How to measure Sticks, Swords, Knives and Spears in the Pekiti-Tirsia System.


 I have been asked many times to give the measurements of the Pekiti-Tirsia long sword shown in the PTI logo. The information on the measurements was told to me many years ago by Tuhon Gaje. In this essay I will give the measurements for two swords, the long sword shown in the PTI logo and the short sword that Tuhon Gaje is often shown holding in the photos of him from the early 1980's. I am also including the measurements for training sticks and spears, as well as knives intended for use with Sak-Sak and Pakal grips.


Pekiti-Tirsia Long Sword Measurements:
The total length, minus the pommel, is equal to the length of your training stick.
The double edge portion on the tip of the sword is as long as your hand, measured from wrist to fingertips. The spine measures one cubit (from your fingertips to your elbow).

The grip portion is the full width of your hand. (The oversized guard on the Vulpes Training polymer sword you see in the video below is intended to be large enough to use while wearing padded gloves for armored sparing).




The Pekiti-Tirsia long sword is based on a mix of the Pinute sword common to Tuhon Gaje's home island of Negros and a Cutlass with a bell guard, which was a common sword design for many navies of the 19th century.


An antique (possibly pre-WWII) pinute. This is the type of sword Tuhon Gaje's grandfather Conrado Tortal would have been familiar with. 


 This pinute strongly resembles the ones Tuhon Gaje had made for us during the 1982 training camp. This design was the de-facto "official" Pekiti-Tirsia long sword we used in the 1980s. 
How to make a pinute sword from a leaf spring. (From JP at Bohol Blades.)



A modern Pinute made by Bohol Blades

(Photo courtesy of Will Renfroe).


Some 19th century Naval cutlasses. This design was common among navies of that time. Tuhon Gaje said his grandfather really liked the bell guard on this design.


The first thing to understand is that these measurements are intended to customize each sword for each individual. A man who stands 6'1" with a 32 inch long arm will use a different sword than a man who stands 5'6" and whose arm is 28 inches in length. One size does not fit all when it comes to your personal sword.


The first measurement you will need is your "cubit." A cubit is the measurement between your fingertips and elbow. My cubit is 20 inches.The spine of your sword, before the back edge begins, should measure one of your cubits.



 The next measurement you will need will be the length of your hand from wrist to fingertips. For me this is 8 inches. This will be the length of the back edge of your sword. This is also the difference between blade lengths of the short and long swords in Pekiti-Tirsia. The spike you see at the point where the spine transitions to the back edge is there to help prevent over-penetration during a thrust.



Next you will take that same hand length measurement and add that to the front cutting edge. You should end up with the front cutting edge being twice the length of the back cutting edge. This main cutting edge should be centered at the "point of percussion." This is the point where the sword hits the hardest and has the best cutting ability. You have a visual reference on this sword, as the point of percussion should line up with the top spike. 


The bottom spike you see on my trainer at the top of the dull portion of the blade is actually a guard to protect your hand from sliding up onto the sharpened portion of the blade.

In historical western sword technique, a fighter taking a grip on the blade is called "half-swording." Half-swording was done with all types of swords, but sharp, double edged ones were best gripped while wearing gauntlets. However, you do see several sword designs in the Medieval and Renaissance periods that had a long dull portion on the bottom half of the blade. The design of the PT long sword, with the bottom half of the blade left dull at full thickness, helps in the "half swording" spear grip techniques seen in some advanced PT material such as Seguidas and Recontras.


A knight "half-swording" his blade for more control for thrusting into a gap in his opponent's armor.

The Cold Steel Greatsword you see here has a long, leather covered grip area between the main crossguard and the subguards. (The subguards give extra protection to your hands, should an enemy's weapon slide down your blade while half-swording.)

Here are two videos I recorded at the Doge's palace museum in Venice, Italy. You can see several greatswords in the display cases. 





 This is a sword Tuhon Gaje had made for him based on his Grandfather's "house bolo" in the early 1980s.  When he showed it to me I didn't think it would be this broad and heavy. This sword was a real beast of a blade and his description of his grandfather's sword sounded like it was lighter and quicker in the hand than this blade was.

The advantage of a short sword comes in during close quarters fighting. We called this sword "Grandpa's House Bolo" because we thought of it as being used inside a house, but the design probably started out as a farm tool and then was adapted for fighting. The broad top helps bring the point of percussion very near the end of the blade.

"What's the weird tip on the sword for?" Well, I was told that the concave edge at the top of the blade helps prevent over-penetration. However, a thrust with this blade is not for targets to the torso, but to the joints, such as the shoulder: using the bones of the joint as a cutting board and capturing the tendons in that sharp concave edge. 

You see that toothed base on the blade on some older types of kris, especially those from Indonesia and the Southern Philippines. They are intended to catch the opponent's sword if it slides down your blade. On the version originally described to me, the guard is a simple steel disk and of a size just large enough to cover your hand.

Note: The swords Tuhon Gaje had made for us in the early 1980s, were made for the Angelsword company by craftsmen in Mexico from truck leave springs, so that may account for their thickness and weight. Daniel Watson, the owner of Angelswords, has since gone on to making his own swords and his new designs look lighter in weight and much better balanced than Tuhon Gaje's old short sword was.


 The blade that's second from the left is a traditional farm blade that may have been the inspiration for Conrado's House Bolo. (Photo courtesy Will Renfroe/Bohol Blades).


Here is an axe handle I cut down to yield a "blade" length of one cubit. It makes an excellent short sword trainer. The fork on the pommel is to help in the disarming of swords by levering their blades out of the opponent's hand.  

