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Please forgive my ignorance. I have been pondering what made GM Cabales so formidable? He seems to have been a small man in physical stature. I know weapons can equalize, but how did he handle himself empty handed? I know Bruce Lee was small and very fast. If another martial artist of equal skill, but greater size, fought him empty handed, don't you think a god big man, would beat a good small man? No disrespect intended. I'm a small statured man, and remain fascinated and bewildered by men like these. I guess I would have to mention Sonny Umpad, too.

Thank you,

Guro Dave

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I admit I initially had my hackles up when I read your post. But I think I know where you're coming from Guro David. Um I would have to say respectfully that what you are lacking is personal experience with the man. I am in the same boat. But have paddled the same river and seen the wake he left up close. He was formidable. Secondly I think a paradigm shift needs to happen in your logic. A+B does not always equal C. Serrada is an awesome comprehensive powerful style of combat. However it's not a shake and bake recipe. It's not Man/Woman plus 888 hours of drills= Serradador. This art is transmitted with patience, hard work, respect, discipline and leadership. I could go on. Also as Master Ron Saturno so eloquently posted recently. God ultimately determines who wins a battle. As long as I'm rambling I'll also quote my father who used to tell us "Dont forget theres always someone badder than you." Had to clean that up a bit for prime time. Ultimately Guro David I think it's our desire to be technically and tactically proficient and survive that makes a fight winner not the body type. Practice how you play.

I think Henry's assessment is correct. It's hard to gauge someone's proficiency if you didn't experience their play. With that being said I think your question is valid in regards to the tradition of any weapons base fighting style when it comes to the empty hand transition. For example, my former FMA teacher and his top student are extremely formidable with various types of weapons and their empty hand has somewhat of a boxing flavor. I didn't follow the empty hand methods because I believed in my empty hand method more than theirs. Not to say that their empty hand abilities were lacking but they were no where close to their abilities with weapons. Some Eskrima styles use empty hand methods derived from their weapons system while others supplement their weapons skills with a totally different art. Athough I hate to use this example but in the early years of the UFC we saw that size didn't really matter so much. A small person has to train with the idea of overcoming someone larger and stronger than they are so their tactics are different. You don't box with a great boxer, kick with a great kicker or grapple with a great grappler if they are better than you. You find another way to deal with them. Pendekar Paul de Thouars used to say, "You don't fight their way, you fight your way..."

Sirs Henry and Zach,

Thank you for your intelligent and civil responses, great responses!

Henry and Zach, I fully agree, I've had zero experience with GM Cabales. I did get to meet and train with some Serrada men in 2006, when they were invited to Buffalo, NY, to present Serrada Escrima. They were a great bunch of guys, and very talented.

I've always felt more comfortable with a tool in my hand. Anyone who new me and wanted to harass me with a tool or tools in my hand(s), would normally change their mind. However, I could never seem to achieve the same deterrence of harassment with my empty hands. I think the tools awakened my survival instincts, and heightened my skills.

I remember a well known Pekiti-Tirshia teacher telling the class how he agreed to spar his friend who practiced Muay Thai. He agreed to spar without any tools. He honestly said, "With my tools I can kill him. Without the tools, he kicked my butt." I greatly appreciated his honesty. I'm not trying to compare GM Cabale's empty hand skills to the PKT instructors. It sounds like GM Cabales was in a class all his own.

Shortly, after I posted my discussion, I came across Mr. Jeff Finder's "Sages of Escrima-Part 8". I had listened to the previous ones, but for some reason Mr. Finder's fondly, reminiscent talk about  GM Cabales reached me. I love the thumb-lock tale. Jeff spoke of Sonny Umpad as well. Jeff personally trained with Sonny. Apparently, Bruce Lee was able to generate a tremendous amount of power, for a small statured man. Jeff said GM Cabales and Sonny could as well. I've been told I have a lot of speed and power for a small guy. I understand where it comes from. I actually feel 'it' as me. One needs timing, as well.

"Paul Vunak said, "An eye-jab is a different kind of power than a punch."


I recall reading about a slightly built aikido instructor in HI. He was challenged by an enormous Japanese wrestler. When the wrestler extended his hand, the aikido instructor grabbed his finger, and bam! It was over that quick. The aikido instructor had pinned the wrestler so he couldn't attack any more. With a scream from the wrestler, he apologized for being disrespectful, and pleaded to continue being the aikido instructors student.

I would still like to hear from others willing to respond intelligently and civilly about GM Cabales.

I think it is definitely a good way of continuing his legacy. 

Guro Dave

Guro David....I had to think about this one for a while.

I have worked out with Gm Angel in the late 70s in Daly City and with Gm Vincent in the 90s and with Gm Giron/GM Somera in Stockton the training was mostly weopon oriented. I did see a lot of locks and 3 beat empty hand applications of the inside block & the outside block. My training did not really consist of a lot of empty hand so I would also not be able to give an opinion of his empty hand skills. I do know that he was a very remarkable person and unbelievable fast with great timing! 

Back in the day Gm Leo was untouchable with a blade in his hand. the decadena taught in the Giron system was very basic. During Gm Somera's tenure I saw the heavy influence of Hermann Suwanda's silat added to the curriculum.

Of the styles coming out of Stockton...Gilbert Tenio's Decuerdas taught by GM Arthur Gonzales concentrated on empty hand training. They also taught 3, 2, 1, 0, beat type timing so it resembled more like knife fighting & or Boxing operating in the 3 ranges with locks, bars,breaks,  striking pressure points and other areas. A very good style straight and to the point.i think it was partially influenced by Max Sarmiento's Decadena.

With all this said...There was not a lot of no holds bar,  full contact empty hand training to develop timing distance and power and to develop the attributes needed to win a fight against a bigger stronger opponent.

that was also trying to do the same thing to you.

It is something that all schools need to add to their curriculum to verify what is being taught, and to develop those attributes!

Going off the subject slightly...

If I had to protect myself I would use a weapon 1st...if I did not have a weapon I would, Use a combination of other arts that I have practiced with my FMA to take care of business. As I age, 60 years this coming August I feel myself slowing down and in my mind I can do many things..but in realty maybe not! So I have a weopon... I would say 99% of the time.

So anyway this is off course my experiences and my opinions and I hope I did not offend anyone.

Very good blog Guro David I hope u get more responses


Thank you for your insight. Obviously you've met and trained with many of the legends of Stockton, CA's Filipino martial arts masters.

I know exactly where you are coming from when you say you feel yourself slowing down. I feel the same as well (breaking the half-century mark).

Once again, thank you for your critical thought, and response to my post.

Guro Dave

From what I know, he was, and then some. I have only heard stories, but the masters, guros, and others that knew him when he was alive that told me those stories are reliable. Size was not a problem for him. Lol

Thanks Josh. People like this simply amaze me.

Guro Dave

From Gm Leo Fong

WKD WISDOM. standing between legendary Great Grandmaster Angel Cables reminds me of how small GMM Angel Cabales is. Yet the photo reminds us of the insignificance of size. I can still feel the sting of his stick and see the blurring shadow of his strikes and counters. The essence of skills is in becoming the techniques rather than doing the techniques. Such Zen expression come from many years of deep dedicated practice. Standing to the left of the picture is Dick Garvey, a long-time friend and sparring partner.

Wow! GM Cabales sure had a couple of bruisers there. His accomplishments are most impressive.

I really like what GM Fong is saying, "The essence of skills is in becoming the techniques rather than doing the techniques."

Thank you Terry and GM Fong for sharing.

Guro Dave


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