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Grandmaster Jose D. Caballero was born on August 7, 1907 in Barrio Ibo,Toledo City, west of Cebu Province. In his early youth he used to go from barrio to barrio to watch Eskrima exhibitions during the fiesta celebrations. These demonstrations, mostly pre-arranged sparring called DeCadena, were more of a cultural presentation than a display of real fighting which he was doggedly searching for.
From his observations of these exhibitions, he later modified the moves with emphasis on three striking levels: the eyes, hands or elbows and knees. He later named the method as De Campo Uno-Dos-Tres Orihinal.
Grandmaster Caballero served in the Philippine Constabulary and was once assigned in 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 was part and parcel of the art continued to hound him.
These challenges, called Juego Todo or all-out, no-holds-barred, did not allow the combatants to wear any protective gear like masks and armor. Death and permanent injury resulting from these duels were not uncommon.
In his prime, Grandmaster Caballero was the vaunted Juego Todo duelist and beat up not just ordinary punch-drunk bullies but highly skilled eskrimadors like Simeon Saavedra, Balbino Mancao, Vicente Labor, Juan Carolla, Alfredo Macalolan, Tanciong Lopez, Solomon Canonio, Heneroso Carbajosa, Horje Navajo, Pastor Hingoyon and many lesser known challengers to his crown.
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 Grandmaster 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.)
The old warrior died on August 24, 1987.