In 1966 Filipino Angel Cabales opened his first martial arts dojo in the USA. His new home in Stockton, CA as an immigrant from The Philippines was the base for the slow spread of Serrada Escrima to the west. Cabales tought the Filipino martial arts only to those applicants who he deemed worthy. It was more of a family dojo for him. He refused to teach FMA to Ernie Reyes for example, but found others who were following his instructions to the letter such as Anthony Davis. Angel Cabales is often called the “father of Escrima in America.” He was born in 1917 and died in 1991.
In the early 1930’s one of the patron saints in the·history of Filipino martial arts was a young charismatic native of the Philippines by the name of Felicisimo Dizon. Dizon or the ( wizard ) as he was sometimes called by those who actually witnessed him in combat is one of the world’s most celebrated escrima masters. According to Grandmaster Angel Cabalas, Dizon was an undisputed death match champion and was never defeated in combat. There is a popular story amongst those who practice Filipino martial arts about how Dizon was defeated by a Mora stick/knife fighter. Angel Cabales was very adament about disputing this particular story because to Cabalas~ knowledge this encounter between Dizon and the Mora fighter never took place. Cabales believed that this story was a fabrication designed to give hype to another legendary stick/knife fighter by the name of Floro Villabrille.
In 1932 at the tender age of fifteen Angel Cabales began a rigorous and intensive study of the combat art of escrima under the personalized tutelage of Felicisimo Dizon. In the early years of escrima, school challenges were not uncommon occurrences and many times Cabales was called upon to defend the honor and reputation of Dizon’s school. Always victorious in each skirmish Cabales soon became more than just another one of Dizon’s students he also became his friend and right hand man as well. During the time period that Dizon and Cabales practiced.stick/knife fighting escrima was considered to be one of the most hazardous types of occupations to be in. Because live blades along with fire hardened sticks are the primary choices of weapons amongst most escrimadors matches end very quickly. Most stick/knife skirmishes are over within one tenth of a second leaving very little time to even contemplate on what actually happens within a match.
This is why the Spaniards who arrived in the Philippines in the fourteen and fifteen hundreds gave the name (escrima) meaning skirmish or quick encounter to the system of combat that they witnessed there. Additionally, once the Spaniards had secured most of the islands in the Philippines they in turn outlawed the practice of escrima. Dizon and Cabales took many Journeys together and between them both fought a number of death matches.
Always these matches ended the same way with Dizon and Cabales reigning as victors. Death matches in the Philippine islands were fought for a number of reasons, but the primary reasons were to test ones’ skills and courage in actual combat. In a very short period of time Angel Cabales’ reputation grew tremendously as one of Dizon’s best weapons fighters. Nothing and no one seemed able to stop the dynamic duo. Dizon and Cabales took on all comers never losing a battle. But the time finally did arrive when Dizon and Cabales took different routes in life. As most teenagers do when they have reached the threshold of manhood Cabales decided that he wanted to explore the world, so he boarded a cargo ship and thus began the father of escrima in America’s first test of true courage.
Anthony Davis an escrima master in his own right first met Grandmaster Angel Cabales in 1984 in a seminar that he hosted in San Francisco , California. Originally,the legendary Dan Inosanto was scheduled to appear at this event but due to an illness Inosanto was suffering from at the time, he was not able to attend this particular seminar. But as fate will sometimes take its own course Cabales ended up taking the place of Inosanto and for Davis this was a major turning point in his martial arts career. In keeping with the tradition of escrima Davis soon became a personal friend and private student of Angel Cabales. Says Davis, “As an accomplished martial artist in my own right I knew instantly that after having had viewed Cabales in action he was a genuine weapons master and that he was the special teacher I had been searching for all of my life.