The lighter stained wood is from a thick axe handle from Home Depot, which cost me a whopping $15. The darker stained wood is from a lighter weight handle that I got from Lowe's for only $10.

I was introduced to converting hickory axe handles into inexpensive sword trainers several years ago by Coach Dan Terrell and have been enjoying experimenting with these ever since. Here are two different trainers intended to train two different sets of Pekiti-Tirsia.

 The top trainer comes from a Lowe's replacement axe handle and the bottom one comes from Home Depot. You can see some cross hatching I cut into the lighter stained trainer, but there is similar cross hatching under the grip tape area as well. I had made the darker colored, lightweight trainer as a promotion gift for those that passed their Lakan Guro testing at our 2019 Contradas camp. I thought  it would be cool to take the same axe handle trainer and make a grip on both ends, so that we would not need grip tape (hence the cross hatching on each end). This would keep both ends free to hold.

Want a fast, more controlable trainer for Contradas? Hold the heavy end in your hand and the lighter end will move faster. Want a hard hitting trainer for Recontras training on the tire stack? Then hold the lighter end in your hand and the heavier end will hit harder.

Here is a two man drill that trains the different grips and types of timing you will see in Pekiti-Tirsia Seguidas, Contradas and Recontras:




Here are three machetes I purchased looking for a steel short sword trainer. My intent was to dull the edge and make a real weight, short sword trainer.

The only machete I actually use is the one on the bottom, which I modified for bushcraft use (instead of Pekiti-Tirsia training), as per Dave "Mac" Macintyre's instructions in this video: (Mac is the winner of the second season of the History channel series "Alone" and a true  survival expert).



KNIFE FOR USE IN SAK-SAK GRIP: (A.K.A. "Hammer Grip") According to Tuhon Gaje, the minimum blade length for a knife used in hammer grip, or other blade foreward grip, should equal the length of your hand, fingertips to wrist. For more on this subject, read my blog essay "BIG VS SMALL. Does Size Really Matter?" (See the link section at the end of this essay).




Tuhon Gaje taught us taught that a knife should be used in icepick grip when its overall length is equal to or shorter than the span between the outstretched tips of your thumb and pinky finger. Why? Because this lessens the chance of cutting yourself when grappling in icepick gip. For me, this measurement yields an icepick grip knife with an overall length of 9 inches, excluding any part of the handle that extends past my thumb. In the diagram that heads this essay, you will see a small dagger laid along the forarm on the figure's left side. This is using a measurement of the overall length of the knife fitting in a space between your wrist and the beginning of your biceps at the elbow joint. That is another way you can measure a knife for icepick grip. My advice though is to take these measures with a ruler and then apply them to a knife, instead of placing a sharp, pointy knife blade on your forearm or hand, to see if the knife will fit. 

Note: When Tuhon Gaje first started training us on knife use, he started us with the knives we could legally carry in New York City, which was a knife with a blade no longer than 4 inches. When we moved to Texas and could carry larger blades, we spent more time training in hammer grip, since that is a better grip for larger blades.


Measuring the sword and knives for sets 1, 2 & 3 of Pekiti-Tirsia Espada y Daga.




SPEAR:  The shaft matches your own height. The spear blade is the length of your hand.

I used the same design for the spear head in this image as the dagger used in the PTI logo. This was done to give us a dual use capability with the spear. It is common in Pekiti-Tirsia spear techniques to give a hard strike with the spear's socket and then do a draw cut before a thrust. Therefore, the straight side of the spearhead is needed so the cut and thrust can be done quickly, without getting caught up on any protrusions. Meanwhile the curved side of the spearhead extends out beyond the shaft, so that side of the spear head can be used for hooking techniques. The design also has a spike on the bottom end of the shaft, which protects the wood from wear while walking and can be used offensively in a fight.

The way the head that attaches to the shaft can be a socket (a built-in tube below the blade), or a tang hidden within the shaft.  The socket type is the strongest way to attach a metal spearhead to a solid wooden shaft, but the hidden tang type is common on thrusting spears made of bamboo. The PT spear design uses a socket head mounted on a rattan shaft, due to an equal use of strikes and thrusts in its techniques. However, we are working on a polymer trainer with Vulpes Training that uses a hidden tang design that makes the best use of the polymer material and helps lighten the weight of the training tool. I will post pictures of this trainer once the prototypes are finalized.

How to measure the spike end of a Pekiti-Tirsia spear trainer and where to add a tactile indicator so you know where the spike is during practice.




I used the Pekiti long and short swords as the base for the two swords the hero uses in my fantasy novel Asulon. Look closely and you can see the hero in the center of the book cover holding a sword based on the Pekiti-Tirsia short sword.

This short sword rides in a scabard on his belt, while his larger war sword rides in a scabbard attached to his horse's saddle.

For the war sword, I simply put a longer handle on the Pekiti-Tirsia long sword and made a Medieval falchion-like sword with a cavalry saber's knuckle guard.

A Medieval Falchion

This video gives a look at the simplified version of Pekiti techniques I used to form the sword fighting style the hero uses in my novels:


Train Hard, Train Smart, but remember to have fun while doing so.

Tuhon Bill McGrath

For info on upcoming Pekiti-Tirsia International camps, seminars, local and on-line classes visit:

There are two posters available with the measurement chart at the top of this page. Visit this page on the PTI store for more details:

If you would like to get these weapon designs on a hooded sweatshirt, you will find some for sale on this page of the PTI store:

BIG VS SMALL (BLADES) Does Size Really Matter?


Angelswords website: