Lameco Eskrima Practitioners Honor Punong Guro Edgar Sulite on his 20th Death Anniversary with training sessions and gatherings around the globe.

Lameco Eskrima Practitioners Honor Punong Guro Edgar Sulite  on his 20th Death Anniversary with training sessions and gatherings around the globe. 2017.




Punong Guro Edgar Sulite

September 25, 1957 – April 10, 1997







Madrid, Spain Group headed by Guro Tim Fredianelli:

Honoring the memory of Punong Guro Edgar Sulite by training in Lameco Arnis in Madrid Spain. Our mode to all Lameco practitioners everywhere! Punong Guro Sulites 20th death anniversary. In Honor of Punong Guro Edgar Sulite we made a special training today. Our respects to our brothers from Lameco everywhere.



















Alfonso Lopez

Pinto Spain Group headed by Alfonso Lopez:

On April 2 we did a training, in memory, and tribute to Punong Guro Edgar Sulite, in which we read the biography of Punong Guro, and performed a training with a great feeling, of course we had a memory of our brother recently deceased Alex Garduño, Our respects to all Lameco practitioners everywhere, Punong Guro Edgar Sulite 20th Death anniversary, and a special thanks to our Guros to keep alive the memory of Punong Guro.



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South Jersey Group headed by Jamie Morris

Punong Guro Edgar Sulites Influences in creating Lameco Eskrima. Courtesy of Guro Dave Gould.

Punong Guro Edgar Sulites Influences in creating Lameco Eskrima.
Courtesy of Guro Dave Gould.
Below is a poster which I placed together showing the Major and Minor Influences which Punong Guro Edgar G. Sulite credited for his knowledge and for the creation of the Lameco Eskrima System. In essence these Grandmasters, their systems and knowledge were responsible for the Lameco Eskrima System that we know and train today. In addition to the numerous actual experiences which PG Sulite drew from and the thousands of hours of sparring and fighting with his two primary sparring partners, Master Christopher N. Ricketts and Master Jun Pueblos.

The Major Influences were from Masters and Systems which PG Edgar G. Sulite thoroughly trained under for years and was certified to teach their respective styles. The Minor Systems were from Masters with whom PG Edgar G. Sulite trained to some degree and with whom he collaborated but never received ranking in their respective Systems.

5 Major Influences on the Lameco Eskrima System:

* De Campo Uno-Dos-Tres Orihinal (GM Jose D. Caballero)
* Kali Illustrisimo (GM Antonio “Tatang” Illustrisimo)
* Kali Pekiti-Tirsia (Tuhon Leo Tortal Gaje Jr.)
* Modernos Largos (GM Jesus Abella & GM Pablicito “Pabling” Cabahug)
* Sulite Rapelon (GM Helacrio Sulite Sr.)

6 Minor Influences on the Lameco Eskrima System:

* Doce Pares (GM Diony Canete)
* Balintawak (GM Johnny Chiuten)
* Lapunti Arnis De Abanico (GM Felimon E. Caburnay)
* Siete Teros Serado – Serado no Puwede Entra (GM Marcelino Ancheta Sr.)
* Abanico De Sungkiti (GM Billy Baaclo)
* Tres Personas Eskrima De Combate (GM Maj. Timoteo E. Maranga)


De Campo 1-2-3 Orihinal; “You train to live, not die.” Guro Dave Gould reflects on GM Jose D. Caballero

De Campo 1-2-3 Orihinal; “You train to live, not die.” -

by David E. Gould

The views of GM Jose D. Caballero regarding fighting were simply this; you are only as effective in fighting as you are in training. You will fight the way that you train, hence one of his sayings: “suffer during training, not during a fight.” Simply put if you fight with weakness and compromise it is because you have trained with weakness and compromise. In De Campo 1-2-3 Orihinal under the very critical eyes of GM Caballero his students never had the opportunity to rest on their laurels as he would literally push them until their hands bled in training from striking so much with their garotes and then expect them to improve on their results.

De campo 1-2-3 Orihinal is a work of art regarding fighting and ones true combative effect. The system was truly created to win fights and nothing more. It is definitely one of the most effective systems that I have had the opportunity to train as its foundation is anchored in reality and governed by combative truth. Cause and effect seem to dictate response and counter response as opposed to some orchestra of speculation which may or may not ever come to pass. You were truly only as effective as you were in the moment as it were on any given day.

Nong Otek, as he was known to his family and closest friends, formed his system of De Campo 1-2-3 Orihinal in 1925 based solely on his observations of local Grand Masters and Masters in the Toledo area of Mindanao, Philippines as they would “play“ with one another with sticks, knives and swords. Since GM Caballero didn’t have formal instruction he would go to tournaments, watch street fights and watch challenges played out to the death as a kid and adolescent. So he based his system on the actions and reactions that he saw people do in these fights and would teach himself as it were. Even as a young man he would notice the smallest curiosities while these Grandmasters and Masters would fight and he would take mental note of them as they were revealed to him.

One of the things that he noticed right away was that when the matches would start both fighters involved would typically walk around each other watching the others movements and waiting for the other to strike. Sometimes there would be no action at all for the first minute of the fight and Nong Otek saw a lot of advantage to the contrary. So GM Caballero established a series of 3 second rules in initiating a fight. He would await his opponent to strike first as he was a counter fighter by nature. However at the start of the fight he would count to 3 and if his opponent was not ready had not thrown the first strike Nong Otek would launch his attack with strong purpose on his opponent catching him by surprise and either break his head or his hand, the two primary targets in De Campo 1-2-3 Orihinal and as his opponent would react to the damage inflicted he would back just outside of his opponents reach to see if he could continue or not, always at the ready to counter respond should the fight continue. In most cases the fight would be over in mere seconds as few of his opponent could recover and continue with the fight thereby accepting defeat or death as their fate.

Nong Otek would constantly get in trouble because he never made it to school on time. As he walked to school he would see a stick on the ground, cut a piece of rattan out of a stalk, or cut a tree branch down and practice Kali and would lose track of time. He used to get much grief from his father as he wanted the best for his son and thought that education was a necessity to better his son in giving him a chance to lift himself out of poverty one day and have a better life than that of his father. However young Jose D. Caballero had other interests and fighting was at the top of them in which he gave the highest priority. When Nong Otek was 18 years of age he formally named and formed his own system and started fighting tournaments and playing with local masters at fiestas and based on his success or failures in these matches he would update and enhance his system.

In De campo there are no drills other than actually hitting a moving target (weapon hand) with the feed being thrown in real time at random and you either break the hand or you break the head at largo-medio range which are the only primary targets in his system. There are no other targets available to you in your minds-eye. It doesn’t get simpler than that. However there are other secondary targets available which he recognized and would strike upon as they became available, if the head or hand were not readily accessible, solely for the sake of maiming his opponent and not killing him. For every strike that you make in training or fighting you expect one in return, this is a reality and as such you prepared for it and developed the awareness and abilities to contend with it. You throw every strike with intention with speed and power enough to break your opponents head or you don`t throw one at all.

Timing is very important based on real time as well as your fighting mentality. In the Philippines when Punong Guro Sulite was learning De Campo 1-2-3 Orihinal from Grand Master Caballero this was the training that he hated the most, but he went on to fall in love with it and it became his confidence system. Because there are no blocks in De Campo or disarms and there are only two types of strikes; one to kill and one to maim, it was sometimes very boring to train but highly effective. De Campo 1-2-3 Orihinal is one hard strike after another, you strike until your hand bleeds and then you strike some more. Grand Master Caballero`s requirement was that you strike as hard and as fast as you can for 15 minutes with-out slowing or stopping, then you would do 2 minutes of aggressive footwork and 15 more minutes of striking for three hours a day. He would have you break small coconuts, hit tires, and daily sparring was for real, no head gear or padding, if the head was open you are required to take the shot. The only way that you can truly protect your head and weapon hand is to constantly have them just outside of the reach of your opponent all the while keeping highly aware of your opponents every move.

De Campo only had two weapon categories that GM Caballero would train and fight with and those were “solo garote” and “doble garote“. He fought challenges against many Masters with them using knives, bolos and swords and still he killed or defeated them with him using only medium weight rattan to fight with himself. GM Caballero was the undefeated “Juey-go todo” champion of his region. Which gained him much notoriety and respect from his fellow Eskrimadors. He would often go to tournaments and place his name on the list of fighters during local fiestas only to find many whom had previously placed their names on the list of fighters withdrawing their names as they did not want to fight him. He would then withdraw his name and watch the other fighters run back to the table to place their names back on the list once they knew that he would not fight.

De Campo 1-2-3 Orihinal is a “largo-medio” range fighting system with only 7 strikes, 3 double stick patterns, no blocks, no hand contact between players, no disarms, no punyos, only 3 pieces of footwork, 10 striking groups, a plethora of group mixing, 3 finishing strikes, alertness training and “specialisation“ of striking and thousands of hours of sparring against single and multi-person scenarios. It is simply a system of a continuous series of hard destructive strikes designed to work well against chaos and uncertainty which is all to common in association with a street fight as it dynamically evolves from second to second in the streets. GM Caballero only recognized two available targets the hand and head. When he wasn’t striking one he would strike the other. The advantage of this is that one or the other will always be available to you. Since your target identification is so limited you can focus more of your attention on the movements of your opponent.

