GRAND TUHON LEO T. GAJE JR. Leopoldo Tortal Gaje, Jr. is the Supreme Grandmaster of the Pekiti-Tirsia Kali System. Originally taught to him by his grandfather, Grand Tuhon Conrado Tortal, to protect the family land, Tuhon received his inheritance, not of money, but of knowledge. Moving to the USA in 1972 from his home in Bacolod City, Negros Occidental, Philippines, it was not Tuhon Gaje’s intention to teach. But after discovering how much more effective his tactics were, by providing martial arts instruction to a group of children, Tuhon Gaje opened his formerly secret family martial art to the world with a growing desire to share the beauty and effectiveness of his art and culture.
Highly motivated with each success, Tuhon Gaje soon became a pioneer teaching authentic Kali to a variety of enthusiasts in the both the USA and Europe, where he introduced full contact stick fighting to the Filipino Martial Arts community as well as a higher standard of performance. During his passionate work and many years of promoting the Filipino Martial Arts, he has been featured on the covers of a variety of popular magazines such as Inside Kung Fu and Official Karate Magazine. Furthermore, he was is awarded membership in the Martial Arts Hall of Fame in 1987 and the Karate Hall of Fame 1988 as the only non-Karate member.
Pushing himself to make a greater impact on the community, Tuhon Gaje revolutionized the training methods of U.S. Law Enforcement. He soon became internationally known for his work as technical advisor and in the 1988 video “Surviving Edged Weapons,” reviewed as “the finest law enforcement training video ever made.”
Dr. Kevin Parsons, National Training Director for the Justice System Training Association and the United States Police Defensive Tactics Training Association, stated, “The techniques of Leo Gaje have revolutionized the use of force.” He also said of Tuhon Gaje’s teachings, “These tactical training programs are the most progressive, effective and advanced methods for the application of intermediate force, liability reduction and officer survival available to the law enforcement community today”.
Tuhon Gaje developed the Safety Baton System and the Edged Weapon Awareness / Strategic Knife Defense programs from traditional Kali to better serve Law enforcement needs resulting in a great improvement in officer performance and departmental liability reduction.
Further promoting the art of Kali and serving the community, Tuhon Gaje also developed training programs appropriate for military use. He institutionalized Pekiti Tirsia as the official combatives program for the Philippine Marine Corps and Special Action Force of the Philippine National Police. He developed even more training programs for a variety of security, law enforcement and military departments in the Philippines. His efforts spread outside the Philippines as Tuhon Gaje has introduced Kali to the U.S. Marines and Navy as well as a variety of special forces and VIP / presidential protective details in Asia, Europe and the USA.
Today, Tuhon Gaje continues to spread his art of Pekiti Tirsia both to students of traditional Kali as well as the Personal Security, Law Enforcement and Military community for the benefit of all those involved. Philippine President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo has given special recognition to Tuhon Gaje for exemplary achievement for the worldwide propagation of Pekiti-Tirsia and the indigenous Filipino Martial Arts.
Learning from Tuhon Leo T. Gaje Jr.
Tuhon Gaje emphasizes the Philosophy of Kali so students benefit from both the physical strengthening as well as the positive mental development, confidence and empowerment learned from Kali. By following the Philosophy of Life he teaches, one applies logic, reasoning and judgment to his own development and thereby takes responsibility for his own growth. Using the Thought Provoking Process, a method based on Filipino culture, Tuhon Gaje encourages the student to develop his critical thinking and evaluation skills by leaving certain questions unanswered and guiding the student to discover the solutions. Students initially apply these skills to the martial arts, but once one begins to learn, then the skills become a part of everyday life.
Tuhon Gaje’s contributions to the art include organizing Pekiti Tirsia so that learning is easier. He compartmentalized methods so relative techniques and strategies could be more easily isolated and practiced then assimilated back into the whole system. He also renewed teaching methods to be more effective. No longer do students have to learn solely by the “wisdom of pain,” wherein one is pounded during training until finding an escape or counter. That is the old way from his early years, and by itself, is not appropriate for many. Also, Tuhon Gaje has greatly developed the intellectual understanding of the art and reputation of quality by developing effective methods to communicate the principles of Kali.
When it comes to training with Tuhon, application is the key. In combat with edged weapons, “A mistake is a blunder,” resulting in death so Kali is an “art of perfection.” One trains footwork, body mechanics and striking methods for coordination. One is taught to flow, bridging movements and techniques and responding to attacks by reaction conditioning. It is from this flow that advanced training begins and application is learned “blow by blow.” Techniques and their counters are learned during the flow of movements by testing their function on the fly. A sense of adaptability is developed which fine-tunes the mental acuity and response time of a student. Attacks are varied and techniques are performed differently in order to prepare the student to apply his principles to something previously unstudied. Learning becomes streamlined and the absorption of new tactics and strategies becomes quick. A new technique becomes reaction and function immediately.
Ultimately, the motivation and support Tuhon Gaje imparts to his students has in the past and will in the future continue to take them to new levels of success and performance beyond what once seemed possible. Training personally with Tuhon Gaje is indeed an inspiring and challenging experience.