The Only Source for the Authentic System of Pekiti-Tirsia Kali
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 History of Pekiti-Tirsia Kali
 History of Filipino Kali and the Filipino Martial Arts
 Historical Landmarks of Pekiti-Tirsia Kali
Pekiti-Tirsia Kali - Ancient Art of the Modern Times and the Living Past

The Pekiti-Tirsia Kali system is one of the few remaining authentic and complete Filipino combat systems in existence today.  Pekiti-Tirsia is a system and technology of combat fighting with the Blade.  It encompasses all traditional weapon categories and is formulated on the strategic principle of the Triangle.  The triangle serves as the basis for footwork, striking, and the tactical principles of close quarters combat.

The Pekiti-Tirsia system of Kali originates from the provinces of Panay and Negros Occidental in the Philippines and was formulated and perfected by the Tortal family. The family patriarch and Grandmaster of Pekiti-Tirsia, Grand Tuhon Conrado B. Tortal, passed this system and its attributes onto his only grandson, the sole heir and its present guardian, Grand Tuhon Leo Tortal Gaje, Jr.

Pekiti-Tirsia is a traditional family system of Filipino martial art that traces its existence back to a time and era when carry and use of the bladed weapon was common and required among most men.  Oral history of the Tortal family testifies to four generations practicing the family system of Pekiti-Tirsia.  Norberto Tortal taught the system to his son Segundino Tortal.  Segundino taught his five sons; Balbino, Tedoricio, Francisco, Quirino, and Conrado.  Of the five brothers, Conrado was chosen as inheritor of the system with Balbino as one of his principal training partners.   Balbino was later shot and killed by Japanese soldiers in the area of Barangay Conception, Talisay, Negros Occidental, in 1945 after disarming a Japanese officer of his samurai sword and killing two soldiers who attempted to bayonet him. 

These generations of Tortal family leaders utilized the laboratory method of research and testing of combat Bladefighting tactics and techniques.   Through friendly instructional exchanges, sparring duels with other recognized family and system leaders, and direct combat resulting in the death of the enemy, the system of Pekiti-Tirsia was continually trained, executed, and validated.    

Grand Tuhon Conrado B. Tortal or “Tay Dadoy” as he was popularly known, was a highly respected man in the western Visayas and northern Mindanao regions of the Philippine Islands.  Born in 1897 in Tigbawan, province of Iloilo, Panay, the Tortal’s later emigrated to Negros Occidental where they owned and cultivated several agricultural properties.  As was common for the time, Tay Dadoy was fluent in English, Spanish, and his native dialect Illongo, as well as Cebuano and other regional dialects of northern Mindanao where he travelled for commerce and as a Christian Missionary.  Grand Tuhon Tortal later served as the first Chief of Police of Victorias, home of the largest Sugar Central (Mill) in Negros Occidental with a reputation as a strict disciplinarian yet compassionate mediator.  Tay Dadoy’s expertise in the Filipino Fighting Arts was well known and recognized through several encounters such as his public defeat of two of the Lizares brothers, a prominent political ruling family from Talisay, Negros Occidental, in 1928.  After attempting to take control of a Tortal property, Conrado, with hardwood Espada y Daga engaged both the Lizares brothers armed with Bolo’s and disarmed them by direct strikes to the hand and body yet spared their lives.  In 1933 Conrado Tortal defeated Tansiong Padilla, authority for the Aldobon style from Panay, in a highly publicized duel arranged by the mayor of Bago, Negros Occidental.

In 1938 in Legaspi, Albay, Grand Tuhon Leo Tortal Gaje was born to Feliza G. Tortal (the daughter and only child of Conrado Tortal) and Leopoldo P. Gaje, Sr.  Shortly after his birth and the subsequent death of his twin sister and his mother Feliza, Leo was taken into custody and raised by his grandfather Conrado.  From the age of six years old Leo was trained in the system of Pekiti-Tirsia.  From the ages six to nine he was trained exclusively in footwork.  Daily he was placed on top a wooden table with Conrado striking at his feet as he mastered the strategic maneuvering patterns that remain one of the signatures of the Pekiti-Tirsia system.  Leo was then trained in the Doce Methodos, Contradas, and other advanced combat methods twice a day beginning in the mornings before school and continuing late into the evening throughout his secondary, high school, and college studies.

At the passing of Tay Dadoy, Leo Tortal Gaje, Jr. inherited the treasure and legacy of Pekiti-Tirsia.  At this time, family combat systems in the Philippines were closed to only those that shared genetic history and chosen for their discipline to keep and protect the family secrets.     For the next decade Tuhon Gaje kept this promise and soon entered business where he served as President of the Confederation of Free Trade Workers Union and Executive Vice-President of the Bataan Free Trade Zone Industrial Development Corporation.  Here he trained his own Security Forces for the escort of cash funds, trained Bodyguards and Protective Teams for local and provincial politicians, and, in his own words “my wrecking crew” of confidants that provided his personal security.