GM Caballero was a counter fighter by nature, when he was attacked he would retreat to largo range while breaking the hand and once the tip of his opponents weapon passed his nose he would immediately charge forward to break the head of his opponent and anticipating a counter from his opponent he would then retreat into largo range again just outside of his opponents reach, awaiting to attack whatever angle his opponent would counter with and then shoot forward again with head shots until another counter would come if the fight was not over by then. On average his fights lasted only 3 to 5 seconds and the person would be dead, on the ground bleeding from the head, or unable to continue due to being maimed.

GM Caballero made his living for 40 years traveling from island to island in the Philippines challenging various grandmasters to fight for money. He would go to an island and challenge the best fighter, make side bets with the village people then fight and defeat his opponent. He would go home to Mindanao live off the profits from the fight and when he would run low of money he would be off to another island. He did this until he got too old to fight for a living any longer and was forced into teaching. That is when young Edgar G. Sulite hearing of this old mans reputation sought him out as a teacher. But the old man refused Edgar as a student fearing that Edgar was a spy from another kali group out to steal his technique. It took a young Edgar G. Sulite a full year of courting this old man by leaving poultry, eggs and milk at his doorstep day after day before he would accept him as a student in De Campo 1-2-3 Orihinal. And as Edgar trained in this system year after year it became his confidence system. Whenever Edgar would fight in the future he would draw heavily from this system to end the fights very quickly.

Edgar G. Sulite began training De Campo 1-2-3 Orihinal in the early 1970`s under the tutelage of GM Jose D. Caballero. He trained a total of 6 years under the “Old Man” before Graduating the system in 1978, as he would affectionately call him and felt that the training was second to none. At first Edgar felt that GM Caballero was being stingy with his teachings as he would always force him to repeat himself in training with the same thing every time. What he eventually came to understand was that GM Caballero was trying to get him to Master the Basics against all situations and probable scenarios and to learn all that they had to offer in street combat. To learn them so well that you not only learn the strength of the technique, concept or principle but also the weakness equally attached to them as well. Only then can you truly come to depend on it as sometimes the weakness of a technique may be greater than the strength and therefore ill advised to use under certain conditions.

Bend only to “truth to self”, “truth in training” and “truth in combat” and you will become a more proficient warrior. Cut the fat from your technique, focus on simplicity, train in a realistic environment, with a realistic mind-set and you are well on your way to becoming street effective. In the words of GM Jose D. Caballero; “You train to live, not die.“

David E. Gould's photo.

LAMECO: Legacy of Steel By Steve Tarani

LAMECO: Legacy of Steel By Steve Tarani


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dino flores eskrima

This article was reprinted with the author’s permission from the Souvenir Edition of Arnisador Magazine published by Goodwill Publications Limited. More information about the magazine can be obtained by calling Peter Morgan in London at +44 (0) 171-895 0800.

Saturday, June 1st, 1996
LAMECO: Legacy of Steel
By Steve Tarani

Swollen knuckles, bleeding forearms and battered shins – two warriors face off in a clearing. Sharp strikes of clashing rattan mix with the drawl of heavy breathing and shuffling feet. Intensely focused and alert, both combatants melt into the sweltering humidity. Glistening beads of sweat roll down to fingers wrought with open blisters. Ignoring the searing pain, each man continues fighting. Skillfully, cautiously – each life hinges upon immediate reaction to a deadly salvo of crushing blows.

Such is the way of life of an Arnisador – a path chosen by Punong Guro Edgar G. Sulite. Since and before the days of Magellan, the Filipino martial arts have proven themselves highly effective standing in defiance of determined warring tribes, rabid Conquistadors and greedy foreign hordes.

The LAMECO system, systematically structured and easily assimilatable according to modern training methods, is the stainless steel link in an unbroken chain of training succession.

Great-grandfather to grandfather to father to son, a continual succession of knowledge and commitment breathes life into the ancient art from those very early days of foreign aggression to the current days of domestic violence. The heritage of combat-ready warriors runs deeply through the bloodline of the Sulite family tree.

Born on September 25, 1957 in a rural province on the Visayan Island of Leyte, Tacloban City, Punong Guro Edgar G. Sulite was raised by a family of martial arts devotees in a rugged barrio neighborhood where deadly brawls and Bolo knife skirmishes were commonplace.

In other martial arts, the attainment of a certain level automatically designates the title Master or Grandmaster. In the Philippines, there are certain norms to be satisfied before one can be called and accepted as a Master or Grandmaster.

After expressing great interest in the Filipino fighting arts at a very early age, young Edgar was introduced to the rigorous training by his own father – Grandmaster Helacrio Sulite Sr.

