State Directors

Tuhons Mike Popolizio and Bill McGrath

New York Director: PTI Tuhon Magino’o Guro Mike Popolizio – LI, NY


Dear PTI Members,

After two decades of study and service to the Pekiti-Tirsia system I have promoted Michael Popolizio to the rank of Tuhon. Mike is one of the most skilled instructors I have ever met, a man with the rare combination of both fighting ability and communication skills at a master level. If you ever get the chance to train with him, I highly recommend you do so.

Regards to all,

Tuhon Bill McGrath

Tuhon Mike’s Bio

I grew up in The Bronx, N.Y. and began training in boxing in 1964. I entered the New York City Police Academy in 1965. I have worked street patrol during assignments throughout N.Y.C. and was assigned to the Brooklyn North Task Force.

I began training in Senso Aiki Jutsu under Master Richard Beherns in 1974 and found that it worked very well with my previous boxing training, marrying stand-up and ground fighting, for an effective empty hand system. Jujutsu training continued in Oshiki-uchi under Miyochi Sensei. In 1984 I began a Jujutsu school in New York.

I was introduced to the Filipino Martial Arts in 1989 by Scott Carpenter, later training in Arnis with Scott Walter (Kobe System). I trained in Kuntao Silat under Tuhon Roberto Torres which included training with Ba Pak Willem De Thouars in Pentjak Silat.

I had the good fortune to train with Tuhon William McGrath in N.Y.C. where he taught classes beginning in 1992. A few of us were invited to train at Tuhon McGrath’s home, where the training was intense, with the main focus on material contained in the “Blue Book” (PTI test book). We learned the forms, worked them into effective applications, used sparring as a tool to see what worked with full contact. He drove us hard, demanded excellence, and accepted nothing less. His standards on testing and promotions always remained high. We paid with sweat, bruises, blood, sprains and calluses … the rewards were new technique.

Tuhon Bill McGrath was always giving in both technique and encouragement, never holding back as we went from page through page in the “Blue Book”, and for this he has my utmost admiration and respect.

I now teach Pekiti Tirsia six days a week on Long Island, N.Y., and am very proud of my students, who through dedication and hard work, have risen through the ranks to become Guro’s and Mataas Na Guro’s, finishing the entire system, and are now in turn, teaching Pekiti Tirsia and helping others to become Certified Instructors, Guro’s, and Mataas Na Guro’s.

I admire and respect Tuhon Bill McGrath for all the years of dedication he has given to Pekiti Tirsia, seeing to its continuance and growth. I hope I can show him that respect by passing on the Pekiti Tirsia system to my students, and have them pass it on to their students.


Tuhon Michael Popolizio

Louisiana Director: Dan Terrell


North Carolina Director: PTI Mataas na Guro Zach Whitson

Telephone: (423)768-2093

(left to right) Zach Whitson, Bill McGrath and Zach’s top student Jerry McCleary on the occasion of Zach and Jerry’s promotion to PTI Certified Trainers in Solo Baston Seguidas in December of 1999.

Zach began his martial arts training in 1975 and has cross-trained in a myriad of martial arts systems. Some of Zach’s experience includes Ishin Ryu Karate, Tae Kwon Do, Sib Pal Gee Korean Kung Fu, Wing Chun Gung Fu, American Kick Boxing, Tracy Kenpo, Yang Style Tai Chi Chuan and Brazilian Jujitsu. In 1986 Zach began studying Ed Parker’s Kenpo Karate with Richard “Huk” Planas and currently holds the rank of Professor, (Sixth Degree Black Belt) under Master Planas. Zach began training in Pekiti-Tirsia Kali in 1990 and currently holds the rank of Mataas na Guro under Tuhon William McGrath. In 1993 Zach was awarded the Planas System Patch signifying that he had completed the Kenpo System as taught by Master Planas. Zach is a member of the Board of Directors for the Chinese Karate Federation and serves as the North Carolina State Director of Pekiti-Tirsia International.

Zach developed a training method for Kenpo called “Kenpo Counterpoint“. The method is used to develop spontaneity in Kenpoist. Because of his extensive knowledge of weapons many people from law enforcement also seek Zach’s instruction in the use of empty hands, stick and knife. Zach is known in Kenpo circles to be an innovative instructor that brings new dimension to Kenpo training. In Pekiti-Tirsia circles Zach is known for his thorough understanding of the system. His understanding of both empty hands and weapons tactics make him a sought after instructor at seminars and camps.