In 1972, Tuhon Gaje emigrated to the United States of America and settled in New York City.  Upon seeing the popularity of the martial arts sweeping America at the time, he envisioned the success of Filipino martial arts and recognition of the cultural and martial achievements of the Filipino people through the superiority of its combat systems.  In keeping with the philosophy of the Pekiti-Tirsia system and its belief in Life, Health, and Success, Tuhon Gaje opened the door of knowledge to a select few of advanced Black Belt students and embarked to offer to the world, those that persevere, the mastery process of Kali.                 

Grand Tuhon Gaje was the leading Filipino Martial Arts authority in the 1970’s in the eastern region of the United States at the same time Guro Dan Inosanto and other Filipino Grandmasters were doing the same in the western region (New York and California being home of the largest Filipino communities in the US).  Since the introduction of Filipino Martial Arts to the US and across the globe Pekiti-Tirsia has hallmarked many “firsts” in this history. 

Grand Tuhon Gaje was the first to organize and conduct large-scale promotions and demonstrations of Filipino martial arts in the eastern US in such venues as New York’s Lincoln Center and displayed the first ever public demonstration of full-contact Filipino stickfighting at the Great Gorge, New Jersey Playboy Club. 

Grand Tuhon Gaje was the first to open a Filipino Martial Arts school at the Philippine Consulate in New York City and first to promote Filipino martial arts among other martial discipline national organizations.  Grand Tuhon Gaje joined with other recognized leaders such as Alex Sternberg of the Jewish Karate Federation and Grandmaster Robert Trias of the United States Karate Association conducting training programs for senior Black Belt students and joint public demonstrations.  Grand Tuhon Gaje was recognized as style head of the Filipino martial arts for the United States Karate Association (USKA) by Grandmaster Trias and was inducted into the Indonesian Pendekar Banting, association of Indonesian Silat Pendekars.  

In 1979 Grand Tuhon Gaje was a principal organizer, with other Grandmasters, of the First National Arnis (Kali) Tournament in the Philippines sponsored by NARAPHIL (National Arnis Association of the Philippines).  Tom Bisio, a student of Grand Tuhon Gaje for 3 and 1/2 years, won as Grand Champion of the Instructor’s division against a field of senior instructor competitors.  In 1980 Grand Tuhon Gaje was appointed NARAPHIL Commissioner for North and South America and promoted the Filipino Martial Arts extensively throughout these continents.  Throughout the 80’s the first generation of Pekiti-Tirsia students and instructors dominated the full-contact stickfighting tournament scene across the US defining their reputation with speed, power, and footwork.  

Grand Tuhon Gaje was the first to introduce the Filipino martial arts to the New York Police Department (NYPD) and conduct department endorsed training programs.  This program led to Grand Tuhon Gaje’s development of the Safety Baton and Edged Weapon Awareness/Strategic Knife Defense programs – the FIRST Defensive Tactics system based on safety and liability reduction at a time when the accepted methods targeted the vital areas of the body resulting in substantial liability to police officers and departments.  Grand Tuhon Gaje was later appointed National Training Director for the Justice System Training Association and the U.S. Police Defensive Tactics Association leading to his position as Technical Advisor and appearance in the Calibre Press video SURVIVING EDGED WEAPONS in 1988.  This highly acclaimed video substantiated the threat of edged weapons to the law enforcement community and established Grand Tuhon Gaje as the leading authority on edged weapons defensive tactics.

Grand Tuhon Gaje has been the leading propagator of authentic Filipino Martial Arts based on the use of the Blade, in the Republic of the Philippines.  Through hundreds of radio, print, TV, demonstrations, festivals, tournaments, and training programs conducted at the local, provincial, and national level, Grand Tuhon Gaje has been the leading voice for the education and recognition of Kali and the indigenous Filipino Martial Art systems.  Throughout this time he has been endorsed and recognized at every level of the Philippines government including recently as recipient of an Exemplary Achievement Award from the Office of the President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, for worldwide promotion of Pekiti-Tirsia Kali and the Filipino Martial Arts.

Today in the Philippines, Grand Tuhon Gaje’s system of Pekiti-Tirsia is the ONLY Filipino Martial Art system recognized as official warfighting doctrine by the Armed Forces of the Philippines.  The Military Edged-Impact Weapon System of Pekiti-Tirsia is the official close-quarters combat system of the Force Reconnaissance Battalion, Philippine Marine Corps (PMC) and is part of the official PMC Schools command being taught at Enlisted Basic Training and the Officer’s Basic Course.

