GRANDMASTER GURU ANTHONY DAVIS
AN INTERVIEW WITH GRANDMASTER
by Ronald Ruppin
( Part One )
This interview is reprinted from the book titled: The Legacy of Grandmaster Angel Cabales; Serrada Escrima Explosive Empty Hand Fighting; by Anthony Davis with Leo T. Fong. Additionally, as the book was published in 1999, some of the questions and answers in the interview have been updated for this blog.
Q: Grandmaster Davis, you look rather young to be a Grandmaster, just how long have you been involved in the field of martial arts?
AD: Currently, I am forty-nine years old, and I've been involved in martial arts for over 30 years.
Q: Of the many styles of martial arts you have studied, which style or styles do you prefer the most?
AD: There are three styles of martial arts that have worked well for me after many years of training; these are Tai Chi Chuan, Western Boxing, and Serrada Escrima.
Q: Why do you prefer these three particular styles of martial arts?
AD: One of the first principles that I learned from Tai Chi Chuan is the value of relaxation. By being more relaxed I am able to execute faster strikes. Western Boxing fine-tuned my hand reflexes and footwork. And most importantly Boxing helped to increase my stamina. Serrada Escrima is the bread and butter of my art of fighting. The effectiveness of Serrada Escrima lies within its simplicity of application. Whether or not a person uses weapons or their barehands, Serrada Escrima can be a vital asset to anyone's system of combat.
Q: Who were your instructors of the three styles of martial arts that you just mentioned?
AD: My Tai Chi Chuan teacher was the late Wu Shing Tai Chi Chuan founder and Grandmaster John K.Wong. My boxing coach and current trainer is a former champion boxer from Mexico City by the name of Jesus Lopez Sr. My Serrada Escrima instructor was the late legendary stick and knife fighter Great Grandmaster Angel O. Cabales.
Q: Grandmaster Davis, of all of the teachers that you have trained under, GGM Angel Cabales is by far the most famous of them all, when and where did you first meet him?
AD: I first met GGM Angel Cabales in 1984 in San Francisco, California. I had organized and scheduled a special Filipino martial arts seminar featuring world renowned " Jeet Kune Do/Kali " Guro Dan Inosanto. Due to illness, Mr. Inosanto was unable to attend the seminar. After a considerable amount of panic upon my part, I was able to obtain from GM Rene Latosa the telephone numbers of the late Jiu Jitsu/Escrima Grandmaster Gilbert Tenio, Bahala Na Grandmaster Leo Giron, and GGM Angel Cabales. GGM Angel Cabales was the primary Escrima instructor of three of Bruce Lee's top students, Prof. Leo T. Fong, Guro Dan Inosanto, and GM Richard Bustillo. The late Escrima Master Ted Lucaylucay had also received his Advanced Serrada Escrima certificate from GGM Angel Cabales as well. The seminar took place as planned and it was an overwhelming sucess. Additionally, Grandmaster Gilbert Tenio along with his assistant instructor GM John Eliab co-starred with GGM Angel Cabales at this same event making this affair a unique part of martial arts history.
Q: Besides having been a private student of GGM Angel Cabales, in what other capacities did you work with him?
AD: My special agreement with GGM Angel Cabales centered around me promoting him and his art of Serrada Escrima to the fullest of my capabilities. In return, GGM Angel Cabales agreed to teach me privately as much as he could about his system of Escrima.
Q: Grandmaster Davis, it seems that after GGM Angel Cabales died on March 3, 1991, a lot of old and new faces have surfaced. Also, I have noticed that all of these old and new personalities claim that they are teaching the pure art of GGM Cabales' style of Escrima. How do you feel about some of these people and the claims that they are making and have made?
AD: In my opinion there is no such thing as a pure anything. Even GGM Angel Cabales told me many times that he changed a lot of the information about Escrima that he had learned from his teacher Grand Guru Felicisimo Dizon. GGM Cabales said that he did this because there were numerous combative tactics that Dizon could perform that he could not perform, so in order to compensate for what he could not emulate from the old " Wizard ", GGM Cabales created new innovations that worked well for him. Thus, is why GGM Cabales coined his style of fighting the " Cabales Serrada System of Escrima ". Serrada or (Cerrado) is a Spanish word which means "to close". Escrima is a French word which means "to skirmish".
