Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Veteran's Day

The Detroit Maphilindo Pitbulls
are honored to salute all veterans and current military this Veteran's Day.
Thank you and your families,
God bless you all, for your service and sacrifice.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

In a Moment...It's Done

Philippine Marines Training in Pekiti-Tirsia

A chilling recollection from Grand Tuhon Gaje:

“I remember the Sgt. of the Force Recon Marines who was challenged in front of the Al Kidas and Abu Sayap in Mindanao to a blade combat . As it started, the enemy with his live Barong was aggressive, with intention to kill the Force Recon Marine.

In the first entry the swing of the barong was met by a diagonal slash cutting the right hand - and instantly - the barong separated from the hand. With instant reaction, the Force Recon Marine followed with another sweeping slash into the left hand, cutting the left wrist. With great feeling of assurance, the Force Recon Marines followed with a strong sweeping slash, cutting the neck and separating the head from the body.

This was witnessed by both the MILF and the Force Recon Marines.”

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Todays Lesson - From Malaysia with Love

"Talk to the Hand"

As I write this, Kuya Doug and Ka Jay are languishing in sunny Florida at the Pekiti-Tirsia 112th Anniversary Celebration/Seminar. I would have been there too, if not for a stupid respiratory infection that (thankfully) I am in the process of beating. Last night, as the wind howled and the cold rain lashed against my windows, they were kind enough to phone in and tell me about what a great time was being had by all. Thanks guys, that made me feel much better.

But at least they’re not having all the fun. This afternoon’s Silat class featured an unexpected visit from a renowned Malaysian Silat teacher/historian who just happened to literally “pop” in just as the students were arriving. And what a terrific class it was! I was able to sit back, coughing and taking notes while my students fired away question after question – and got some very enlightening teachings directly from the source. I am pretty certain this was the first class that he has taught in America, and we are truly honored for his time, patience and effort. Terimah Kasih!

On a related note, we have been studying the venerable Art of Silat Kuntau Tekpi for close to 5 years. The majority of my students have learned at least some parts of SKT and have incorporated this into their Kali training. Nothing wrong there. A select few have actually learned the complete first two levels consisting of 42 buah (“strikeforms”) basic senaman tekpi (tekpi exercises), and pelebat (a training form which teaches fluidity and body mechanics).

Now by popular demand, we will be offering a ‘seminar-series’ dealing with what I consider to be crucial, foundational material in preparation for the serious study of the combative aspects of Silat Melayu – stuff you would probably already know if you had grown up in Malaysia. This material will deal with the theory and application of Petua (Principles of Movement) as relates to breathing, footwork, striking, throwing, locking, and breaking. Anyone can learn a buah, or even copy a technique that they see. However, if you really internalize the principles of movement…if you have the necessary foundation, then application becomes spontaneous and effortless. If you just copy a technique and force it, then you have nothing.

Details will be forthcoming…

Monday, October 12, 2009

The Glory of the Melayu

My friend, comrade-in-arms, blood-brother, and fellow Malay ;) Mohd Nadzrin Wahab put together the following exciting video:

1Silat - Unity in Diversity is a celebration of the warrior spirit that we have inherited from our forefathers. It is a reminder that irrespective of where we come from, what perguruan we affiliate ourselves to, we are brothers and sisters of a system of self-improvement, of empowerment, of social engineering.

It is with that in mind that Silat Melayu Community (SMC) presents this compilation for all, to show that we can stand together and we can succeed if we put our hearts and souls into it. Never forget those who fought long and hard to keep us free, and never forget that in order to be truly free, we need to understand what we need to be free from.

Our thanks to Pop Shuvit for creating a masterpiece of spirit in Marabahaya, which provides the montage track for this compilation. Visit their site here:

Many thanks also to the masters, pesilat and styles that were featured in this video. Your efforts have not gone unnoticed.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Mark Your Calendars

October 23-24, 2009

The Pitbull Brotherhood of the Blade celebrates
the 112th year Anniversary of Pekiti Tirsia Kali system 1897 - 2009
Supreme Grand Tuhon Leo T. Gaje Jr.
This event is supported by Rochester Kali, Detroit Maphilindo, Sask P3 K-9, Nova Kali
and Baltimore Mabagsik PTK.

For more info contact Apolo Ladra 954-319-2938

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Thanks to/for Senaman Tua

Senaman Tua Practice at the Detroit Gelanggang

I just got this nice email from one of the students:

Hey Guru,

I just want to send you a big Thank You for teaching Senaman Tua to me.

