How to measure Pekiti-Tirsia long and short swords.
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 article 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 in full regalia from the early 1980's
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, which is the sword of many navies of the 19th century.
MEASURING THE PEKITI-TIRSIA LONGSWORD
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 5'6" 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, 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. Since this trainer is made of plastic, the spike needed to be large, as they are separate pieces I hot glued on to the blade. I would expect that a forged steel blade would have smaller spikes or guards than this.
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. Also 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 is actually a guard to protect your own hand from sliding up onto the sharpened portion of the blade. In historical western sword technique, the grip on the blade is called "half-swording." It was done with all types of swords, but I suspect that the sharp ones were best gripped while wearing gauntlets. 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.
A knight "half-swording" his blade for more control for the thrust to 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.)
Here are two videos I made at the Doge's palace museum in Venice, Italy. You can see several greatswords in the display cases.
My sword trainers:
The top sword is my rough attempt at a Pekiti-Tirsia long sword trainer.
It is made from a Rawlings plastic training sword (the black sword is an unmodified Rawlings trainer which has a 30 inch blade). I cut this down to 28 inches for the PT long sword trainer. (although by the time I rounded the tip off for safety, it came down to 27.5"). The bell guard was taken off the Rowlings cutlass trainer.
PEKITI-TIRSIA SHORT SWORD MEASUREMENTS:
This is a sword Tuhon Gaje had made for him based on his Grandfather's "house bolo" in the early 1980s. When he described it to me I didn't think it would be this broad and heavy. It 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 like this one comes in during close quarters fighting. We called it "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 in a dense jungle. The broad top helps bring the point of percussion very near the end of the blade.
"What's the weird top for?" you ask. Well, I was told that the concave edge at the top of the blade helps to prevent over-penetration. A thrust with this blade is not mainly to targets on the torso though, but to the joints: using the bones as cutting boards and capturing the tendons in that concave edge.
*Note: These swords were made for the Angelsword company in Mexico from truck leave springs, so that may account for the weight. Daniel Watson, the owner of Angelswords, has since gone onto making his own swords and his new designs look much better balanced than the old short sword was.
Angelswords website: https://www.angelswords.com/filipino-swords/
The sword I am holding here is a TFW War Golok. This is double edged, moves quickly and is well balanced in the hand. Add a guard, make it single edged and give it a concave top cutting edge and this would be much closer to the short sword I pictured in Leo's stories of his grandfather. The measurement of the blade of a Pekiti short sword is one cubit.
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 Lowes 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 Lowes 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. This year we will be working on the Solo Recontras at camp and would like to do the same for any new Lakan Guros promoted there. What kind of trainer should I make this year? 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 quick trainer for Contradas? Hold the heavy end in your hand and the free 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 free end will hit harder. Well, the balance on this one did not come out as planned; so it is relegated to Recontras use by putting grip tape on the lightweight end. Maybe I can get the design right by camp and we can have a multi-functional trainer.
A STEEL TRAINER?
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 one I actually use is the one on the bottom, which I modified for bushcraft use, 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).
PEKITI SWORDS IN FANTASY NOVELS
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 is holding a sword based on the Pekiti-Tirsia short sword. This is the sword he wears concealed under a cloak when he goes into the main city.
For the hero's war sword, I simply put a longer handle on the Pekiti-Tirsia long sword and made a cross between a falchion and a hand-and-a-half sword.
Here is a look at the simplified version of Pekiti techniques I used to form the sword fighting style my hero uses in my novels:
You can order the full version of this video for $19.95 on the PTI store page:
For info on upcoming Pekiti-Tirsia International seminars, visit:
Train Hard, Train Smart and Have Fun while doing it,
Tuhon Bill McGrath