistics, there should be about 4000 person engaged in FMA. I never asked him, how he counted the people. According to our members registrations we have about 300 people training pure PT. With that said it should be added, that to us „how many“ is a question of secondary importance. I am more interested in „how good“. That is one of the first things, I learned from GT.

You yourself spend a lot of time travelling in the Philippines and other countries, do you have many instructors besides yourself that train people when you're not there yourself?

In my local club we have currently seven instructors - that is including myself. We are six men and one female. When I am in town the majority of the training is conducted by myself personally. Some of those guys have now started their own groups in neighbour cities. I support them in their venture with all means available.

Grand Tuhon Gaje, Mandala Uli and instructors from Munich Pekiti-Tirsia Kali Team having fun

How did Pekiti-Tirsia Europe get started and how has it grown since that?

I started practising PT in the early 90s learning in the USA and then training with a few friends in Germany. In 1996 Grand Tuhon send me on the mission to formally organise the PT in Europe. At that time he gave me guidelines what to do and what not to do. He didn't want us to bastardise the art by mixing it with other art or to commercialise it by teaching forms or sets of techniques, that would just distract the student from what is needed for developing skill and experience. He wanted to start the Pekiti-Tirsia in Europe on a higher level. No waste of time - all functional training based on trust, to show the core and essence of the PT system complete with its philosophy, to build a fighting force and a friendship across the boundaries of countries.

We started as a dedicated group of friends and now we have representatives in many European countries. The ties of friendship is still what is keeping the group together. That is the quality we want to maintain. It is a quality necessary to really train the art.

You've organized Pekiti-Tirsia festivals in Reutlingen, please tell us more about them

Swedish and German Pekiti-Tirsia Fighters in Stickmatch at Kali Festival 2003

Swedish and German Pekiti-Tirsia Fighters in a C-Level Fighter League Stickmatch at Kali Festival 2003 in Reutlingen

The first Kali festival we had in 1997. I patterned the festival after the experience I had with FMA exhibitions in the Philippines and also based on my years of actively competing in tournaments where between the fights I usually experienced the most boring times - no wonder there was never really a big audience in those tournaments. So based on that experience we designed the festival not as a tournament or workshop, but a filipino fiesta showcasing full contact stick fights with minimal protection, exhibitions of variety of FMA and related arts and plenty of food, music and good time for everybody.

We usually make it a two days event. First day is for fighters only. Everybody can experience fights and the atmosphere is great. There is no need for rules and there is no unnecessary hardship because nothing to win or loose but experience and friendship. Second day is open day for everybody with all the excitement of demos and fights, free food and free entrance.

There's also a big FMA event in Dortmund bi-annually (I think), have you taken part in that and will you in the future?

When Alfred Plath invited me to the first one, I think that was in 2003, I immediately accepted, because I liked the idea of promoting the values and variety of FMA. To support that event, I agreed to teach there without any payment, travel expenses only. Unfortunately I caught a strong fever and was not able to travel there. I am still feeling sad for that, because I know from internet feedback that a good number of people where going there because they wanted to meet me and experience PT. Those who contacted me, I offered them to attend one of my seminars free of charge.

On the second event Alfred invited me again and I agreed to support the event and once again teach free of charge - but I didn't like the format of the very short, less then one hour units. The attendants would practise a lot of systems, but scratch the surface only, never really getting into it or feeling the different finer points that actually make the systems. The seminar attendant will leave the workshop with the impression that FMA systems are just random collections of techniques and drills. That would be an injustice to all systems of FMA, that have a valid identity on their own. I discussed that with Alfred and we agreed that I would teach 2 session of 2 hours instead of the suggested 4 sessions of less then 1 hour each. Short before the Festival Alfred gave me a phone call and informed me that Dieter Knüttel was not willing to accept that agreement. According to Alfred, Dieter insisted that I should do 4 times 1 hour, no other option. I declined.

