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This article originally appeared in CONCEALMENT Issue 12

Using Pekiti-Tirsia Kali as Your Edged-Weapon Combat System

The concepts shown here are for illustrative purposes only. Seek professional training from a reputable instructor before attempting any techniques discussed or shown in this story.

During two World Wars when advancements in weapons technology took death tolls and carnage to a level the world had never seen, General Patton’s quote on edged-weapon attacks is particularly interesting: “The fear of having their guts explored with cold steel in the hands of battle-maddened men has won many a fight.” As many law enforcement officers who’ve witnessed the aftermath of edged-weapon and firearms assaults will tell you, it’s always the gore of edged-weapon assaults that leave the most lasting impression.

Perhaps much of this is attributed to the sheer violent intent required of an individual to get up close and personal with an edged weapon to commit an assault, or to utilize one in self-defense. Each year in the United States alone, around 130,000 edge-weapon assaults are reported to police, 1,500 to 2,000 of which result in fatalities according to the FBI Unified Crime Report. In some European countries edged-weapon assaults have seen dramatic increases in recent years. England and Wales saw an almost 40-percent increase in edged-weapon assaults from 2015 to 2017, with almost 40,000 reported assaults last year, according to Police Recorded Crime, Home Office.

Can anything be done to survive an edged weapon-based attack? Absolutely! According to FBI statistics, less than 2 percent of edged weapon assaults actually end in homicides. This means over 98 percent of these assaults are survived. While absolutes are difficult to define or guarantee in a self-defense situation, what’s certain is that anyone can increase their chances of surviving an edged-weapon assault through training. While there’s much to be said for situational awareness and how to avoid the likelihood of being assaulted, there’s no foolproof formula for 100-percent avoidance. Many self-defense programs and martial arts systems train students to defend against edged-weapon assaults. One martial art that evolved first and foremost as an edged-weapon based combat system, both offensive and counter-offensive, is Pekiti-Tirsia Kali.

What is PTK?
Pekiti Tirsia Kali (PTK) is a combat art native to the Bacolod region of the Philippines. It is closely related to other Filipino Martial Arts (FMA) within the Kali, Eskrima, and Arnis systems. The true origin of these arts is shrouded in mystery and often debated, but what is certain is that they evolved to their current forms within the Philippine archipelago, and they’ve been influenced in varying degrees over the past several centuries by the different civilizations that have made their way to the Philippines in the form of merchants, missionaries, or would-be colonizers/conquerors.

One of these arts went through much evolution in the hands of the Tortal clan from the period of the Philippine Revolution (circa 1890s) through the Japanese invasion and subsequent occupation (1941-’45). This became the root of what we now know as Pekiti Tirsia Kali. In the early 1970s Leo Tortal Gaje Jr. brought this family art to the United States after being trained by his grandfather Conrado Tortal. He was the first of his family to teach the art to non Filipinos. Since that time, the blade work of PTK has stood out among Filipino Martial Arts, and strongly influenced other FMA systems around the world. Many offshoot systems have developed, taking on different names and evolving in different directions. Some have chosen to place exclusive focus on knife work, while others focus more on the aggressive approach to sparring. Others focus more on the tactical application of PTK techniques and principles.

Unlike most martial arts that begin training in empty-hand fighting, the initial and fundamental training evolutions of PTK involve the implicit use of edged and impact weaponry. Common training weapons range in length from a short knife or impact tool, to a rattan stick around 28 to 32 inches. This also corresponds to the length of the most commonly used long blades in the region of the Philippines where this art hails from.

Knife vs. Knife: High Stab

knife versus knife

1.    Prepare to defend against your assailant’s overhand stab by crossing your knife towards your left shoulder.
2.    Step forward and to the left, getting towards the outside of your assailant’s arm.
3.    Hack up with your forearm to his forearm, while hooking his arm with your knife and sweeping it down to the right.
4.    Control his upper arm just above his elbow with your left hand.
5.    Acquire positive-control of his arm with your knife hand on top at the wrist, and your left hand on bottom above the elbow.
6.    Pivot your right leg back to position yourself behind your assailant. Cut the wrist and you move the knife up to the neck (if reasonable and necessary) to neutralize the imminent deadly threat.

Empty Hand vs. Knife: High Stab

empy hand versus knife

empy hand versus knife 2

1.    You observe your assailant raising their knife to an overhand stab position.
2.    Prepare to defend by crossing your right hand towards your left shoulder while stepping forward and to the left, getting towards the outside of your assailant’s arm.
3.    Hack up with your forearm to his forearm.
4.    Use his attack momentum to sweep his arm down to the right.
5.    Control his upper arm just above his elbow with your left hand, while simultaneously striking to the front of his neck (trachea) with the inside blade of your right forearm.  
6.    Continue the momentum of the strike while pushing up on his right arm to take him down backwards. A sweep to his right leg with your right leg may also be helpful in this step if necessary.
7.    As he descends and hits the ground, clamp down on his forearm with your right arm and push his forearm up into your armpit. This will ensure his arm does not escape or cut your torso.  
8.    Quickly transition your right hand to control his wrist.
9.    Step back with your right leg to prepare for
a kick.
10.    Deliver an aggressive kick to the back of his head, then prepare for follow-up strikes, to disarm, or to disengage.