South Carolina Director: Mataas na Guro Chris Ash

Website: Ocean Martial Arts Academy
Myrtle Beach, S.C.
Telephone: (843)497-3691

(Left to right) Tuhon McGrath, S.C. Director Guro Chris Ash and N.C. Director Guro Zach Whitson

Guro Chris Ash is the head instructor and founder of the Ocean Martial Arts Academy in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina.

I began my martial arts training in New Jersey in 1967 in Shotokan Karate. In 1970 thru 1976 studied Judo and Wrestling and then Thai Boxing up to 1978. In 1978 I began studying the art of Tang Soo Do Moo Duk Kwan, a Korean style of karate. Received a 4th Dan Black Belt ranking and later a Master Belt in that style. In 1980 I entered Chiropractic School in Spartanburg, South Carolina. While there I began training in Wing Chun Kung Fu under Dr Bill Wong.

While going to Chiropractic school, I taught and trained in Tang Soo Do under Grand Master Sun Duk Cho. After graduating Chiropractic school I move to Myrtle Beach, SC. and open my first martial arts academy.

Still feeling like I hadn’t really found what I was looking for in a martial art system. I began looking at other styles. I even traveled throughout Southeast Asia looking for that one style that would excite me. Like a surfer looking for the perfect wave, I was searching the planet for the perfect art. I traveled throughout Korea, Thailand, Hong Kong, Taiwan, China, Japan, Singapore and Indonesia looking for that perfect system that would fit me. A system with good empty hands, edged weapons, and movements that used natural body mechanics. It had to have “flow” and it had to be a system that could compete in any range of fighting.

Finally in 1993 something great happened, while working for an instructor apprenticeship in Wing Chun, under Sifu Francis Fong out of Atlanta Georgia, I was introduced to JKD. Guro Dan Inosanto was there to teach the JKD seminar. Knowing that Guro Dan Inosanto is a living legend in the martial arts community, I was totally attuned to everything that this man had to say. After that weekend of training with Guro Dan Inosanto, I realized that I was close to finding what I’d been searching for in a style.

It wasn’t until 1995 when I met my friend Jack, during a dinner break, at a JKD seminar in New York, that I got my first glimpse of Pekiti-Tirsia. While at the dinner table, Jack whom I’d just met, was sitting next to me grabbing his sides, one side, then the other, and then both. I thought the guy had fleas or something. I said, “What are you doing?” Jack said, “I’m doing a Pekiti drill, I’m practicing knife pulls.” Then Jack went into explaining Pekiti-Tirsia. Also that evening, Jack shared a few Pekiti-Tirsia stories with us. I left the dinner table that night thinking ‘who are these Pekiti-Tirsia guys?’

Then later that year, while attending a Dan Inosanto Seminar, Guro Dan started demonstrating some Pekiti-Tirsia techniques. Little did I know at the time, that Guro Dan is the North America Director for Pekiti-Tirsia International and holds the rank of Magino’o (Elder); one of only three men to have been given this rank by Grand Tuhon Leo T. Gaje. It was during this seminar that Guro Dan said, “If you really want to learn a really good system of Kali in its entirety, you need to go to Tuhon Bill McGrath of Pekiti-Tirsia International”. That was all I needed. If Dan Inosanto said that Bill McGrath is the one, then that was enough convincing for me. After a phone call to Tuhon McGrath and spending a week training with him at his first Pekiti-Tirsia International summer camp (oh, and by the way, the rumors are true that when you train with Tuhon you do go from sunrise to midnight.) I was thoroughly convinced that the Pekiti-Tirsia system of Kali had in it everything that I could want in a martial art system.

Today, I am certified as a Mataas na Guro (Master Instructor) in Pekiti-Tirsia under Pekiti-Tirsia International. My Ocean Martial Arts Academy offers an entire curriculum just in Pekiti-Tirsia. I continue to teach Tang Soo Do Karate to children, and teach a cardio boxing class to adults. Also, I host a spring Beach Seminar in Pekiti-Tirsia taught by PTI instructors. If you would like to be notified of the next Pekiti-Tirsia Beach Seminar you could reach me with the contact information.