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Grand Tuhon Leo T. Gaje

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

European Pekiti–Tirsia Festival has Video!

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Philippines Travel 12/2003-02/2004

To Teach & To Fight

Open Hands of Pekiti-Tirsia

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Irresistible Pekiti Tirsia Fever
European Grandtuhon Camp, May 2008


From north to south and west to east

From the 17th to the 24th of may 2008, the European Pekiti Tirsia Headquarters in Reutlingen, Germany, were crowded with people from all over the continent. They had gathered from Finland in the north and Italy in the south, from Spain in the west and Bulgaria in the east, from the mountains of Switzerland and Austria, and from the Czech and German heartlands of the continent. Had gathered to be taught in the art of combat by Grandtuhon Leo T. Gaje himself, the supreme grandmaster of Pekiti Tirsia Kali.

Many of the participants knew Grandtuhon already, from training camps in Germany, Ibiza and the Philippines themselves. But knowing Grandtuhon Gaje is by no means the same as being able to predict him – thus, nobody knew aforehand that the one week of training would provide the probably most intense Pekiti Tirsia experience ever felt outside the Philippines.

Irresistible Pekiti Tirsia

"Irresistible Pekiti Tirsia Fever", that was the slogan of the camp. As the European head coach Maginoo Mandala Uli Weidle put it: "A fever cannot be extinguished with water. You have to sweat it out." And sweat we did. Grandtuhon Gaje, who had just celebrated his 70th birthday one week before the camp, made it absolutely clear from the very beginning that he had not come to Germany to earn some easy money. Originally, training was scheduled from 9 to 12 a.m. and 2 to 5 p.m. Alas, Grandtuhon did not care for any schedules – instead of 6 hours a day, he gave between 9 and 10 hours of intense, demanding lessons, introducing a third session in the late evening from the first day on.

At the same time, Grandtuhon Gaje is not the kind of teacher that will show some exercise and then let people alone with it. He was always eager to make sure that everyone understood as well as possible, never hesitating to repeat an exercise personally with every single person in the room. Even when an absolute beginner without any martial arts background stumbled into one of the evening classes, not knowing of the camp, Grandtuhon had her taking part in the training and took his time to correct her mistakes.

See the beauty...

This little incident indeed showed the motivation that stands behind this man’s way of teaching: Being the living legend that he is, Grandtuhon could easily fill huge gyms with hundreds of people, earning vast amounts of money. But his hunger is neither for money nor for fame, but for the purity and perfection of the art. And what do purity and perfection lead to? To beauty. Seeing Leo Gaje move reminds one more of a dancer (albeit, a deadly one) than of what is commonly believed a martial artist should move like. "See the beauty?", he often asked when he showed an exercise. And the deeply growled "Naaan!" he utters to imply that the student has executed a movement correctly seems to be more the expression of aesthetic satisfaction than a technical comment.

Aesthetic satisfaction, on the other hand, was something that was seldom granted to the group during the breaks between the lessons. Uli Weidle (probably not knowing what exactly he was doing) had brought along a karaoke machine on the first day of the camp – with grave consequences. Not one single break when Grandtuhon would not grab the microphone to sing as many songs as possible. Karaoke, I was told, is one of the chief spare time amusements in the Philippines – but the mastery of karaoke, it seems, is gained by singing as loud as possible, not by staying true to the tune… In the end, some people wondered whether Grandtuhon’s karaoke performance was part of some mental toughening process he wanted us to go through. Unforgettable his self estimation: "Tuhon, don’t you want to finish your pasta first before you start singing?" "No, I can eat and sing at the same time. I'm gonna entertain you all!"

Fertile soil

No matter how great a teacher is, how perfect his art, his work means nothing when it does not fall on fertile soil. One could only wonder where Leo Gaje, a man of 70 and suffering from jet-lag, took all the energy from to teach as intensely as he did. When I asked him one evening, the answer came promptly: "From you guys. From you."

And indeed, the group that had come together to train with the grandmaster was the most fertile soil one could think of. Pekiti Tirsia attracts a special breed of people, men and women who choose the way of the blade as their way to look on life and the world. Warriors, but the most loving and warm people at the same time. Pekiti Tirsia had been a family system for generations – and indeed, it still is. The camp made it clear once again: We might not be bonded by the blood of some common ancestor. But we are bonded by the blood, the sweat and the tears we shed together in training, by the laughter we shared, by the exhaustion and elevation we felt together. I am sure: It was this certainty of being a family, of belonging together that made the synergy between Grandtuhon and the group possible, driving all of us to give everything we had. The pure amount of time we trained brought the group to their limit, and beyond – when the bodies wanted nothing more but rest, it was the spirit that drove us on. The fighting spirit of every single person in the room, combined to one unified soul that did not want to stop. For this is the secret: In the Pekiti Tirsia, we say that it is not the technique that matters, but the way the technique given to the student – this holds true for the teacher. But at the same time, for the student, it is not the technique, either. It is with which spirit the technique is executed.

Deadly hermeneutics in spirals and triangles

And since Grandtuhon felt that we had the right spirit, he let us dive deep into the beauty – which, at the same time, is the deadliness – of the Pekiti Tirsia system. How to reach the aim of non-counterability? Every answer is hidden in the blade, and around the fixed point of double knife methods, we spiralled through the diverse applications of the underlying principles. In the Pekiti Tirsia, all is one and one is all, and in the exercises we could discover the same ideas again and again – be it in knife, double stick, body weapons or ground fighting. We spiralled through the system – and on a spiral, you never reach the same point twice. What was new yesterday becomes, once it is understood, the basis of your next step today. Once you have gone full circle, you have also evolved a level. Understanding – question – answer, and the answer becomes the new understanding. It is a triangle of hermeneutics. Here you have one of the many answers to the riddle "Tri-V formula".

Grandtuhon gave us many ideas we might know now, but we still have to work a lot on them until we can claim that we understand them. Two opponents stab at the same time and at the same angle, but only one will hit – how can that be? And during the last days, we were introduced to the pekadum trigo, the most advanced method in the Pekiti Tirsia. To train this method will be our homework for the next months, until Leo Gaje comes back to Germany in October. It was his idea that the next camp should be held so soon – for it seemed that this week in May meant just as much to him as it did to us. We will be more than happy to train again under the supreme grandmaster.

A promise

So many memories stay with us, even when the camp is long over. Still, the best thing of all is not a memory, but a promise: Every single person who had taken part in the seminar has dedicated his heart to the perfection of the art. Knowing that my family of the Pekiti Tirsia Europe will still be with me in 10, 20, 30 years fills me with happiness.

Where were you when we were there?

Text: Sixt Wetzler
Fotos: camp participants

→ Grandtuhons next workshop in Reutlingen is already scheduled for October 25-27 (link).
→ From March 5-15 2009 will be a Pekiti-Tirsia Europe training camp with Grandtuhon in the Philippines.

Grandtuhons Testimonial

Grandtuhon Leo T. Gaje

Pekiti-Tirsia Fever on the Rise!

The last camp training under the leadership of Mandala Uli Weidle brought a new craze in the Martial Arts world.…

The PEKITI-TIRSIA FEVER was a unique difference compared to the previous like in Ibiza or Blackforest. The fire was on, the burning desire was tremendous reaching to master some most sensitive techniques opened for the first time.

Eight countries were represented in this Fever camp. Inspite of high temperature no one got sick, only the rising fever made each one a well done human weapon with mass techniques for survival. I congratulate Mandala Uli for an excellent preparation.

Gt Gaje,


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