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)


In Pekiti-Tirsia International, rank denotes instructorship level: ranks indicates which curricular material an instructor has qualifications to teach.
Lakan Guros are assistant instructors.
Guros Isa through Guro Apat are considered full instructors.
Mataas Na Guro is considered a master instructor and is capable of teaching the entire system.
Magino'o is an elder statesman and respected for particular skills in teaching the entire system.
Tuhon is considered the system administrator and conservationist of the
So what is a Certified Trainer?
A Certified Trainer is someone who shows competency in a particular curricular block and has been approved to teach said curricular block.
Certified Trainer level tests the student’s understanding of a particular curricular block as well as their communication skills, as an instructor watches them as they 'teach' the technique to a training partner.
A Basic Test involves the testing candidate showing the 'what' and 'how' of a chosen curricular block. The candidate demonstrates 'what' the techniques are, and 'how' they are to be executed.
The Certified Trainer test is designed to test a student at the level of instructor on that particular curricular block...not just the 'what' and 'how' but the 'why' and 'when', in order to demonstrate a deeper level of understanding. There is also the important aspect of the testing candidate's pedagogy. If the goal is eventual instructorship, an ability to communicate and teach needs to ne demonstated as well.
Upon successful completion of testing by Certified Trainer status, that testing candidate is now 'certified' to teach that particular curricular block to others.
Anyone who holds ranks in the PTI organization should have every curricular block required for that rank up to the level of Certified Trainer status.
The Certified Trainer status empowers a PTI member to teach a curricular block (or blocks) to others legitimately without holding formal rank.
Rank in PTI occurs when certain clusters of curricular blocks are completed and tested to Certified Trainer status.
Certified Trainers will have the official stamp and signature of the testing administrator/full instructor in their PTI Blue Book for each curricular block they have successfully tested in.
Once certain clusters of curricular blocks are signed and stamped by a PTI instructor, rank can be approved and awarded.