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Angel Cabales

1917 - 1991 Eskrima

Karate has its one-punch knockout.

The United States Marine Corps has its

eight-second kill. But escrimadors the

world over have three strikes and a man

will fall. And for that, they have

serrada escrima founder Angel Cabales to


Born in 1917 in the Philippines, Cabales

learned about stick fighting from de

cuerdas escrima master Felicimo Dizon, a

local hero and member of the famous dos

pares escrima society. At age 18,

Cabales moved from his small village to

the lawless seaport of Manila, and

continued his training the hard way: in

countless death matches and brawls with

the scurvy low lives who prowled the

docks after dark.

In 1939, Cabales became a seaman and

left the Philippines aboard a cargo ship

bound for ports unknown. It was aboard

this ship that Cabales fought a man who

was intent on destroying him, and in

three swings of his escrima sticks,

Cabales left the man dead. Three

strikes and a man will fall became

Cabales catchphrase, and the motto of

his students in years to come.

Cabales eventually left the sea and

settled in San Francisco, where a good

number of Filipino families had

relocated. He later moved inland to

Stockton, California, where he lived for

the remainder of his life.

In 1965, Cabales opened the first public

Filipino martial arts academy in the

United States. He was continually making

changes to the de cuerdas style,

incorporating techniques he had learned

in combat on land and at sea. As he

added his own nuances, he also began a

ranking system and added a new name to

his style: serrada escrima.

Cabales greatest contribution to his

art was perhaps his standardization of

the system. Besides creating a rank

structure, he based the teaching

structure around his styles 12 angles

of attack. A student would learn one

angle at a time, and be taught offenses

and defenses for that angle, before

moving on to the next angle of attack.

Several speed and accuracy drills were

also developed for students who had

mastered more than five angles. Cabales

also incorporated open-hand self-defense

maneuvers for students with knowledge of

ten angles of attack or more. The

original de cuerdas style had not

addressed weaponless self-defense at


For the next quarter century, Cabales

taught his methods of stick fighting to

literally thousands of students. Martial

arts notables such as Dan Inosanto,

Richard Bustillo and Graciela Casillas

all came to him for his expertise in the

Filipino fighting arts.

In 1990, after fighting a series of

battles with pneumonia and lung cancer,

and suffering several heart attacks,

Cabales passed away. Black Belt honors

this pioneer who brought escrima to the

common martial artist by posthumously

naming him the 1991 Weapons instructor

of the Year.




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