Sunday, October 21, 2007


When I started practicing Filipino martial arts in 1987, we couldn’t tap the internet for stick vendors. The best we had was Asian World of Martial Arts and Dolan’s Sports catalogs, and later I and I Sports out of California. Let me tell you, what they sold as “Escrima Sticks” in those days were absolute shit. Usually we resorted to ordering 6-foot bo staffs, or 36 inch hanbos and cutting them down to Escrima length. Back then I was doing a Largo Mano system, and we used 32 inch sticks - meaning after 5 minutes with a hacksaw we were left with a lot of useless leftover wood and a typically unbalanced stick for a high price. I started buying cheap rattan wholesale from Pier One imports, which turned out to be basically the same poor quality rattan as the aforementioned Escrima sticks from the martial arts stores.

After a few years we said ‘to hell with it’ and started making our own sticks, experimenting with different hardwoods: hickory, ash, maple, pine, and even exotic varieties such as rosewood and cocobolo. I even found a lumber yard on 7 mile road in Detroit that carried ironwood. The ironwood was too big in diameter to use for our purposes, so we tapered the handle into an oval shape and made “Two handed bashers” as we called them. Anyway, many practice sessions and broken sticks later, we came to the stunning realization that “If it has a grain, it will crack” at this point our focus shifted from the wood to the treatment. This is what we came up with:

Electrical Tape
Nowadays it’s a band-aid for fraying rattan , but we used to wrap the whole damn stick with it prior to the first use. The tape acted like a skin on the weapon. On the positive side, your stick lasted longer and it was a sure grip. On the negative side, you couldn’t tell your stick from the next guy’s stick, and you didn’t get that satisfying “bok” sound of wood hitting wood.

Olive Oil
Extra virgin. I learned this technique from an Egyptian stickfighter. Simply multiple applications by hand, rubbing it onto the stick. Its best no one else sees you doing this.

“The Formula”
An Okinawan kobudo friend of mine gave me the following recipe: 2 parts boiled linseed oil to 1 part terpentine. Get the linseed oil at the hardware store. I have a pair of hardwood sticks I treated in this way about 10 years ago, and they’re virtually indestructible. Tung oil by itself can also be used.

For Rattan
Fill a trough with cold water, add a lot of salt. Allow the rattan sticks to soak for a day, and then have at it.

From Mother Nature
The best ‘natural’ woods I have used are eucalyptus and guava. A nice, thorny Irish Blackthone with a knob and metal tip is also very stylish.

For better or for worse, things are much simpler today. I have a certain nomadic contact that gets good quality rattan when he goes to the P.I. I don’t even know his name - it’s programmed into my phone as “Sticks.” Our next supply is only a phone call away.

Monday, October 15, 2007

Landmarks in Pekiti-Tirsia

Some milestones in the recent history of Pekiti-Tirsia Kali. Taken from the Pekiti-Tirsia Global Organization website compiled by Master Tim Waid.

of the

1922 - Grand Tuhon Conrado B. Tortal, Supreme Grandmaster of the Pekiti-Tirsia Kali system is appointed the first Chief of Police of Victorias, home of the largest Sugar Central in Negros Occidental province.

1928 - Grand Tuhon Conrado B. Tortal defeats two brothers of the ruling family of Talisay, Negros Occidental. Grand Tuhon Tortal armed with hardwood Espada Y Daga and the brothers both armed with Bolos engage in the town square over an attempted takeover of Tortal owned land in Barangay Conception, Talisay. Grand Tuhon Tortal effectively disarms both brothers of their blades with multiple attacks but spares their lives.

1933 - Grand Tuhon Conrado B. Tortal defeats the famous Tansiong Padilla of the Aldabon style from Panay in a match arranged by Don Gregorio Araneta, Mayor of the town of Bago, Negros Occidental.

1938 - Leo T. Gaje, Jr., grandson of Grand Tuhon Conrado B. Tortal and heir to the Pekiti-Tirsia Kali system is born in Legaspi City, Albay.

1972 - Grand Tuhon Leo T. Gaje, Jr. pioneers the teaching of the Filipino Kali Arts in the eastern region of the United States from his base in New York City.

