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"Whatever we do in this world has to do with survival."




"Pekiti-Tirsia is a combat art. The culture is combat culture. PT is directed to follow the old tradition to carry on as a legacy."




























































































"The traditional knowledge in terms of martial arts has been there long, long…many years ago. The people had practiced and practiced and used this in terms of how many empires and generations of invasions and fighting. This has been tested and proven over and over again."























An Interview with Tuhon Gaje, Summer 2004

Note: This article has only been published here and we would welcome a publisher who wants to put the interview in print.

Self Defense Doesn't Work
How Martial Arts Have Lost Touch With Their Roots

A transcribed video interview with Tuhon Gaje

 Leopoldo Tortal Gaje, Jr. is the Supreme Grandmaster of the Pekiti-Tirsia Kali system. Grand Tuhon Gaje is recognized as the leading authority on Edged-Impact weaponry and Filipino Martial Arts. His nickname is “The Blademaster.” He has the reputation as one of the true masters of the knife, even among people who teach their own system of knife.
He is the sole inheritor of this ancient system that was passed from father to son in a family system.

I was fortunate enough to train with Tuhon Gaje privately as well as talk with him in depth about many topics. It was very enlightening. One of the most valuable revelations that he made very clear to me, without trying to I’m sure, is the following:

Martial Arts are about combat and survival. It is not about sport or some sort of consensual fair fight between gentlemen. Because of this, the attacker will probably use weapons and even if the attacker does not, you’d be foolish not to use a weapon if you could. Combat is also about destroying the opponent-- you must take the fight to him even while avoiding his attack. Only offense brings victory. Defense just delays the inevitable victory of your opponent.

I hope this interview can provoke some thinking about things you may not have thought about before.


What is the strategy of Pekiti-Tirsia?

 We only deal with 2 things, strategy and tactics. Strategy is a plan of action, derived from continuous training, a conditioning to the various flows of attack.

 The principle of Strategy is attack-- no defense. I don't teach defense. A tactical move is how to make that attack be effective and how to demolish the enemy. My principle of strategy is Offense, no defense. My offense becomes a counter offense, which is the best defense.

 If you teach your people to do defense, they become more static, they become rigid, they become immobile and they freeze and all they remember is how to defend themselves against powerful blows.

 My training is about speed, timing, power, accuracy and precision. . All of these do not involve defense, there is no strategy of defense there, defense per se- meaning disarm, meet force with force and try some technique. It will never work. The word defense has no meaning in Pekiti-Tirsia. The strategy is offense, counter offense, and functionability.

So how do you defend yourself?
You learn offense!

 You cannot learn defense, there is no such thing as learning defense. It's all offense. The other concept is all defense, self-defense. There is no such thing as self-defense.  It is a misunderstood word, self-defense.

 How many battles in history are there where a castle stood in the middle of the field and was able to win the war?  Always the invading forces are winning. Why? Because you are there in defensive position and when the enemy surrounds you for one year and cuts off the water and food, he cuts of the means of exit, when he catapults stones and shoots arrows over the wall every day?  How will you survive? How much food can you store in there?

So defense has no meaning in terms of warfare.

 When you are on the defensive, you are static, your movements limited, and you have no liberty as far as escape is concerned.

 Is the typical martial artist prepared for a knife on knife or knife vs. empty hands encounter?

 If he is more oriented on empty hands and has no knife training, no he is not. Knife culture is much different from empty hands. All the empty hands came from the knife. The empty hands are very inferior; the person who has only empty hands knowledge has no chance against a knife. No empty hands guy can dislodge the knife from someone trained in the knife, except maybe somebody that is not trained or is drunk. It is impossible for him to subdue a guy trained in knife.

 What do you think about most disarming techniques?

 That is fancy stuff.  That is defeating the purpose. Introducing that sort of technique will get somebody killed. It is impossible. If you are trained on knife techniques and know knife offense, maybe you can use counter offense to survive by getting out with timing to strike the eyes or the head and remove his presence of mind. Then you might have a chance to dislodge the knife.  If it is knife on knife, then there is offense and counter offense. There is no such thing as defense. Knife vs. empty hands, will never work. Disarms and empty hands against the knife, these are Hollywood style techniques. It will never work.

