Visiting Friends – Pekiti-Tirsia Europe Training Camp in the Philippines
In March 2006, a European delegation travelled to the Philippines for visiting friends and having a training camp in Filipino Martial Arts and Culture. The group’s stay and training camp were organised by Filipino Pekiti-Tirsia representatives on-site and Mandala Uli Weidle.
Purpose of the visit was to deepen the friendly relations that have grown for many years between Pekiti-Tirsia practitioners in Europe and in Pekiti-Tirsia’s country of origin, the Philippines. Further the travel participants should have opportunity of directly experiencing the good values of Filipino lifestyle and culture.
In addition to the before mentioned purposes, this camp had one more reason: In March 2006 it had been exactly ten years since Grand Tuhon Gaje chose the two brothers Achim and Uli Weidle to teach Pekiti-Tirsia in Europe and to organise the system’s spreading in his name. This first decade-anniversary of the mission to found the Pekiti-Tirsia Europe was to be celebrated in Philippines together with our Filipino friends. In October 2006, Pekiti-Tirsia Europe’s tenth anniversary will be paid tribute a second time with a training camp in Germany – of course again with Grand Tuhon Gaje being present.
The Gathering in the Philippines
While some team members had arrived a couple of days earlier in order to get used to the climate and to collect first impressions of the country, the main part of the group arrived the day before the training started. They arrived in three different flights at Ninoy Aquino Airport in Manila. With support of Filipino customs authorities the members of the European group were greeted by Pekiti-Tirsia representatives immediately after disembarking the airplane and then guided smoothly through immigration formalities. The European group consisted of participants from Germany, Italy, The Netherlands, Spain, Britain, Finland and Sweden. While for most of the group it was their first time in the Philippines, some of the group had participated in Pekiti-Tirsia training camps up to three times before. The group was headed by Mandala Uli Weidle, who has a very good knowledge about Philippines because of his more then 30 stays in Philippines during the last ten years. Uli had travelled to the Philippines a couple of weeks earlier in order to make final arrangements together with his Filipino friends.
After a short welcome ceremony at the airport the group headed to the next meeting place in Makati. The route was chosen in a way that the visitors were able to collect first impressions of the country during the short ride.
After the short ride to Makati, everyone had opportunity to relax and was offered food and complimentary drinks. When everybody had assembled, Grand Tuhon Gaje, his nephew Mandala Rommel Tortal and the team of trainers of the Manila Pitbulls and the Recon Marines welcomed the participants officially. After a short briefing and a meal at Makati-Base the whole group went on to the first training area – the KUTT in Antipolo.
Training in the KUTT – “Kali Culture Under The Trees” in Antipolo:
Only a short trip from Makatis hectic city life, entering the KUTT-area creates the feeling of entering an entirely different world. Century-old trees with metres thick trunks and long mangrove roots that have grown over decades created an almost mystic atmosphere and gave cool shade and fresh air. The location of the KUTT was perfect regarding the climate conditions. While the heat at the airport and in Makati was almost unbearable for the visitors, especially considering that they had just arrived out of cold European “winter”, made it almost unimaginable to have a physically demanding training, the elevated location of the KUTT offered a much more pleasant climate. There were free sandy and grass areas – ideal for Kali and Dumog, there were tire dummies for hitting exercises and open buildings for scenario training. In short terms: ideal training opportunities.
Until this camp the area had been used for private trainings only and was exclusively open to friends of the family. Because of the personal contacts of Uli Weidle the Pekiti-Tirsia group from Europe had the privilege of being the first international training group that was allowed to train in this area. Being in the KUTT feels like being in a secluded Kali refuge and this was the truth, actually. The KUTT area with its very own Martial Arts history was “breathing” it's own enchanted atmosphere of concentrated Filipino culture and pure Kali. Training in the KUTT had a very distinct flair and yet alone the experience of being allowed to train there would have been worth the trip to the Philippines.
Grand Tuhon at his best
Grand Tuhon Gaje was obviously enjoying the great atmosphere during the whole training camp. Even Filipinos who participated in the camp were amazed how generously Grand Tuhon did not only show most advanced fighting methods of Pekiti-Tirsia, but also explained the functional correlations detailed and logically with practical examples. The material that was offered during the camp was definitely worthy of a 10-year anniversary.
Grand Tuhon was supported by three combat-proven Recon Marines who have trained Pekiti- Tirsia since ten years in the Marine Corps and who could tell about their rich experience of close-fighting operations. The Marines were in command of the daily strength-, condition- and mobility-training. The technical intricacies of the art were taught by Grand Tuhon Gaje with the support of Mandala Rommel Tortal. For many of the Europeans Rommel was already well known from Uli’s narrations. After having the opportunity of experiencing him personally, they could convince themselves that Uli had not been exaggerating.