Grandmaster Helacrio first studied with his father Grandmaster Timoteo Sulite in the 1930s. Grandmaster Helacrio went on to further enhance his skills under the tutelage of several other Arnis masters of varied styles (such as the late Grandmaster Melicio Ilustrisimo and Master Almario of Cebu among others.)

Grandmaster Timoteo Sulite’s instructors were active in the mid-19th century and their grandfathers recalled stories of their grandfathers which included the defeat of several infamous Spanish conquistadors using the very same styles of Arnis that have been meticulously passed down to Punong Guro Edgar G. Sulite who, in turn, continues the solemn tradition to this very day.

While simultaneously training under his father and coming to master the family system known as Sulite Rapelon, Punong Guro Edgar G. Sulite continually expanded his skills and combat technology by training intently with several other masters and Grandmasters all across the Philippine Islands.

Punong Guro devoted his entire life to the study of the ancient systems and masters who transformed him from young eager aspirant to the refined physical embodiment of technical perfection that he has become today.

Among the long list of such distinguished curators of the ancient ways is Grandmaster Antonio Ilustrisimo of Bag-on Bantayan – founder of Kali Ilustrisimo, Grandmaster Jose D. Caballero of Ozamis City, Western Mindanao – founder of De Campo 1-2-3 Orihenal and Grandmaster Leo T. Gaje Jr. of Negros Occidental – founder of Pekiti Tirsia (a close quarters combat system that specializes in knife and Espada y Daga.)

Punong Guro sheds further light on the methods of his masters in a series of educational books and video tapes available to the general public. Especially in his third book, MASTERS OF ARNIS, KALI & ESKRIMA, Punong Guro provides a rare glimpse into the arcane and mystical world of the traditional Filipino warrior class. Punong Guro is also the author of ADVANCED BALISONG: FILIPINO BUTTERFLY KNIFE and THE SECRETS OF ARNIS and has produced a total of ten instructional video tapes.

Punong Guro Sulite believes that the ancient tradition of keeping the sacred art only in the family is a double-edged sword. On the one hand the art is kept pure and in accordance with tradition. On the other hand, as modern times erode the interests of today’s youth, (who would much rather play video games rather than listen to grandpa tell old war stories,) the passing of the torch becomes more and more limited to only a select few. Unfortunately, when such masters pass away, so goes with them, forever, the art which they possess.

Thus, with the bold risk of changing the course of tradition, Punong Guro accepted the responsibility of both preserving the ancient teachings in the exact way in which he was taught, as well as disseminating this teaching in a modern platform of instruction.

In this modern age of automated organizational skills, combined with his uncanny ability to analyze with the precision of a high-tech computer, Punong Guro Sulite has heavily exposed the western world to the LAMECO system. Punong Guro currently has a number [of] schools in such varied corners of the globe as the Philippines, Germany, Australia and the United States. As a result of his unique modern approach and personal dedication through the LAMECO system, the proliferation and integrity of the ancient teachings is sustained.

What is the LAMECO system? LAMECO is a perfectly balanced synthesis of the many effective teachings and styles which Punong Guro has come to master in the span of his life.

There are some systems which specialize in long range fighting (known as “Largo Mano” or “Long Hand”) and others specializing in medium range fighting (known as “Medio”) and still others which specialize in close quarters combat (known as “Corto”). Thus, an acronym for the synthesis of the three ranges of combat LARGO, MEDIO and CORTO, the first two characters of each combat range LA, ME and CO were combined to form LAMECO.

In an interview, Punong Guro said, “I wanted to preserve the ancient teachings… but bleeding forearms and knots on the top of the head is not a good way… [there is no] safety. So a good compromise is safety equipment… [and] gradually, we can remove [the protective armour].”

When asked how he had planned to preserve the old teachings without dissipating the potency of the original art, and simultaneously combine the best of each system without offending each of his teachers, Punong Guro Sulite replied, “Grandmaster Ilustrisimo entrusted me with his [lifetime of knowledge] and wanted me to carry his name… the same with Grandmaster Gaje, Grandmaster Caballero, Grandmaster Abella, and all the others. So I have systematised and presented [the arts in a modern context easy to assimilate through a synthesis of multiply effective systems].” Thus the LAMECO system was born.

What further separates LAMECO from all other contemporary systems is its emphasis on the totality of the human being – mind, body and spirit – not only the physical elements. Attention, intention, visualization and complete focus are the integral components of the LAMECO training system. Drills and processes which develop the vital constituents were developed as the result of intense study and detailed analysis of countless ancient systems.

As modern day martial artists, we should consider ourselves most fortunate to have the opportunity to train under a renaissance thinker such as Punong Guro Edgar G. Sulite. He is one of the very few who has brought the ancient traditions out of the darkest jungles and into the light of modern day martial arts training, by sharing with the rest of the world – his legacy of steel.