 Should they run away?

 First they should have an equalizer, a gun, knife, stick, anything. If you pull an equalizer, you have at least a 50/50 chance to survive, a deterrent. If someone is trained in only the empty hand and someone pulls a knife, he tends to give his hand to the attacker and gets cut. If you are trained in the knife and have an equalizer, you will respond via training to pull your equalizer. The strong take advantage of the weak. If you have no equalizer, you will lose.  If they pull a knife and you pull a longer knife, you have a better chance. If you have a knife, he has to wonder if you might be better than him. If you have no knife, he will have no fear and run after you and hurt you. Having a knife or equalizer is a reminder to be alert at all times. The less aware you are the more likely you are to be attacked. When you are not careful is when it happens.

 Even if you are on an airplane and the terrorists come, there are equalizers available and instead of them taking you hostage, you take them hostage, but people do not know about how to do this.

 What about guns? Do martial artists need to adapt to the gun?

 A martial artist is someone who is training to be prepared against someone who might attack them. You train for someone who will surprise you and might take your life. Martial arts have to do with weapons as well as empty hands. The gun, and other tools-- stick, and knife- anything, the martial artist must be proficient in all weapons and empty hands. What if you do disarm him of a gun but don't know how to operate it? How can you make use of it? He is going to come with a second attack and perhaps other guys who possibly have weapons.

 If you go into your house and someone is inside and you take hold of a broomstick, you must know how to use it. A gun is an instrument that allows you to equalize another weapon. You need a well-rounded knowledge. Whatever we do in this world has to do with survival.

 You must be skillful in all the tools of the martial arts, knife, stick, sword, gun, a kitchen knife and ballpoint pen; whatever can be used as a weapon. That is the discipline of yesterday; today it is just empty hands.  People are afraid to learn weapons because they say it is dangerous.

 Pekiti-Tirsia is a combat art. The culture is combat culture. PT is directed to follow the old tradition to carry on as a legacy. The gun is a tool like a knife, an instrument of peace.  It is wrong to use the gun as a weapon of violence. If you make peace with the gun you make peace with others.

In the advanced levels of Pekiti-Tirsia, guns are covered in depth and training is based on quick response and counter offense. We deal with all kinds of weapons. I encourage my students to study all types of weapons.  If we remove our concept of combat, we are not teaching martial arts. We would be teaching conditioning. We follow the old traditions, which by philosophy embrace all weapons. Anything you take hold of and becomes a part of you, the tool becomes part of you. The weapon is a protective reminder that keeps your security consciousness alive. You try to avoid all that might irritate other people but you are more confident because of your equalizer. The weapon plus your martial arts training gives you confidence.

 How have some of the other arts lost their way and ended up overly focused on empty hands or sport oriented and lost the focus on combat?

One of the problems is liability. Why has the reality of combat or trueness of the art been lost? There are prohibitions, legal prohibitions that you cannot do this or do that. Why are they afraid to be involved in combat?  Their training is not focused on offense and counter-offense; it is more on defense.   When you are defensively oriented then you are going to suffer, the guy is going to bombard you with multiple kicks and punches and you will be in trouble.

 Their training is not focused on offense and counter offense.

 But if you are trained on counter offense, then you have equalization against someone who attacks you with multiple attacks, kicks and punches. You have the principles of footwork, strategy and tactics, evasion and escape, and the principle of counter offense against offense.

 Much has been lost, because they have removed the whole secret of the tradition. Those Masters of Kung Fu and Karate they will not teach you the secrets of their systems. Do you think I will teach you the secrets of my system?  They teach only the surface. You master the kata that you repeat and repeat and then you become a black belt, then a little sparring.

 This UFC style of sports came into existence because, for many years there has been a loss of a realistic approach of what combat is. But if the system operates within the system of combatancy, and the training is developing somebody on the principle of offense and counter offense he will be more technical, if they are both technical then there is less damage.  I started full contact stick fighting in the US in 1982, since then all my guys involved in full contact stick fighting-- they have not been hurt. The reduction of damage is done by the principles of strategy, the principle of movement, fluidity, and distance. In so doing, they adapt that as part of their techniques. As far as damage, it is very minimal. There is only damage when someone stands there and he is bombarded. There are no such things as pre-arranged techniques in the martial arts.

