A simplified model of arterial blood pressure intended for use in model-based signal processing applications is presented. The main idea is to decompose the pressure into two components: a travelling wave describes the fast propagation phenomena predominating during the systolic phase and a windkessel flow represents the slow phenomena during the diastolic phase. Instead of decomposing the blood pressure pulse into a linear superposition of forward and backward harmonic waves, as in the linear wave theory, a nonlinear superposition of travelling waves matched to a reduced physical model of the pressure, is proposed. Very satisfactory experimental results are obtained by using forward waves, the N-soliton solutions of a Korteweg-de Vries equation in conjunction with a two-element windkessel model. The parameter identifiability in the practically important 3-soliton case is also studied. The proposed approach is briefly compared with the linear one and its possible clinical relevance is discussed.