By: Guro Dino Martinez, PTK-SMF Tampa 08-17-2011
In almost every interview I've seen or read of Grand Tuhon Gaje and in every seminar lecture of his I've attended, whenever GT speaks of Kali he invariably speaks of the personal belief system and philosophy of Kali. I've always found this very interesting because he particularly highlights the foundational ideology, the fruitful soil from which a culture of the edged implement emerges. In a culture where the edged tool was a daily necessity, it is only logical that such an edged tool became an edged weapon as circumstances dictate: from digging roots, tilling the land, cutting wood and opening a coconut to fishing, hunting a boar and defending against marauders. The blade was always present. Though there was no formal distinction between using the blade as an agricultural implements versus as a weapon for combat, there were most likely martial methods and techniques developed, tested and sustained over time.
The philosophy and belief system of Pekiti-Tirsia, as a true blade combat art, offers a reasonable perspective into this larger cultural idea. Most everyone familiar with the art is familiar with the 3 Tenets of PTK, espoused by Grand Tuhon Gaje for decades:
We Believe in Life, we do not Believe in Death.
We Believe in Success, we do not Believe in Failure
We Believe in Health, we do not Believe in Sickness.
The more one appraises each of these tenets and their ramifications, the more crucial each becomes to our practice, if we are to adopt its training in the fullest sense. That is, there is much to be gained by reading further into these sentences. I’d like to address each one and see what might be gleaned from a more considered reading. Let me add that I have also been aware for a number of years, as you may have, if you follow GT, that Tuhon also strongly advocates for what he terms the “Doctrine of Discipline”. It’s one of those things that you hear many, many times but perhaps casually dismiss for one reason or another. It is, however, like so many other truly vital aspects of the PTK system, a gem hidden in plain view.
Tenet 1: "We Believe in Life, we do not Believe in Death."
The fundamental principle of combat is the preservation of Life – our own life, that of our family, that of our tribe - even the preservation of our way of life. This is the core value, upon which Pekiti-Tirsia is based, and it must empower the foundations of any combat art and inform the very development and formulation of the art. If it does NOT, you stand to lose: your precious life and the lives of your family and tribe members, the livelihood of your village and the continuation of your culture. You, your entire community, your way of life can literally be wiped out.
Consider this for a moment. Go back in time many centuries and this notion is an actual reality, where war and raids were common occurrences, where disputes were often settled very differently than today. If we are to understand this Tenet, we have to get into the head of an individual that is aware, even on the most subconscious level, that they live or die by the blade – the blade that is integrated on every level in the culture. If you are to live and NOT die, then your belief in life must be supreme and permeate all aspects of your being. It must inform the development of your protective methods of combat, and it must infuse your training with an intensity, focus, and earnestness that is almost sacred. It is hard to approach that in our modern era, as ours is clearly not the same culture of the blade that defined ancient times.
Here we begin to understand the impact and purpose of a Doctrine of Discipline. While we may rarely confront the possibility of death by the blade today compared to those times, we can still call upon that spirit of discipline, based on the reality from which an art such as PTK was developed. If we adopt in our training the notion that combat can result in our “death”, then we honor the past and adhere to the culture of Kali by allowing that idea to focus our training and energize our actions. Our sincere effort, our physical and mental dedication to our mastery of the art IS A RESOLUTION TO CONFRONT DEATH – and in coming face-to-face with this darker reality, we are liberated from the fear of it. Free from the fear of death, we are not compelled to focus on it, but to operate from an awareness of the sanctity of our own Life and of all that is held within that life – our loved ones, their livelihood, their future. From THAT place is born the steadfast resolution, the “knowing”, that you will win at all costs. You MUST win – decisively, swiftly and completely – for you believe in Life, you do not believe in Death.
Who believes in Death? In a larger sense, to have a belief in death is Fatalism; it is to succumb to the notion of defeat, for in a very real way, defeat equals death. Your mental resolve, the sharpness of your senses, your vigilance of training, your understanding of what dangers exist and what’s at stake – to let these lapse or slip, or to choose to neglect or underestimate these is to believe in Death, as it is preparing for defeat.
Consider this as well: our Tenet “to believe in Life” stems from the reality that combat can end in your death. In that regard, we must safeguard, as much as we can, how we treat others, for disrespect shown to them could easily result in combat, and death. We cannot afford to invite “war” on any scale, lest we are willing to forfeit Life. There must be no other choice. And when there is no other choice, then it is our life we hold sacred. We fight with no mental reservation whatsoever, utterly infused with the will not just to survive, but to dominate. Consider again the discipline involved here: to mentally challenge yourself to conduct your training with the requisite focus and sincerity of effort, as if the rattan stick is an edged weapon that will take your limb or life; the discipline to train as if your life literally depended on it. There is also the daily discipline to keep aware of how you regard others – your words, your behavior, your attitudes and actions. Are you in command of these? A life may depend on it.
In summary, the preservation of life was a cultural imperative facilitated, on a fundamental level, by the masterful use of the blade in a variety of applications, including agricultural, tradecraft and combat. In even this very first tenet of the Pekiti-Tirsia Kali system, we begin to see how the ideology and the physical art form are in fact woven. Grand Tuhon Gaje often asks us to understand PTK and the art of Kali as a cultural discipline, and the key to that understanding lies in 3 very “simple” sentences.