When you asked me how my knee was doing this week you almost caught me by surprise because I hadn't thought of my knee in many weeks. This is the exact same knee that I was sure was going to need surgery and the many months of rehab that go with surgery earlier this summer. The reason I no longer had my knee problems at the forefront of my mind is that it was 100% back to normal. I can only attribute this to the Senaman Tua exercises you showed me.

I am a bit ashamed to admit this now, but when I originally called you weeks ago to let you know I was going to have to quit training for awhile due to me hobbling around on a very painful knee that I had injured, and you told me to come in anyway because 'you just might be able to help my knee', sad to say but I was extremely skeptical.

I had no doubts about your abilities to cause people injuries, but I had never heard you mention any ability to heal people, and besides, I had already visited a Doctor who just gave me pain pills and told me to make an appointment with a Orthopedic Surgeon for my knee. But since it would be almost three weeks before I was able to get an appointment with the Surgeon, I figured I had nothing to lose by seeing whatever it was you were going to show me.

When I saw the exercises you suggested I do, I thought they were a combination of some crazy yoga mixed in with some not quite right Physical Therapy exercises, definitely nothing I had ever seen before. I took your suggestion and started doing these exercises every other day, and to my surprise, after the first week my knee was much improved.

I appreciate that our classes for the next couple of weeks were Senaman Tua classes and not Pekiti, because the combo of practicing on my own and coming in for the classes eliminated any limping completely by the third week, and after the seventh week, any trace of the knee problem was completely eliminated. Had I gone through with the surgery, the seven week point would have probably just been the transition from crutches to a cane.

So thanks again for the gift of these exercises that I have continued to do a couple of times a week for prevention of joint injuries.

your grateful student,

Mabuhay Larry!

Thank you for the note. I'm glad you're back to 100%. And I don't even mind that you doubted me...or that you thought the exercises were "crazy" and "not quite right" - we can discuss that later. The important thing is that you're better now and the Orthopedic surgeon will have to find another way to make his Ferrari payment this month.

See you in class!


Saturday, September 19, 2009

August Adventure #2: Laging-Una !

Guro Jun says: "You guys really suck!"

Kuya 'Mel teaches body mechanics

The "Presenters"

Our second adventure for the month of August took us across the border into Canada (Toronto to be exact) and it was like stepping into another Universe. Not because of the strange looking Canadian currency; or their use of weird phrases like “G’day eh?” or stuff like that. No. I say it was like stepping into another Universe because for a solid weekend in a remote part of Toronto, I had the opportunity to immerse myself in the fascinating World of Kali De Leon.

At long last, we finally made the guest list and were invited to participate in the annual summer camp sponsored by Guro Jun De Leon. It was utterly unforgettable and difficult to put into words – but some of my reflections are below.

My Impression of Guro Jun De Leon Then and Now

I’ve written about Guro Jun in earlier posts so I won’t rehash the history of how we came to know him. The point is that today, I have a different opinion from back then when I wrote those entries. I have a feeling that Guro will read this piece and I hope I won’t get into trouble for saying this…but here it goes.

First of all, in the total picture I am actually less impressed by Guro as a “martial artist” as I was back then. Why? Because first of all, it is impossible for me to be any more impressed. If you study Kali for 100 years you would be very lucky to meet 4 or 5 people that are on Guro Jun’s level as far as skill is concerned. He is just north of phenomenal in every aspect of his practice. It’s intimidating to merely watch him move (even on video), but if he is “working” on you personally, you can feel firsthand what one of my students describes as “Precision Fury.”

With this being said, it would be far too easy to just acknowledge Guro Jun as the caliber of Master that comes around once in a generation, and be awed by his prowess. That however, is only part of the picture. On this particular weekend, we got a far more in-depth look at the theories and principles that power KDL

The Difference

Too many times, especially in the Filipino martial arts, there is one very talented and charismatic guy at the top whose senior students (even a whole generation of seniors) couldn’t even carry the Master’s baston. It’s common. The best practitioners are not always the best teachers. There are many, many subtleties in Kali that are nearly impossible to teach in an explicit way: timing, sensitivity, body-mechanics, flow, etc. Sometimes it is just easier for a student to imitate his teacher in various respects and not dig deeper into understanding the principles and mechanics.

What was so remarkable about this camp is that Guro Jun himself did very little teaching. Instead, he called upon his crew of seniors to take the group through blocks of instruction that included single and double baston, knife, sword and dagger, and empty hands. It soon became abundantly clear to me that all these guys – to a man – were very highly developed in their understanding of those subtle aspects I referenced earlier. Guro Jun hadn’t just developed a cadre of imitators…he’d produced a solid crop of high-level practitioners with in-depth knowledge of the theories and principles of a rich and complex system. Furthermore, each instructor clearly brought his own personal interpretation(s) to the core material. It felt to me like a seminar of high-level jazz musicians teaching variations on a common theme. All with an underlying sense of honor and respect for their Grand Master.

