A logo is a distinctive organization signature. In a nut shell, it expresses the goals or ideals of an organization. It is akin to a maxim adopted as a principle of behavior.

Surprisingly, the logo of Balintawak Eskrima has undergone several changes depending on the variant of group lineages. However, the group under the leadership of Guru Andrew P. Obon (APO) has stuck to the original logo with some significant modification towards simplicity without undermining its original intent.

Image: APO-Balintawak Self Defense System Logo

The APO group has deliberately chosen to use the bull’s eye logo minus the eye and justice balance. The meaning of these two symbols are captured in the ten virtues as an acronym in the word BALINTAWAK, namely Benevolence, Altruism, Law-Abiding, Integrity, Nationalism, Temperance, Awareness, Wisdom, Attitude, and Kindness. (See separate article for detailed discussion)

What do the four circles in the bull’s eye stand for? They stand for the four levels of learning, namely basic, intermediate, advance, and mastery. Each of these levels of learning has its own curriculum or course of study geared towards the mastery of the art. The chief definite aim of a novice in Balintawak Eskrima should be to hit the bull’s eye by becoming a master of the art. This is achieved through the graduated process of curiosity, interest, commitment, and passion for excellence.

In Balintawak Eskrima, the cane is a mere extension of the arm. The left fist in the logo represents the bare hand combat techniques of Balintawak. The art is just as effective with or without the cane. The limbs are used to complement the cane in Balintawak for optimum efficiency and effectiveness.

The X-figure form by the cane and the bolo indicates that Balintawak Eskrima is foremost a defensive art of combat guided by three rules of engagement, namely, avoidance, defensive, and win-win. (See separate discussion) This is the reason for the overlapping of the cane over the bolo, with the former as its basic and the latter as its ultimate weapon of combat.


In order to attain optimal effectiveness and efficiency of a martial art system, it is important to know the principles behind its technical execution. Discussed below are some of the basic principles, among others, of Balintawak Eskrima:

Image: knife combat exhibition at Leganes IloIlo

Footwork. Balintawak being a very fast and dynamic combat art has no stances, so to speak. Its footwork is akin to western boxing. This is in contrast to karate and some other oriental martial arts, and even various styles of Arnis. All of them deploy stances to execute their various techniques.

However, Balintawak being a purely combat art has to adapt to a fluid or constantly moving posture. Hence, in response to this, it uses a flexible footwork to cope with the constantly changing center of gravity or equilibrium. The corridor drills (give and take) display the interplay of footwork in offensive and defensive maneuvers.

To keep it simple, Balintawak Eskrima has six basic footwork which are used in combination, namely: right lead and left lead; rear right and rear left; and oblique right and oblique left lead. The variant of this footwork are done through integration of dipping and bam booing movements.

Video: Balintawak Corridas | Fast and Strong

The flexible, agile, and stable footwork of Balintawak Eskrima are attributed to the following:

1. It uses short pace, the distance between forward and rear foot, at one shoulder width by one shoulder length apart or slightly longer depending on the practitioner’s height. More or less, its footwork would appear to have an isosceles triangular base support posture. Hence, its base is stable on all sides while at the same time it promotes speed.

2. Both knees are slightly bent with raised heel of the foot that carries the least weight. Normally, when at defensive posture, the heel of the front foot is slightly raised. Then, when switching into the offensive posture, the heel of the rear foot is raised at the impact of the strike.

3. The complimentary interplay of leg, hip, shoulder and arm muscles which contribute to the momentum of speed and power. The switching from defense to offense posture creates the momentum of speed and power, and is further enhanced by the pushing of the rear leg and twisting of the hip and finally into the torque of the waist all the way to the tip portion of the cane as it hits its target. The hip muscles are slower to react, so remember to twist the hip a split second ahead to obtain optimal muscle synchronization to generate fast and strong blows.

Image: Group Technique Demo by APO and M. Balberde

Lightning Strikes. All attacks or strikes are delivered with an element of surprise. Hence, it must show no hint of a wind-up. Its moves or intentions must be non-telegraphic. Also, use short or stemless strikes. This is more effective and harder to block than extended or stead strike. The more you stretch your arm out, the more open you become. Remember the area you protect is open when you deliver your strike. Hence, even when you strike, you must minimize exposure to the area of your body which you ought to protect. This is maintaining a balance between offense and defense.