1977 - Pekiti-Tirsia opens its formal school at the Philippine Consulate, New York City.

1977 - Grand Tuhon Gaje featured on the cover of Official Karate magazine. Cover article features Pekiti-Tirsia as the “New Crime Fighter” in recognition of successful law enforcement training programs with the NYPD.

1978 - Grand Tuhon Gaje is recognized by the Philippine government as an official representative and Master of the Filipino martial arts.

1979 - The First National Tournament of Arnis (Kali) in the Philippines is sponsored by NARAPHIL. Guro Tom Bisio wins as Grandchampion, Pekiti-Tirsia against all systems.

1979 - Pekiti-Tirsia senior instructors and students led by Tom Bisio and Eric Knaus dominate full-contact stickfighting tournaments across the United States for the next decade.

1980 - Grand Tuhon Gaje appointed Commissioner for North and South America by The National Arnis (Kali) Association of the Philippines (NARAPHIL).

1980 - Pekiti-Tirsia conducts the first professional demonstration of full-contact competition at the Playboy Club, Great Gorge, New Jersey.

1981 - Grand Tuhon Gaje begins promotional tour of the Filipino cultural and Kali arts in Central and South America.

1981 - Grand Tuhon Gaje featured on the cover of Inside Kung-Fu magazine. Cover article features “Leo Gaje, his art is based on the knife, and may have more street realism than any other”.

1981- Grand Tuhon Gaje develops the law enforcement Defensive Tactics Safety System featuring the Safety Baton System and Edged Weapon Awareness/Strategic Knife Defense programs. These systems revolutionize use of force training for law enforcement and are adopted across the United States. Grand Tuhon Gaje is appointed National Training Director for the Justice System Training Association and the United States Police Defensive Tactics Association.

1982 – Grand Tuhon Gaje featured on the cover of Warriors magazine. Cover article features “The Deadly Art of Knife Fighting” assisted by Eddie Jafri, Pencak Silat Master.

1984 - Grand Tuhon Gaje continues promotional tours of Filipino cultural and Kali arts across Asia and the European continent.

1987 - Pekiti-Tirsia is officially adopted as a system of the United States Karate Association (USKA) by Grandmaster Robert Trias. Grand Tuhon Gaje is nominated as the style head of the Filipino martial arts for the USKA.

1988 - Grand Tuhon Gaje serves as technical advisor, and is featured in the Calibre press video SURVIVING EDGED WEAPONS, critically acclaimed as “The finest law enforcement training video ever made”.

1988 - Grand Tuhon Gaje inducted into the Martial Arts Hall of Fame and Karate Hall of Fame.

1990 - Grand Tuhon Gaje establishes the Kali-Kalihan Festival in Salvador Benidicto, Negros Occidental.

1992 - Grand Tuhon Gaje conducts special training programs for government agencies of former Soviet republics in Eastern Europe.

1994 - Grand Tuhon Gaje, assisted by Mataas na Guro Tim Waid, begin a nationwide promotional and development program for the Kali arts in the Republic of the Philippines by conducting cultural, educational, and sports training programs at the local, provincial, and national government levels.

1997 - Mataas na Guro Tim Waid, Director of Survival Edge Systems/Pekiti-Tirsia Tactical Training Institute and Lieutenant Erwin Ballarta (Mataas na Guro) of the Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS) establish a formal agency alliance between the Philippine National Police and Texas DPS.

1998 - Pekiti-Tirsia is recognized by the Commandant, Philippine Marine Corps as the official Close Quarters Combat/CQC System of the Philippine Marine Corps Force Reconnaissance Battalion. Instructors Certification Course conducted by Timothy D. Waid, Director of Survival Edge Systems/Pekiti-Tirsia Tactical Training Institute marks Pekiti-Tirsia as the only Filipino combat system utilized as official combat doctrine by the Armed Forces of the Philippines since World War II.

1998 - Pekiti-Tirsia conducts the First Centennial Celebration of Pekiti-Tirsia held at Subic Bay, Zambales, Philippines and Kali World Congress in conjunction with the Republic of the Philippines Centennial Celebration.