The Bottom Line

The KDL summer camp was one of best training experiences we’ve had to date. My respect for Guro Jun the Martial Artist was actually over-shadowed by my respect for him as a Teacher and Leader. Indeed, KDL is bigger than one man, and in my humble opinion will pass fully intact to the next capable generation when Guro decides to “rest” his bastons – Hopefully not for a long, long time!

It was an honor Guro – Salamat po.

Kuya Doug teaches Dean about the Kerambit

Captured on film for posterity

The Group

Tuesday, September 01, 2009

August Adventure #1: Coming Full Circle to Texas

In April of 2005, I was blessed to be among the first group of ‘Cikgu Muda’ to complete the first two levels of Silat Kuntau Tekpi during an intensive training camp hosted by Cikgu Omar Hakim in Austin, Texas. It was literally a breathtaking experience, learning the basics of footwork, parrying, locking, throwing, striking, theory, and application of this venerable, no-nonsense Silat system from Malaysia. Away from home and with few distractions, it was almost like a vacation – except for the fact that I was battered, twisted, and exhausted at the end of each day.

Equal in value to any of techniques I learned were the friendships that grew from that experience. Two of my senior classmates in that training group made a tremendous impression on me: Robert Slomkowski and Ricky Rillera. These two gentlemen have a lot in common, beyond the fact that they follow similar paths in the martial arts. You will not find a more perfect example of what the Silat masters call Ilmu Padi – The Way of the Rice Plant – than these gentlemen. The Way of the Rice Plant is thus: when it is young, it stands straight and proud – almost with arrogance. However, the older and more full (wiser), and developed it becomes, it humbly lowers its profile. That’s Robert and Ricky.

After a grueling day of Silat practice, we would eat dinner close to the training facility, and then somewhat informally practice Kali at night. I’m sure it was nothing special to them, but these guys blew my mind. Ricky is a legend in Pekiti-Tirsia circles. Facing him with a baston even doing a simple exercise felt like standing in front of an exploding pipe bomb. More importantly, behind the technique is a calculating, strategic mind that controls the fight like a chess master runs the board.

Robert is much the same way, although his personal style is somewhat different than Ricky’s. I distinctly remember thinking – as he blasted me with three solid kill-shots before I could get off one angle – that my best hope would be to get knocked out by the first crack and be spared the pain of the following volley. At one point, Robert was kind enough to show me a grappling drill that he developed, which made me feel as if my spine was made of rubber. Ah memories!

Although I was certainly the low man on the totem pole, and knew next to nothing compared to these guys, both of them taught me with patience and generosity as if I was their own student. As I flew home at the end of the training camp, I made two resolutions:

1. I resolved that one day my own students would have the honor of meeting and training with them; and

2. I prayed that one day, I could share something with them that was in some small way comparable to what they had taught me.

A few weeks ago I seemed to have achieved both objectives. After much planning, I came out to San Antonio with a small contingent from our Detroit group for 3 days of training with the newest members of The Brotherhood of the Blade. It was great to see my old friends again, and also to make some new ones. It was a proud moment for me to be sharing Pekiti-Tirsia, Silat Melayu, and Batangas knife fighting with the young lions of San Antonio, while at the same time on the other side of the gym, Ricky and Robert terrorized my own students. It was heartwarming.

I’m really looking forward to the next time we see these guys. I have a feeling that they will be doing our stuff better than we do it!

Kevin, Ricky, Me, and Robert

"Stop Pointing that Ginunting at Me, Doug"

The Detroit Crew with Kuya Rick

Friday, August 21, 2009

Detroit Meets Texas

I am not the best writer or speaker but I would like to share briefly what happened this past weekend here in San Antonio in regards to our training group. This past weekend our pekiti group here in San Antonio had the pleasure of meeting for the first time our brothers from Michigan for what turned out to be a great time had by all. Ka Jeff and the Maphilindo clan made their way to the Lonestar state to share with us and for us to share with them.

As far as the training goes, it goes without saying that it was second to none, but the friendships and the bonds that were made during this trip are truly ones that I think will be long lasting. Kuya Ricky Rillera and Robert Slomkowski came out to play and Detroit got to experience the broken energy that we practice down here in San Antonio. Robert on day one taught an hour or two on the principles of broken energy and demonstrated how it can be applied in drills as well as in sparring. We also got a glimpse of Detroit Tekpi that blew all of our minds collectively.

