The History of Pekiti-Tirsia International


In 1994 Bill McGrath, a student of Pekiti-Tirsia Grandmaster Leo Gaje since 1975, was promoted by Grandmaster Gaje to the rank of Tuhon Guro (Chief Instructor) and given the task of promoting the Pekiti-Tirsia system in the U.S. and abroad.

In 1995 Tuhon McGrath approached Grandmaster Gaje with the idea of starting an official organization for Pekiti-Tirsia practitioners. Grandmaster Gaje had founded various organizations down through the years trying to unify all Filipino martial arts in the U.S. (AAO: Arnis America Organization, NARAUSA: National Arnis Organization of the U.S.A., USKA: United States Kali Association) but Tuhon McGrath’s concept was aimed at what he considered a more manageable goal; an organization to preserve and promote a single art, Pekiti-Tirsia.

The aim of this new organization was that it be free from the politics and internal strife that Tuhon McGrath had seen plague so many martial arts organizations down through the years. It seemed that as an art grew in popularity, it also grew in political intrigue and disputes over rank. Tuhon McGrath did not want that to happen to Pekiti-Tirsia. To accomplish this goal of a politics free environment, Tuhon McGrath structured Pekiti-Tirsia International (PTI) with the following concepts in mind.

1. No Secret Techniques: If all techniques are listed in the course outline it keeps the instructors honest. An instructor cannot say to a student “Do this for me (pay for private lessons/bring a large group to my seminar/etc) and I will teach you these secret techniques.” (See PTI Course Outline)

2. A Known Rank Structure: If the techniques needed for each rank are listed in a public place (in PTI’s case, on its website) then it will help keep the students honest. It’s hard to claim a higher rank when you don’t know the technique required for that rank. (See Rank Chart).

3. Consistent Techniques: One complaint you hear from the students of the older generation of Filipino instructors is that you could rarely get them to do the same technique twice. This was common in the daily one-on-one teaching traditionally done in the Philippines, but it is difficult to use this same teaching method in a large class that meets twice a week in the U.S. PTI instructors teach from an instructor’s notebook so that they will know what to give a student who misses a class and a student who moves across the country can go to his local PTI school and pick up his training exactly where he left off.

4. Don’t Say “Thank You” With Rank: In PTI, people who do good things for the art are given a gift like a knife or sword, even a “Thank You” plaque, but never an instructor’s rank. The title of Director is given to seminar coordinators or people who do other things to promote the art, but not an instructor’s rank. The only way to get an instructor’s rank is to pass an instructor’s test.

5. This is a Martial Art, Not a Cult: Two things can turn a healthy martial art into an unhealthy cult:
Encouraging the students to believe that they are the servants of the art rather than the other way around; and an unhealthy hero worship of the top instructor.

PTI would guard against these two dangers by focusing on the needs and goals of the students during training rather than a focus on things that glorify the instructor or even the art itself.

 In August of 1995, the PTI Charter, Rank Chart, Course Outline and Test Book were approved by Grandmaster Gaje and Pekiti-Tirsia International was officially begun. Click on the links below to see a full-size image.

Certificate from Grand Tuhon Gaje (1995)
PTI Charter (1995)
Tuhon McGrath’s Certificate (1994)

By 1997 it became apparent that Grandmaster Gaje was finding the structure of Pekiti-Tirsia International too confining for his style of teaching and rank promotion and a decision was made for Pekiti-Tirsia International to go its own way. Today Pekiti-Tirsia International is administered by Tuhon Guro McGrath under his own authority as a separate entity from any organization currently run by Grandmaster Gaje.


  • A PTI Academy is run by an instructor of Mataas na Guro, Magino’o or Tuhon rank. This is an instructor who has learned the complete PTI system.
  • A PTI School is run by an instructor of at least Guro Isa rank.
  • A PTI Club is a place where students who have had some Pekiti-Tirsia training can practice when there is no certified PTI instructor in their area. The club can be run by a student of any level below Guro Isa.

Testing in Pekiti-Tirsia International:

The PTI Test Book

New PTI members are given a test book in their membership kits. This test book lists all the techniques required for all levels up through master instructor. Once a student completes a block of instruction his test book is stamped by the instructor with the date of completion of that block and the instructor’s name and rank. After the student has practiced the techniques of that block to his own and his instructor’s satisfaction, he may then test for that block. Once a student passes a test on a block, that page of the test book is stamped as complete. (See Sample Test Book Page)

Each rank of instructor in PTI can test up to the rank below his own. For example, a Guro Delawa (Instructor 2nd level) can test a student up to Guro Isa (instructor 1st level). The exception to this rule are instructors of Mataas na Guro rank, who have completed the PTI system and therefore can test up to their own level.

In the first two ranks of PTI (Yakan and Lakan) there are two levels of testing: Basic and Certified Trainer.

In the Basic test, a student is required to show that they are able to do the technique with speed and power. This test is given to see if the student is capable of fighting with the technique.

Certified Trainer level tests the student’s understanding of the technique as well as their communication skills as an instructor watches them as the teach the technique to a training partner. The Certified Trainer test is designed to test a student at the level of instructor on that particular technique.