Punong Guro is a Tagalog title which is comprised of two words. The first, Punong, literally translates to “trunk” or “base of”, for example, a tree. Combined with the second word, Guro, which translates as “one who leads another out of ignorance” (or “teacher” in Western terminology,) this title can be translated as “Primary master instructor” or more readily, “Grandmaster”.

Rest In Peace Grandmaster Christoper N. Ricketts (March 21, 1955 – October 5, 2010)

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Rest In Peace Grandmaster Christoper N. Ricketts (March 21, 1955 – October 5, 2010)

It is with sadness and joy that we announce the passing and rebirth to eternal life of Grandmaster Christopher N. Ricketts on October 5, 2010 at 3:02AM. May his soul and the souls of the faithful departed rest in peace. Amen.

A loving husband, father, grandfather, son, brother and uncle, he is survived by his wife Beth Ricketts and sons Jason Ricketts, Bruce Ricketts, Brandon Ricketts and Christopher Ricketts, Jr.; daughter-in-law Jeanne, wife of Jason and grandkids Jacob, Jennell, Josh and Justin; parents Edith and Max Ricketts; younger brother and sister-in-law, Ronnie Ricketts and Mariz and nieces Marella and Marie; and youngest brother and sister-in-law, Alex Ricketts and Marybeth and nephews Jamie and James.
Master Topher, known world wide as a consumate martial artist of Filipino decent, was loved by many but more importantly, respected by all. He was one of the founders and the Chief Instructor of Bakbakan International, a fraternal brotherhood of martial artists established in the Philippines in 1968 whose motto is “Matira Matibay” (The Best of the Best). Concerned with training and passing on his knowledge to students rather than collecting accolades and titles, Master Topher’s skills and credentials are impeccable and second to none.
A senior disciple of the revered Grandmaster Antonio “Tatang” Ilustrisimo and one of the “Five Pillars of Kali Ilustrisimo”, he remained loyal to the memory and legacy of his teacher and was the highest ranked Ilustrisimo instructor in the United States. A close friend and training partner of the late Punong Guro Edgar G. Sulite who founded Lameco Eskrima, he was also the highest ranked Lameco instructor in the United States. With teaching credentials in several martial arts systems including Ngo Cho Kun (5 Ancestor Fist), Sagasa (Filipino Kickboxing System), as well as being a professional boxing trainer and fight choreographer, his was a life befitting a true warrior.

A public viewing, requiem mass and farewell offering (Halad) will be held on Thursday, October 14, 2010 from 4:00PM to 8:00PM at the California Cremation and Burial Chapel, 5880 El Cajon Blvd, San Diego, California 92115. In lieu of flowers, donation to your favorite charity in the name of Grandmaster Christopher N. Ricketts will be greatly appreciated.

All members of the warrior class are encouraged to come in uniform to pay their last respects to one of the best of the best.

Sumasaiyo at Maraming Salamat
(With Sincere Thanks),
The Ricketts Family


In Memory of Grandmaster Antonio “Tatang” Ilustrisimo (1904 – 1997)

Grandmaster Antonio “Tatang” Ilustrisimo (1904 – 1997)

Grandmaster Antonio Ilustrisimo, Courtesy of Bakbakan International  and  GM Tony Diego

Grandmaster Antonio Ilustrisimo (1902 – 1997) originally came from Santa Fe in Bantayan Island.   He came from a family that has a very long history of martials and mystical tradition.   His cousin, Floro Villabrialle, was the most famous Arnis master of Hawaii.  His youngest uncle, Regino Ellustrisimo, was an Arnis master in Stockton, USA.  Both men were mentioned in Dan Inosanto’s book on Filipino martial arts.  However, the most famous of his 4 direct paternal uncles, and the most powerful fighter of the 5 brothers (some say he has more than 7 uncles) was Melecio Ilustrisimo, one of the most famous Kali masters of the Philippines of the early 20th Century, being influential in northern Cebu – Bantayan and Bohol islands.  All his forbears were expert warriors and were known to posses strange mystical powers.

Grandmaster Ilustrisimo’s students, fondly call him “Tatang” which  means “grandfather”.  Tatang learnt Arnis under the tutelage of his father (Isidro Illustrisimo) and uncles (especially the famous Melecio Ilustrisimo) in the old way.  There were 3 famous Eskrima families in Cebu at that time:-  the Ilustrisimos,  the Saavedras,  and the Romos.

Footwork was one of the first things he had to master.  As a tiny boy, he was put on a small table and his teachers would use sticks to beat his legs.  He had to learn how to avoid the blows.  He was also put on 3 half coconut shells in a triangular pattern and given the same harsh treatment.  This footwork is known as Tatlong Bao in the Ilustrisimo family.