Day's two and three had so much information that my head is still spinning and it also gave our group here enough info to keep us busy for months to come. Initially I was a bit intimidated by having our brothers from Detroit in because me, as well as Kuya Robert thought that we didn't have too much to offer past the basics, but we were glad to hear that our brothers from Michigan got their expectations met and left Texas happy.

Saturday night was great we did a bit of sight seeing on our historical Riverwalk (Sorry Guys) and I remember Ka Jeff asking me for a knife so that he could cut his clothes off of him due to the sweltering Texas heat that was terrorizing the Maphilindos. We ended the night with a couple of cold beers and great laughs and conversation. Ka Jeff thank you so much for taking the time to come see us and to introduce us to our other brothers. Jay, Jeff, Basaam, and Damon, thanks so much for your patience in dealing with me. I really hope you guys had a blast here with us, and I cannot wait to see you guys again....maybe next time in Michigan in the winter.

Ka Jeff, the next time you see me I promise to be more lazy! Much love to you guys, and lets not make it too long before we kick it again.

- Lakan Guro Doug Marsh, San Antonio

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Alert: Don't Come Here to Learn Pekiti Tirsia

"This is going to be harder than I thought"

Sometime around the beginning of May we accepted a new student who had previously trained in Pekiti-Tirsia in another place some years ago. By his own admission, he did not get very far into his study. We started him off the same way we start off 90% of newbies, regardless of their past experience. After almost every class, he would say to me “This is great, but it doesn’t look like anything we used to do when I studied with ‘X’…uh, when do I learn the 12 attack system and break-in break-out?” My answer: “Maybe never.”

Some weeks later, I allowed this particular student to transfer some of our old VHS tapes of Tuhon Gaje’s training with us to DVD. He came back and said “You know, none of this looks familiar to me. It’s like it’s a different system!” Before I helped him reconcile this mental dilemma, I had a personal flashback to an earlier time, much like Caine in the Kung-Fu series. So fade out and cue the flashback music…


About 9 years ago, on a calm night in October, I sat in my living room watching an old Mike Tyson fight with my recently-arrived guest: Grand Tuhon Leo T. Gaje Jr. It was his first trip back to Michigan in many years, and as he sat intently boxing with my cat, and returning his emails – my mind was on other things… Ye gads, I thought. The Grandmaster of the Pekiti Tirsia Kali system is sitting 5 feet from me in my own house. I can ask him anything I want! Now is the time to clear up a few technical/training/system questions that have been on my mind for a few years now.

When I could no longer contain myself, I transformed from the silent disciple into the nagging chatterbox. Stick in hand, I assailed Tuhon with about 10 years worth of questions on various aspects of Pekiti-Tirsia: footwork, drills, techniques, disarms, grips, angles, sub-systems, terms, knife, stick, etc., etc. Ever the cagey one, Tuhon offhandedly dodged almost all of my questions with the irreverent sarcasm that is his sense of humor. As I studied his face, I could see a mixture of jet-lag, boredom, annoyance, and a definite tinge of disappointment which seemed to express the sentiment "This is going to be harder than I thought.”

Over the next 2 weeks, I had the privilege of many hours of one-on-one instruction from Tuhon. In the beginning, I assumed that the answers to my previous questions would be addressed at some point during our training sessions. I was wrong. Not only did our training NOT address my questions, but it had seemingly little to do with anything that anybody around here knew as “classical” Pekiti-Tirsia! When he instructed my other students during their private lessons, it was the same. I took a different track. When he would show me a drill or exercise I would ask “Tuhon, where in the system is this from?” His answer (accompanied more often than not by a painful slap or torque) was an exasperated “I am the system!” It was 2 weeks of this.

After Tuhon was on his way to the next venue, I had some time to reflect and I narrated my experience to an older and wiser friend – a Japanese-style martial artist who also had the opportunity to train under his system’s Grandmaster. His take on the situation:

“So…you had Miles Davis in your house and all you did was ask him how to play the solo from ‘Footprints”.

Now it made sense! What a gift we had been given. Instead of re-hashing set patterns from 20 years ago, Tuhon had actually given us building blocks for a complete foundation of theory, movement, application, and mindset. It was only later on, over the next few years, that the instruction from Tuhon took more of a structured approach. That’s pretty much the reverse of how most martial arts are taught. Our Art was fresh, it was practical, and the drills had ‘life’ instead of the feeling that we were merely repeating patterns. It was ours.

A little while later, we would go to Rochester, New York where we were able to observe another very-apart-from-the-crowd student of Tuhon -Kuya Doug Marcaida - a ferociously talented Kali player who completely embodies this idea of making the Art one’s own….and that set the bar for us.


