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Why you should try Pekiti Tirsia Kali

  • A combat system from the Philippines, PTK can teach you to impair an attacker on the street in 3 seconds
  • “This is the only system in the world which has been tried and tested in actual war,” says Kanishka Sharma who teaches PTK in India

Kanishka Sharma (left) trains a student in Pekiti Tirsia Kali. Photo: Pekiti Tirsia Kali India
Kanishka Sharma (left) trains a student in Pekiti Tirsia Kali. Photo: Pekiti Tirsia Kali India

How do you get out of an unsafe situation on the street in 3 seconds, using nothing but a mobile phone, a ball pen or a credit card? What prepares you for a fight where you aren’t physically stronger than your attacker? Don’t fumble about trying to throw a watery punch that will never really land, or unsuccessfully resist a formidable pull. The street has no rules, referees or medals. It’s not about pinning someone down and waiting for them to tap out before a crowd raises you up with thunderous applause. It’s about survival. Enter Pekiti Tirsia Kali (PTK), a Filipino combat system that trains you for the gritty possibilities of perilous spaces.

The discipline, focused around the use of the blade, originated in the provinces of Panay and Negros Occidental in the Philippines in 1897, was mastered by the Tortal family and handed down through generations. “This is the only system in the world which has been tried and tested in actual war," says Kanishka Sharma, one of only two people authorized to teach PTK in India. “They (Filipinos) fought the Spanish, Japanese and Americans in three wars. And this system was tested on them. It was one of the most effective guerrilla warfare combat systems and that’s why it has been adopted by special elite systems, especially for the use of the knife—it teaches you to kill or immobilize someone at close quarters in three seconds," he adds.

Sharma trained in the Philippines under Tuhon Leo T. Gaje Jr, the grandson of pioneer Cornado Tortal. After introducing the system in India in 2008, he now trains Indian paramilitary forces in PTK, a course he says they have to clear to complete their training. He also teaches martial art at his institute, Shaolin Gurukul, in Pangot, Uttarakhand.

But Sharma is clear that he does not teach it to those who are looking to master it in order to win competitions. Go to him “if you want to learn to survive".

PTK is different from other martial art forms in that its order of instruction runs counter to ordinary combat training. You start with double swords/sticks, move on to single sword/sticks, follow it up with training in double knife, single knife, a combination of sword/stick and knife, and eventually progress to empty-hands combat. “In others, you learn empty hands first, and in the end you learn weapon," says Sharma. He maintains it is also a great regimen for fitness. The brisk footwork and movement, including a cycle of knee raises, regaining balance, squatting and then jabbing, make for great cardio. It also improves neuromuscular coordination, strengthens the neck, shoulders and wrists because of repeated and highly skilled movement. “I call it Plyometrics training, because it’s a lot of isometrics and a lot of taking-off, so a lot like ballistic training too. Be the first and fastest to strike," he says.

The green surrounds of Moira village in Goa are home to the second school for PTK in the country. Run by Aditya Roy, LightHaven India offers PTK classes and residency programmes. “It is a very scientific system. Everything we do is based on geometry," says Roy. “Pekiti doesn’t look to emulate a lion or a tiger or any other animal. It’s made for humans to be able to survive a violent encounter with other humans," he adds.

Aditya Roy (left) conducting a PTK class at his institute in Goa.  Photo: Aoidin Cronin
Aditya Roy (left) conducting a PTK class at his institute in Goa.  Photo: Aoidin Cronin

Having a knife or blade at hand to defend oneself at all times is naturally not ideal or feasible. What the training does is prepare students in the movement, angles, delivery, counter and re-counter tactics. Sharma explains that a ball pen can be used in exactly the same way you use a knife in PTK—to strike at the shock nerves in the body, and then use the momentary weakness of your opponent to attack the weakest parts of their body—the eyes, throat, groin or shin. “All these things are easier said than done. For all these things you need training. You need muscle memory and you need spontaneous action," says Sharma.

He asserts that martial arts training leads to the shedding of fear and an increase in positivity and confidence. “There is an inverse relationship, scientifically proven, between the amount of time you practise martial art and your aggression and anger," he says.

And Roy recommends PTK to anyone who has the maturity to know the right time to use it.

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