1998 - Grand Tuhon Gaje featured on the cover of Svenska (Sweden) Fighter magazine. Cover article features Grand Tuhon Gaje’s introduction of authentic Filipino bladefighting across Europe.

2001 – Grand Tuhon Gaje leads CQC training programs for joint Philippine and US military units conducting joint training exercises and combat operations against terrorists in the southern Philippines.

2002 – Pekiti-Tirsia Kali system is adopted by the Philippine Marine Corps Service Schools as the official close-quarter combatives program for all Enlisted Basic Training and the Officer Basic School.

2003 – Grand Tuhon Gaje receives Exemplary Achievement Award from Philippine President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo for worldwide promotion and instruction of Pekiti-Tirsia Kali, and instruction of Philippine and US Marine forces through 2003.

And now for some Pekiti-Tirsia Michigan history:

1970's - Pekiti-Tirsia becomes firmly established in Michigan through the efforts of Grand Tuhon Gaje and Erwin Ballarta.

1999 - Detroit Pekiti-Tirsia Maphilindo Pitbulls formed under the auspices of Grand Tuhon Gaje in Farmington Hills, Michigan.

2003 - Pekiti-Tirsia Pitbull Brotherhood formed in Rochester, New York by Doug Marcaida, Jay Saludo, and Jeff Davidson.

2005 - Bothoan Batangas training hall opened in Detroit.

2006 - Detroit and Rochester Pekiti-Tirsia Pitbull groups travel to the Philippines for advanced military training.

2006 - First Annual Pekiti-Tirsia Pitbull family gathering held in Dearborn, Michigan.

2007 - Monumental "Brotherhood of the Blade" gathering with groups from Detroit, Rochester, Saskatchewan, and Florida held at Higgins Lake, Michigan.

...and history is still in the making.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Wednesday, October 10, 2007


'It is easier to reach God than to succeed in any worldly undertaking. To attain a worldly object, one must seek before one finds. But in the case of God, Exalted is He, the finding comes before the seeking, for without having found Him how could one be inclined to look for Him?

To escape from heedlessness, God’s people abstained completely from this world, abandoned everything and occupied themselves exclusively with Exalted Truth.

It is God’s custom not to allow access to the Truth before trials and tribulation have been experienced and pleasure and passion renounced...

Remember God constantly until you lose yourself'.

Mualana Said Al-Din Kashgari

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

SKT and SCH: A Comparison

Ka Jay Saludo in the grips of a Silat Kuntau Tekpi Buah

For all those of you wondering about the similarities between Silat Kuntau Tekpi and Silat Cekak Hanafi, here's an article by my friend, the great Mohd Nadzrin Wahab taken from his

Silat Cekak and Silat Kuntau Tekpi: A Comparative Look

Silat Cekak (as founded by Ustaz Hanafi) and Silat Kuntau Tekpi are related in many ways, the least of which is their Kedah connection.

First off, both arts claim lineage to the palace arts of Kedah, and cite certain General-governors, or Panglima as their ancestors. Silat Cekak claims Panglima Ismail as the earliest of their lineage while in Silat Kuntau Tekpi, that honour is given to Panglima Taib. It is unknown what their status are in the official Kedah records.

Panglima Ismail was said to have served beginning 1804 and passed down the art to Panglima Tok Rashid. Panglima Taib served up to 1879 and passed down his art to his daughter, Aminah. Thus, it is possible that both Panglima Ismail and Panglima Taib met as elder and junior warriors or not at all.

Further down the line, the lineage holder of Silat Cekak beginning 1920, Yahya Said (studied from Panglima Tok Rashid) and the lineage holder of Silat Kuntau Tekpi, Zainal Abidin Endut (grandson of Panglima Taib) were both related by family and often met, although it is unknown if they ever studied from each other.

Silat Cekak and Silat Kuntau Tekpi share similar philosophies, parrying idioms and methods of striking and locking. Both await attacks in a high stance, both subscribe to close body parrying and locking.

Both arts are loosely based on the idiom of Salat, the Muslim prayer form. In Cekak, there are four basic parrying methods:

Kaedah A, based on Du'a (supplication)
Kaedah B from Qiam (standing with arms folded)
Kaedah C from Ruku' (bowing with hands on knees), and
Kaedah D from Takbir (hands in surrender position).

