Sunday mornings in Goa are synonymous with hangovers, sleeping in or perhaps lazing by the beach. Ours, however, is a little different. The alarm rings at 6 am. Listless, we drag ourselves out of bed, and after a hurried breakfast, head for our Airbnb Experience of the day — Urban Survival Workshop.
We navigate our way to Moira village, past lazy cows, playful puppies, slow-moving two-wheelers and joggers, till we are lost. After a few phone calls, we find Light Haven, the martial arts school tucked away amidst greenery, far from the busy narrow streets. It’s the last house on the left; beyond it lies a trail that leads to nowhere. And standing dramatically in the middle of that path is our trainer Aditya Roy.
He doesn’t look like a typical martial arts teacher. Instead, he has the vibe of someone who might just break into a Bollywood song and dance. Handing us each a wooden stick (designed to look like a blunt knife) and bottle of water, he leads us to the practice area.
The blade wins
“This is a three-hour workshop. Keep sipping on water and stay awake,” announces Aditya, seeing a few of us yawn.
“Pekiti Tirsia Kali is an indigenous Filipino martial art based on the use of the blade. It is the fighting style of the Tortal family from the Philippines and its current guardian and head is Grand Tuhon Leo T Gaje Jr,” he explains.
The way you use the sword is the same way you use the hand, adds Aditya, who was always fascinated by the sword, especially after reading about King Arthur and Excalibur.
Kicks and glory (Top left) Aditya Roy and (left) a class in progress
He was introduced to the art form by Shifu Kanishka Sharma who had trained in the Philippines. “Pekiti Tirsia Kali was brought to India by Kanishka. Currently, he and I are the only two instructors authorised to teach in this country,” he adds. Aditya too trained in the Philippines and visits every year to learn new facets of this martial art. He believes it has given him more confidence.
“In Pekiti Tirsia we fight to test ourselves. There are no winners, no referees, no televised broadcast of our fights. We fight to test our knowledge and skills against an actively resisting opponent. But at the end of the fight, we are one big family. This has been great for me because it gives me the chance to test what I know and what I teach.”
Thirty minutes into our class, we are wide awake, alert and throwing punches in between defending a few. “This is taught to elite law enforcement and military personnel across continents. It is instantly applicable and unapologetically effective. This is why it is one of the best choices for anyone seeking to learn how to defend themselves,” says Aditya, who has been teaching this for the last four years.
The workshop is divided into three sections. In the first 60 minutes, we are taught seven basic strikes that can be done with or without a weapon. We are given pens; the idea is to understand that anything can be used as an improvised weapon, using these same strikes. These strikes target what he refers to as ‘soft targets’: eyes, nose, ears, chin, throat and groin.
In the second hour, Aditya pairs us up and takes us through flow drills, making us practise each at least five times. And finally, we put together everything learnt and try out some scenario-based training. “This section illustrates how the same principles can apply to multiple situations,” he says.
Aditya feels that most self-defence workshops teach tricks to get out of a bad position. Often, these require many steps to pull it off successfully.
“No man is going to grab your hand and just stand there waiting for you to do that lock you learnt in a class you attended three months ago. Neither are you going to remember those steps in a high-pressure situation. Simple things, done simply at the right time win fights. Winning on the street is not beating up five guys. It is surviving, and going home to your family,” he says.
The three-hour experience costs ₹1,200 per head. For details, log onto airbnb.co.in
(The writer was in Goa on invitation of Airbnb)