How much co-operation you generally have with other FMA organizations in Germany and Europe? What about other martial arts?

Pekiti-Tirsia attracts experienced martial artists from many styles. Boxing, Muay Thai, various Silat styles, MMA, Taekwondo, Karate, Judo, other FMA, Sports Fencing, Capoeira, Re-enactment Swordplay,... you name it. Those people have their friends and contacts and that naturally becomes part of the Pekiti-Tirsia friendship network. That is not organised or written down in any way - just friends of friends, because friends will be friends. According to the PT philosophy we believe in making friends not enemies.

What about Pekiti-Tirsia globally, naturally it's popular in USA (like everything seems to be), but how about the rest of the world?

There is a high demand for Pekiti-Tirsia in many places but we don't have enough instructors to accommodate all those requests. I have several pending invitations from Austria, Spain, France outside of Europe in India, Dom.Rep even from places in Philippines, Thailand and Indonesia that ask me to teach there. These requests are on queue, since I don't want to divide my attention on too many places. I still follow what GT told me in the early days: Quality first! I am already travelling to support the various Pekiti-Tirsia groups three out of four weekends and still there are so many open invitations. As you can see we have demand for good instructors. But we don't want to sacrifice quality for quantity. That is why we have the Instructor Candidate Program in Europe and Philippines.

Counter vs. lowkick

Pic1: Uli is attacked with roundhouse low-kick. He uses the force of the incoming kick to destroy the attacking leg with a counter-knee-attack to the ankle/in-step. At the same time Uli shields and monitors incoming Jab-Cross Combo. Pic2: Stepping down Uli uses Banga-principle to break the attackers balance and body structure using simultaneous leverage against neck, shoulder, elbow and hip. Pic3+4: Finishing off with loaded elbow attacks.

A little bit about Pekiti-Tirsia itself, then. What makes it different from other martial arts and especially other Filipino Martial Arts?

First I should ask back, distinct from what other martial arts? And then, to answer your question it would still need a library of books – and that is precisely what we don't want. But anyway, for your satisfaction here are some of the major ideas of the system: Pekiti-Tirsia is a training system that produces good habits of thought, body mechanics and awareness. All of the system is based on the principle of movement, adaptability and higher understanding. It is not based on techniques or drills. Pekiti-Tirsia is taught by experience and taught to produce experience. Geometrically the system is based on triangles and circles, as can be observed in nature with sharks teeth and the movements of the stars in the sky. We use no blocks, no static stances, but direct counter-attack and offensive deflections. We don't teach the student by word associating, but by use of thought provoking process. That is why we don't want books or videos about PT. It is always in the present and never in the past. Our philosophy and our fighting methods are those of a blade culture. Our weapons are whatever is available to us.

Do you see it as evolving art (testing & applying new techniques,cross-training on other martial arts) and how has it evolved during your time? Or is it more a traditional art that has certain repository of techniques and the will to keep it as such by not changing anything?

Pekiti-Tirsia is by tradition an evolving art. It is so because of our teaching method. And that is what makes Pekiti-Tirsia a truly indigenous Filipino Art. Grand Tuhon told me that in the old universities, before the Spanish came and replaced, or better say destroyed, most of the indigenous Filipino culture, there was a different school system. The teacher was not there to give answers and to test if the student memorized well. Instead the teacher was the one to ask questions and then to help the student to find valid and maybe new answers. That is still the way for Pekiti-Tirsia: Each generation of practitioners is not copying the master by blindly following his way, but a new practitioner kind of re-discovers the logic of the system in the training process by his own logic and experience, guided by the experience of the teacher. That way the system is revalidated by each new generation of practitioners. By following tradition, the Pekiti-Tirsia system is always valid and up to date.

