Belton Lubas: From Harassed Dancer to Filipino Martial Artist | Sports


Filipino martial arts are developing on the island and have grown and maintained a following in the United States. This week, The Score features Filipino martial artist Belton Lubas, who channeled his youthful struggles into the energy to perfect his craft.

Lubas is a former resident of Guam who, throughout his childhood, became a talented dancer thanks to his mother. But his movements and pace didn’t help him when it came to bullies.

Lubas recalled an incident where he fought back and realized that what he can pack into a punch has to be controlled.

“It was kind of my take on bullying, changing my perspective on it and just being cooler with everyone, getting to know everyone,” Lubas said.

The training begins

At 18, he began to transform from bullied dancer to martial artist after moving to San Jose, California. Lubas said he officially started when his sister recommended a school to him run by a man who attended the same church as her.

“Here I am, 1994, training in this (martial arts) gym, because I tried it and fell in love with it,” Lubas said. “I’m like, ‘Oh my God, it’s kind of like mixed martial arts. “”

Lubas said his dance training helped him transition into martial arts.

“When I discovered martial arts, I got busy and found that I had a knack for it because of the footwork, the timing,” Lubas said. “I was a dancer growing up and played sports, so it was fun.”

He then began to focus on Filipino martial arts when his teacher was able to be trained by Ernie Reyes Sr., best known for his work in “Street Fighter: The Movie” in 1995.

student to teacher

Between classes, Lubas went to physical therapy school and later worked at a gymnasium in Seattle. He left to open his own gym while continuing to train with datu Kelly Worden. Regarding training in various styles of martial arts, he said that Filipino martial arts helped elevate his fighting style.

“I only did the ones I felt were valued, so I pursued Filipino martial arts and went all the way to the highest position,” Lubas said.

In his establishment, he teaches arnis, balintawak and pekiti-tirsia kali. Arnis and balintawak involve stick fighting while pekiti-tirsia kali involves knife fighting, which is often used in television and film.

Since opening his facility, Lubas said he has trained with special forces, security personnel and executive protection. Having been able to train in Filipino martial arts on the west coast, he also found himself involved in several media projects.

“Being in the Filipino martial arts opens up those avenues to train the police, the military, … run self-defense workshops, craft fight scenes in movies. I made a music video,” Lubas said.

Back home

Lubas returned to Guam in 2014 to visit, but also spent his time teaching several resident Filipino martial artists at Ypao Beach Park.

He said he recognized the lack of interest in the sport as other fighting styles like taekwondo or Brazilian jiujitsu received popularity.

“I just wish more people would embrace it,” Lubas said. “But there are people out there trying to bring that change to Guam.”


Lubas continues to teach in Seattle. He said he had two tips when it came to his class.

“Come with an empty mind and absorb whatever comes your way,” Lubas said. “It’s going to be frustrating, but you have to trust the process.”


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