So to my new student – as well as current and even prospective students – I say to you: Don’t come here expecting to learn Pekiti-Tirsia based on how you think it should be, or even how it used to be. Specific techniques, drills, blades, sticks etc. are important, but they are secondary to learning the most important weapons you will ever have – your own mind and body. It may seem like an indirect approach, but the rewards are much richer.

If you disagree, well, I’ll allow that I could be wrong. In that case, take it up with Tuhon. After all, HE IS THE SYSTEM!

Wednesday, July 08, 2009

Get Your CCW!

Currently in the City of Detroit there is a lot of talk about classes for "Conflict Resolution". Fortunately, we already offer some excellent classes for resolving conflicts through the medium of edged weapons, impact weapons, and empty-hand close quarter fighting.

Now, we are pleased to offer a complete course for obtaining your Michigan CCW/CPL! The course is taught by a long-time member of our Pekiti-Tirsia club who is also a veteran Detroit Police Officer and Certified NRA Instructor. The fee is $150.00 and covers:

- Selecting/buying the appropriate pistol for your needs
- Basic pistol safety
- Shooting Fundamentals
- Materials and Range Time
- One-on-one instruction
- Discounts for groups and seniors

Unlike our other courses, this instruction is open to the public, and offered independantly from our other programs. Email me privately and I will forward your contact information to the instructor.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Beginner's Perspective

A long-time student wrote the following essay a few years ago after completing his first year of training with us. Thank you, sir...sorry it took me so long to put it up!

Reflecting on my First Year of Training in Pekiti-Tirsia

The following is not intended to be a philosophical dissertation or an intellectual exercise. Rather, it is a portrayal of my serendipitous discovery of Pekiti-Tirsia and my thoughts, feelings, and experiences during my first year of training. I felt the need to share this with our Pekiti-Tirsia family with the hope of relating to those who started before me, to remind them of the challenges of a new student, and those who started after me, just incase they are having similar experiences and feel uneasy about it!

It was January 2001, I was continuing my training in taekwondo, TKD, and Aikido, holding a 1st degree black belt in TKD, getting ready to test for my 2nd in a few months, and a 1st degree in Aikido. I was feeling pretty good about it, having put in many years of training and having the black belts to show for it! At the same time, however, I was searching for other arts to help round out what I had learned through Karate (many years earlier), Aikido, and TKD. I felt a strong need to learn “something else”. I thought about and tried a number of options:

  • Karate (Japanese): been there, done that; when I was an undergrad student, too much like TKD, minus the kicks!
  • Wing Chun: had one class with a Chinese practitioner, and thought it could be a good option, provided I could find a good school/instructor.
  • Krav Maga: a few sessions were more than enough! I thought it was good aerobics, but I found it to be dangerous in a number of ways; but that could be subject of a paper by itself!!
  • Tai Chi: Took several classes, I did like the flow and the meditative aspect, but learning the long form after a couple of classes seemed a bit too much. I realized it did have martial priciples behind it, but thought that transition from the stylistic to a combative approach would not be easy, necessary from a self-defense prespective.

Whatever I felt to be missing certainly was not getting discovered through my ever increasing portfolio of TKD Poomses (Korean for kata or form), which I never liked anyway, or the never ending turns, falls, and dives of Aikido, not to mention tripping over my hakama all the time (the traditional baggy Aikido/Samurai skirt-like pants)!

And then I discovered Pekiti-Tirsia, not through extensive research or expert recommendations, but pure chance! It was not that long ago, January 2001, when I noticed a Martial Arts school while driving home from work. I did not manage to catch the full signage as I drove by, but did notice the words “South East Asia”. That was enough to raise my curiosity. Through my training and studies I was aware of many of the major countries relative to martial arts, such as China, Taiwan, Korea, Japan, India, and others; but South East Asia? I had heard of Modern Arnis and Escrima, but did not know much about them, however, I had a feeling there was more!

The following week, after I had finished teaching my TKD class on a Saturday afternoon, I stopped by the school to check it out. Unfortunately it was closed, the sign on the window read, “Warrior Arts of South East Asia, -Pekiti-Tirsia, Kali”. I looked through the glass window to see what the school was like. Well, it was unlike any school that I had ever visited or trained at, looking very bare and lacking the usual trappings found in martial arts schools, such as training dummies, BOB, Bully, punching bags, thick cushy floor mats or any other training tools or toys. What I did see was a bare, well-worn thin red carpet, some blades on the wall, as well as blades and sticks resting on the floor. There were also many pictures, flags, masks, other artifacts, and letters/diplomas, which I could not read from behind closed doors, hanging on the walls. I really was at a loss trying to imagine what this school was about, it did not fit the usual mold, but it certainly peeked my curiosity even further. I wrote down the phone number and decided to call the school to find out more.