Training “From Dawn Till Dusk”
At 5 o'clock in the morning training started “recon-like” with an early dawn morning jog and was continued with power and speed hitting exercises on the tire, that made everybody ready for whatever the day may have. With the Recon Marines giving an example to the group, everybody trained to their personal limit. That kind of training remembered the participants of the Warrior Camps that Uli Weidle runs in Europe regularly. Everybody trained very hard and each and everybody from the group supported each other in an atmosphere of cooperation and friendship. All were exhausted and happy.
When temperature increased around noon time, training became more technical with Grand Tuhon and Mandala Rommel teaching the group technical fighting. The training was more technical but in no way less intense then the training from the marines. Especially the training of Dumog-counters was very intense. The Pangamut and Dumog (Filipino Empty Hand Fighting and Combat Wrestling) was an important part of daily training. Of course, not only empty hand fighting, but also stick, sword and most important Pekiti-Tirsia knife were part of daily training.
Food Paradise Philippines
Although the very hard training and the unfamiliar climate was tough and draining the camp members physical resources, the training intensity was just right and good food and Hilot made sure that nobody would run out of steam. Grand Tuhon and the trainers found a good pace of the camp and with a kitchen and a whole staff caring for the group’s necessities, nobody had to worry about staying hungry or not being able to train because of too heavy food. Every two hours the whole day long fresh Filipino delicacies were offered between the training units. It started right after the early morning power and endurance training with a light breakfast which mainly consisted of freshly prepared Taho (a delicious, warm drink made of soybean-quark with Perltapioka / maniokstarch) which was sweetened on demand with brown syrup, directly picked fruits as well as tea and (of course) coffee – an ideal morning-snack for a quick refreshment and for being able to train on with full energy right after the breakfast. During the days ongoing training there was a continuing supply of refreshing drinks as for example fresh Mango Juice, Buko or Kalamansi Juice and local delicacies, like Adobo, Karekare, Kinilaw, Lumpiang, Leche-Flan, Longanisa, Penoy, Pinakbet bagoong, Kwek-Kwek, Sinigang na miso, Suman, Pansit, Mango bagoong, rice of course, a never ending stock of directly picked and cooled Buko (coconuts) and an enormous number of different fruits. Once they had tasted the food, particularly the fresh fruits, everybody realised what Grand Tuhon had in mind when he said: “Come to the Philippines – come to where the flavour is!”
Special cultural Programme
Some of the group members brought along their partners who were not into training. In order to keep things interesting for them as well, the family Bataclan offered a very special cultural programme which reached from the best shopping possibilities over visits in normally non-public areas of old churches and introductions into Filipino cooking. They gained a lot of experiences and insights that cannot be found in a book and cannot be ordered in travel agencies.
Regenerating with Hilot
Another highlight in the KUTT training was the permanent Hilot care of the camp participants. Every day Hilot therapists recommended by the ATHAG (Association of Traditional Health and Aid Givers) were present to treat injuries that may happen. For injury prevention every day a Hilot massage was provided for every participant as part of training routine. These massages relaxed tensed muscles, strengthened the inner balance of the group members and regenerated used energies. Due to healthy food and Hilot prevention the physically and mentally challenging training program could be accomplished without any injuries or visible sign of fatigue. In fact the tiring strains of the challenging training were hardly noticed and the camp participants were full of positive energy all the time.
Enchanted Moments – Training with Music
In recent years there has been a tendency within the Filipino artistic community to rediscover the almost lost arts and values of the own pre-hispanic culture. As a result, martial arts and performing arts (theatre, dance, and music) build a fruitful relationship. Everybody profits of an atmosphere of free exchange and the discovering similarities in their traditional values. Pekiti-Tirsia Europe is in close friendship with some of those artists. That is why there was also a music group on site of the camp supporting our training with traditional Filipino music. Everybody, who wanted to, could try to play the traditional instruments with the help of the musicians and could also get an introduction to their origins and meaning. When the musicians started to jam with the training sessions, Filipinos and Europeans were all taken by the flow: the KUTT, the music and everybody who trained became one and the result was one of those enchanted moments that cannot be described by words alone.
Later in the curriculum of the camp, the participants visited a Filipino folklore group who showed different Filipino dances of the time before and during the Spanish colonial era. All, who wanted to, could test themselves as dancers. Several participants took the friendly challenge as an opportunity and proved, that the fast legs and the feeling for body and rhythm – gained through Kali practise – are also very good preparation for Filipino dancing.
