Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Knowledge paid for in blood

Recently I’ve had the opportunity to train and hang out with the Pekiti Tirsia Kali instructors of the Philippine Force Recon Marines. Despite my family’s long history of military services going back to my grandfather’s Death March ordeal and guerilla fighting, I’m a civilian and there’s really little that I and a battle-hardened Marine have in common, except of course the common obsession with Pekiti Tirsia Kali and the Filipino Martial Arts.

As I got to know them, I heard war stories from the front lines, in the jungles of Mindanao and in other parts of this country that only the military dares to venture into. It took some time to get them to talk about their experiences; it’s usually kept among themselves and away from the easily shocked and offended civilians.

The stories I heard were familiar, and merely confirmed the details of the tales that I’ve picked up from the PTK Marine grapevine. But when you hear about the details, as told first hand from the person involved, it gives the story flesh and blood. An anecdote told from second hand sources becomes a story of a fight to the death between a Marine and a Muslim insurgent. Black and white becomes living color.

When you’re sitting across someone who has killed men with his knife and machete in battle and discusses what he’s done with the same quiet, matter-of-fact detachment as one has pouring a cup of coffee, it’s impossible to be jaded and uninterested. To these soldiers, the stories are not for bragging or even open discussion with outsiders. It’s plain and simple reality for them, devoid of the plastic bravado of the self made, training-available-on-DVD “knife fighters”.

The stories are of heroism and desperation, having to kill with knives and machetes in urban ambushes and jungle trails. There are no car bombs or IEDs here; death is at the hands of men, edged weapons and guns the tools of their trade. There is no push button war here, no precision bombing; killing is a personal matter, done in more hand-to-hand encounters than most other armies care to imagine.

The Internet is full of Martial Arts discussions and opinions. Grappling beats everything, striking is the best, this knife fighting style is superior and so forth. Students argue what works and what doesn’t. Even the Filipino Martial Arts are not spared the endless scrutiny. People teach their watered down interpretation and claim to be the last name in fighting. All that talk is totally meaningless to people who have dealt death at the sharp end of a knife in the jungles of Mindanao.

So if one needs affirmation and confirmation that the Filipino Martial Arts in general and Pekiti Tirsia Kali in particular works, simply ask the Force Recon Marines. They know the truth, revealed to them in blood.


Jerome said...


i'm very interested in learning Pekiti Tirsia Kali. I currently work in Makati. Can you refer me to where I can study this martial art?

Btw, I sent an email to your email address.

Thank you.

island_man said...


I'm having problems with my previous email. I changed my email on Blogger. email me again at my new address.


Anonymous said...

This is an excellent post! I ask your permission to reproduce it on my balisongplayer blog (with all credit to you of course)

Thank you!

Jeff Davidson
Pekiti Tirsia Michigan

Kaerius said...

Well written.

I'm a grappler myself, and have tried various martial arts, in the end the one I've settled for is an interpretation of Yagyu Shingan Ryu Heihojutsu. A fairly new one, created by one of the three non-japanese to ever get permission to teach Yagyu Shingan Ryu Heihojutsu(and will be a grandmaster after the current one dies.) I'll leave the details out, he doesn't like people talking about it.

My own observation is that often, the older the martial art, the better. The more time there has been where the martial art has evolved, adapted, and improved itself, the more knowledge of how the body functions, the better. The knowledge of the whys, and not just the hows, is important, but often lost.

From my understanding, Pekiti Tirsia Kali also has kept this knowledge, and my impression is that it is quite formidable.

Personally though, I train for self-defense, I live in an urban area, and guns are non-existant. I have no wish to kill anyone, even when defending myself, though I could(and would not hesitate to if I faced multiple attackers.)