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 comes?
Importance of Close Quarter Combat for the Military
The importance of close quarter combat for the military has changed with times.
In the last big wars in Europe, battles have no longer been decided by close
quarter combat tactics. Modern days weaponry made killing out of the distance so
easy, that it was no longer worth-wile to spent a big amount of the training
period on the survival of the individual soldier. The single soldier became (in the
viewpoint of war) easy to replace.
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.
Today: Guerrilla-Problem of the Military
In recent time it showed, that the majority of contemporary wars and military
conflicts are not decided by huge amounts of infantry soldiers anymore. Having seen the
media coverage about the Gulf War or the military operations in Kosovo and
Afghanistan, everybody understands, that modern armed forces are confronted with
different situations and have to meet different requirements. The opponent in
modern warfare often utilises Guerrilla-Tactics and can only be defeated by good
understanding of this type of warfare and by application of suitable methods.
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
(see our Report about the Filipino Centennial)
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
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: http://www.forcerecon.com/strongmenarmed.htm)
Solution Pekiti Tirsia Kali
When the Recons Marines started to look for "their to-be Close Quarter
Combat System", of course there were plenty of applicants from inside and
outside the Philippines. Everybody wanted to be able to claim the reputation to be the
instructors of this highly prestigious special unit.
But the Recon Marines,
with their extensive combat experience, had a very good idea what they were looking for, what
they wanted and what they didn't want. So there was a selection process, in
which the applicants had to present themselves and their teaching programs.
Among all, the Pekiti Tirsia Kali system under the guidance of Grand Tuhon Leo
T. Gaje was the only one to be successful. The Force Recon Marines choose to be
trained in Pekiti Tirsia.
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.
Grand Tuhon and his nephew Rommel Tortal participated as Close Quarter Combat
Trainers (and probably as the only non-military trainers) at the combined
US-Filipino military exercise BALIKATAN "shoulder to shoulder" 2002.
For his achievements Grand Tuhon Gaje has been decorated with a medal and during
the training Grand Tuhon has been invited as trainer for the Special Forces to
the US Base in Okinawa and Fort Bragg in the USA.
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
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.
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