Filipino Martial Arts 101: An Afternoon with Pekiti Tirsia Kali Manila


I wish I had more time to interview PTK Manila Chief Instructor Buddy Acenas as his passion, love of country, and exceptional skills were on full display despite a very rainy Saturday afternoon in Makati.

Filipino Martial Arts: So much of what makes it one of the best fighting systems in the world from a foreign perspective has miserably failed to resonate with the very people it is supposed to be one with.

The same question has been on my mind ever since I saw the 1986 movie “Kamagong” which ignited my interest in FMA as a 9-year-old kid: “Why are we not interested in our own martial art and national sport?”

After 28 years, I finally got my answer in the form of this interview with Buddy Acenas, the Chief Instructor for Pekiti Tirsia Kali Manila, one of the most respected and well-known FMA schools in the country. For those of you who do not know him, he first studied the system in 2002 under Tuhon Rommel Tortal who was also teaching the Philippine Marines.

In 2007, Tuhon Tortal made him an instructor and asked him to take over the club.  Fast forward to 2011 where he became the first Filipino to teach FMA in Turkey and in 2014 became the first Filipino to teach FMA in Latvia, which led to the founding of PTK clubs for both countries. PTK also has clubs in Quezon City, Makati, and Naga City.

So much of this interview was not just a personal need-to-know but more of a “need-to-be-aware” for everyone in the country who has had misinformed, preconceived notions about our own national sport; I hope this interview reaches the people mentioned.

How would you explain FMA to the average Filipino?

“Filipino Martial Arts is a really good term to describe a huge group of different fighting systems with different principles; there are many terms for it namely escrima, arnis, kali, and there are other sub-terms for other sub-systems, but FMA pretty much covers everything.

“The main commonality among these systems for it to be called FMA is 1) It is derived from a fighting system developed in the Philippines; 2) it has roots here; and 3) personally it can be empty-handed but it is primarily weapon-based as a vast majority of FMA systems are weapon-based.

“It is so difficult to have a definitive description for it because there are so many different systems and different approaches of teaching their material that it is impossible to define it further than what I just said.”

What do you think are the main concerns for us locally? Why do foreigners want to learn the discipline more than we do?  

“I think the main concern for FMA is a lack of awareness among Filipinos about what it is and even if it exists or not. A lot of us have backward misconceptions regarding FMA.

“First of these is the thinking that it is only weapon-based and hitting sticks and it has no empty-hand application therefore it is not practical. This is the irony because the practicality of FMA is known worldwide. Filipinos do not see this but the very heart of the system is its practicality in everyday situations.

“The other issue is that FMA started at the grassroots level and it’s taught to the working class so it is seen as a blue collar martial art. It doesn’t have the same ‘sex appeal’ as other systems coming from abroad.