Additionally, says Davis, “I knew that many top martial artist such as Dan Inosanto, Richard Bustillo, Leo T. Fong, Mike Inay, Dentoy Revillar, Rene Latosa, Jim Tacosa and Ted Lucaylucay had all gone to Angel Cabales for their education in the field of Filipino martial arts . So I said to myself, that if all of these particular “heavies” had gone to Cabales for their training’ then I was definitely headed in the right direction. Anthony Davis has been training and teaching martial arts for the past twenty four years and is highly proficient in several systems of combat such as Kajukenbo, Kenpo, Muay Thai-Boxing, western boxing, Black Tiger Gung Fu, Pent Jat Silat, Tai Chi Chuan, Kali and of course the Serrada system of escrima as taught to him personally by Grandmaster Angel Cabales.
According to Davis every system of self defense has something to offer. For example one of the most important principles that Davis learned from his training in Tai Chi Chuan is that relaxation is essential in the execution of fast and powerful strikes. If the mind and body is too tensed ones techniques will be too slow because the speed that is necessary to execute fast and powerful tactics is only available through relaxation. From Thai Boxing and various styles of Gung Fu Davis was able to incorporate flexibility, agility and precise focus into his fighting method. Says Davis, Thai Boxing combined with certain systems of Gung Fu teach you that your whole body must be properly stretched out in order to deliver strong and dynamic leg techniques. If you can stop and hurt your opponent(s) at long range distances then you can successfully secure yourself from the necessity of having to get to close to your opponent in order to do damage. Davis’ Kajukenbo training came by way of Professor Tony Ramos Says Davis, “When it comes to being grabbed in anyway Kajukenbo contains some of the best defenses in the business of martial arts”. In todays’ age some practioners in the field of martial arts feel that it is relatively simple and easy to reach out and grab a person and restrain them. It is obvious that some of these people have never truly felt or experienced the snap , crackle and pop of Kajukenbo. Do whatever is necessary in order to survive is the root principle that underlies all the training in Kajukenbo and real Kajukenbo can be extremely destructive.
Even in the form of a sport Kajukenbo can be very lethal. One prime example of this fact is Dennis ” the terminator ” Alexia. Huch of Alexia’s early training came in the form of Kajukenbo kickboxing stylist Eugene Ray a product of Professor Tony Ramos. One only has to speak to all of those who have been defeated by Alexia in and out of the ring to get an idea of the power and devastating effect that his style of fighting can have on 8 person. Boxing is by far one of the most effective forms of combat when it is applied as 8 method of self-defense and to Davis it is an integral part of his system of combat. Also, boxing aids in the development of sharp reflexes, footwork and timing along with precise snapping power. The ability to K.O. a person as quickly as possible is very vital when you are faced with an adversary that is much bigger, tougher and more stronger than you are and boxing is an excellent means for helping one to successfully accomplish this mlssion. The Cabales Serrada System of Escrima is the bread and butter of Anthony Davis’ method of self defense.
Put simply explains Davis, ” When combat occurs it happens very quickly and those who come out of a combative situation successfully are those who have been taught * how to think * and not * what to think * Davis further explains, ” There is a big difference between knowing how to think versus knowing what to think. The difference is when a person is taught how to think one can more naturally respond to any unexpected situation. On the other hand when a person is only taught what to think they will most likely respond to the unexpected in a pre programed or in a prearranged fashion. Those who have been taught pre-arranged combative tactics will always be vulnerable to unexpected assaults until they have been better trained in how to react more naturally”.
It is in the area of how to react more naturally that the Serrada System of Escrima becomes a vital necessity to anyones particular system of martial arts. Serrada a Spanish word meaning ‘close’ is considered to be the “Jeet Kune Do” of Filipino martial arts by those who have actually experienced it. Even at the age of sixty five the speed and power that could be generated by Cabales was astonishing.