Option 2: Disengage and Transition (*Continued from step 4 above)

disengage knife attack

disengage knife attack 2

5.    Control his upper arm just above his elbow with your left hand, while simultaneously retracting your right hand preparing to push.
6.    Push off with both hands, your right hand to the back of his right shoulder in order to spin him away from you.
7.    Begin running in the opposite direction of where you spun him, while at the same time drawing whatever weapon you might be carrying from its concealed position.
8.    Continue to disengage if the environment and situation permits.
9.    If the environment does not permit you to disengage, prepare to confront the threat again with your weapon in your hand.

Many martial arts specialize in one or more areas of fighting, whether it be striking, stand-up grappling, ground fighting, joint manipulations, or other. When it comes to edged-weapon based fighting and countermeasures, the unique training methodology of PTK definitely puts it at the cutting edge of techniques and tactics. Within PTK, empty-hand fighting comes in later evolutions where practitioners use the same principles of footwork, weapon strike angles, countermeasures, and disarming techniques as they apply to empty-hand tactics.

At a fundamental level, PTK puts much of its initial focus on controlling distance and proximity, essential elements in a blade-focused system. This is accomplished through training footwork and body angling drills. Dictating proximity, or your position in relation to your opponent is seen as essential in controlling your opponent’s ability to attack and defend. Controlling distance is essential to accuracy, especially when wielding weapons of various lengths. The focus of many PTK weapon-based drills is to increase speed, power, timing, and accuracy. These attributes — among others — are considered essential to making a technique work in a defensive situation.

The beauty of PTK is what is often called the transferrable methodology principle. What this refers to is the ability to utilize the techniques of knife and stick fighting with whatever happens to be in your hand, i.e. a covert or improvised weapon. The only real differences are 1) the length and therefore reach of the weapon, and 2) the offensive properties of the weapon, i.e. punctures, lacerations, and/or blunt trauma.

This creates a great force-multiplying capacity for self-defense situations that can help even the odds against an opponent(s) that might be bigger and/or stronger than yourself. The second part of the transferrable methodology principle is the ability to utilize techniques from frequently trained knife versus knife tactics as they apply to empty-hand defenses versus knives. Much of the defensive maneuvers are the same, but the focus is more on empty-handed solutions that allow you to escape, procure a weapon on your person or in the environment, or incapacitate the attacker with strikes, takedowns and/or joint manipulations.

Edged-Weapons Countermeasures
While PTK involves training many ways to utilize a knife offensively and the subsequent countermeasures, much of the focus is placed on countering the most common kinds of knife attacks. These most common attacks are an underhand stab with a forward grip, or an overhand stab with a reverse grip. Being an edged-weapon based system, knife-based defenses versus knife attacks are typically trained first. Repetition is seen as essential to building muscle memory and improving the details of any technique. This not only increases speed, timing, power, distance, accuracy, footwork, and hand coordination with each repetition, but also creates faster threat response and reactions.

One common way of getting lots of training repetition of various elements of offensive and defensive techniques is through flow drills. Flow drills usually involve training various levels of attack, counter, and recounter of attacks in a repetitious cycle. At some point, the flow is broken to train “Panapos” or finishing techniques such as incapacitating strikes and/or takedowns. The same movements trained in a knife-vs-knife scenario are then applied to empty-hand versus knife tactics, therefore streamlining the process of learning various weapon and counter-weapon tactics through the transferrable methodology principle.

Defensive Knife Selection
There are many knife styles that can be functional for the purposes of defense, and in this day and age the options are virtually limitless. Here are a few things to consider when choosing a defensive knife.

The more one trains in PTK, the more one comes to appreciate a well-balanced blade. A handle that fits well with your personal grip, and a blade that balances that handle out well in both a forward and reverse grip. There are four parts of a knife that should be taken into consideration, as each are used in PTK tactics:

–    The point of the blade should have good puncturing capability.
–    The primary or forward edge
–    The secondary or inside edge, whether a full or half “false” edge
–    The pommel, as it can be used for striking, or for capping your thumb over in a reverse grip

The ideal knife will have each of these elements; however, a knife with just one or two of these elements can still be effective with good training.

Knife vs. Knife: Low Stab

low stab

1.    You are attacked with a right handed forward knife thrust, one of the most common edge weapon attacks.
2.    Using the “blade” of your forearm, hack down on the assailant’s forearm while stepping forward and left towards the outside of his arm. Use your knife to hook, cut and control his arm if necessary.
3.    Use your left hand to push and control the assailant’s upper arm just above the elbow.
4.    Hook your knife over his wrist, while wrapping your left arm under his arm near his shoulder. Control his arm while delivering a cut to his wrist. This might facilitate a disarm.
5.    If reasonable and necessary, bring your knife up to targets around the neck. Push his arm up into your armpit while clamping your right arm down to prevent him from pulling his knife out and cutting you.
6.    Pull your knife out to cut while continuing to push and control his arm. Continue addressing targets as needed to neutralize the imminent threat.

