12 Basics..." Guro Belton Lubas

sonder
n. the realization that each random passerby is living a life as vivid and complex as your own—populated with their own ambitions, friends, routines, worries and inherited craziness—an epic story that continues invisibly around you like an anthill sprawling deep underground, with elaborate passageways to thousands of other lives that you’ll never know existed, in which you might appear only once, as an extra sipping coffee in the background, as a blur of traffic passing on the highway, as a lighted window at dusk.
— Dictionary of Obscure Sorrows

Who are you? How do you define yourself? What's your story?

Hi!  My name is Belton Lubas and I am from the island of Guam.  Now if you ask me what my ethnicity heritage is.....Im Visayan with family in Iloilo and surrounding areas.  Currently my Dad medically retired out there and every year I make an effort to visit him and train in the motherland at the same time.  

I define myself as an ambassador to the arts and a teacher and practitioner that embraces, respects, and promotes the arts.  I define myself as an innovator, someone who embraces the spirit of JKD, and yet old school at heart.

My Story...I grew up on an island with diversity and pride.  Pride in your village, in your family name, and in your heritage.  I was proud of where I grew up but I was also proud of my Filipino heritage. It’s these things that I always remember fighting for while growing up.  It was a part of what and who we were.  During the early 90’s, I can’t recall a time we as kids WEREN'T scrapping or involved in a fight somehow.  These alone probably brought lots of real world experience to only prepare me for what’s to come.  While most grownups I’ve trained have NEVER been in a fight....We were fighting as young kids for our neighborhood, friends, culture, and or family.  

Guam Pride

Guam Pride

I can’t recall a time we as kids WEREN’T scrapping or involved in a fight somehow... We were fighting as young kids for our neighborhood, friends, culture, and or family.  

How were you exposed to Balintawak?

It’s a funny story.  I actually resisted coming out to a Balintawak class for a couple of years or so.  Vince Domingcil, a fellow Martial Arts school owner, police officer, currently a level 6 Taboada Balintawak practitioner has been bugging me for the longest time saying, “Bro, you gotta come check out this art”.  I would counter him saying I run a school, that I have multiple FMA I already study along with Muay Thai, Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, and other arts.  I said I just don't have the time!  Finally, I gave in so he would stop harassing me...plus he was a good friend and I trusted his opinion.  So, I drove out to his school and on my first day I met Guro John Soriano. Guro John had Guro Josh Farnham (now an FQI) work with me.  I also had the chance to see Guro John Soriano and Guro Josh play a little. I never looked back...I was hooked.  It was different from other Balintawak styles I’ve seen and I wanted it.  Being a boxer, Muay Thai guy, a striker...it definitely resonated with me.

How long have you studied?

For Balintawak, I believe there are some old videos of me in late 2013 and a picture or two....So It was Probably September of 2013. But I started in the Bay Area in San Jose, Ca in 1994 after leaving Guam Soon after graduating high school.   

Who was your primary instructor?  

So since I couldn’t always do the commute to Guro John while he was teaching up in Bothell, I did privates with Guro John and I even invited some of my FMA students so that I can have a training partner / group.  From there...it just kept going. 

What was the hardest part of learning Balintawak?  

The hardest part for me is slowing down and capturing the essence of what makes it Taboada Balintawak.  Being a full time martial artist and having numerous arts as a background...I had to empty my cup and emulate what personifies GM Bobby Taboada’s Balintawak.  I had to stop and listen when GM would emphasize key components that made it Balintawak.  It was hard not because of the technique, It was hard because I wanted to go faster. I wanted the next grouping.  I wanted to accelerate my learning vs putting it in my body and movement.  Patience was hard due to me being an instructor in other fma systems.  Because I picked things up fast, I had to constantly humble myself to fully grasp the teaching and the material.  

I had to empty my cup and emulate what personifies GM Bobby Taboada’s Balintawak.

Favorite part of Balintawak?  

My favorite part about it is unquestionably the tangible idea of a journey.  Sections, Curriculum, advancement... there was a path. Then, when you’ve completed the art, you weren’t done!  It’s like when black belts first get their black...they restart their journey.  I was eyeing that level 7 FQI.  I swore to Guro John and GM Bobby that I would finish what I started and then explore my personal self expression of the art from my experiences.   Coming from old school teachings, it was a refresher to see basic curriculum.  Not that I minded being taught the old way (attack...ok now defend), But GM Bobby had it structured so that it gave me as a teacher and as a student an idea of where it leads.  It’s simple yet complicated.  And to me, sometimes simple wins. Another part to it, is the responsibility for a potential FQI to bring up a person to complete the art.  I love that idea!!!  Being a student and showcasing your ability in the art is one thing.  But can you teach another to do the same?  GM Kelly Worden says, “We create leaders”. And it’s amazing to see the same thought process in GM Bobby.  Grand Tuhon says, “We teach to learn and We learn to teach”.  Same thing!  These GM’s definitely knew what they were doing! 

My favorite part about it is unquestionably the tangible idea of a journey

Have you/do you study other arts? 

Yes I currently teach other FMA systems.   I am the Washington Training Director and a Senior Instructor Black Belt for Natural Spirit International / Worden Defense Systems Under GrandMaster Kelly Worden.  

Guro Belton Lubas (L), GM Bobby Taboada (in a totally rad Richmond Balintawak shirt) (C), and GM Kelly Worden (L)

Guro Belton Lubas (L), GM Bobby Taboada (in a totally rad Richmond Balintawak shirt) (C), and GM Kelly Worden (L)

I am also an Agalon rank in Pekiti Tirsia Kali and teach and report directly to Grand Tuhon Leo Gaje III himself and represent the Pacific Northwest in regards to PTK.  