Tagaytay, Balisong and Batangas:
After some days of training in Antipolo the second part of the camp took place on the beach at San Juan, Batangas. During the transfer the training team had opportunity to taste more local delicacies like the delicious Buko cake and they also had short visits to some regional sights, like for example the famous Taal volcano.
The group also stopped at Batangas, visiting the smithy of the famous Batangas knives (also known as Balisong or Filipino butterfly-knife). And everybody who wanted to could of course buy knives, swords and other “warrior necessities” – a small glimpse of paradise for every martial artist.
Training in San Juan
In San Juan the group stayed at a beach resort which is the private property of a well known Filipino artist. Tastefully furnished with wonderful Filipino flair, situated directly at the beach with white sand and shady palms, the resort provided everything a Kali training group needs. The resort was an inside tip by one of our Filipino friends: Because the Pekiti-Tirsia group was using the resort exclusively, the resorts resources could be used as needed for the training group and the meals presented in type of a rich buffet were perfectly coordinated with our training timetable.
Training at the Beach and in the Sea
Shady trees and a large, free, sandy beach invited to a morning workout. Especially jogs on the sand were an unusual exhausting experience. But being well prepared by the former training days in Antipolo and inspired by the Marines and Uli Weidle, who jogged leading the group, everybody could reach their inner energy reserves and despite of the extremely demanding ground almost all of the group were able to complete the track on the last day. Even the Marines respected the European team members for their willpower and physical fitness.
After the strenuous morning workout Grand Tuhon Gaje and Mandala Rommel Tortal took over with their training units. Each of them took one half of the group and changed parts later. Again the main topics were Dumog and knife. Training took place on the beach and with increasing temperature beneath the palms in the shady spaces as well as in the sea itself.
Near to the resort there was a sea-life conservation which invited for snorkelling and diving after training. The water was clear and full of fishes. Even turtles could be seen.
A Kali Family
Since the training camp was arranged to be during Filipino school holidays, Grand Tuhon’s wife and their son Leo "Jamjam" Gaje III. had the opportunity of visiting us in Batangas. For the European group it was a pleasure to share the wonderful time in San Juan with Grand Tuhon’s family and the friends from Philippines.
While training in San Juan in addition to the Manila Pekiti-Tirsia Pitbulls and the most experienced Recon Marines, who had joined us, also some members of a counter terrorism police commando joined in. This gave possibility for more interesting discussions while enjoying the bonfire after training. Camp participants with a background as police or military were invited for a training at the Philippine National Police (PNP) Headquarters experiencing the Pekiti-Tirsia Gunology with life weapons taught to PNP by Mandala Rommel Tortal. They were also invited to test their skills at the shooting range.
Manghihilot at the Camp
In spite of his hectic schedule and a very important business invitation from the Shangri-La hotel group, the foremost Hilot expert of the ATHAG, Boy Fajardo, did not allow this to let him be stopped and he took on a journey of several hours to personally visit our camp meeting and greeting his Filipino and European friends. During his stay he demonstrated and lectured about theory and practices of Hilot. In the Philippines “Tito” Boy Fajardo is a highly respected Hilot expert who is not only from a family of famous healers, but he also made it his life's mission to explain and teach Hilot so that it is not only understood as an art of experienced healers intuition but also as a systematic science. Tito Boy already was invited by many universities outside of the Philippines to lecture and demonstrate about Hilot. He is also authorized by ATHAG and the Filipino government to further systematise Hilot and to distinguish authentic Hilot from fake.
Tito Boy’s friendly physical presence and smile lets everybody notice right away his inner peace and contentedness. He is living example of the fact that good health is an inner state of balance and of “being consistent with the universal laws of nature” as Tito Boy says. “You cannot give what you do not own yourself”, he says when he describes how a Hilot education works. He definitely owns it.
He defines Hilot as follows: «The principles of Hilot have been practised for more than a thousand years and date back to an era that pre-dates Philippines written history. It is a highly intuitive treatment therapy wherein the Hilot therapist identifies areas of energy imbalance through touch diagnosis, and then customises the treatment to alleviate or remove the imbalances.»
About the basic concept of Hilot he says: «The
basic concept of Filipino Traditional Healing is that health and
wellness are the results of balance and harmony, and that discomfort
and illness are the results of imbalance and disharmony. As such, the
goal of Hilot treatments is to restore balance and harmony in all
bodily functions, and in their interactions, thereby restoring the
normal, natural functioning of the body.»
