On February 5, 2016, the revered Supreme Grand Master Ciriaco “Cacoy” Cañete passed from this world and dispersed his eternal light into the universe. I’ll never stop feeling the warmth of his presence and I will never stop hearing his laughter. It has been ten years since I first met the man, the myth, the legend—Grand Master Supremo Cacoy changed my life forever.
Flashback: June 2006, U.S. Kenpo Kai, Miami, FL:
I paid respects to my instructor Zach Whitson and was introduced to his immortal beloved Dian for the first time (that was a privilege in and of itself). I paid the mat fee for myself and my daughter Marissa to my good friend Sandor, and thanked him for the opportunity to train with such an esteemed eskrimador as SGM Cacoy. Marissa and I shook off our shoes, secured doble olisi from our bags, and took a deep breath; Manong Cacoy was sitting in a chair in front of the mirror and we were going headlong into history. “Hello, Grand Master, my name is Russ Haas, and this is my oldest daughter, Marissa. We are students of Master Zach…” From that moment forward I was captured in this esteemed man’s world orbit, and it was a most honorable place to be.
The laughter, oh, the laughter; I’ll never forget. I tell the story regularly: We were working one of the most ubiquitous of Cacoy Doce Pares techniques, the disarm he calls “Rule of Thumb.” The sequence—as it was being taught on that day by the great Grand Master—marched its way into the Eskrido throw that is referred to in Counterpoint Tactical System as “inside wrist lock.” Now, let me set the scene: I am 6′ plus and 300 lbs plus, and my daughter Marissa was 4’11” and maybe 105 lbs soaking wet. We spent the entire day training together directly in front of SGM Cacoy as he sat in his chair by the mirror. So Marissa dumps all 300+ pounds of me—HARD—using the wrist lock that he had just taught us, and Cacoy JUMPS from his chair and yells “1932! 1932! That was when I first do (sic) that!” I’ll never forget how much Cacoy enjoyed seeing my ass dropped to the mat by my little girl….
Flashback: July 2007, Ryer Academy, Pittsburgh, PA:
It became clear that one seminar per year from this amazing eskrimador was not going to cut it, so I hit the road to see my friend Josh in Pittsburgh to get an extra look that year at the MASTERY of Cacoy. As I entered the mat space, I heard, “Russ!” SGM had spotted me from across the room. Now, mind you, he was 8,600 miles from home and I was 1,100 miles from home, and I had met him maybe 2 or 3 times in my life at this point. For him to recognize me at that time, especially given my penchant for changing appearance, was a true honor. I think we both felt like we were right where we belonged. Being on the mat with Cacoy was like being home…
I’ll never forget the disarming demo that Cacoy showed that day:
I’ll also never forget the Espada y Daga demo that Cacoy presented in Miami 2008:
When you’re in the presence of a Master, you know it. I have been so privileged to have had so much mat time with an eskrimador of this level. SGM Cacoy changed my life. He taught me the importance of longevity, laughter, sincerity, and thoughtfulness for my mind. He showed me that more practice, creativity and sparring in my martial arts training will make me better. His presence made me understand that there really are, truly, spiritual people in this world.
Flash to the future: Anytime, anyplace:
We will never forget the wisdom. We will never forget the laughter. We will never forget the sincerity. We will practice our technique until HE would be satisfied… and more. We will never stop training. The world will know Cacoy Doce Pares Eskrima and it’s Supreme Grand Masters’ inimitable refrain “Now, you try…”
Long live Cacoy!