Q: About four decades have already passed since GGM Angel Cabales opened the first official Filipino martial arts academy in America in 1966, in Stockton, California. Did GGM Angel Cabales ever have any discussions with you concerning any of his first generation students such as; Mangisursuro Mike G. Inay, Grandmaster Dentoy Revillar, Guro Dan Inosanto, GM Rene Latosa, GM Leo Giron, Master Jimmy Tacosa and others?
AD: Yes he did. Basically, GGM Angel Cabales always spoke ninety-five percent positive about all of his former students. Even though some of his old school students had broken away from him and formulated their own Escrima organizations, GGM Cabales never really put any of them down. In my latter years I have come to realize that GGM Cabales had firmly established a personal bond with each and every one of his former students; as he had with me, and he inwardly knew that all of his graduate instructors would continue to represent him in their own individual ways. GGM Angel Cabales always beamed with pride whenever he talked about any of his students. However, whatever disgruntlements GGM Angel Cabales may have had with any of his students, he never voiced them too publicly. GGM Angel Cabales was a genuine gentleman, and a very seasoned fighter as well. If GGM Cabales did have anything to say to you he would confront you face to face if he could. This is what I really admired the most about GGM Angel Cabales, he was not the type of a person that would stab you in the back.
Q: Grandmaster Davis, I understand that you were one of the second persons that introduced GGM Angel Cabales' style of Escrima into various parts of Europe?
AD: This is true. The first Serrada Escrima student to introduce Cabales' Escrima style into Germany was GM Rene Latosa. In 1989, GGM Angel Cabales and I decided that it was about time to take his art of Escrima into the international market. So together we devised a master plan to first re-plant the seeds of his fighting style in Berlin, Germany. As I was born in Augsburg, Germany, I was pretty sure that I could firmly establish his art form there. So in 1990, I flew alone to Berlin, Germany specifically for this purpose. Once in Germany I began the first steps of constructing an international base on behalf of the Cabales Serrada System of Escrima. Once I had settled into Germany, I literally taught Serrada Escrima as a guest instructor at several German and Turkish martial arts academies. None of the schools in Berlin, Germany had ever been exposed to Serrada Escrima before, and it was a laborious and a monumental task establishing Serrada Escrima at many of these schools. I had to literally engage in numerous street battles in order to convince the German and Turkish martial artists that the art and science of Serrada Escrima was no joke and that it really does work. Additionally, I went on to establish Serrada Escrima outlets in Switzerland and in the country of Turkey as well.
Grandmaster Guru Anthony Davis ( Part Two )
( Part Two )
Q: Grandmaster Davis, I understand that you are not only a great and talented martial artist, but, I have also found out that you are an extremely gifted writer as well.
AD: Well to tell you the truth, I have been writing since I was 13 years old. I hand printed my very first book. The name of the book is titled:The Dawn Of Man. The book is a take off story about the famous anthropologist Dr. Leakey, and is about some of the ancient human discoveries of early man that he made in Africa.
Q: Wow! thats amazing that you wrote a book at such a young age. Can you present to the readers of this interview one of your published articles so that we can get an idea about your particular style of writing.
AD: I'd be more than happy to share one of my latest articles that was published in the 'August 2004 edition of Inside Kung Fu Magazine'.
LESSONS FROM ANGEL; " Learning from the great
Angel Cabales involved much more than fighting technique."
by Anthony Davis
This article is dedicated to the memory of the late escrimador Grandmaster Angel Cabales, whose pioneering efforts were responsible for introducing the Filipino art of combat known as Serrada Escrima to the Western world in 1966. Those fortunate enough to have trained with Cabales discovered his simple, but yet profound approach toward close-quarter combat. On the surface the different techniques that Cabales devised and perfected look simple and basic, but in practice his movements reflect depth and emotional content. Not only is the Angel Cabales Serrada System of Escrima a practical, spiritual and scientific system of combat, it is also an adaptable combat system as well. In his younger days, Cabales engaged in many fights, some of which were life-and-death encounters. The fact that Cabales survived his combat skirmishes is a testimony to the effectiveness of his approach.