Hilot and Pekiti-Tirsia share a lot of philosophical ideas. It may be astonishing but not really surprising, because both originate from the tradition of the same old Filipino culture. In fact Grand Tuhon Gaje as well as his wife are well known for their healing knowledge and Tito Boy mentioned to the group about his grandfather, a respected Healer, who was a champion of Filipino martial arts in his region. Tito Boy is not a martial artist. He feels that he owes Hilot his health and vitality, since in his younger years he had overcome a severe disease with the help of Hilot. Now he totally dedicates himself to the art of healing.
During the time Tito Boy stayed at the camp he offered personal treatments to those who wanted to benefit from his healing skills. It was very interesting to observe the Hilot methods of Tito Boy, Grand Tuhon and his wife, since all of them have profound knowledge in western medicine as well as in Filipino herbal and healing arts. It was a pity that Tito Boy because of his busy schedule was only able to stay for one day. All the participants were impressed by his friendly character and his knowledge of the healing arts. Mandala Uli said that he would further maintain the already existing good contact with Tito Boy and with Tito Boy’s and Grand Tuhon’s support he would continue to explore and promote Hilot.
The set goal of Mandala Uli and his Filipino friends for this training camp was to provide the camp participants with personal experience of the variety of Filipino life conditions (big city, country life, mountain and beach life) as well as the filipino peoples mentality and lifestyle, which is the key to unlock the understanding of the strengths of Pinoy culture and of pinoy martial arts. Evaluating the camps results it can safely be said, that the set goal has been accomplished far better as imagined. The camp provided a very special experience, that cannot be gained living in hotels or hanging out in the usual tourist spots. It provided a unique lifestyle and family type bonding experience which can only be given from friends to friends. In the training course of the camp Grand Tuhon and Mandala Rommel showed martial arts at its finest, which by itself would have been reason enough to travel around the world, yet similar in importance was that the members of the visiting group was able to experience the hospitality of a pinoy martial arts family that adheres to the traditional values and how that specific life circumstances and lifestyle expresses itself as a distinct quality in martial arts. A human quality, that is brought by Uli Weidle to Europe and it is typical for the European Pekiti-Tirsia community and it is immediately recognised by new beginners who attend training events from the Pekiti-Tirsia Europe.
This training camp benefited from Mandala Uli's ten years intensive experience in Philippines and it was only possible because of the friendship of the family Bataclan and of course because the unconditional support from Grand Tuhon Gaje and his family. It was an all in all successful event, that provided a good oversight over the variety of Filipino Martial Art and culture and at which new friendships were established and old friendships were strengthened.
Indeed the camps participants common feedback about the camp was: “The camps goal was not only reached – it was SURPASSED!”■
Personal Word from Uli Weidle
In the time I have spent in the Philippines during the last ten years I have experienced quite some Pekiti-Tirsia history in the making. The announcement of Grand Tuhon’s son, Leo III., as his future successor, the 100-year-anniversary of Pekiti-Tirsia and the 100-year-anniversary of the Republic of the Philippines as well as the Battle of Grandmasters are only some of the outstanding events that come to my mind spontaneously. All of these experiences had something unique and I don’t want to miss the memory of any of them. I have been to many training camps in many regions of the Philippines. Among all of these many events, the last one is really special. I never experienced before the Pinoy culture so pure, densely packed and intense while being in a group of Americans or Europeans. Yet the food alone offered culinary highlights that are rarely found by the common tourist. The time spent together with friends from Philippines and Europe had so many cherished moments, that I’m still deeply touched while writing these lines today. My special thanks go to Kuya Jay, to his parents and his family who made all of this possible by their cordiality and their absolute hospitality. They also go to Grand Tuhon’s wife Tita Gigi, a real friend who is always there to support in word and deed. Of course my gratitude goes to my dear friends Mandala Rommel Tortal as well as to Guro Jasper and his family and to 'Silent Agent' Micky and all Manila Pitbulls who supported and enriched our camp with their presence. The Recon Marines who motivated and inspired us with their example and my very special friend, champion Daniel “The Mumbakki” Foronda, I do not want to let him unmentioned. Many thanks also to all of the camp participants who have represented our Europe so outstandingly in the Philippines. I will always cherish this camp in the Philippines as something very special. For this and everything else I’d like to deeply thank Grand Tuhon Gaje, the man who made all of this possible.
Reutlingen, Juni 2006
Impressions from the camp with our fotoshow (play time 7 minutes):
→ treavel report 2004 (BBC, Special Action Force, christmas, new year celebration, Otso-Otso,...)
→ travel report 2002
→ more Travels and Events in our Action-Book
→ calendar for future seminars and events