After a few phone tags, I connected with a Jeff Davidson who offered to give me a free training session. A week later, on a Friday evening, I arrived at the school for my free training. I was greeted by an unassuming individual, introducing himself as Guro Jeff Davidson. As he led me to a backroom for my private lesson, I walked past four students performing some knife drills, moving in unusual ways, and performing stabbing and slashing moves on their partners. The thought going through my mind was “this really looks strange”, but reminded myself to keep an open mind and avoid passing judgment too quickly; knowing other arts can make one judgmental, especially when people possess “black belts”!

OK, I am finally there, one-on-one with Guro. He starts off by asking me what other arts I have studied. He then gives me an opportunity to defend myself against punches and knife attacks using any of the techniques I knew from previous training. Piece of cake, I thought! So he starts coming at me, not necessarily fast, while I attempted to block and counter as they came. There was one minor issue, the attacks were not coming at me in the structured, rehearsed patterns that I was used to while working with my cooperative training partners. After a while I was totally frustrated, and Guro sensing my frustration switched roles. Now I am attacking him; he instructs me to come at him as fast as I like, punch, kick (remember I am a TKD guy) and knife attacks; now I am thinking “time to make my point, let me get a shot on this guy”. Here we go again, I am coming as fast as I can, but not getting to the targets, getting counter-attacked on every attempt, and losing my weapon every time, when I used one!! OK, I get it, he made his point, much of what I have spent years training does not seem to be working very well! Now what? Next, Guro starts to discuss a few of the Pekiti-Tirsia principles, what he explained seemed to contradict most, if not all, the principles I had been taught over the years! Now I am really confused. Somewhere between the confusion and the frustration experienced during a 45-minute session I decided to sign up.

The first few classes felt extremely awkward for many reasons. Over the course of a few classes, I started to see the regulars at the school. Many of them appeared stand-offish towards the new students. Some students would try to instruct during the practice drills, fully recognizing that some of them did not know what they were talking about (I was used to that, having been a TKD instructor myself), but I went with the flow anyway. I felt a number of challenges relative to the different aspects of Pekiti-Tirsia:

Principles - The biggest challenge I was facing was not the techniques, the new ways of fluid movement, the dances (bungas), steps, or the body turns and shifts, rather, it was the constant contradictions against all the principles I was taught over the years, such as blocking and countering, solid/rooted stances, focusing and putting everything into a single powerful technique, fully extended techniques, muscular tension to create power, chambering of techniques, training for fighting through constant practice of poomses, and many more!! Pekiti-Tirsia seemed fluid, I liked it, but I knew it would take a while for me to re-program (de-program) after all those years of poomses and one-steps. It seemed hard, and took some time for Guro to stop me from breaking some old habits, such as chambering my techniques, and starting my punches at the hip!

Sense of Belonging - Another challenge for me was lacking a feeling of belonging and being accepted by the group. I was showing up for classes fairly regularly in the first several months, as my schedule allowed it; but I never felt a true sense of belonging or being part of the group. This was just how it felt. Gradually, it started to feel different, I felt better about being there, felt a better connection with the various instructors and most of the students, and started to have a better sense for what was being taught and what was going on.

Finite vs. Infinite – Another aspect of having trained in other arts is realizing that most arts have fairly limited facets and capabilities, although often being presented as having unlimited potential! I would like to see, e.g., a true Aikidoka show how they would kick (although I hear Ueshiba did practice kicks) or see a traditional TKD practitioner do a knife disarm, although some TKD schools do attempt to incorporate weapon techniques. On the other hand, having been exposed to only what I have seen in my first year of Pekiti-Tirsia training, I fully recognize I have not even scratched the surface. I do understand some of the principles and recognize that they provide infinite possibilities, without necessarily having to document and practice every single one of those possibilities.

Attitude – It took a while for me to realize that Pekiti-Tirsia was not just about knowing the moves and techniques, rather a big part of Pekiti-Tirsia was understanding and developing the necessary attitude, ranging from meditative to pure animal instincts! Not exactly a requirement for doing katas!

There are many other aspects relative to the myths and traditions promoted through most other martial arts, but the points raised here do provide a general outline of the issues and challenges I experienced. But please keep in mind that these were mostly due to my training in other arts, and some of the baggage I brought in with me.

Here I am, a year after I started Pekiti-Tirsia, have learned more concepts, techniques, and principles than I ever did over all the years of training in all other arts combined. I started my Pekiti-Tirsia training because of my frustration with the other arts, which were not providing the necessary challenges and learning opportunities that I was looking for. The variety and range of concepts, principles, and techniques covered in the systems we practice is providing me with everything I was looking for, and more. I have stopped looking for that elusive “next art” needed to help further round out my skills!