A good defensive knife should be easy to bring from its carry position into a defensive grip under physical duress. Even the best of knives is useless if you can’t get it in your hand when you need it to save your life. Fixed-blade knives are the most practical for this purpose, but not always the most practical for the purposes of every day carry. Folding knives are typically more practical for every day carry, but require more fine-motor manipulation to open that can be difficult under stress. Whatever the case, training to deploy a knife should be part of your regular regimen.

The perfect defensive blade may be great for your at-home collection, but even a steak knife in your hand at the moment you need to defend your life is more valuable than the perfect combat knife that sits at home in your closet. When choosing a defensive blade, make sure that it’s practical for every day carry or for staging in defensive locations at home or in your vehicle.

The country of manufacture and knife materials will often have a significant effect on knife costs. This is also something to consider, a knife that you can be happy with yet meets your budget. Just remember, humans have been using simple steels and materials to create efficient defensive blades for millennia.

Another consideration is the legality of carrying or transporting knives where you live or travel. If you’re creative, you’ll be able to find something — bladed or not — that PTK training will help you use effectively in a defensive situation.

So constantly being armed means you’re now prepared right? Wrong; however, it’s a big step in the right direction. Training is paramount, and Pekiti-Tirsia Kali is one of the best arts to provide you with that training. If you want to learn to be good with your fists, train in boxing or similar arts. If you want to learn to be a good grappler, go and study Brazilian Jiu Jitsu or something similar. If you want to learn defensive knife and counter-knife tactics, Pekiti-Tirsia Kali and related arts are the way to go. Of course the ideal situation is to cross-train in various arts to be well rounded, as each will complement the other. If you’re looking to maximize your self-defense capabilities, learning to utilize defensive weapons has been the path mankind has taken from time immemorial.

Empty Hand vs. Knife: Low Stab

empty hand low stab

emply hand low stab 2

1.    Your assailant tries to protect his attack by pushing you with his left hand.
2.    Push his hand aside with your left hand, immediately followed by your right forearm.
3.    Raise your right forearm to prepare for the knife defense.
4.    Using the “blade” of your forearm, hack down on the assailant’s forearm while stepping forward and left towards the outside of his arm.
5.    Use your left hand to push and control the assailant’s upper arm just above the elbow.
6.    Hook your right hand over his wrist, while wrapping your left arm under his arm near his shoulder. Pull up on his wrist while lowering your left shoulder to create an armbar hyperextension to his elbow. If necessary, sweep back to his right leg with your left leg.
7.    Continue the armbar to the ground, maintaining pressure and contact with your left shoulder to the back of his right shoulder. Pull up on his wrist and prop his wrist against your leg, and continue putting pressure on his elbow with your chest. *This takedown must be dynamic in order to prevent him from rolling out or escaping.
8.    Quickly pin his arm to the ground with your right hand on his wrist, and your left hand to the back of his shoulder. Place your upper left shin above his elbow to maintain hyperextension.
9.    Quickly stand while pushing down on his elbow with your left hand.
10.    Deliver an aggressive kick to the back of his head, then prepare for follow-up strikes, to disarm, or to disengage

Option 2: Strike to Disengage (*Continued from step 5 above)

disengage 1

6.    Continue pushing his arm across his body while preparing to strike with your right hand.
7.    Deliver an open hand strike to his ear and/or back of his jaw with your right hand.
8.    Deliver a pushing strike with your left hand to his back to spin and push him away.
9.    If the environment permits, quickly disengage in the opposite direction of where you pushed him.

5 Common False Assumptions About Knife Fighting and Fighting Knives

Knife fighting practitioners are experts at throwing knives.
Fact: Throwing knives isn’t the best strategy, particularly when it’s your primary weapon (and possibly only weapon). At most, it should only be utilized as a potential distraction tactic.

If your attacker is holding the knife in a forward “sabre” grip don’t worry, he’s an amateur and doesn’t know what he’s doing.
Fact: Knives are deadly regardless of the grip, and should always be taken seriously. Practitioners of knife fighting arts train in both forward and reverse grips.

When in the reverse “icepick” grip, always hold the knife with the edge facing inward.
Fact: There are pros and cons to having an inward or outward facing edge in the reverse grip. Knife fighting practitioners should train to understand and utilize both.

A knife has to have a black or dark-colored blade to be a tactical knife.
Fact: Even a shiny polished blade can have a tactical advantage. The psychological effects of seeing shiny steel in an opponent’s hand can win the fight before it even starts.

If you have a gun, you don’t need to worry about knives. After all, everyone knows you don’t bring a knife to a gun fight.
Fact: Action always beats reaction. In close range, a holstered gun can’t stop a knife assault. Understanding fundamental knife defense is essential to surviving a knife assault if you’re going to stand a chance of drawing a gun.

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