Serrada Escrima is not only based upon technique, but also, on theories and, concepts that were developed and refined through the years by Cabales himself. Cabales learned the rudimentary foundation of the Filipino art of escrima from his mentor Felicisimo Dizon. I began studying Serrada Escrima in 1984 in Stockton, California. With several years of genuine combat experience under my belt, I knew that after having witnessed Cabales in action he was indeed a genuine weapons master. Cabales said to me that his intentions were not to inflict on me his style of martial arts, but rather to show me things that I could use to make my style of martial arts better. Cabales also said, "Any student whose primary focus is to be a carbon copy of his teacher is doing themselves a great disservice. No one can be exactly like the teacher and still retain their own personal identity." In essence, the Cabales Serrada System of Escrima was designed as a method of self-transformation of the soul. In this hands-on learning system, Cabales called the highest level of attainment " presence of mind " or spontaneous intelligent reaction. When a person is seriously engaged in close-quarter combat, there is no time for thinking, feeling, choosing or judging what is occuring from moment to moment. Here's how Cabales described it:
On June 3, 1990, I traveled to Cabales' home to conduct an interview. Although I had spoken to Cabales many times about his style, I was always reluctant to ask him about his death matches. Cabales told me that escrima death matches were an integral part of the ancient warrior traditions of the Philippines. " To willfully test one's skills in an actual match to the death is the ultimate test of true skill and courage, " he noted. Cabales added, " Whenever you are engaged in mortal combat you must forget about all of the antics of your opponent. One must not worry about things like how big or strong or how great your opponent's reputation is. One must remain calm but as alert as possible and strike the enemy down with accuracy, certainty and power. "
Cabales insisted that to survive in any life or death encounter, you have to bypass all negative and positive conflictualities. Any type of conflictuality constricts the natural flow or " presence of mind." Freezing in the midst of a life or death encounter can be fatal. It is only in a natural state of mind that one can effectively defend himself against myriad of attacks. Cabales taught me that obtaining high levels of rank or degrees should never be the primary focus of a martial arts aspirant. Instead, a practitioner should focus upon the metaphysical ingredients that lie behind all of the external formulas for fighting. According to Angel, no level of rank could ever equate with the raw courage and skill that is latent within the hearts and minds of every human being. A real warrior works from a position of practicality, and begins the process of becoming a master craftsman by using whatever personality he has at the time.
To Angel Cabales, befriending and assisting a person with the elevation of their mind was his greatest and highest achievement award in his life.The Cabales Serrada System of Escrima was designed for thinkers and for all those who are seeking a supreme martial arts lifestyle. The art of escrima as developed by Grandmaster Angel Cabales entails many aspects of the art of combat. " In order to make my art of Serrada Escrima serve the present time, we only have to assemble or reassemble my art into its fullest dimension scientifically, and then my students have to bring to life my art of escrima and then make it there own," Cabales suggested. Angel stated that his style of fighting could not fail him in any combative encounter. In Angel's mind his art could never fail him because he always thought in a positivistic way.
The Serrada System of Escrima as taught by Angel Cabales was very people oriented. Cabales was not only the first escrima master to open an escrima academy in America, he was also amongst one of the first Filipino masters to teach outside of his race. Finally, Angel Cabales believed in the eternal goodness of man. Even when the usurers were closing in on him, he still had faith in the Serrada Escrima system. After more than 21 years of practicing and promoting the Serrada Escrima System of martial arts; I still discover hidden clues that unearth some of the deepest secrets of the Angel Cabales Serrada System of Escrima. It's these energy-releasing secrets that continue to propel me upon an " Endless Journey " of self-discovery.
RP: " Thank you very much for sharing this story with our readership Grandmaster Guru Anthony Davis. The article that you wrote for ' Inside Kung Fu Magazine ' certaintly serves to reveal some of the very intricate insights into the mindset of the late Great Grandmaster Angel Cabales.
AD: You are most welcome!
Grandmaster Guru Anthony Davis ( Part Three )
ANGEL CABALES' LAST PERSONAL INTERVIEW
by Anthony Davis
( Part Three )
Prior to his death in 1991, Grandmaster Guru Anthony Davis conducted this last personal interview with GGM Angel Cabales at his home in Stockton, California. This interview will give to you the reader a more profound glimpse into the mind of Great Grandmaster Angel Cabales.
Anthony Davis: Grandmaster Cabales, how long have you been teaching Escrima in America; as well as in the Philippines?