Tuhon Jesse (L), Grand Tuhon Leo Gaje (C), and Agalon Belton Lubas (R) of Pekriti Tirsia Kali

Tuhon Jesse (L), Grand Tuhon Leo Gaje (C), and Agalon Belton Lubas (R) of Pekriti Tirsia Kali

I am a Muay Thai Kru Yai (Chief Instructor) under Ajahn Suchart and am the owner and founder of Warrior Strength Muay Thai with Affiliates in various schools in different states and countries.  

Kru Yai Lubas working in the clinch at a Muay Thai seminar.

Kru Yai Lubas working in the clinch at a Muay Thai seminar.

I am a Purple Belt in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu under Professor Roland Gutierrez under Rick Lucero (Original Dirty Dozen) Jiu Jitsu Lineage.  

A purple belt Belton Lubas practicing the Knee on Belly position during a BJJ seminar, crushing both the ribs and dreams of his training partner.

A purple belt Belton Lubas practicing the Knee on Belly position during a BJJ seminar, crushing both the ribs and dreams of his training partner.

I also train every now and then with other systems such as Silat, Piper Knife, and other FMA Systems. 

How have they influenced each other?  

Yes they have. They highly influenced either in the thought process, Renegade JKD Concepts, movement efficiency, adding value and options in close quarter striking, ground game, and other various weapons. It is quite evident in my level 7 FQI Test.  I purposely showcased how these other arts can be integrated and expressed even within the Taboada Balintawak system.  GM Bobby specifically told me...”Ok, Now for your Level 7, I want to see you honor the other arts and Grandmasters you learned from.  Show me in your techniques.”  And I did.  

 GM Bobby specifically told me...”Ok, Now for your Level 7, I want to see you honor the other arts and Grandmasters you learned from.  Show me in your techniques.”  And I did.  

What's your day job?

I own a gym.  Warrior Strength Martial Arts. We offer FMA, BJJ, and Muay Thai.  


Have there been any concepts from that profession that have informed your Balintawak or vice versa?  

Yes. The other arts have definitely influenced my Balintawak AFTER my foundation has been built.  Then and only then did I allow myself to let those arts come into play. I made sure as I’ve told specific Grandmasters, I will teach your arts the way it was and should be taught.  In the same way, I wanted to complete Taboada Balintawak first before adding my flare.  

I made sure as I’ve told specific Grandmasters, I will teach your arts the way it was and should be taught.

What is the main lesson you want your students to take from your instruction in Balintawak?

It’s a simple art.  Learn it pure, properly, and understand the art first.  You will see along the way where it’s going and appreciate it more with patience over time. 

What do you emphasizes with beginners and what do you emphasizes with your more advanced students?

Beginner or advanced...no one escapes the most basic movement patterns.  Always do it correctly.   Being advanced just means you have more reps.  No professional or high level practitioner is exempt from still working “the jab” for example.  In the same way, and in our system, we still defend and counter fast.  That will never change.  Principles and concepts will never change. A drill or a technique may vary with interpretation. But concepts and principles stay grounded. 

Being advanced just means you have more reps

What does a typical class look like when you teach?

It is the same way GM Bobby runs it.  You start with all the basic strikes, shadow fighting form, etc.  all levels still do the same exercises or drills. Just like our test.  We may be level 7 but we still side to side block.  From there and after the warmups.  We may visit a grouping and then partner up according to skill and I coach along the way for the level they are at.  I call it drive by coaching.  Coaching on the fly and adapting accordingly.  

We may be level 7 but we still side to side block.

What kind of things were you thinking about when you were developing your 24 techniques?

I asked myself, how can I best represent all the Grandmasters, the arts, in my 24 techniques and still have the Balintawak flare. When thinking on a particular technique, I asked myself if this setup makes sense?  Are there counters?  In fact, I had sometimes 2 or 3 techniques more that I never showed because I came up with scenarios of counters and recounters.  I thought of what would GM be thinking if he saw this technique. I asked myself if I would be honoring all those teachers and their sacrifices?  I wanted it all to be shown.  And I wanted them all to be proud. 

Guro Belton Lubas with GM Bobby Taboada

Guro Belton Lubas with GM Bobby Taboada

Why did you want to become a Fully Qualified Instructor?  

My personal reasons are my own. Completing an art is fine.  It’s great!  We all should do it.  But I wanted what was beyond.  I also knew that if I opened up that rabbit’s hole...FQI changes your Balintawak

Journey from Linear to circular.  Meaning, if I stopped at 6 and just completed the art, then I have all the forms and groupings etc...I’m done. I show that.  Teach that.  And that is all.  But FQI opened up an inquisitive creature within.  It begged the questions that were out there.  It forced one to re-examine who they were, what they were doing, and It humbled you.  You got put in a wonderful never ending circle of learning.  Because you’re constantly exploring what you’ve created.  Counters to what you’ve shown.  Re-counters etc.  It’s unlimited growth and stimulation of the martial artist in myself.  It is how it should be for all martial arts.  Like GM Kelly says and prefaced from Professor Remy Presas, “Find the Art Within Your Art”. 

I also knew that if I opened up that rabbit’s hole...FQI changes your Balintawak... FQI opened up an inquisitive creature within.  It begged the questions that were out there.
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1 Extra. What are you known for in the Balintawak community?  

I don’t know.  Some say I’m a grappler.  Some Say I have good knife.  Some say I’m a striker.  A fighter.  Some say I’m a good dancer.  A saxophone player.  A brother. A mentor. Some say I inspire them.  Some say I’m a comedian.  I am who I am to you.  I hope that I bring out the best in yourself and you find your path to FQI.  


For more information or to train with Belton check out his school at:

Warrior Strength Training

(425) 362-7373

2273 140th Ave NE
Bellevue, WA 98005
(Inside Extensions Dance)

www.warriorstrengthmartialarts.com