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PART 1: Maori to Martial Arts Master: Q&A Jared Wihongi

Updated: Nov 15, 2023

Q&A Jared Wihongi
Q&A Jared Wihongi

Jared Wihongi is a full-time International Close-Quarters Combat (CQC) Instructor. His TRICOM combatives system is an integration of empty-hand combat, impact weapons, edged weapons and firearms tactics. Jared has trained in multiple traditional martial arts for 40 years, and is a senior Tuhon of Pekiti-Tirsia Kali under Grandtuhon Leo T. Gaje Jr. He is the founder and President of the Pekiti Tirsia Tactical Association.

Jared worked 23 years as a Police Officer and Operator on three SWAT Teams, and was contracted as a U.S. Army Special Forces Combatives Instructor for almost two decades. These experiences heavily influenced his training programs. He has taught his TRICOM programs to police and military Special Operations personnel and civilian martial artists across North & South America, Western & Eastern Europe, East & Southeast Asia, Australasia and the Middle East.

We talked with Jared about all things tactical, combat, self-defense and more

Q&A Jared Wihongi
Q&A Jared Wihongi

Traditional martial arts are very different from tactical, especially in law enforcement or military training, yet you have successfully bridged a gap between the Filipino martial arts and real-life training. Did you have to make modifications or did the art lend itself easily to those tactical situations?

There were indeed many modifications that I needed to make in order to make the traditional arts more appropriate for the tactical world. The major modifications were made to methodology. Compared to a traditional martial artist who often dedicates a lot of time and energy to their training, most police/ military operators have extremely limited training time. Therefore the "wax-on wax-off" evolutions of training need to be replaced with a more direct approach to training, drills and application. I went through a lot of trial and error over several years refining this methodology, and I still make tweaks here and there as I continually evolve and improve. In addition to methodology, material needs to be refined down to a narrow scope of techniques and tactics. Priority is given to those that lend best to achieving two goals: Retainability and Functionality. Considering that training time is limited and the fact that most police/ military do not train on a regular basis, priority is given to techniques and tactics that are easiest to learn and retain. However they cannot be so simple that they are impractical. Simple yet functional techniques are also prioritized, with as much focus on gross-motor skills and techniques as possible. Emphasis is placed largely on universal combat principles that can be applied to multiple situations. I have core programs that are taught first, then additional material that can be added as time permits. All programs are designed to address priorities and probabilities.

You were an early adopter to FMA, take us back to the early days of training under Leo Gaje and share that experience with us?

After living in the Philippines for two years (1994-1996) I went on an exploration of the FMA that eventually let me to Grand Tuhon Leo T. Gaje Jr. I quickly recognized his art was different and became a student. In addition to his charismatic personality, his art of Pekiti Tirsia Kali had a lot of breadth and depth that attracted me. Several subsystems of training that went extremely deep. His training methodology was very physical and often brutal. It wasn't uncommon to just spend hours repeating thousands of strikes on a stack of tires. These exercises were designed to test his students both mentally and physically. His focus on the fundamentals of skill taught me a lot as a student that helped me in my law enforcement career and development of programs. I learned that a mastery of the fundamentals is what wins fights, and not the number of techniques or drills you may have collected. At the time that I started training with Grand Tuhon he was focused on developing fighters, and not just academics. He was also heavily involved with training police and military special units in the Philippines where I assisted him on multiple occasions. This helped immensely as I developed my own tactical programs.

Q&A Jared Wihongi
Q&A Jared Wihongi

Is there a training difference between law enforcement and military and can you share some of the basics with us?

The primary differences in training law enforcement and military lie in their primary "mission" and their ROE (rules of engagement.) The mission of a police officer - for example - may be to take a subject into custody as safely as possible, or to protect members of the public. There are certain rules that he must follow in order to accomplish that. The main ones involved the laws that govern their use of force (both local and Federal) and their departmental policy and procedure with regards to escalation and deescalation of force. A military operator on the other hand may have different mission that differs based on their unit. Sometimes with FID (Foreign Internal Defense) it may indeed involved the training of local law enforcement. In other Direct Action type missions it may be merely to eliminate enemy combatants and survive in a CQB (Close Quarters Battle) environment. Rules of Engagement for a particular mission may dictate what levels of force and what kinds of weaponry may or may not be allowable and appropriate. The other major consideration might be the type of equipment available to a police officer (for example tasers and batons) versus a military operator.