Tekpi on the other hand has six basic parries:
Takbir Luar
Takbir Dalam
Cengkam Harimau, and

They even share many buah, similar in look and form. For example Ali Patah Atas (Cekak) and Kembang Layar (Tekpi), Kuntau Kanan Gantung (Cekak) and Ubah Haluan (Tekpi), Kilas Belakang (Cekak) and Kilas Maut (Tekpi) and in fact, even share one buah name - Pasung Kemanga, which in reality are mirror versions of each other: One locks the left arm while the other locks the right arm. The exact same buah, but reversed.

Other than this, Cekak and Tekpi differ quite a bit. Cekak has no bunga component and subscribes to modern warm-up and stretching methods, while Tekpi still has its Pelebat, an undulating dance form that serves as a traditional exercise.

The Cekak syllabus is broken down into four phases: Basics, Takedowns, Recounters and Graduation. In the first four phases there 21 buah are gradually built upon.

The Tekpi syllabus is broken down into four belts: White, Yellow, Red, Brown and Black. White and Yellow belts each have 21 different buah (which makes 42), in Red are the 5 Pukulan buah and the Tekpi exercises and usage of Tekpi in the previous 42 buah, while the Brown and Black belts are considered advanced levels for senior instructors.

Cekak has the Lading as its official weapon while Tekpi has its namesake as its normalised weapon.This sort of comparison would make a very interesting thesis or research paper, especially if we include the other claimed descendants of Silat Kedah such as Silat Kalimah, Silat Palintau, Silat Gelombang Acheh, etc, etc.

Unfortunately, undertaking such a project would take years and needs to cut across national, political and emotional boundaries. I would be open to anyone who would like to share their resources to pilot such a project.

Monday, October 08, 2007

Mailbag Again

Tuhon tells it like it is to Kuya Jamal

More questions from email:

Why are you so secretive about teaching these days?
People used to say that our group was like a ‘cult’. I say that we’re more like a Secret Society. My personal focus has shifted over the years. I am less concerned with teaching the public than I am in tending to my advanced students. The only way I get better is if they get better. I have a very well trained advanced group and several of them have their own students who are getting solid basics. I have my own teaching niche (which btw is none of your business!) That being said, we accept new students on a probationary basis as explained on my website. Anyway, I have more fun training students than teaching them. We have almost surgical precision in weeding out non-serious people.

Why don’t you promote your seminars/gatherings?
We generally don’t like to advertise when Tuhon Gaje comes to town because we rarely open his seminars to the public. Its just a lot better when everybody knows each other and we can pick right up from where we left off the last time. We make exceptions on a case-by-case basis. You wanna see what we’re up to? Join us!

Do I need to have martial arts experience or be in shape to train in Pekiti-Tirsia?
No. It is more important that you are serious about learning. If you have chronic injuries, it may be wiser to learn senaman tua for a month before you progress to harder training. You don’t have to be in good physical condition to learn how to defend yourself, but a good part of the martial arts lifestyle is being in shape - which I define in terms of strength, flexibility, and endurance.

Do you guys sponsor/participate in stick fighting tournaments?
No. If you want to train for tournaments, contact Philip Gelinas - he’s the best.

What kind of knife/gun do you/should I carry?
I haven’t been offered any pistol endorsement deals lately, and I don’t give free advertising. The only blades I endorse are those made by my student, Manong Panday.

Who should I study Pekiti-Tirsia with here in the States?
My personal opinion is this: Kuya Doug Marcaida has been our mentor for years, and I consider him to be the most well rounded Kali teacher this side of Bacolod. In Texas, there are a few guys I have had direct experience with: the most high profile is Leslie Buck. Leslie is about as clean and precise as they come and also a nice guy. Other Texans keep a lower profile: Ricky Rillera is a bona-fide fighting machine - to the extent that Tuhon Gaje gave him the nickname “Crazy Ricky” (note: do you realize how hard-core you have to be for Tuhon to call you ‘crazy’?); Robert Slomkowski is wiry, explosive, and brutal - when he moves on you, it’s like you’re suddenly fighting three people; and of course, few people have ever been able to dissect the Art and teach it from the inside out like Omar Hakim. In Oregon, Steven Slomkowski is who I recommend. We also have a promising group coming up in Florida.