The shortest between two points is a straight line. Hit directly into the target without any circular motions. Circular or flowery strikes are good to look at but it may cost you your life in actual combat. Straight line concept of direct strikes, also allows faster recovery in preparation for subsequent offense or defense maneuvers.  Again, deliver your strike from where your weapon is positioned without the slightest indication of intention.

Optimal defense. As effective block is executed fast and strong enough to stop the momentum of the offense, and extended only at a distance necessary to absorb the incoming impact. Never block with your arm extended far out. In a close quarter encounter, defend as if your blocking arm is hinged to your side. As you twist your hip, your blocking arm should go with it. More often than not, block at the center of your weapon to effectively diffuse the impact of the blow. Also, block with the perceived bladed edge of your weapon, so that it is executed with the fore fist instead of a semi-back fist, for optimal efficiency. When blocking, body position faces a 45 degrees angle to the left side at rear left and to the right side at rear right. When blocking against a left or high body thrust, simultaneously draw your shoulder backwards as a compliment in evading thrust blows. This is necessary since a thrust travel faster than an arch strike (nos. 1 and 2.)

For a block to catch up with the speed of a strike, it must begin as soon as the strike is initiated. This way, the block will meet the strike about mid-way when the full potential of its power is at 50 percent. For very strong strikes, especially those delivered with heavier cane, an augmented block may be necessary. This is done by using the forearm of the free hand to support behind the block, rather than using the hand. This allows the free hand to grab the opponent cane upon impact.

Image: Demo by APO and M. Balberde

Enhancing speed. The importance of speed is best expressed in the following phrases:

When the opponent cuts you through your skin, cut him through his bone.” Samurai Maxim

A split of a second would spell the difference between life and death in mortal combat. This is the reason why the strikes, counter strikes, and blocks of Balintawak Eskrima generally go the direction of gravity.

Never sacrifice speed for power. If there is speed, there is power and not the other way around. Speed is an important element of surprise in the technical execution of offense, defense, and counter strikes.

Another way to attain optimal speed is to improve one’s reflexes. This is done by maintaining a calm mind like a pool of still water that reflects its surroundings. But when it ripples, it loses its clear reflection. Reaction should follow immediately upon recognition of the threat, or better still, anticipate the threat- be proactive. Stay relaxed but mentally alert, like a wild cat hunting for its prey. Move in fast for the kill and tense your muscles with a twist at the point of impact. The harmony of muscle movement contributes to enhancing speed in motion. The muscle system is relaxed immediately after the strike or block, or after a series when needed so.

Shorten your weapon. Use your weapon up to the limit of its effectiveness. This is why Balintawak arsinadors are both adept in weapons and bare-hands self-defense when hitting with the cane is no longer effective due to limited space between you and your opponent. Use your elbows and knees, for close combat. When your opponent blocks your strike, shorten your stick into and elbow strike. In other words, why hit with the stick when a punch is more effective, and why punch when an elbow strike is more appropriate, and so on. The switching from one weapon to another must be spontaneous and natural.

Video: Balintawak Corridas


Image (Standing from 2nd left to 5th): APO, Tinong Ybanez, Nick Elizar (Nickelstick), Teofilio Velez with some of the Balintawak Chapter Members

It is said that a true martial artist is one who is mild outside but strong within. With this as our objective, the APO-Balintawak Group understands, believes, acts and sacrifices (UBAS) to inculcate among its advocates the Rules of Engagement, Values and Virtues with the chief definite aim of molding each one to live the way of a true martial artist.

On the outset, to achieve the end, we must first sow and nurture the seed of UBAS (Visayan term for grapes) among each and every member-practitioners.

We must first understand the Vision, Mission, Goals and Objectives of the APO-Balintawak Group, and it’s Value System. Only then can each member believe and act out by walking the talk, and sacrifice to achieve in what he or she understands, believes and acts on these. In other words, we have to mature and grow in our value of UBAS and link this to the other sub-value system, as follows:

The 3 Rules of Engagement:

Rule No. 1 – Avoidance. Stay away from places, situations or people that are sources of potential danger. This is a pro-active self-defense measure that is better safe than sorry.