Due to my schedule, job and family commitments, I am unable to attend classes as often as I used to, and I miss that. I do, however, look forward to every class that I can attend, and leave every session satisfied that I learn something new, or learn more about something I thought I knew already. What I have learned over the course of my first year of Pekiti-Tirsia training has given me a solid foundation to better understand and deal with new concepts and situations, in very practical ways. By the way, after all those years of training I never did master those jump/flying/spin kicks to the head!!!



Saturday, June 13, 2009

Wisdom of the Ages - Pt. 1

Photo courtesy of Mohd Nadzrin Wahab

Below are some time-honored words of wisdom from the Indo/Malay martial arts tradition. Thanks to Bram, Kris, Nadzrin, Reno, et. al. Read and apply...

"Sepandai-pandai tupai melompat ada saatnya jatuh juga."

As clever as a squirrel jumps, there will be a time that it falls (traditional Malay).

"Alam takambang jadi guru"
Nature unfurls to become teacher (traditional Padang)

"Sura dira jaya ning rad lebur dening pangastuti."
The brave and strong and victorious in this universe disolve before the power of love. (old Jawanese)

"Aja adigang, adigung, adiguna"
Don't flaunt your strength, your size or your intelligence. (Old Jawanese)

"Aja dumeh."
Don't do some thing just because you can. (Old Jawanese)

"Tong kosong nyaring bunyinya"
Empty barrel makes loud noise. (Malay)

"Sadumuk batuk, senyari bumi, dibela tekan pati."
One touch of the forehead, one finger width of land, both must be defended till death. (Jawanese)

"Segenggam itu kepunyaan guru"
"The masters use only few"

"Kecik kecik tak nak mampus, dah besar menyusahkan orang"
"You better off dead while you were little".

*best said when you were doing a kuncian on your enemy *

"Kalau kail panjang sejengkal,dalam lautan jangan diduga"
"know your place"

"Gayung bersambut, kata berjawab"
An attack parried, a word replied; good begets good, evil begets evil.

"Gayung tua, gayung memutus"
Words of the wise are normally the right ones.

"Orang bergayung sama pandai, sama bak kundi atas dulang"
Both highly skilled; both warriors.

"Bersilat kepada si buta"
Performing silat for the blind. (Showing your skills for those who can't appreciate it.)

"Cakak sudah, silat teringat"
Silat recalled after the fight. (After the matter has been settled, then come the complaints.)

"Pendekar elak jauh"
A person who is very careful.

"Tidak ada pendekar yang tak bulus, tak ada juara yang tak kalah"
No pendekar has never missed, no champion has never lost.

"Bagai gembala diberi keris"
As a shepherd given a keris. (A useless gift.)

"Berapa panjang sarung begitulah kerisnya"
Long as the sheath is, so too is the keris. (Doing something within one's own limits.)

"Berkeras tidak berkeris"
Taking tough action but with no strength to defend oneself.

"Hujan emas perak di negeri orang; hujan keris lembing di negeri kita; baik juga di negeri kita"
Though it rains gold and silver in another land; and rains kerises and spears in ours, better be our own land.
(No matter how rich and prosperous another country is, your homeland is where you belong.)

"Jangan menghulurkan hulu keris ke tangan orang"
Never offer the hilt of your keris to another hand
(This is an actual taboo of silat, to avoid giving a keris hilt first, because the blade will naturally point to the giver, allowing a potential foe to draw the weapon and stab him - Never give power to another, he will destroy you.)

"Keris panjang berkeluk, ke mana bawa ke mana olok"
A person who can be used for any purpose.

"Keris pedang tiada tajam, lebih tajam mulut manusia"
Words are sharper than weapons.

"Keris tersisip di dinding, pedang tajam dalam sarungnya"
Keris hanging on the wall, a sharp sword kept in its scabbard. (Foolish actions.)

"Menyisip keris tak bersarung di pinggang"
Keeping an unsheathed keris at your side. (Raising a child without providing knowledge will eventually trouble his parents.)

"Patah lidah alamat 'kan kalah, patah keris alamat 'kan mati"
A broken tongue means loss, a broken keris means death.
(When the tools are gone, the task will never be completed.)

