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.

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