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Combatives With a Filipino Flavor

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Salt Lake City, Utah, isn’t exactly known as a hotbed for combatives or martial arts in general. But Jared Wihongi is trying to change that, single-handedly. Or should we say double-handedly, with all sorts of blunt and edged weapons in each fist.

RECOIL recently received an exclusive invite to attend the Pekiti Tirsia Tactical Association’s (PTTA) 2nd Annual Instructors Camp. “Pekiti what?” you might be asking. “Is that a Polynesian dessert that the Honolulu SWAT team enjoys after an intense training session?” No, not quite. Though there is a Polynesian involved (more on him in a second), the intensive weekend seminar focused on Filipino combatives involving weapons of the stick, bladed, and empty-handed variety — specifically the art of Pekiti Tirsia Kali.

Held at the Academy of Elite Martial Arts in West Jordan, Utah, the camp was aimed at providing advanced training for current PTTA teachers and the development of future leaders of Pekiti Tirsia Kali. The event host was Jared Wihongi, a former SWAT officer with the Salt Lake City Police Department who teaches combatives to elite law enforcement units and special operation forces around the world, from Germany to South Korea. He’s also chairman of the PTTA and a tuhon (master) of Pekiti Tirsia Kali. (Born in America, Wihongi grew up in New Zealand and is also skilled in Kiwi fighting arts.)

Kali master and former SWAT officer Jared Wihongi performs a knife flow drill with his senior instructor Lamont Glass.

Jared Wihongi, right, performs a knife flow drill with one of his senior instructors, Lamont Glass. While knife duels are rare on the street, these drills help Kali practitioners program effective responses, recognize body movements, and learn distance and timing.

Now we know what you’re saying, “The Philippines and combatives?” Isn't that the islands of postcard-esque beaches, hot babes, and Manny Pacquiao? A closer look reveals that the Philippines — consisting of over 7,000 island — is a breeding ground for warriors and warrior culture. Tribal warfare occurred regularly well before, during, and after the Spanish colonization, starting in 1521. Conflicts and blood-shed continued with the Japanese occupation and finally independence after World War II. Proven techniques and tactics were passed on from father to son, teacher to student for centuries, making the Filipino martial arts a must-learn for serious combatives practitioners. In fact, you’ve probably already seen a bit of them and never realized it, as they’re featured in movies like The Hunted and The Bourne Identity franchise.

During the PTTA seminar, techniques and concepts were taught in a fast and furious pace. Trying to pick what is relevant from this seminar to bring to our RECOIL audience is a lot like trying to take a sip from a fire hose. Lucky for you, RECOIL sifted through pages and pages of notes to bring you these top three takeaways:

Kali master and former SWAT officer Jared Wihongi stops Jason Jones' takedown attempt while simultaneously controlling his neck.

Jared Wihongi intercepts Jason Jones' takedown attempt while simultaneously controlling his neck.

Gem One: ACT'ing Lessons: Wihongi gives a simple (and we like simple), tactical formula for weapons and empty-hand combat in the acronym of ACT. When SHTF, the last thing we want to do is stand there with a gaping mouth, wondering, “What the hell is going on?” The “A” in ACT stands for “avoid and intercept” in a defensive scenario and “action” in an offensive scenario. “There is no defense, just counter-offense,” said Lamont Glass, a senior trainer under Wihongi who’s based out of Kennewick, Washington. Glass stated an admonition (attributed to the grandmaster of Pekiti Tirsia Kali, Leo Tortal Gaje Jr.) that makes sense to us: You cannot win a fight simply covering up in the fetal position.

After tenderizing the attacker, it’s time to move to phase two, control (the “C” in ACT). If the assailant has a weapon, take away that advantage by controlling the weapon, be it fist, knife, or gun.

The “T” stands for takedown or transition to another weapon (if needed) and terminate (if necessary). With a takedown or throw, the nasty offender will find themselves on their gluteus maximus, making it easier to submit them, stomp on them, use them as an obstacle to fight multiple attackers, or allow one to make like a ninja and disappear.

Kali master and former SWAT officer Jared Wihongi shows how to generate power with hip and shoulder rotation, which can make a punch, edged weapon, or blunt tool even more effective.

Wihongi shows how to generate power with hip and shoulder rotation, which can make a punch, edged weapon, or blunt tool even more effective.

Gem Two: Power to the People: Fights are nasty, barbaric, and sudden. It’s not in anyone's best interest to engage in violence any longer than necessary. So go ahead and “power up” with a “cheat” by grabbing the closest weapon, preferably one that’s already carried on your body. Having a force multiplier in your hand can be the difference between winning or losing, life or death. No matter the type of weapon utilized, power is respected by all.

Pekiti Tirsia is known for power generation with both stick and empty hands. Power strikes in this system are developed by using the stick as a training tool. Imagine swinging a homer with your baseball bat, now use the same motion and biomechanics in throwing your right cross (if you are right handed) and you will get a pretty good idea of the body mechanics needed for power generation. The bat or stick helps in exaggerating the powerful motions required to put the fear of the walking dead into your assailant and end confrontations ASAP.

Kali instructor Lamont Glass, left, "jabs" at his opponents eyes with a training knife during a sparring session.

Moving on an angle, Kali instructor Lamont Glass “jabs” at his opponent's eyes with a training knife during a sparring session.

Gem Three: Be the X-Man: Movement during a fight is paramount. Instinctively moving forwards and backwards is better than standing there, and with training, ambulatory skills can become more effective and efficient. How do you move as an attacker or defender?

Think of standing at the bisection of a giant X — in front of you is a V and behind you is an upside-down V. Moving along the lines of this X at an angle allows you to get off the line of fire. This makes the most sense with projectiles (i.e. a bullet, an arrow, etc.). Shooting instructors often teach this concept by borrowing the saying, “Get off the X.” Moving straight forward or back will not help much to avoid a bullet. Moving at an angle allows you to advance or retreat, coupled with getting off the line of fire — two for the price of one.

So next time you’re at a range, try switching your stance so you are right lead for half the time and left lead for the other half while shooting. “You may have to be mobile during a gun fight, so when moving, you will be right or left leg forward half the time,” Wihongi explained. Switching between a right and left lead, while shooting statically will help simulate moving, without having to move.

Kali master and former SWAT officer Jared Wihongi grabs Jason Jones' knife arm and can use his shoulder to control him, perform a takedown, break Jones' elbow, or transition to another position.

Wihongi grabs Jason Jones' knife arm and can use his own shoulder to control him, perform a takedown, break Jones' elbow, or transition to another position.

For more information on Pekiti Tirsia Kali, check out the PTTA ‘s website or like its Facebook page. You can also get more info on  Wihongi's website and his Facebook page to find out about all of the other cool stuff he does with firearms, survival classes, and Browning Black Label.

Photos by Patrick Vuong

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