Batangas Blade

Death Be Not Proud...(or Fancy)

At our training hall, this year has seen another cycle of observation, selection, and initiation into the Batangueno-style knife/gun combatives for a select group of new(er) students. As we prepare for our next long-awaited training session with Tito Jun in a few months, here is an article that conveys some of the "historical perspective". - JD

SAY the word barako and immediately three meanings come to mind: the strong-flavored and robust brew of the liberica coffee; the sex-driven adult male boar ready for breeding; and that certain brand of Batangueño, the rough and tough Filipino male from the province of Batangas. All three possess virility, strength, fearlessness — yes, even the coffee, whose flavor practically leaps up from the cup and straight onto one's tongue. All three carry within the pride of the Batangueños, who claim these qualities exclusively as their own.

It is the human barako, however, who is obviously the most fascinating, because he is at once simple and complex. In a province known to produce the export-quality balisong (fan knife), where every Batangueño is expected to be armed and efficient in the uses of the weapon made only in Batangas, the barako prefers the gun to protect himself and his loved ones.

In the old days, before the permit to carry guns was heavily enforced, the barako would never leave home without his .45 sticking out of the waistband of his pants, pulling his karsonsilyo or undershorts down. He must be prepared, even with his undershorts down, to fight back if someone throws a challenge, a balisong, or even a bullet (through a gun barrel of course) at him. This also means that he should be a good shot, a sharp shooter if necessary, because to stay alive and keep his image as a barako or strongman, he would need to keep shooting until his enemy falls or runs away. A true barako also fights his enemy (or enemies) in the open, and face to face.

In the book Batangas Forged in Fire, which features the province's most prominent families, among other things, a blueblood, Teodoro Kalaw (husband of former senator Eva Estrada-Kalaw) is photographed standing straight in the barako pose, ready to fire the revolver on his right hand, even as he totes his coat on his left arm. Such was the way of the elite barako: classy, but still deadly.

Barakos are also found in the pages of the nation's history, such as the known man of action, Gen. Miguel Malvar, the last military leader to surrender to the Americans. Even a Batangueno who couldn't walk showed kabarakuhan (bravery) in his own way. Although disabled by poliomyelitis, Apolinario Mabini was a man of thought who rose to supremacy as the brains behind the revolution and the first Philippine Republic.

Yet despite the show of virility and the stance of masculinity, the feared strongman known for his kills will often soften or tone down when faced with the woman who captured his heart. A barako is not rude toward the woman he loves. He is in fact gentle toward her and will do everything in his power to make his special woman feel important, even if it means carrying her books or pink, flowery handbag in public and ignoring the hoots of hecklers in the streets, although he is sure to confront them later when she is not around.

The barako is also loyal to his family. Although conflicts may arise between barako brothers and fathers, they all unite and fight for each other when trouble from outside forces threaten their family's pride, honor, and existence. In many instances, the barako will ignore tempting offers of dubious fortune in order to make sure his family's name remains untarnished. Indeed, the real barako would rather be poor than live with shame, just as he would rather die fighting than live in fear.

And fight the barakos did during World War II, ambushing and killing many Japanese soldiers. In retaliation, the Japanese massacred the city's population, taking the lives of 18,000 of its 25,000 residents. Lipa City was also razed to the ground, with only five houses out of hundreds of old mansions left standing afterward.

It was probably a sight that could have made anyone cry, but most probably not a barako, who is the sort of male who believes he is never ever supposed to shed a single tear, even during the wake of his own father, even in the face of their own death. The tears from the known strongmen, therefore, could mean only two things: One is that they are crocodile tears, designed to invoke pity. The other is that they belong to a fake barako.

Barakos can be bullheaded. After the peacetime elections of 1949, a group of barakos from wealthy families took to hills at the defeat of their presidential bet, Jose P. Laurel, whom they believed was cheated. Backed by formidable gun power, they were ready to fight the government head on. Only the messengers sent by their fellow blueblood barakos who wanted peace were able to stop the planned bloodbath.

Some towns and cities in the province have more barakos than the others. Among them is the town of San Juan, in the easternmost part of Batangas, that also known for its coconut wine or lambanog.

Batangas City also once had a prominent barako, who by his skill and probably, by luck, was able to live long enough to run for public office and win. This barako made sure the city enjoyed peace and order. When he died, Batangueños praised him for his leadership. Now it is his nephew who sits behind his former desk.

Youngsters who aspire to be barakos or want political clout someday are known as barakitos. These young ones are often seen with the barakos, who take them under their wing as alagang barako (novice barakos). Already quite rowdy, barakitos oftentimes get bolder during election season.

At present, however, Batangueños themselves believe there are only a few barakos left walking the streets of the province. The decrease in the barako population could probably be due to the fact that in their obsession to be supremo de barakos, most of them have killed each other (matira ang matibay or only the bravest remains standing); in worst cases, the killing could have included members of each other's family (ubusan ng lahi). Many barakos, after all, have failed to realize the difference between pride and foolishness. — Mei Magsino