Throughout this history, Grand Tuhon Gaje has trained and influenced thousands of martial artists, several who have gone on to formulate their own styles such as the late Edgar Sulite of Lameco Eskrima.  The Supreme Grandmaster of Pekiti-Tirsia Kali remains the world’s leading authority on the Filipino Martial Arts and his name is synonymous with the blade, the Blademaster Grand Tuhon Leo T. Gaje, Jr.

History of   
Historical Landmarks of 

1922 - Grand Tuhon Conrado B. Tortal, Supreme Grandmaster of the Pekiti-Tirsia Kali system is appointed the first Chief of Police of Victorias, home of the largest Sugar Central in Negros Occidental province.

1928 - Grand Tuhon Conrado B. Tortal defeats two brothers of the ruling Lizares family of Talisay, Negros Occidental.  Grand Tuhon Tortal armed with hardwood Espada Y Daga and the Lizares brothers both armed with Bolos engage in the town square over an attempted takeover of Tortal owned land in Barangay Conception, Talisay.  Grand Tuhon Tortal effectively disarms both brothers of their blades with multiple attacks but spares their lives.

1933 - Grand Tuhon Conrado B. Tortal defeats the famous Tansiong Padilla of the Aldabon style from Panay in a match arranged by Don Gregorio Araneta, Mayor of the town of Bago, Negros Occidental.

1938 - Leo T. Gaje, Jr., grandson of Grand Tuhon Conrado B. Tortal and heir to the Pekiti-Tirsia Kali system is born in Legaspi City, Albay.

1972 - Grand Tuhon Leo T. Gaje, Jr. pioneers the teaching of the Filipino Kali Arts in the eastern region of the United States from his base in New York City. 

1977 - Pekiti-Tirsia opens its formal school at the Philippine Consulate, New York City. 

1977 - Grand Tuhon Gaje featured on the cover of Official Karate magazine.  Cover article features Pekiti-Tirsia as the “New Crime Fighter” in recognition of successful law enforcement training programs with the NYPD.

1978 - Grand Tuhon Gaje is recognized by the Philippine government as an official representative and Master of the Filipino martial arts.

1979 - The First National Tournament of Arnis (Kali) in the Philippines is sponsored by NARAPHIL.  Guro Tom Bisio wins as Grandchampion, Pekiti-Tirsia against all systems.

1979 - Pekiti-Tirsia senior instructors and students led by Tom Bisio and Eric Knaus dominate full-contact stickfighting tournaments across the United States for the next decade.

1980 - Grand Tuhon Gaje appointed Commissioner for North and South America by The National Arnis (Kali) Association of the Philippines (NARAPHIL).

1980 - Pekiti-Tirsia conducts the first professional demonstration of full-contact competition at the Playboy Club, Great Gorge, New Jersey.

1981 - Grand Tuhon Gaje begins promotional tour of the Filipino cultural and Kali arts in Central and South America.

1981 - Grand Tuhon Gaje featured on the cover of Inside Kung-Fu magazine.  Cover article features “Leo Gaje, his art is based on the knife, and may have more street realism than any other”.

1981- Grand Tuhon Gaje develops the law enforcement Defensive Tactics Safety System featuring the Safety Baton System and Edged Weapon Awareness/Strategic Knife Defense programs.  These systems revolutionize use of force training for law enforcement and are adopted across the United States.  Grand Tuhon Gaje is appointed National Training Director for the Justice System Training Association and the United States Police Defensive Tactics Association.

1982 – Grand Tuhon Gaje featured on the cover of Warriors magazine.  Cover article features “The Deadly Art of Knife Fighting” assisted by Eddie Jafri, Pencak Silat Master.

1984 - Grand Tuhon Gaje continues promotional tours of Filipino cultural and Kali arts across Asia and the European continent.

1987 - Pekiti-Tirsia is officially adopted as a system of the United States Karate Association (USKA) by Grandmaster Robert Trias. Grand Tuhon Gaje is nominated as the style head of the Filipino martial arts for the USKA.

1988 - Grand Tuhon Gaje serves as technical advisor, and is featured in the Calibre press video SURVIVING EDGED WEAPONS, critically acclaimed as “The finest law enforcement training video ever made”.

1988 - Grand Tuhon Gaje inducted into the Martial Arts Hall of Fame and Karate Hall of Fame.

1990 - Grand Tuhon Gaje establishes the Kali-Kalihan Festival in Salvador Benidicto, Negros Occidental.

1992 - Grand Tuhon Gaje conducts special training programs for government agencies of former Soviet republics in Eastern Europe.  

1994 - Grand Tuhon Gaje, assisted by Mataas na Guro Tim Waid, begin a nationwide promotional and development program for the Kali arts in the Republic of the Philippines by conducting cultural, educational, and sports training programs at the local, provincial, and national government levels.

