Disarms in Pekiti-Tirsia are not taught as “goal” techniques in a fight. The goal is not to disarm an opponent, but to safely move past him, after reducing (even temporarily) his ability to pose a danger to you. A disarm is simply one tool in your toolbox to help you get to your goal.

In the classical style of teaching Pekiti-Tirsia, techniques such as disarms are first taught in isolation, with just the main mechanics of each technique, to get the motions ingrained, so you can do them while under stress. This is the “how” of the technique.

You will then learn the counters and recounters. This process helps you learn the principles behind a technique: the “why” of it, as in “why is it done this way and not another.”

For disarms, the next stage would be to integrate them with the strikes, so they can be used more effectively. This is why you will usually see a disarm used only after a disabling hit is given to weaken the opponent’s grip on his weapon. This is the beginning of learning the “when” of a technique, ie using it at an appropriate time in a fight.

In Pekiti-Tirsia, disarms are used much like a medieval soldier would use a coup de grâce against an enemy; as a way to make sure your path forward is safe to travel as you move on to the next opponent. With a sword, it can be obvious when an opponent has been completely disabled and is safe to leave behind, however, with a stick or small knife, this is not always the case. (For more on this, read my post on big blades “Does Size Matter.” Link in note 1).

Time is an important factor in a fight. “How much time do I have to deal with Bad Guy 1 before Bad Guy 2 can get to me?” If you have time for only one hit before you need to leave and this only stuns Bad Guy 1, then maybe taking his weapon away as you go past him is a good option to have in your toolbox. Do you want to leave a temporarily stunned, but armed man behind you as you make your escape, or an unarmed man?

The classical way of teaching Pekiti-Tirsia will often show the same general technique with several weapons - as a way to reinforce the gross motions on the nervous system. Therefore, we will teach the same disarm with a  long weapon such as stick vs stick, then a short weapon version such as knife vs stick, then the empty hand vs stick version. The idea here is to teach the student how to make adjustments as needed with the same general principle, but applied with different weapons: to show which things change and which stay the same.

This is a bit like the transition my dept made from revolver to pistols in the 90s. I was a range officer at the tail end of this period and it was interesting to compare techniques between the weapon platforms; again, to see which things changed and which stayed the same.
(For more on this subject read “LEARNING THROUGH COMPARISONS.” Link in note 2).

When I train law enforcement or military personnel, I don’t have the same luxury of time as I do in my martial arts classes. With these two groups I must compress things down quite a bit and tend to teach in what I call “Chain Techniques” with a sample from each principle in each combination, such as:
1.  Avoid the initial attack. Than an entry to get into a superior position.
2. Just enough strikes to buy time for a control technique.
3. The control technique: (defined as something capable of seriously reducing his ability to fight for a prolonged period). such as a break, lock, choke, disarm, or drawing and/or use of your own weapon.

Which way of teaching is better? I believe if you have the time, then the old ways will produce the better overall fighter and teacher. However, if you don’t have the time, then you have no choice and the new way may be the only way.

I hope this has helped you understand the subject of disarms in the Pekiti-Tirsia system.

Train Hard, but Train Smart,
Tuhon Bill McGrath

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