Angel Cabales: Since 1936, I have taught some of my friends in the Philippines, and in this country, I started teaching Ecrima in 1966. But! unofficially I began teaching in America in 1965 before I opened my first academy.
AD: It appears that you were also one of the first martial arts entrepreneurs of this time period. For one, you held a business license along with a commercial studio as well.
AC: Yea, that's right.
AD: Has Escrima changed that much from the past as far as what you see today?
AC: No! not concerning my style, it's the same.
AD: I know that some styles of Filipino martial arts have different strikes or numbers. How many numbers does your style have?
AC: The serrada style as I teach it has twelve numbers.
AD: The word Serrada means close?
AC: Yes, it means close.
AD: Is Serrada a style that that you learned yourself?
AC: I originally learned Escrima from Felicisimo Dizon of the Philippines.
AD: How many numbers did Dizon know?
AC: Twelve, but he also knew an additional twenty-one numbers.
AD: So, in 1966 you had some pretty famous students didn't you?
AC: Oh yea! just like Dan Inosanto, Richard Bustillo, Mike Inay, Jimmy Tacosa, Leo Fong, and lots of others.
AD: So you definitely did have a lot to do with Dan Inosanto's training and Richard Bustillo's training during those formative years?
AC: Yes I did.
AD: Because Inosanto and Bruce Lee were so close, I can only imagine that Dan Inosanto taught Bruce Lee some of your stick fighting method?
AC: Yes he did, because when Bruce Lee left for Hong Kong, Dan Inosanto and Richard Bustillo were still my students, and at that time Bruce Lee was still living in Los Angeles.
AD: What year was that?
AC: That was in 1970, and 1971.
AD: That was right about the time that Dan Inosanto began to popularize Filipino martial arts?
AC: Right! it was during that time , and since that time when I first opened my academy on 136 East Harding Way, in Stockton, California, until now I'm still teaching.
AD: I've heard people refer to you as the " Father of Escrima " in this country?
AC: This is true, and I feel that I deserve this title because during the 1960's, there were no Filipino's teaching the Filipino martial arts to the public, just me.
AD: And at that time period Escrima was literally unknown, Kung Fu, Karate and Judo were the arts more popular at that time?
AC: Escrima was taught before the 1960's, but not to the general public. It was taught only in workcamps or in the backyards, but never to the general public.
AD: Do you look at Escrima as more of a sport discipline, or more as for self-defense?
AC: See! Escrima is more for protecting your life, and is really for self-defense, but, you can convert it to a sport.
AD: What level of Escrima do you prefer the most?
AC: Well, the combat level, because concerning the word self-defense. Escrima is designed to save your life.
AD: Angel tell me about the actual Escrima matches you had in Stockton.
AC: Right! there are a lot of escrimadors here in Stockton. And many of them tried me, and they never won because their style's only consist of numbers one to three, or five, and my knowledge is from numbers one to twelve.
AD: So you had the upperhand on your opponents?
AC: Oh yea! because their knowledge is different and they did not know all of the targets; and especially the " Largo Mano " guys or long range fighters. I had already tangled with their style in the Philippines. So I was already familiar with their method of fighting.
AD: Angel, as I understand it, your system of Serrada Escrima was once a secret system, even in the Philippines?
AC: Yes! because it was a hidden art, and only certain people could learn it, like family and " close friends." Besides that, I was going to at first teach Serrada Escrima secretly, but a friend of mine Max Sarmiento persuaded me to officially represent the Filipino martial arts in America. It took me a long time before I was convinced to teach Serrada publicly.
AD: So! since that time Serrada has become very popular, and you have attracted some new celebrities such as Graciela Casillas?
AC: Yea! because when other Filipino stylist see the Serrada Escrima style, they don't care about their long stick methods anymore. So, people like Casillas see the effectiveness of the close-range system of Serrada, so they convert.