1997 - Mataas na Guro Tim Waid, Director of Survival Edge Systems/Pekiti-Tirsia Tactical Training Institute and Lieutenant Erwin Ballarta (Mataas na Guro) of the Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS) establish a formal agency alliance between the Philippine National Police and Texas DPS.

1998 - Pekiti-Tirsia is recognized by the Commandant, Philippine Marine Corps as the official Close Quarters Combat/CQC System of the Philippine Marine Corps Force Reconnaissance Battalion.  Instructors Certification Course conducted by Tim Waid, Director of Survival Edge Systems/Pekiti-Tirsia Tactical Training Institute marks Pekiti-Tirsia as the only Filipino combat system utilized as official combat doctrine by the Armed Forces of the Philippines since World War II.

1998 - Pekiti-Tirsia conducts the First Centennial Celebration of Pekiti-Tirsia held at Subic Bay, Zambales, Philippines and Kali World Congress in conjunction with the Republic of the Philippines Centennial Celebration.

1998 - Grand Tuhon Gaje featured on the cover of Svenska (Sweden) Fighter magazine.  Cover article features Grand Tuhon Gaje’s introduction of authentic Filipino bladefighting across Europe.

2001 – Grand Tuhon Gaje leads CQC training programs for joint Philippine and US military units conducting joint training exercises and combat operations against terrorists in the southern Philippines. 

2002 – Pekiti-Tirsia Kali system is adopted by the Philippine Marine Corps Service Schools as the official close-quarter combatives program for all Enlisted Basic Training and the Officer Basic School.

2003 – Pekiti-Tirsia is adopted as the official Close-Quarters Combat system of the elite Special Action Force (SAF) of the Philippine National Police.

2005 – Pekiti-Tirsia is taught as official advanced course of the Philippine Public Safety College. Training courses conducted at every Regional Training Center in the Philippines.

2006 – Pekiti-Tirsia Defensive Tactics System is adopted by the Philippine National Police Headquarters – Directorate for Human Resources and Doctrine Development. Instructor Certification Courses are conducted with officer cadre from every region.

2008 – Pekiti-Tirsia Military Edged-Impact Weapon System is adopted by the Philippine Army as official an official Close-Quarters-Combat system. Instructor Cadre Courses conducted at Philippine Army Headquarters

History of 

"Kali, the original martial art of the Philippines in its truest form, is a systematic art of combat fighting based on the science of strategy and tactics. The fighting methods are ancient from its historical and cultural developments, yet the techniques are forever ultra advanced that its fighting values always remain new." - Grand Tuhon Leo T. Gaje, Jr.

The Kali Fighting Arts of the Philippines are inseparable from the history, culture and philosophy of the Filipino people. The Philippines, a Malay island nation inhabited by scores of distinct tribes speaking more than eight (8) major languages and more than one hundred seventy (170) dialects, commonly developed the most sophisticated, yet simplified once learned and understood, methods of Blade Fighting the modern world now knows.

The use of Kali as a fighting system and the term “Kali” can be found throughout several languages and dialects of the Philippines. Kali as a blade fighting system is derived from many sources, one being the “Kalis” a specific blade type of the southern Philippines. Kali was also a title comparable and superior to Datu or tribal chieftan. We now know through research by Philippine scholars that the true name of the Philippines first national hero, “Datu Lapu Lapu”, was “Kali Pulaku”. In 1521 Kali Pulaku met Ferdinand Magellan on the shores of Mactan island and defeated Magellan’s raiding party of soldiers by the use of bladed weapons and the indigenous Filipino Fighting Arts.

The history of the Philippines, even until this modern day, is a history of conflict and Guerrilla Warfare. Before the arrival of the spanish colonizers, the Philippines was not yet a nation state but regionally ruled by the dominate tribes of a particular region. The spanish brought Christianity and formed a national boundary into the Philippine Republic as it now exists. Throughout this time the Filipinos have revolted and fought against the occupiers of the island and amongst each other internally. The Bladed weapon of the Filipino fighting man has always been present and indeed a dominant weapon throughout this history of conflict. From the Kampilan of Kali Pulaku, the Talibong of the Ilonggo’s of Panay, the Bolo of Andreas Bonifacio and later of the heroic Philippine Scouts and Philippine Infantry, to the Pekiti-Tirsia Ginunting of the Philippines Marine Corps and Philippine Army, the blade is the symbol of the Filipino Fighting Man. 

The pragmatic culture of all of the Philippine peoples, from the Headhunter tribes of Northern Luzon to the Bagobo warriors of Mindanao, all similarly developed their blade fighting systems based upon the motion and the mechanics of the blade flow between combatants and the the principles of human anatomy, physiology and kinesiology. This distinguishes the Filipino methods of combat blade fighting from all of the other asian disciplines.