By Jason Cruz
Northwest Asian Weekly
Denzel Washington, Matt Damon, and Melissa McCarthy have all trained in Filipino martial arts (FMA) for action roles in movies. It’s an art that is known for self-defense techniques and the bluntness of its attacks.
“You’ve probably seen it, and didn’t even know it,” said Belton Lubas, a high-level practitioner and FMA instructor in Bellevue.
While it may not be well-known, FMA has been used in many popular movies. “When you look at action films, the satisfaction of wanting to see that violence is what is attractive,” explained Lubas.
Due to the “dark” nature of the system, Lubas describes FMA as a “killing art.” “There are no points, it’s straight to the point,” explained Lubas.
In practice, FMA includes the use of sticks, blunt objects, and blades. The stick is the symbol of the blade. “When you practice with the stick, you practice with the lines [involved in stabbing or slicing your opponent with a blade]” said Lubas. It is a very combat-effective art and is known for its use of adapting to situations, overcoming dangers, and improvising the use of weapons when needed.
The martial art was developed in the Philippines and cultivated by different regions and families, although the three most popular forms are Arnis, Eskrima, and Kali. According to some historians, the martial art has been around for over 2,000 years and predates many other types of martial arts. All three forms include open hand and weapons such as sticks, knives, and bladed weapons. The martial art was a necessity for the Filipino people, as the island country had to fend off invaders and local conflict. Thus, it became more of a fighting system which incorporated common resources in usually close-quarter, combative situations. Lubas indicated that to this day, many combat special forces either train in the Philippines or utilize the techniques in training for combat.
Ferdinand Magellan, whose expedition arrived to the Philippines in 1521, met Filipino warriors led by the legendary Lapu-Lapu. Instead of conceding their way of life to the Spanish, Lapu-Lapu led the Filipinos against the Spanish expansion. It was the Battle of Mactan in which the Filipinos utilized the martial arts against the Spanish forces, which were armed with rifles and crossbows. Lapu-Lapu’s warriors wounded Magellan and eventually killed him in battle.
For Lubas, his martial arts career began in 1994 when he was in San Jose, Calif. However, he did not get involved with FMA until 2007. Lubas, who is Filipino and originally from Guam, recalls the story of seeing an individual doing stick work. The instructor asked him if Lubas was Filipino.
Lubas said yes and the instructor told him, “this is your art.” From there, he learned that his father practiced FMA.
Lubas was instructed by three main teachers. His systems are from the Visayan region of the Philippines. After learning FMA, he began to teach it. In addition to learning the different types of systems, Lubas states that you must come up with your own interpretation.
Lubas’ passion to learn about FMA included going to the Philippines to train with one of the grand masters of FMA. Lubas’ intense schedule included training 12-14 hours per day.
Lubas teaches FMA for Elite Brazilian Martial Arts in Bellevue. When watching a class, there is the use of open hand techniques, sticks, and training knives. There seems to be a rhythmic thrust and parry between two individuals practicing. As one individual attempts to come forward, the other uses a set of blocks and counterstrikes and vice versa. To the untrained eye, it appears that they are just doing a pattern. “It looks like we’re just banging sticks,” explained Lubas. However, it is more than patterns. Lubas explained that many that are drawn to FMA have done their research on the subject and are interested in learning more. Also, people are intrigued when knives (the knives used for training in classes are not sharp) are used to train. The use of a knife in training shows the practical nature of dealing with a real-life situation when one’s life might be in danger. The art helps address the situation and how to defend oneself, as well as a counter to the danger. As Lubas points out, law enforcement, special forces, and the military have trained in FMA as a way to supplement its combat training. The close-quarter fighting involves short, blunt weapons in subduing a criminal or enemy.
There is no set system of time for promotion in FMA, although the process for achieving a black belt takes time. Testing occurs in some specific systems to promote practitioners to different levels.
For more information, please visit bjjfactoria.com.
Jason can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.