As a result he has mastered evasion and dodging at an early age.  This is a training that Melecio Ilustrisimo himself thoroughly mastered as he was said to have nailed one foot to the ground and challenge all and sundry to defeat him.  No one could,  and that footwork is called “Walong Apak” (Nail Footwork) in Kalis Ilustrisimo.  These skills of evasive footwork have all been mastered by Grandmaster Antonio Illustrisimo.

He learnt the solo and double baston, espada daga, daga, bolo (sword), dos manos (a long stick/sword – roughly equivalent to the Samurai’s sword) and various “weapons of convenience”.   In particular, as a speciality, Grandmaster Ilustrisimo is noted for is his expertise in bladed weapons – something which many modern Grandmasters of Arnis can not lay proper claim to since their real practical experience concentrated on the rattan sticks. (Claims by most systems that they can use swords are disputable and only partially true).  This expertise as a swordman is not merely from personal experience and practice, but is the legacy of his family art of Ilustrisimo Kali which is a bladed art that stretches so far back in the family line that nobody could remember when it started.

As a boy, the young Ilustrisimo had a very tough, stubborn, determined and indominatable spirit. When he heard of a far country called ‘America’, he decided to go there – at the age of 9 years old!   When his parents would not  listen to his panderings, he ‘took’ some family money and a machete, and again, ‘took’ a small rowing boat and paddled out to the sea to what he thought would be America, not realising how far America really is.  He fortunately chance across a ship.  The sailors aboard were  surprised to see a young boy rowing out in the sea.  Out of curiousity, perhaps concern as well, there approached him and asked him where he was going.  “I am going to America in this boat!” was the confident answer.  The sailors rocked in laughter.  They somehow persuaded him to come with them.   Of course, he did not get to America.  But he did sail to a few ports, still not quite realising that America is still very, very far away……….

At a port, he chance on a family friend who recognised him, but not wishing to betray the high ideals of this young boy, he took him to the south as that friend was a Muslim.  There the young boy grew up – strong, determined, proud and skillful in combat as ever.  He was adopted into a the royal court as an adopted son of the Sultan of Sulu.  (This was Hadji Butu who ascended to become HH Hadji Mohammad Jamalul Kiram II, the Sultan of Sulu)

While in the South, he was priviledged to train in the the best of teachers that the royal court could have.  He also trained with Pedro Cortes, another very famous master in the Mindanao region, who was used by the government to control the ‘Rebelious South’.   Pedro Cortes was a close friend a sparring partner of his father Isidro Ilustrisimo.

Then one day, he was drinking at a beer house, he got into dispute with another man.  The man drew his sword to kill Tatang, but the defty young boy beat him to the draw and, with one stroke of his own barong (Tatang’s favourite type of sword), he cut  off the enemy’s head.  The victim was left a headless man running wildly before collapsing.  Since this was in self defence, this would have normally been ‘okay’ under the rules of that Islamic society, but the matter was complicated by his being under the influence of the drink (much frown upon), and plus the fact that the victim was from another royal clan that was a rival to the Sultan’s clan.   To avoid inter clan warfare,  the Sultan was forced to ‘exiled’ the young offender.   The Sultan gave him a gift of money and sent under escort to a British ship to head home.   He was only 17 years old then.

He returned to his parent’s place.  They had not seen him since he left as a young boy (this indicates his spirit of determination and independence – and his courage to live away from home without his parent’s guidance) and thought he was dead.  They were over-joyed to receive a telegram saying he was returning.   But they couldn’t recognise him.  A proud young man in Muslim dress walked towards them from the ship and it was only when he greeted them that they realised it was him.

He soon left to become a sailor, but when he had the oppotunity, he would continue to train in the fighting tradition of his family line.

Tatang used to hang around “rough places”.  He is well known amongst the wharfies and bars.  That was where he fought many times and honed his fighting skills.  I have met many Arnis masters who are very good in what  they do, but some of them privately admitted to me that even they are extremely careful when going to such areas that Tatang frequents because fighting and killing in bar/street fights is very different, and much more dangerous, than fighting an Arnis dual.

His life as a sailor gave him the oppotunity to travel from place to place.  This provided oppotunities to contest fighters from other far-off regions – America, India,  Europe, Australia……………..  He fought on many occassions, and was never defeated.

For example, he responded to a grandmaster match in Singapore to compete against a great Indonesian Penchak Silat grandmaster.  The Indonesian climbed into the ring, warmed up, all ready to fight, but when he faced Tatang, he simply refused to fight and surrendered.   Grandmaster Ilustrisimo said that is the highest art – to defeat an opponent without fighting him.  Tatang was said to have used his ‘orascion’ or spiritual power to overcome the opponent.  Grandmaster Illustrisimo thus won the prize money of $5,000. (Note:- Indonesian masters are experts in the use of spiritual power to overpower their opponents, but in this instance, Tatang’s power must have overwhelmed his expert opponent).