Note: This rare interview on Great Grandmaster Angel Cabales concludes the first half of his personal story. In ( Part Four ) of this up-close and candid interview on the Great Grandmaster, Angel Cabales will further discuss more about some of his combat secrets; and, he will furhter discuss more about his special connection to well known former Boxing and Kick/Boxing Champion, and Serrada Escrima Advanced Instructor Gura Graciela Casillas. For those who are interested in purchasing the visual and audio production of Great Grandmaster Angel Cabales; contact GM Anthony Davis at: email@example.com
Grandmaster Guru Anthony Davis ( Part Four )
" THE INDOMITABLE WARRIOR "
by Anthony Davis
( Part Four )
In ( Part Three ) it was mentioned that Graciela Casillas was one of Great Grandmaster Angel Cabales' Advanced Graduate Instructors. In (Part Four) we will further investigate the inner dynamics that went into play that brought the " Warrior Princess " into contact with the " Grand Old Master."
One of the primary reasons as to why a lot of people become fanatically involved in the study of martial arts is due to the superior level of self-imposed discipline, along with the physical flawlessness of mastery that can be attained by way of practicing martial arts. To witness a highly skilled and advanced martial artist in combative action, " Is to see poetry in motion ". The study and pratice of various forms of martial arts is one of the most effective ways to synchronize the mind, body, and the spirit into one harmonious unit.
When an initiate of martial arts is able to sucessfully combine these three ingredients into one harmonious accord, one will then have reached a superior state of mind in which the Buddhist call " Nirvana " or enlightment. When the state of nirvana has efficiently been messhed into the martial artist' mind, body and soul, the martial arts initiate then becomes " One'd or Yoked to the Supreme Being ".
Graciela Casillas is a prime example of an individual that has obtained this conscious state of mind or ' Nirvana.' A 1989 BLACK BELT HALL OF FAME INDUCTEE: ( WOMAN OF THE YEAR ), Graciela Casillas formally held the,
'WORLD KARATE ASSOCIATION BANTAMWEIGHT TITLE'. Undefeated with a fight record of 30-0, with 14 KO's to her credit, Graciela Casillas personifies the essence of a modern day " Princess Josephina." Additionally, Gura Casillas is the first woman to be promoted directly by GGM Angel Cabales to the 'Advanced Instructors Level' within the ' Cabales Serrada System of Escrima.'
I first met Gura Casillas at a time when she was still known as Graciela Casillas. In 1987 by way of Wing Chun Master William Henderson, I had the distinctive honor of personally meeting one of martial art's most illustrious fighter's of all time. As an experienced martial artist myself, and prior to meeting Gura Casillas, I was already familiar with her notorious fight record.
My primary attraction to Gura Casillas was due to the fact that I was aware that she had been extensively trained by the " Ubiquitous " Guro Dan Inosanto. As I had met Guro Inosanto, and GM Richard Bustillo as far back as 1980 at a " Jeet Kune Do/Kali " seminar in Ohio that I promoted and hosted; I figured that if Gura Casillas had trained in Filipino martial arts under Guro Inosanto's personalized tutelage, then she was definitely upon a blazing trail; as Guro Dan Inosanto himself had privately studied and gained his teacher's credentials directly from GGM Angel Cabales.
Gura Casillas' reputation as a ferocious combatant in the arena of martial arts, and also, in the world of boxing, is what ultimately led me to personally introduce her directly to GGM Angel Cabales. As I was one of GGM Cabales' personal assistants in the mid 1980's, part of my duties on behalf GGM Cabales was to bring him into contact with as many viable martial artists as possible. I guess you can say that I acted as GGM Angel Cabales' scout. I was also very instrumental in recommending other martial arts practitioners to GGM Cabales such as; Master Guru Lee Foster, Advanced Serrada Escrima Instructor Jeff Finder, Wing Chun Master Bill Henderson, Master Guro Cliff Stewart who met GGM Cabales by way of myself and Graciela Casillas. And of course there are other top martial artists whom I personally introduced to GGM Cabales as well, such as; Actor/Kung Fu Master Eric Lee, GM Taky Kubota's protege Master Jim Mather, former Boxing Champion Jesus Lopez Sr., and my 'Wu Shing Tai Chi Chuan' instructor Great Prof. John K. Wong.
GGM Angel Cabales was just as eager to meet Gura Casillas as she was to meet him. GGM Angel Cabales was an avid lover of boxing, and he felt deeply convicted within himself that he could impart to Gura Casillas the " Master Keys " that are the chief ingredients that underlies his style of Serrada Escrima.