The effectiveness of Serrada escrima lies in its simplicity of application, Cabales use to say ” When an altercation has already begun why waste time if the guy don’t hit me I hit him”. Basically states Anthony Davis 11 This was the combative strategy of Angel Cabales, he was like a gun slinger from the old west and he did not waste time iaking a person out once he was certain that his life or the lives of his loved ones had been threatened. Continues Davis “Angel once told me that he really felt bad about the different peoples’ lives that he had to take, but he also said that he never hurt anyone who didn’t have it coming to them first 11 Cabales explained his motives to Davis in this way, 11 You see Anthony sometimes people can’t and won’t accept you for who you are because they feel that they’re superior and that you are inferior just because of your race and skin color, like the time I was deported from Alaska to California for almost killing seven big men. The seven guys were like gangsters and they would harass us Filipinos on a regular basis taking our hard earned money, beat us up and call us names like tree monkeys. One day these same guys beat up some of my buddies very badly and I decided that I just wouldn’t tolerate this type of treatment anymore. So I went to the bunkhouse where I lived to get my fishing knife but the Filipino cook who was there at the time begged me not to kill anyone so instead I cut a branch from a tree and I carved and shaped it into a good sized stick and used it on all seven of the big bullies.
You see Anthony escrima should only be used to protect your life. Davis says that Cabales did not like the sport aspect of escrima that is now in existence today because of the lack of realism. Davis agrees fully along with Cabales concerning t;,e issue of escrima being used as a sport. Says Davis, “Escrima from its inception was specifically designed as a national defensive system primarily to protect the native peoples of the Philippines from foreign invasion and from religious oppression of any kind. If the art of escrima was meant to be a sport I’m certain that the Portuguese explorer Ferdinand Magellan would not have lost his life on the island of Mactan.
What people in the world of martial arts must never forget about pecple like Grandmaster Angel Cabales is that they put their lives on the line in order to protect and to preserve their peoples’ culture and way of life. If it weren’t for freedom Fighters like Angel Cabales there would be Dan Inosantos, Richard Bustillo’s, Ted Lucay Lucay’s and many others to carry on the sacred legacy of the Philippines. Today Anthony Davis is busying himself with spreading the teachings and the positive elements of the Serrada system of escrima as passed down to him by the late Grandmaster Angel Cabales. Davis is the founder and president of an organization known as MARTIAL ARTS INTERNATIONAL which was established in 1991 for the propagation of preserving all forms and systems of martial arts through the medium of seminars. Explains Davis, hosting seminars is the most direct and effective means I know of for sharing another persons’ experiences with other people. Also, through seminar formats a person has the opportunity to actually interact with different types of people along with each persons distinctive cultural background. This type of setting is essential if people want to better understand and to better co-exist along with others. Breaking down cultural barriers instead of breaking bricks is what martial arts is really all about. Berlin, Germany, Zurich, Switzerland, Belgium, Australia and Canada represents some of the countries that Davis has successfully been able to establish his organization in. To Davis each one of these countries symbolizes the possibility of world wide peaceful co-existence through the medium of martial arts. In addition to Davis’ missionary crusade on behalf of spreading the more positive aspects of martial arts he is currently also pursuing an acting career. Davis will make his first debut sometime early this year starring in a martial arts comedy show called “JUST FOR KICKS” Davis will play the role of a character named, Master Confusion, a so called wise old Chinese master who while during various segments of the show quotes deep philosophical statements that even he doesn’t really understand.
At any rate continues Davis, “I look at the entertainment field as just another vehicle or way for spreading the constructive aspects of an ancient old philosophy”. As Grandmaster Angel Cabales once said, “use the martial arts as an extension of yourself Anthony in order to spread peace throughout the whole world because in reality that’s what the various martial arts systems are really usefull for, spreading peace and goodwill amongst all mankind”. And this is exactly what Anthony Davis is doing now with his life and intends to keep on doing.
For further information about training video tapes, supplies, lectures
and workshops please write Anthony Davis at :
1890 W. Hillcrest Dr. # 441
Newbury Park, Calif. 91320
An interview was conducted on June 4th, 1990 by Anthony Davis in Cabales’ home in Stockton, CA, and submitted for publication. According to Davis is was the last interview by Grand Master Cabales before his death.