As a result of that, Pekiti-Tirsia has been chosen as the official MA of the PMC (Pilipino Marines Corps). Since 1998 I was involved in training of the Force Recon, the most reputed commando unit of the Marines. We are also teaching the SAF (Special Action Force), the CRG (Crisis Response Group) and other special operations units of the Philippine National Police. We are involved in training many of the elite military and police forces in the USA and in Europe. Of course in this process the Pekiti-Tirsia system is field tested again and again. In other words, Pekiti-Tirsia is constantly quality controlled in the real world laboratory. We evaluate mission results and if there should be any need to improve PT, we are the first one to be interested in discovering.

Mandala Uli with SAF Commando

Mandala Uli with Cpt Cautiver and Special Action Force (SAF) Commando from Philippine National Police (PNP)

Filipino masters have historically been very selective of their students and also guarded their arts very carefully for example by not allowing their students to train under other masters. Has this changed, what is the situation today?

In short, it did not change, but there is an additional layer of easy accessible commercial FMA on top of what has been there always. Usually this is going along with the adaptation of commercially successful marketing concepts of Japanese and Korean martial arts, like for example katas, belt rankings, uniforms, standardized group instruction and most important teaching by word associating process.

Beneath that commercial surface, in the Philippines there are still some people who have a knowledge and tremendous experience that can only be referred to as martial arts treasures. Such people alike Manong Kolimbo or Manong Basko, I met some of those in the most unlikely places and in fact more often, I have been found by those men as I have found them. They usually like to maintain a low profile, to avoid challenges and to maintain the element of surprise in case they need to rely on their skills.

In all times, present and past, what was used to fight for real was always kept as a protected knowledge hidden inside the family circle. That comes as a natural by-product of the fact, that the life and the skill that is used to protect that life was and still is a treasured possession. „Try your best strike“ - that is a common challenge. Why should somebody disclose his „best strike“ to somebody whom he can not trust?

Let me give you an example: Manong Olavides from the Uno-Dos-Tres De Campo JDC once told me how Grand Master Cabaleiro was teaching. Grandmaster Cabaleiro had quite a reputation as a successful challenge fighter. Many wanted to learn his skills. They would pay with chocolate or other favours, sometimes with money, so that GM Cabaleiro would show them a trick or a movement in return. He would not really explain the intricacies and not really correct the student if he was doing wrong. If the student got beaten in a fight and would complain, then the Grand Master would ask, how and with what strike the student was beaten and then he would show the re-counter or correct the problem in the movement - of course getting some more chocolate in return. Manong Olavides was learning that way for many years and only after Manong Olavides selflessly helped Grand Master Cabaleiro in a serious family matter, that's when Grand Master Cabaleiro got convinced that Manong Olavides is a good person, to be trusted. That was when Grand Master Cabaleiro started to develop an interest in teaching the full skill to Manong Olavides, showing the finer movements, correcting the intricacies and making sure that he really understands.

Though FMA instruction is widely commercially available, only instruction based on trust and a personal relationship means an genuine interest to teach the person to the best possibility. It was true in last generation and it is still true until today.

Grand Tuhon Leo T. Gaje and Mandala Uli Weidle relax in a training break

Grand Tuhon Gaje is a living legend among Filipino masters and martial artists in general. What makes training under him so special?

If that question could be answered that easily, then everybody could have that quality of Grand Tuhon and be a living legend like him. Anyway I will give it a shot and answer you based on my personal experience.

One of the many qualities of what makes Grand Tuhon such an unparalleled trainer is that he is not only teaching physical skills, but he develops all the personality of the student. According to Pekiti-Tirsia philosophy, we believe that every person has potential, ability and skills for success. Still, most people don't even get close to exploring that potential because they are afraid of failure and choose to live a boring life without challenge in their own small cage of security. One of Grand Tuhons most favourite quotes: „the worst that can happen, is when nothing happens at all.“

In short, what makes GT special, is that he lives Pekiti-Tirsia in a way, that he really is Pekiti-Tirsia. To know that man is an experience, that really touches a person and inspires people to grow to explore their potential, doing great things. It's really that, what makes Pekiti-Tirsia so valuable. It really is more then techniques.