 What do you think the martial arts are missing today?

 Compared to the martial arts today, the martial arts of yesterday were more traditional and more disciplined. They were based on mental development. The discipline of the mind was more emphasized than the physical. First you developed the mind and then the body.  It was a belief in the early days that if you were strong mentally then you were strong physically.

 Today martial arts are more based on the physical-- forms and things that will fascinate the students. In the past it was based on discipline, in the early days you had to be able to stand against pain.  They had to stand on the threshold of pain. The discipline of pain. If the master said to stand there for 10 hours you have to stand there for 10 hours doing nothing.

 Today we are losing the value of discipline and the elements of combat have been reduced, for fear of being hurt or insurance problems. In the early days in the Philippines the karate guy had to hit the makiwara until blood came out of his fists. The same in the art of Kali, you are bombarded with pain. If you cannot stand pain you have no reason to stay in the martial arts. The path of mental development to physical development is what is lacking today.

 What do you think about the mixed martial arts?

 Mixed Martial arts is a fad today. They mix because they want to learn how to respond to certain techniques.  I want to learn too, I cannot blame these people. But if you mix your martial arts, you have a tendency to develop bad habits. Bad habit because what they give in one martial art may not be workable  in another martial art.

 Why do you want to mix?

 We follow the angles of attack; once you fall into the perimeter of the line of defense, whatever comes in we have to destroy. So why do you want to mix? If the system is equipped with combat technology, you have no reason to mix.

 Many times the person that trains them has no concept of what combat is, he only has limited knowledge, or he is out there for sports and to make a living teaching.

 How long will you master each mix?

 When you mix in ingredients, you have to know the elements of what you are mixing in.

 I'll give you an example about mixing, you eat Thai food, American food, Mexican food, Filipino food, kosher food; your stomach will be fighting all night. Sometimes you can mix things that are not compatible.

 So the same thing with the mixed martial arts, if someone pulls a knife you don’t know which martial art you are going to use. You hesitate; you can’t decide which technique to use.

 Rolling stones gather no moss. Mixing is not a very sophisticated thing to do. You collect another bad habit here; you collect other bad habits there. All the bad habits put together is what you end up with. 

 I experience this in my seminars, I have mixed martial artists there, you tell them to relax and they tense up. From hard empty hands to weaponry is a very hard thing, they contradict.

 Yin and yang, you have to learn how to be soft and when to be hard. One problem is that many teachers do not have sufficient experience in combat.

 There is a big movement to mixed martial arts.. .it is ok...What is your common denominator, what is your target?

 You have to be accurate and you have to be precise, any mistake you commit during an encounter is a big problem. The game is lost.

 If you are a soldier you have to accurate and precise. The same for a painter, sculptor, and carpenter. If you are making a doorknob it must fit in the door. Everything must be accurate and precise.

 What do you think about so-called “Reality Based” martial arts?

 It depends on how they define their reality. What is the reality?

 If anybody comes to me and asks me what reality is, I will stab him, I will slash him and I will see how good his reality is. You cannot talk reality until you have 10 or 15 years experience. What is reality? That is just a marketing word. The traditional knowledge in terms of martial arts has been there long, long…many years ago. The people had practiced and practiced and used this in terms of how many empires and generations of invasions and fighting. This has been tested and proven over and over again.

 They haven't even tested their system? Nobody tested it? Does it work? Reality of what?   Where did you come to reality?

But if we talk about combat, it is a different concept.

 Interviewer Information:
Jason Baird is a private student of Maginoo-Mandalas Tim Waid in the Pekiti-Tirsia Kali system in Dallas, Texas.  He can be contacted at  and welcomes any questions to ask the masters of combat related martial arts in upcoming interviews for a video to be filmed in April 2005.(Note: video completed )

© 2004 Leo Gaje, Jr. and Jason Baird. All rights reserved.  This interview is available in video.