Grandmaster Ilustrisimo used to participate in Arnis matches in the fiestas in the local barrios occasionally when not at sea.  However, due to his fondness for the blade, and his reputation as a fighter-killer, not many masters would dare to fight him.  He only knows how to fight naturally – without restrictions – something that is not very comfortable for other masters.  The only rule is the terms of defeat – when to stop the fight.  He laments that he had to accept fights during his travels to practise a little of his art.  eg.  He fought a master in Calcutta.  He also had some fights in the Middle East.

Grandmaster Ilustrisimo, however, had lots of practice during World War II where, as a guerilla, his boss often sent him on missions to kill both Japanese soldiers and local conspirators.  He is said to have killed groups of people at a time.  So reliable were his services that his code name in the guerilla movement was ‘The Executioner’.

In Manila, Grandmaster Ilustrisimo lived in Tondo, near the wharf area which was a very rough neighbourhood.  Intimidation, robberies, muggings, fights and killings were common.  Together with his friends (some of whom are well known to Western students of Arnis – Floro Villabraille, Jose Mena and Felicissimo Dizon), he fought these muggers, bullies and intimidators whenever they caused trouble.  This ‘Gang of Four’ joked that since they were cleaning the docks of these troublemakers for the Police, they are in fact the ‘De Facto Dock Police’.  (Note:- None of them, or their students, were actually employed as Police or security guards there, as some Westerners were lead to believe).

Grandmaster Ilustrisimo hung around his friends whenever he was not at sea.   Occassionally, he would spar with them.  Accounts independently related by various old sources who hung around them confirmed that Grandmaster Illustrisimo had sparred with Felicissimo Dizon quite a few times and was more than a match for him.  It is also said that mutual Arnis friends wanted to arrange a formal match (ie. prize fighting) between Grandmaster Ilustrisimo and Felicissimo Dizon.  Grandmaster Ilustrisimo, being a seasoned prize fighter, readily accepted.  But the great Dizon turned down the offer citing that Grandmaster Illustrisimo is a larger man, a taller man with a longer reach, and thus they are in different categories and should not be matched.  (Dizon was a formidable fighter with few defeats, most notably of which was from the great Illaus Romo.  Also, a scheduled match between Dizon, Delphin Lopez and Cacoy Canette did not eventuate also because Dizon failed to turn up – according to Cacoy Canette).

While sojorned in Manila in the late 1930s, a young lad around 15 or 16 years old called Angel Cabales, became a staunch student of Felicissimo Dizon.   A few years later, he left for USA (1939) and became internationally famous as the founder of Cabales Serada Eskrima which is very widespread in USA.  (Angel was said to have learnt from Tatang too, but both Tatang and his students told me he is not Tatang’s student.  He only learnt from Tatang because he knew how good Tatang was.  He was regarded as Dizon’s student – Tatang does not pinch the students of his friends.  In fact, Tatang only accepted students from the public in the mid 1970s when he was already in his mid seventies.  It is admitted that Tatang did show and teach his personal friends,  but they were never regarded as ‘students’.   They were his friends.   Such close friends included Felicissimo Dizon and the famous Floro Villabrialle,  who was his cousin.  I believe Timoteo Maranga was one such friend during the war time.  Besides that,  Tatang did not teach anybody who came to enquire)

Grandmaster Ilustrisimo used to frequent bars in the rough areas of Manila.  He often got into fights in such hotspots.  He had been arrested at least 17 times for killing, but he was always lucky to prove his innocence as self defence and was released every time.  The last time he killed was when he was over 90 years old.  He nearly went to jail for that.

Grandmaster Ilustrisimo retired from sea-faring in his advanced years, but not from active practice.  Even in his old age, he  received challenges from young fighters eager to build a name for themselves by unfairly bumping off an old man, but  he survived and gave them a hiding instead.

In his advanced years, Grandmaster Ilustrisimo was partially blind, but he can still spar with his students using real bolos (swords) and exert control not to harm them.  How does he “see” the student’s incoming bolos when he cannot properly see ordinary objects is still a mystery to most, but Dan Inosanto mentioned in his book that (Ilustrisimo’s cousin) Floro Villabrille’s favourite master was a blind princess.  (Some sources indicate that this ‘princess’ was actually not blind, but partially blind, just like Tatang.  And not a princess of Samar, nor Princess Josephina, but daughter of a chief.  She was known to possess some mystical powers.  Also, this story later as changed by later generations to ‘main’ or ‘best’ teacher -  instead of ‘favourite’ teacher – in the sentimental sense, not favourite as ‘best’ teacher).   Tatang insisted that while in Manila,  he actually tutored Floro Villabrialle, who, earlier, was a student of his uncle Melecio Ilustrisimo.  Tatang and was ‘unimpressed’  that the Americans were given the impression that Villabrialle’s main or best teacher was Princess Josephina.


