By: William Schultz (Originally published 02-10-2005)
Guro, PTK-SMF Rhode Island/Mongrel Combative Arts
Click HERE for the original blog post
(Mandala) Tim Waid
What is it about the Pekiti-Tirsia Kali System that produces such competent and skilled fighters, technicians, and instructors? The Pekiti-Tirsia system of Kali, as taught by Grand Tuhon Leo T. Gaje Jr., combines beauty of motion with practical and effective combat techniques. Yet Pekiti-Tirsia stands out from the myriad of other styles as a complete well-rounded system known for its power, versatility, and effectiveness. From its ranks have come a number of highly skilled instructors and fighters.
It is the system’s ingenious structure and training methods, rather than any group of techniques that produces such skilled fighters. The three principle systems of Pekiti-Tirsia; the DOCE METHODOS, Advanced CONTRADAS, and the CONTRA-TIRSIA DUBLA-DOS are designed to teach an orderly progression of skills. Each step adding to the foundation laid down by the previous steps. The essence of that teaching can be found in the maxim: Learn the drill, Master the drill, Dissolve the drill. While the training method itself is unique to Pekiti-Tirsia, its principles can be applied to almost any combative art. Upon close examination, you will see that the stages the student progresses through during his or her training are much the same as those all truly advanced martial artists experience.
Pekiti-Tirsia Kali is made up of three distinct stages. The first stage, learning the drill, means learning the basic techniques and body mechanics of the system. Here, the emphasis is on footwork and mobility, so that in the midst of movement, you can change direction at will.
Pekiti-Tirsia stresses footwork more than most other Filipino styles. A beginner will spend most of his/her training time on this one aspect, often devoting an hour or more to working on the footwork drills and principles. These drills are executed with/and concentrate on the following attributes:
Focusing on these attributes will help the student develop light and centered stepping, as well as offensive and counter-offensive mobility. Why do Pekiti-Tirsia students spend so much time developing footwork skills? Because, footwork is the key to all fighting strategies. Footwork provides protection, offensive and counter-offensive maneuvering and quartering. Regardless of how you employ your weapon, footwork is vital to survival.
Also of vital importance to the beginning Kali students are proper striking mechanics. Students must perform thousands of basic strikes, honing the movements until they can deliver a perfect, powerful strike every time. Striking drills are executed with/and concentrate on the following attributes:
1.) Proper chambering/striking positions
2.) Blade Orientation
3.) Precision in form & movement.
4.) Slow execution
5.) Fast execution
The next step in this stage is combining the strikes with footwork. Techniques are synthesized through proper body mechanics and appropriate timing. When combined with tactical applications the student learns to cut his/her opponent’s angle and strike the opponent first, without getting hit in return. It also allows him/her, through application of proper body mechanics and by moving the body as a unit, to deliver blows with awesome power while remaining relaxed and ready to change his/her position in accord with his/her opponent’s movement.
Mastering the drill, the second stage, involves the use of two-man drills. These exercises consist of flowing patterns of strikes and counters and are designed in such a way that neither participant ever gets hit. The strikes are taken on the stick (Pasugat) or avoided completely by means of footwork and flows with your opponents attack (Pasunod). The participants are able to practice with full speed, power, and at the advanced stage, with live blades as well, without fear of injuring their training partner. Each drill is designed to teach the practitioner techniques for a given range and different qualities of sensitivity. These combative drills are then combined in a freestyle yet controlled manner through the different ranges of combat. Each drill will move through four progressive stages:
1. Combat Drills
2. Distance Sparring
3. Technical Sparring
4. Full-Contact Sparring
A quote by Pekiti-Tirsia instructor Tom Bisio defines the purpose of this structure. “All of the drills teach angling, rootedness, and the ability to go from a powerful attack to countering the opponents counter. You have to lock these patterns into your body so the responses are instantaneous; this is not the time for the student to engage in free-flowing drills. At this stage, he still does not have his weapon under complete control and will often try things that are not necessarily workable or practical, wasting a lot of time. The whole point of having a system is to cut a lot of that wasted time, to have you do things that are proven to work. At the advanced level, then it can become your system.”
After each drill has become thoroughly mastered, the student begins the process of combining the drills. This is the third and highest stage, that of Dissolving the drill. As you add the drills together, you start to see how the techniques interconnect, and you see the transitions through the different fighting ranges.
The advanced level of Pekiti-Tirsia is more than just avoiding an opponents attack and countering. The advanced fighter must anticipate several moves ahead and have a suitable response should the opponent counter his counter. This cannot be done at a “conscious” level. You have trained the techniques and drills to the point that your responses become instinctive so that you unconsciously know where to go. Pekiti-Tirsia has a very large repertoire of techniques, but the principles are very simple.
Pekiti-Tirsia instructors believe that the entire process of learning a combative art can be symbolized by the shape of a diamond, or two triangles back to back. At the bottom point, the student starts with nothing. As he/she progresses through the first and second stages, he accumulates what seems to be an immense number of techniques and principles, symbolized by the center of the diamond, its widest point. As he/she advances into the highest stage, however, he/she finds that the thousands of techniques can be reduced to a few principles, so that in the end, he/she has a few principles from which to make any number of techniques.
In Pekiti-Tirsia, you first learn the strikes, counters and drills by rote. Then you begin to disassemble and mix the drills and techniques experimenting with what has been learned. At the advanced level, you dissolve the drills and eliminate them completely. At this level, the emphasis is sets of core movements from which you can create an infinite number of techniques.
The goal of Pekiti-Tirsia Kali is not to program people to respond in set patterns, but to use these patterns to free the student and produce creative fighters, technicians, and instructors. But creativity must come from discipline, from a firm grounding in correct principles and body mechanics. Only after you have learned and mastered the system, can you dissolve the system. Only after you have gone through all three stages of Pekiti-Tirsia Kali, can you transcend the art.
For more information about Guro William Schultz
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