Shadow Boxing and Shadow Fighting in Balintawak Arnis Eskrima

Grandmaster Atillo performing Amara in 1986.

Balintawak Arnis Eskirma and Solo Training of Amara and Karenza (Shadow Boxing/Shadow Fighting)

A while back I saw an interesting question below a video on Balintawak Arnis. Somebody had made a very keen observation and asked: If there are no solo forms, no twirling, no fancy movements or amara in Balintawak, then why do all the Balintawak masters seem to be so good at it?

Some masters and grandmasters have openly said that they developed and added some shadow boxing forms and stick twirling exercises, because it gets people interested, brings them in to the art and gives them something they can easily practice on their own. Some have also got some double stick, sword, and knife amara and karenza in their curriculum. I am mostly looking at single stick training here, though, since that is the cornerstone of Balintawak Arnis.

This post is not meant to debate whether the old Balintawak grandmasters categorically rejected a more flowery type of amara, or whether they simply knew that other methods of training have to be prioritized in order to make the training more efficient and effective for learning how to fight while still practicing their personal versions of amara at the same time, thus explaining why they all seem to be and have been so good at it. In a way, the 12 basic strikes are a form in and of themselves.

What I would like to do instead is list some definitive benefits we can reap from amara and karenza training, whether it is of the more flowery type, or a more straight-forward, direct type, and why it can be well worth spending some time on it.

Consistent, proper amara and karenza practice allows us to

  • train the strength and flexibility of our muscles, tendons and joints in a very controlled manner without any outside stress like a moving partner.

  • use and familiarize ourselves with various lengths and weights of weapons safely.

  • study and develop proper form and body mechanics for strikes and defense.

  • study and develop striking combinations we can then test and further work on in our tyre and heavy bag training as well as partner exercises and sparring.

  • develop fluidity of movement and transitions between offensive and defensive moves.

  • get comfortable with adding various types of footwork and applying all of our striking and defending while moving before we then work on it with a partner.

  • work on rhythm, rhythm changes, and breathing.

  • express ourselves through movement.

This list is by no means complete, but hopefully it can serve as a reminder to not immediately dismiss a more flowery amara or karenza out of hand.

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