Personally, I found Gura Casillas to be extremely meticulous and very studious. Observing Gura Casillas working out under GGM Angel Cabales' auspices was indeed " Poetry in motion ". As meticulous as Gura Casillas was in terms of her study of Serrada Escrima, is just as meticulous as GGM Angel Cabales was in helping her to "fine-tune" her Escrima skills.
On the day that Gura Graciela Casillas received her " Cabales Serrada Escrima Advanced Degree " from GGM Angel Cabales, there were several top notch martial arts dignitaries on hand to witness her graduation such as; Prof. Wally Jay, Cliff Stewart, Jimmy Tacosa, Sultan Uddin, David Mau, William Henderson, and myself. Gura Graciela Casillas' continuous pursuit toward " Supreme Excellence " is truly what qualifies her to be called the " Indomitable Warrior ".
Grandmaster Guru Anthony Davis ( Part Five )
ANGEL CABALES' LAST PERSONAL INTERVIEW
by Anthony Davis
( Part Five )
In (Part Five) titled " Angel Cabales' Last Personal Interview " GM Davis continues, and completes his journalistic interview on the late Great Grandmaster Angel Cabales. In this interview GGM Angel Cabales discusses with Anthony why he feels that his short stick method of Escrima is more superior than the " Largo Mano or long-hand style of Escrima." GGM Angel Cabales contends that no matter how long an escrimadors stick or blade might be, he states that he can still effectively counter them with a blade or stick no longer than 18 inches in length.
Anthony Davis: Grandmaster Angel Cabales, why do you think or feel that the short stick is more effective than the long stick?
Angel Cabales: Because it is short, and when the short stick is used in combat it has more power than the long stick.
AD: it seems like the long stick would have the command of reach in this case?
AC: It has reach but not a lot of power.
AD: So even with a short stick you can counter a long stick effectively?
AC: Even if a person uses a stick one mile long, I can still counter them with a stick eighteen inches long.
AD: This means that the Serrada Escrima system must be highly effective?
AC: Well, see in my style, once again I am very familiar with the long stick tactics.
AD: Even against any type of blade will the Serrada Escrima techniques still work the same way?
AC: All of the Serrada Escrima defensive techniques are the same, nothing changes. For instance, we have at least nine different counters for a number one strike; which is the most basic attack in all styles of fighting. Whether or not your opponent strikes you with a weapon, or even if you have no weapon at all, you will still be able to counter your opponent in the same way.
AD: I've noticed that the Serrada System of Escrima is a very tight style of fighting. It's as if you let or allow your opponent to commit an attack upon you purposely, is this correct?
AC: Well, Serrada Escrima's favorite strategy is that the opponent will hit us first, but once a fight has started, and if the opponent doesn't hit us first, then we hit them.
AD: It appears that most of the people who come to you for training are already experienced in some form of martial arts?
AC: Right! well see the people that are involved in the martial arts, especially the one's who have been involved for many years, are smart enough to figure out which system of martial arts that they prefer the most. They know what they are looking for.
AD: When you have actually engaged in combat like yourself, would you say that you can more readily teach a person what to expect in an actual confrontation?
AC: Yea! thats right.
AD: How do you work on honing a persons reflexes in your system in order to make a person react more quickly to an attack?
AC: Sparring, and a drill that I call " Lock and Block."
AD: You have another technique in your system called " Picking." Exactly what is picking?
AC: Picking is the art of faking a person out so that you can force them to commit an offensive or defensive maneuver in order to counter-attack them more easily.
AD: Are there things that your master teacher Felicisimo Dizon taught you that you do not teach to anyone else?
AC: No, I teach everything I know.
AD: A lot of people would consider that to be an unwise business strategy on your part. Why dont you see it that way?
AC: Because my reason is; is that if I teach everything that I have learned my students will be prepared to face any kind of an attack. " So I teach everything that I know."
AD: Would you say that Serrada Escrima is a complete system of martial arts?
AC: Oh Yea! because all of the other styles can easily be found mixed within Serrada Escrima. So whatever you are looking for you can find it within Serrada Escrima.
AD: So where do you see Serrada Escrima ten years from now?
AC: I see Serrada Escrima expanding all over the world and passed down from generation to generation.
AD: Are there any last words that you would like to leave your readers with before we end this interview?
AC: Yes, I hope people who practice Escrima will not use Escrima as an instrument to oppress anyone, but instead, will use their craftsmanship as a shield for other people's rights.