You have had training in various striking grappling and weapons-based martial arts from around the world specific to street self-defense. What style have you found most effective?

To be specific with my answer, some arts I have found to be most effective for the purposes of law enforcement and military training. While I've been successful in blending strengths of various martial arts into my TRICOM training program, if I had to choose an art that I've found most beneficial it would be Pekiti Tirsia Kali. It is really the core of my programs that is able to bring the strengths of other arts together. Kali involves the use of weapons, counter-weapon tactics, striking using all 4 limbs, join manipulations, takedowns and controls. I've found the weapon tactics directly applicable to even firearms tactics at extreme close-quarters. As a multi-dimensional art, it builds a strong core that I can use to combine the strengths of other striking and grappling arts. Weapons/Counter-Weapons, Striking and Grappling are the three parts of the TRICOM program (Triangle Combatives.)

Q&A Jared Wihongi
Q&A Jared Wihongi

We see you handle guns, knives, and empty hand close quarter situations. Do you have a preference for a particular art or style when dealing with close quarter combat?

I've tried to find compatible techniques and tactics among the various arts that I've trained, and this has made it easier to assimilate them into one cohesive program. Pekiti Tirsia Kali is the core of the tactics I teach and train, so the art that I would say I have preference to. I use this art to move seamlessly between ranges and weapon systems, but have no problem with transitioning - for example - to a technique I've learned from Braziliain Jiu Jitsu or Wrestling when I've moved into a clinch or ground based range/ position. To enhance close quarter striking capability, I might use a drill or methodology gleaned from an art such as Muay Thai.

Switching from one style to another, such as Kali where it's standing with a weapon to empty hand fighting or firearms how do you separate or manage the instincts?

There's a principle in the FMA that is often referred to as the "elasticity of ranges." What it refers to is the defining of various ranges of combat, and the subsequent isolation and training in those ranges. Learning how to fight effectively from various ranges including firearms distances all the way into ground fighting, and then training to move seamlessly between those ranges like elastic, just stretching and conforming to ranges without any defined lines. It's the methodology of Kali that has really helped me to adapt to this dynamic.

In many ways your approach to Tactical training is like mixed martial arts as you are blending multiple Styles together to create the most effective platform. How do you see changes in the way that you teach today, let's say even 10 or 20 years ago?

It was actually 19 years ago that I started developing one of my TRICOM training modules called CQ-FIT (Close Quarter Force Integration Tactics.) After recognizing that most officer involved shootings were happening inside of arms-reach, with most involving some kind of hand-to-hand struggle, I saw a lack in training and programs that addressed this dynamic. Close quarter assaults with edged weapons, impact weapons or firearms often necessitated some kind of empty-hand defense by an officer as he fought his way to his sidearm. Hence the integration of force in a situation that addressed all of these weapons and dynamics. It was then that I coined the principle of "Self Preservation before Weapon Presentation." Self-preservation when dealing with a close-quarter lethal force threat meant training in empty-hand tactics. At that time there were very few - if any - programs teaching this full integration or mix or martial arts. Today there are several instructors that I 've seen addressing these dynamics, which is refreshing to see.

For many martial arts training is a long journey of many years to master. But law enforcement and the military don't have years when going through camps or academies. How does this short period that you might spend with them as a trainer, affect or influence your approach when you have limited TIME?

While I addressed this in my answer to the first question, there are a few guiding principles that I would add. First is the idea of priorities and probabilities. I will address high probability factors such as:

1. The fact that most of the public are right handed.

2. The most common kinds of attacks, whether empty-handed or armed.

3. We then give priority to the highest probability techniques and tactics to address those high probability attacks.

4. As time permits, we can work down the line of probability and address the most common variables. For example, it might be a left handed attack, or the most common types of resistance to a specific technique that could make it fail.

5. All with the intend of most effectively enhancing the probability of being successful in completing the student's mission, whatever that might be. It could be taking a subject into custody, or simply surviving a violent encounter.

For more about Jared, visit: for TRICOM programs. for Kali programs. for personal Bio

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