There’s guys all over that do Pekiti-Tirsia. I make recommendations based on personal experience.

If I join your group, will I be able to learn the “Batangas” knife fighting? What is the formal name of that style?
The ultimate decision as to who learns it is up to Tito Jun. If you train with us long enough you’ll meet him one way or another. I simply follow his recommendation. As to the formal name of the style, if and when Tito Jun is ready to let it be known to the community at large, he will do so.

Sunday, October 07, 2007

Fun Stuff

Kuya Doug, Guro Jun, Tuhon Gaje, Tito Jun in a moment of Levity

This is taken from an old thread on the Pitbull Discussion forum (private!)


from Kuya Doug:

* Every girlfriend, wife, pillow, friends become a dummy to try techniques that you learned from class.

* Sweats and club t shirts become your regular attire from training to everyday casual wear ( like you never even change clothes cause it's all you wear)

* Wrestling shoes aren't for wrestling class or training.

* Equipment made for other sports become protective gear for sparring
( soccer shin guards as arm protectors, boxing headgear with a metal grate or fencing mask for head protection, "hockey" gloves ,)

* Vertical beer can holders , baseball bags, architect plan holders become stick bags.

* You find yourself carrying multiple knives and cammos or tactical clothing is ok to wear indoors as well as to Sunday church .

* Your kids hit each other constantly with sticks or training knives that seem readily found around the house.

* You walk around with a pen in pakal or sak sak grip

* You flip your keys as though you were flipping a balisong

* You like to roll up news papers or magazines to wave it around or use it like a stick

* You always look around the environment looking for possible weapons

* You get [aroused] when you see knives , swords or weapons

* You make sound effects when you hit things

* You constantly move your fingers in a sinalwai fashion or as if you were fighting when no one is looking around

* You find yourself talking with an accent sounding like your instructors.

from Me:

1) While your co-workers are busy surfing the net for porn, you're surfing for pics of knife wounds.

2) While your friends are spending their hard earned $ on the latest electronics gadgets and cell phones, you're buying expensive knives.

3) You pay $$$$ out of your pocket to go to the Philippines to be Tuhon's own bitch for 2 weeks.

4) Instead of taking the Victoria's secret catalog into the bathroom, you take the Cold Steel Special Projects Catalog (see #1)

5) Before going out for a night on the town, you spend an hour acessorising your carry knives to fit your wardrobe. ("Honey, is this kerambit too dressy?")

6) You practice your Tri-V, sinawali, etc. with the axe handles at the Home Depot.

7) You select your casual attire based on multiple pockets to conceal your knives (See #5)

8) And finally, you know you must be an FMA practitioner when some guy at work pisses you off, and you jab him in the neck with your balisong, then after breaking it off, you sweep him and decapitate him with your Force-Recon ginunting! (I'll write more when this annoying facial tic stops flaring - plus I gotta call my lawyer)

Friday, October 05, 2007

Club Kali

We are pleased to announce the formation of the official KALI CLUB at the Philippine American Cultural Community Center in Southfield. Since our weekly children’s class was such a hit last year, the good folks at the PACCM decided to let the grown-ups get in on the action. Here’s the class description:


This class will teach the fundamentals of the
traditional Filipino martial art of Arnis - also known
as Escrima and Kali. Learn techniques with single and
double baston, as well as empty-hand methods of
striking, kicking and grappling. The course of
instruction will accommodate students of all levels
from beginner to advanced.

The class is taught by Guro Jeff Davidson.
Guro Davidson is an instructor of the well known
PEKITI-TIRSIA system of Kali under Manong Leo Tortal
Gaje, Jr.of Bacolod.

Equipment needed:
* 2 rattan sticks
* Eye Protection
* Mouthguard

How is this different from our regular classes? Well, we’re extremely selective regarding who can join our Bothoan Batangas group. The Kali Club at PACCM is more for the general public. We’ll be teaching Pekiti-Tirsia, but anyone from any FMA is welcome. Contact me for day and time.

See you there!