Rule No. 2 – Defensive. If you must fight then do so only to the extent of defending yourself or your interest with just enough force as necessary. Do not maim or kill.

Rule No. 3 – Win-Win. The ultimate is to be able to win without fighting. Talk your way out into victory. This is the essence of a true martial artist.

The Rules of Engagement by themselves cannot be fully complied with unless a martial artist first conquers himself or herself. To help temper ourselves, we advocate and install within us the three core values and the ten virtues, as discussed below:

The Three Core Values are:

(1) Self-Discipline. It is the disciplining of oneself or one’s desires, habits, etc. that would be detrimental to oneself or to others.
(2) Self Control. It is the control of oneself or one’s own emotions, desires, action, etc.
(3) Respect. To feel or show honor or esteem for others. We have to respect ourselves first if we want others to respect us. Respect begets respect.

Image: APO Karate Team with 8th Dan Roberto Gonzales

To conquer oneself is still not enough. The Three Core Values must be reinforced with the Ten Virtues of B.A.L.I.N.T.A.W.A.K., discussed below:

1) Benevolence – an inclination to do good, charitable acts or gift for others. A repetition of this act will develop into the habit of sharing and giving to those in need. A cheerful heart is one who gives.
2) Altruism – unselfish concern for the welfare of others or selflessness. This also means to put others first before oneself, especially the weak and those who have less in life.
3) Loyalty – a quality, state or instance of loyalty, faithfulness or faithful adherence to a person, organization, cause, duty, etc. Hence, be loyal to your teacher or master, to your friends, etc.
4) Integrity – the quality or state of being of sound moral principle, uprightness, honesty, and sincerity. This is the mother of all virtues. It is putting into action what is morally right even if nobody is watching. As sample is disposing your waste properly.
5) Nationalism – devotion to one’s country, culture, heritage, etc. As such, it is but proper that we, Filipinos, promote and pressure our heritage like our combat arts.
6) Temperance – the state or quality of being moderate, self-restraint in conduct, expression, etc. A person of temperance has control over his anger even when under agitation. His mind is like a calm pool which reflects its surrounding like a mirror. Hence, he can anticipate and be pro-active in his strategy in combat or life’s challenges. This virtue plays a significant role in the observance of the rules of engagement.
7) Awareness – the state of having knowledge of one’s surrounding through keen observation and interpretation of what one sees, heals, feels, etc. It enhances the sense of touch, the ability to anticipate the intention of your enemy through his moves, position, balance, and vision. The practice of corridas (give and take) in Balintawak helps enhance the senses of touch, sight and hearing.
8) Wisdom – the quality or state of being wise; power of judging rightly and following the soundest course of action based on knowledge, experience, understanding, etc. This is akin to critical thinking or an analytical mindset. It can be nurtured. Simply, it means think and analyze well before you act. This would prevent and/or minimize many unnecessary mistakes or blunders. Wisdom also comes with open-mindedness. Hence, a wise man may learn from a fool but never otherwise.
9) Attitude (of humility) – ones disposition, opinion, mental set, etc. An Arnisador must nurture a winner’s attitude inside him but regulated with humility outwardly. The attitude of being mild outside but strong within should be practiced by all Arnisadors.
10) Kindness – the state or habit of being kind. Some of the different ways of kindness are – being sympathetic, friendly, helpful, gentle, tender-hearted, and generous. A kind-hearted person is a happy person. And a happy person makes no enemy.

Image: APO with his Martial Arts Students

Equipped with the three rules of engagement; the three core values; and the ten virtues, a true Arnisador can walk the talk like a real winner. One who is mild outside but strong within. One who can win without fighting. This is the ultimate in today’s martial arts.

