Cacoy Changed My Life

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…”

Mubuhay Cacoy!

Long live Cacoy!










How JKD Training led me to CTS

In my last post I talked about How Kenpo Karate led me to CTS, I took a look at the time I began training in earnest and started to believe, and achieve some legit goals in martial arts, but there is much more to the story of my Kenpo Genesis. (That was the name of episode one, stick with me here on the Star Wars theme. HEY, I hear a new one came out; I bet it bombed…)

Anyways, shortly after I began training at my Kenpo school in West Boca, my instructor came across a Jeet Kune Do instructor that ruined his life. He would teach seminars and even train us (the staff) privately. My first instructor, for his part, was a determined Kenpoist (in that, he was determined to be sure that Kenpo was the answer to all his problems, from wanting to be a martial artist, to wanting to have some money) before he met Sifu Neil. Neil had answers to questions that we didn’t even have, and I was in a ball of confusion


Mind. Blown.

Episode II: Finding the Flow

My training in JKD allowed me to move faster and more sure in my Kenpo and my Kali. I was being creative in my movement, less choreographed, and was finding the flow that all martial artists (should) strive for.

The first thing that I noticed about JKD is that it had less esoteric techniques. Jab, cross hook, cover, took the place of the memorized, preconceived/conditioned responses found in Kenpo. One of the issues that I always had with Kenpo is that it tried to give you too much. In an effort to use some of the more ‘fancy looking’ basics from the Kenpo that he learned from his teachers, Ed Parker had inserted some freakishly flamboyant motions into his system of American Kenpo Karate. My first attraction to JKD was the charm held in it’s simplicity. Secondly, JKD possessed a less mechanical motion. Initially, I assumed, this was a product of it’s simplicity, but soon came to understand that it was the training methodology.


Stickfighting like it’s 1999…

I really liked the folks that I trained Jeet Kune Do with at American Dragon Martial Arts Academy, and the instructors, Sifu Neil and Sijay Helena were good teachers. Classes were usually broken down into three parts: First we did our calisthenics and trained our basics with hand targets and/or body shields for 15-20 minutes. Now that we were warmed up, we would practice Jun Fan Kickboxing interactive drills while wearing protective gear (45-60 minutes). There was always a theme to the drills, and they were designed to develop certain attributes, much like we do in Counterpoint Tactical System (CTS) today. We would finish most classes practicing Jun Fan Gung Fu (essentially, Bruce Lee’s version of Wing Chun Gung Fu). While training at American Dragon, I also participated in their, Filipino Kali Classes and Muay Thai Kickboxing (best. cardio. ever.).

Here’s a video of MMA world champion Anderson Silva training the same stuff that I was doing at the time:

My training in JKD lasted nearly three years (Jan. ’99-Dec. ’01). The only reason that I stopped was because I was asked to be an instructor at a school of my own. For Christmas that year, knowing my disappointment in not having a Kali teacher (I had never stopped training Kenpo with Manny Reyes Sr. every Tuesday morning in Hialeah), Mindy (my wife) bought me a block of private lessons with Sifu Neil. My intention was for him to teach me Pekiti Tirsia Kali as apposed to the Inosanto System (PTK is a major component of Guro Dan’s Kali). Sifu Neil was a certified instructor in PTK (I believe, under Tom Bisio, if memory serves), but, for some reason, I didn’t get the vibe that he was into teaching me solely PTK, it turned out I was correct and thus began my search for a new Pekiti Tirsia Kali instructor (and episode three of this series).

I am very thankful for my training in JKD, it helped me to understand that I should never be satisfied with, just “knowing” a technique. The experience led me, for the first time in my training (as a 2nd degree black belt in Kenpo, mind you), to aquiring some real skills ‘hard wired’, as we say in CTS. Jeet Kune Do was a major upgrade to what is now referred to as #trainingHaastyle. Where to go from here? I wonder…

See you on the mat! RH

There are a lot of avenue’s to CTS, Eric Primm’s was grappling, you can read about it here…

How Grappling Led Me to CTS by Eric Primm