Antonio “Tatang” Ilustrisimo (1904 – 1997) was the Grand Master of Kali Ilustrisimo, a Filipino martial art bearing his family name.

Early life
Born in Bagong, Bantayan, Cebu in 1904. As a boy he studied eskrima from his father. At the age of nine he decided to travel to the United States, and stowed away on a boat he thought was headed for America. In actuality, he arrived in Mindanao, in the southern Philippine islands.

The Martial Arts
Antonio Alulud Ilustrisimo was one of the most well respected eskrimadors of the Philippines; He is famed for winning countless duels and street encounters, as well as serving as a guerrilla against the invading Japanese forces during World War II. GM Ilustrisimo was never defeated in combat, and earnt great respect as a result of his brave exploits against the Japanese.

In 1976 Antonio ‘Tatang’ Ilustrisimo accepted his first students Antonio Diego and Epifanio ‘Yuli’ Romo. After Tatang’s passing in 1997, Tony Diego was elected head of Kali Ilustrisimo. Other notable students include – Rey Galang, Christopher Ricketts and Edgar Sulite.

Antonio Ilustrisimo has been featured in many periodicals and Martial Arts publications. His First apperance was in The book titled  Masters of Arnis, Kali, and Eskrima by Edgar Sulite. His life and art were also featured in the book titled Filipino Martial Culture by Mark Wiley. The art of Kalis Ilustrisimo had a section in the book Filipino Fighting Arts: Theory and Practice by Mark Wiley. The book titled The Secrets of Kalis Ilustrisimo was released in the United States. It was authored by two of his most prominent students, Antonio Diego and Christopher Ricketts.

Grandmaster Jose Diaz Caballero, De Campo Uno-Dos-Tres Orihinal (1907-1987)

Grandmaster Jose Diaz Caballero,

De Campo Uno-Dos-Tres Orihinal (1907-1987)


Guro Dino Flores

Grandmaster Jose Diaz Caballero was born on August 7, 1907 in Barrio Ibo, Toledo City, Cebu Province in the Philippine archipelago. As a youth he would travel from barangay (neighborhood) to barangay in order to watch eskrima matches during fiesta celebrations. These demonstrations mostly pre-arranged sparring called De Cadena were more of a cultural presentation than a display of real fighting which he was doggedly searching for.

From his observations of these Eskrima exhibitions, he modified the moves with an emphasis on three striking levels: the eyes, lower arms (specifically elbows and hands), and knees. He was a fan of Western movies and often compared his style to the gunslinger “quick draw”. He later founded the devastating style known as De Campo Uno-Dos-Tres Orihinal.

In his prime, Jose Caballero was the Juego Todo champion. Juego Todo was all-out, no-holds-barred and did not allow the combatants to wear any protective gear like masks and armour. Death and permanent injury resulting from these duels was not uncommon.

He beat many highly skilled Eskrimadors such as: Simeon Saavedra of Talisay, Balbino Mancao, Vicente Labor, Juan Carolla of Ilocos, Alfredo Macalolan of Negros, Tanciong Lopez from Cebu City, Salomon Canonio, Heneroso Carbajosa, Horje Navajo, Pastor Hingoyon and many lesser known challengers.

One of his more notable fights took place in 1936 against an Eskrimador named Anoy, from the nearby town of Tangub. Jose Caballero utilized his system of 1-2-3 strikes in order to disarm and wound the stunned Anoy, who promptly surrendered. The combination of strikes was delivered so quickly, that the crowd had not fully understood what had just taken place. This resulted in the perception that the match was fixed, and they began shouting “TAYOPE!” (fixed).

Unlike many so-called death match “duelists” and “unbeaten champions” who can’t even recall the names of the opponents they conquered, the foregoing list of eskrimadors vanquished by GM Caballero is a testament of the authenticity of his title as the Juego Todo champion of his era. No less than GM Filemon “Momoy” Canete of San Miguel Eskrima a good friend of GM Caballero once vouched: “Dili ko makig duwa ana imong eskrima Joe, pangpatay man nag sawa.” (I won’t fool around with your eskrima Joe, it’s for killing pythons.)

Grandmaster Caballero served in the Philippine Constabulary and was once assigned to the hostile Moro country of Lanao province. After his retirement from the Constabulary, he continued to teach his brand of Eskrima, and at the same time, the challenges that were part and parcel of the art continued to hound him.

The remaining living witness to GM Caballero’s Juego Todo duels is Egmidio Tubal a retired PC soldier of Davao City.

The old warrior died on August 24 1987