Several people have asked for my thoughts on the PTK Tri-V Formula that Grand Tuhon Gaje has been teaching since the mid 90s.

When I first saw the Tri-V material, I saw many things that were familiar and some things that were a bit surprising.

The familiar things were the multiple cut combinations. We had done similar combinations when learning the Solo Contradas under Tuhon Gaje in the 1980s. These began as timing drills, using single, double, triple and quadruple beats against an opponent’s single attack. Most of the Tri-V techniques I’ve seen are comprised of triple beat attacks or counter attacks against a single or double beat of the opponent’s.

The surprising things for me was how wide many of the cuts and chamber positions are in the Tri-V formula. I remember Tuhon Gaje being adamant while he was teaching us to keep our chambers indexed at our shoulders and keep our strikes tight and efficient. In the Tri-V there were broad cuts and overhead chambers; things he had told us specifically NOT to do back when I was training with him.

I first started seeing the Tri-V formula on video in the early days of Youtube. Much of what I saw puzzled me: that is until I saw who the Tri-V was first being taught to: marines in the armed forces of the Philippines. Now the differences between how we were taught as long term civilian students and those short term military students began to make sense.

When I developed the 5 Attacks Subsystem in the early 90s, I took many of the drills and concepts from Solo Contradas, superimposed them onto 4 diagonal strikes for simplicity and then expanded these drills into the matrix sets. That’s how the “5th” attack (a thrust in the basic 5 attacks) became an algebraic “X” that could now be anything that was not a diagonal strike. I did this with the idea that if students were exposed to as many different combinations as possible, they would later be able to choose the ones that worked best for their own fighting style and with the different training tools available to them in different areas. However, this process is designed for long term students of the art, who usually began their training with a rattan stick.

The brevity of the Tri-V set looks to me like Tuhon Gaje took those same drills from the Solo Contradas, added some Recontras for quick aggression and condensed the results down into a manageable program that could be learned in the short time he had with the soldiers, who would all be issued the same ginunting short sword.

When I was a new student in my mid-teens, I remember accidentally hitting myself in the back of the head or ear with my stick a few times during training. This was not a problem with a lightweight rattan stick, but it would be a big problem if your training starts with a sharp sword.

Therefore, I believe the high chambers and wide cuts of the Tri-V are specifically designed as a safety factor for use when you have a group of students in a short term class, who may be using the material taught very soon after learning it, not in a tournament with rattan sticks, but in actual combat with sharp swords.

Another surprise for me was the footwork. Where was the sidestepping? When I learned Contradas there was a lot of sidestepping, both by itself and at the end of triangles, diamonds, hourglass patterns, etc. In place of sidestepping I saw mostly charging in; sometimes straight in, sometimes with one or more angles, but with almost no sidestepping in sight.

For the environment I was trained in (urban centers in the US), side stepping is extremely useful. However, if you are a Filipino marine walking point down a narrow jungle trail with a heavy rucksack on your back, then a sidestep can leave you off balance and delay your next move. Under these circumstances, charging straight in, with maximum violence as soon as you spot the enemy, with a limited changing of angles, may be the best option available to you.

(We are assuming that there is a good reason the marine has his ginunting sword in his hand instead of a firearm: clearing the trail of jungle plants that may conceal venomous spiders perhaps, or maybe a need for quiet sentry removal).

The specific targets used in the Tri-V also show which kind of weapon this technique is intended for.

When fighting with a stick, diagonal strikes function much the same way as a boxer’s jab, to set up a more powerful attack. However, with a sword, diagonal cuts can do enough damage to get the job done all by themselves.

With an impact weapon you are targeting bones to break them.

With a sword you are targeting soft tissue, such as muscle groups, to cut them.

I notice that the third finishing cut in the majority of Tri-V combos are either to muscle groups or to the neck to remove the head; therefore, this tells me it is a sword focused set.

If you are intending to use the Tri-V material with an impact weapon, (such as in a stick tournament), I would recommend that you change the third hit in each combo to a horizontal strike, as this is usually a more effective finisher with an impact weapon than is a diagonal strike. (Please feel free to ignore this advice when you are sparring with a stick, but scoring hits with it as if they were cuts with a sword).


In this article I have tried to give you my understanding of the Tri-V formula. Before posting it here, I sent this article to several Pekiti-Tirsia instructors who had trained both in the Tri-V Formula and in advanced levels of the PTI curriculum, to get their input on the subject and to make sure I was not reading into the Tri-V more than what had been taught to them.

For example, one senior instructor from another organization who had learned the Tri-V directly from GT commented that there was a difference between when GT taught the Tri-V to the military and when he it taught to civilians. Because of the limited training time, blade targets were given to the military units exclusively. However, at civilian seminars, both blade and stick targets were often taught. He also mentioned that, while much of the PT foot work is left out of military training due to time constraints, select portions are often taught at civilian seminars, as time and student experience levels allow.


The Tri-V Formula was originally designed for the Philippine military specifically for use with their issued short sword against insurgents in a jungle environment. 

The Tri-V Formula comes from a mixture of Pekiti-Tirsia Contradas and Recontras techniques and principles and was originally designed for use with a cut focused short sword, such as the ginunting.

Here are the three core elements of the Tri-V Formula that brought me to those conclusions:

Cut 1. Aggressively charge and attack weapon to weapon. (The Recontras element)

Cut 2. Attack the weapon hand or arm. (The Contradas element)

Cut 3. The final attack is usually a backhand cut to the neck. (The sword centric element)


I hope this article has given you some insight into this specific subject and also gives you some principles to help evaluate new techniques in the future.

When evaluating new material ask yourself:

Who is the technique designed for? (Do I fit that criteria?)

What tool is it used with? (Are the same tools available to me?)

When is it used and when is it not? (Are my legal parameters the same?)

How is it used? (Define the specific elements of the technique)

All this should lead to the most important question:

Why is it used in this way and will it fit my specific needs?


Train Hard, but Train Smart,

Tuhon Bill McGrath