Video: Balintawak Shadow Fight


“A once fluid man, crammed and distorted by the classical mess”

– Bruce Lee’s miniature tombstone

On the outset, Balintawak eskrima does not advocate the practice of any kind of formal forms or dances, where techniques are pre-arranged in a set pattern. The nearest it has, that may resemble a form, are its 12-basic strikes; 12 basic defense; and 12-basic defense and counter strikes, when done without a partner these basic techniques are performed in consecutive order from numbers 1-12, to facilitate checking for proper posture and footwork in the basic technical execution. These are, however, not meant to be treated as formal form exercises.

Why do other oriental martial arts and even other eskrima styles have created their own unique sets of formal forms?

Master Richard Chun of the Moo Duk Kwon, answers this question, “…the objective was to promote a means of training their students to perform the basic techniques in continuous sequence, so that they should be able to defend themselves against more than one opponent, and in any direction, for as long as was necessary without tiring.”

Image: APO and Mel Balberde exhibiting Combat with Foot Technique

It may be noted, that both practice of formal forms and shadow fightingdevelop and promote balance, accuracy, concentration, coordination, andendurance. The latter however, has the value added qualities since it also develops fluidity and creativity in its practitioners.

Fluidity is the ability to be able to move and change shape without separating when under pressure, like water that can change rapidly and effortlessly.  Put it in any container, it takes the shape of the container. Squeeze it in your hand, it escapes between your fingers without resisting.

Like boxing, Balintawak shadow fight has no established long sets of pattern. It may adopt the 1-2-3 strikes similar to boxing, however, it does not apply long set combination of techniques, that are found in formal forms. In essence, it is formless like water.

Shadow fighting provides an avenue to develop and enhance fluidity of movement. The concept and quality of fluidity is necessary to respond spontaneously to offense and defense maneuvers – just like sound and echo. It facilitates smooth flow of techniques from one to another in an unstructured series.

Creativity is another important quality that is developed through unstructured shadow fighting. Creative is defined as the power to create. It requires intelligence and imagination, not merely mechanical skills. it is a critical visualization of one’s imaginary opponent(s), wherein, no round is similar to each other in terms of sequence of techniques or movements. Thus, each round is treated as a new experience. This helps enhance the process of creativity. With creativity comes opportunity to develop offensive and defensive techniques towards their optimal potential.

Image: APO and Mel Balberde exhibiting Combat with Foot Technique

Balintawak eskrima shadow fighting can be categorized in many ways:

Category 1: Defense and offense against single opponent who specializes in: a.) short range, b.) medium range, c.)long range fighting

Category 2: Defense and offense against an opponent who specializes in: a.) single stick, b.) double stick, c.) dagger and stick

Category 3: Defense and offense against an opponent who uses bladed pointed weapons.

Category 4: Fighting more than one opponent at a time, either armed or unarmed or combination thereof.

The variables in shadow fighting are numerous, depending on the level of proficiency and level of creativity of the practitioner.

Image: Knife Combat Exhibition by APO-Balintawak Students

Some points to be observed in the performance of shadow fighting:

1. While at attention posture, before beginning the shadow fight, take a deep breath, using the diaphragm, and concentrate on what you are about to do.

2. To develop posture and proper technical execution, perform each technique, both offensive and defensive, clearly and completely, before flowing on to the next.

3. Maintain regular breathing using the diaphragm, throughout the performance. Exhale simultaneously upon the full impact at the end of each strike combination.

4. Do not lose focus on the type of imaginary opponent(s) you are fighting. Visualize your perceived opponent without lapses of intervention. Fight as though your opponent is real.

5. Maintain a relaxed composure and tense your muscles only at the point of imaginary impact, either offensive or defensive maneuvers. After each impact, relax your grip so you can act or react faster to the changing situation.

The built-in value added quality of fluidity and creativity, in shadow fighting approach, allow its practitioners, to develop these qualities to its optimal potential, thereby, facilitating improvement and refinement in the technical execution of techniques.

True refinement seeks simplicity. And simplicity is nothing more than going back to what was once fluid. Further, being fluid enhances ones creativity and imagination.


APO-Balintawak Self Defense System, All Rights Reserved. No portion of the text may be used or reproduced in part or in whole without the express written consent of APO-Balintawak Self Defense System.

2 Replies to “PRINCIPLES”

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s