“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 prearranged in a set of patterns. 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 the practice of formal forms and shadow fighting develop and promote balance, accuracy, concentration, coordination, and endurance. The latter however, has the value added qualities since it also develops fluidity and creativity.

Fluidity is the ability to move and change shape without separating under pressure like water that can change rapidly and effortlessly against any solid space.  Put it in any container and it takes the shape of the container. Squeeze it in your hand and it will escape between your fingers without resisting.

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

Shadow fighting provides an avenue for developing and enhancing fluidity of movement. The concept and quality of fluidity is necessary to respond spontaneously to offensive and defensive maneuvers just like echo after sound. It facilitates smooth flow of techniques from one to the next in an unstructured series of moves.

Creativity is another important quality that is developed through unstructured shadow fighting. Creativity 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 one 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 maximum 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 a 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 of both.

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 Michael Soriano and Don Tenio Dumadag

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 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. Furthermore, being fluid enhances ones creativity and imagination.

Video: APO-Balintawak Eskrima Shadow Fight

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.



  1. Pingback: Shadow Fight | Game Glist

  2. Hello Nong Andrew,
    I am very happy that you are now back to your passion, practicing martial arts especially teaching the Balintawak arnis. I saw our old pictures together when we did our exhibition way back in 1980’s. I am glad you have still them. More power to you and may God bless you and your group. I thank you so much for teaching me martial arts and the renowned Balintawak arnis.

    Your friend and former student,
    Mel o. Balberde

    • More power to you too; especially for promoting Filipino Martial Arts internationally. Thank you for the recognition bestowed upon me as one of the Grand Masters of CASASSAI. I am proud to be part of your team and I hope you will continue to shine in the Filipino Martial Arts world. Please in touch from time to time. Your friend: APO- Andrew P. Obon

  3. Pingback: Balintawak Eskrima Enhances Fluidity and Creativity With Shadow Fight Practice | MyFreeHacksWorld

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