How would characterize him as a person?

He is unique. An original, that many try to copy and exactly by this they miss the essence. His humour is special, it is based on logic, that can only be described as a Tuhon logic. It is his humour that is his best teaching tool. His dedication to Filipino Martial Arts and the Pekiti-Tirsia especially is the strongest force. It can only be understood when knowing the man. He expects the highest in dedication and loyalty but he never demands. In the beginning I was often confused, why he never uses his authority to command and rule over others to make things easy by instilling strong discipline. In time I understood better: What is true, it can not be asked for. If the person got the message, then it comes naturally. If the person didn't get the message, it will never be true anyway. So why asking for it?

Mandala Uli and Manila Pitbuls having party

Manila Pitbulls with Mandala Rommel Tortal and Jasper De Ocampo arrange a have—a—good—trip—and—come—back—real—soon-party for Mandala Uli

You yourself travel to the Philippines at least once a year for lengthy periods of time for advancement training. How do you see yourself changing during these periods?

How did I change? Better you should ask others about that, not myself. :)

From the reactions of my friends I can tell, that in the beginning, when I returned from Philippines, my long time students were suddenly afraid to train with me. This was not because I would physically hurt them, but they sensed a change in me that probably is something about commitment. It may be described as a growing inner force that comes with the experience of better understanding. Another change: I smile more often.

How does the training in Philippines differ from the training in Europe?

There are differences in the climate that allows and asks for different training structures. But more important then that, Filipino and Western people have typically a different temper and a different mind-body relation. The training has to consider that. Pekiti-Tirsia training develops a skill that is based on a balance, the balance between mind, body and awareness. The effects of this balance can be described as a spontaneous understanding and the result of that understanding is, that what used to be reaction becomes spontaneous action and counter to attack becomes immediate counter-attack.

The beauty of the sword How would you describe the Philippines as a country and the Filipino as a people? How does this affect Filipino Martial Arts and training of them?

The Filipinos are special people, who live a mixture between asian and western thinking and believes - a mixture that developed over generations. Life there is appreciated, felt and spontaneously expressed with a burning intensity and consequence, that is unusual for western people. This filipino spirit is what makes the Filipino Martial Art so special and effective.

How does it affect training? As I explained in my last answer, training Pekiti-Tirsia means developing a balance and that balance is generated from the fire of enjoying and appreciating the bare essentials of life. In other words, training FMA the proper way awakes the Filipino spirit in the European.

Now that Finland has had it's first official seminar from Pekiti-Tirsia Europe, please comment that a little, and give us some tips what to work on especially before we see you next time.

Looking back about the seminar, I would say that I really enjoyed training with all you guys and I was impressed that everybody was training well to the very last minute. No weak spirit in the group - that is special for a first seminar. My compliments to the Finish people.

What to practise? I showed that on the workshop. Develop good habits, good body mechanics. Make sure the basics are functional and be sure that you train with an open mind, guided by honesty, friendship and respect: looking for answers and helping each other to find the questions that will lead us there.

Jussi and Jarkko were perfect hosts who added to my good experience in Finland. I am looking forward to return to Helsinki and I will be happy to meet the same group. With you guys supporting each other then you will have my support and for sure we can start a quality Pekiti-Tirsia in Finland. In May 2005 I will be with Grand Tuhon Gaje in Sweden and with the finish people continuing the way they started, then it won't be long and we will have Grand Tuhon coming with me to Finland.

Till Then,

Burning Sticks!

 

Helsinki Pekiti-Tirsia Seminar 2005

Group photo from the Helsinki Pekiti-Tirsia Seminar 2005


Thank you for the interview, Grand Tuhon Gaje will be conducting a seminar in Stockholm during May, hopefully we will be seeing you in Finland back soon and maybe one day also Grand Tuhon himself!

 

  
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