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Balisong Butterfly Knife Basics

Updated on January 24, 2014
NateB11 profile image

I've been training in martial arts since the 80s, consistently since the 90s. I am a 2nd degree black belt in Kenpo Karate.

Introduction

The Balisong, or Butterfly Knife, is a bladed instrument and weapon from the Philippines, used on the Islands both as a tool and for fighting. It consists of a two-piece handle and a blade; the handles close in on the blade to conceal it and reveal the blade when open. The blade, when closed, rests in grooves in the handles.

Having it's origin in the Philippines, the Balisong has become popular across the globe. It has been included in such movies as Sharkey's Machine, Big Trouble in Little China, and Kick Ass. It's become a favorite among many people because many flashy and tricky moves can be performed with the instrument. In other words, to many people the Balisong is fun. However, it is always good to use caution with such a tool and be very conscious of the sharp edge of the blade when using it. It is also important to be aware that the knife is illegal in some areas.

Since safety is the first concern, I've provided a chart below to identify certain parts of the Balisong which you must be conscious of to use it safely. The main parts I want to cover are the latch, the safe handle, the bite handle, the edge, and the swedge.

The latch is attached to one of the handles of the knife and is used to keep it locked in place when the knife is closed. Typically (but not always), the latch is on the handle on the sharp edge side of the knife, known as the edge: This handle is known as the bite handle. This is very important to remember, because you do not want to hold the knife by the handle on the edge side of the knife. The other handle is called the safe handle, for obvious reasons: It is on the side of the knife which is not sharp, known as the swedge. So, see which side the latch of the handle is on and this will help you keep track of where the sharp edge of the blade is. See chart below for more details.

At the bottom left you will see The Latch; it is attached to the Bite Handle, which is the handle on the sharp Edge side of the blade. The handle on the right is the Safe Handle, which is on the non-sharp Swedge part of the blade.
At the bottom left you will see The Latch; it is attached to the Bite Handle, which is the handle on the sharp Edge side of the blade. The handle on the right is the Safe Handle, which is on the non-sharp Swedge part of the blade. | Source

The purpose of this article is to cover very basic moves of opening and closing the Balisong. It is important to mention that good training in weapons is a must for understanding how to use them properly without hurting yourself or another. Safety is always a primary concern in martial arts training.

Two-handed Opening

This is probably the simplest, quickest, safest way to open the Balisong. No extra moves, and the chances are reduced that you might lose your grip or fumble with it. It involves opening the knife by pulling the handles apart, with blade down and back of your hands facing you; turn the blade upwards, turn hands with palms facing you, then close handles with knife exposed. To close, reverse the process. Of course, you could also open the knife starting with the blade pointing upwards first; in which case you simply pull the handles apart and close them together with knife exposed. Here I show the first method with blade down.

Hold Balisong with both hands.
Hold Balisong with both hands. | Source
Open handles of Balisong.
Open handles of Balisong. | Source
Turn Balisong so that blade points upward.
Turn Balisong so that blade points upward. | Source
Close handles.
Close handles. | Source
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One-handed Quick Opening

This is the quickest and handiest way of opening the Balisong. I say handiest, because it leaves one hand free if needed. It is also relatively safe, because chances of dropping it or fumbling with it are minimized. You let the bite handle and blade dangle down, keeping hold of safe handle in thumb and index finger. Spin knife clock-wise in hand until blade points forward and bite handle dangles. Keep hold of safe handle between thumb and index finger, open other fingers to grip bite handle into your palm.

Hold Balisong in one hand.
Hold Balisong in one hand. | Source
Let dangle blade and bite handle.
Let dangle blade and bite handle. | Source
Turn knife clock-wise
Turn knife clock-wise | Source
Source
Blade will be pointing forward and bite handle dangling down.
Blade will be pointing forward and bite handle dangling down. | Source
Keep hold of safe handle between thumb and index finger and open other three fingers.
Keep hold of safe handle between thumb and index finger and open other three fingers. | Source
Drop bite handle into palm.
Drop bite handle into palm. | Source
Close hand around handles.
Close hand around handles. | Source

The Three Move Flip Open

This one is a bit more intricate. Conscious of where the latch is (see above and see your knife), also be aware of which side the sharp edge of the blade is, and make sure you are gripping the handle on the side of the blade which is not sharp (the safe handle). Let the handles fall open. With a small clock-wise motion, spin the handle in your palm, gripping with thumb and index finger, until your fingers are in-between the handles. Spin the handle again in the same fashion, until the blade and bite handle are dangling downward. Now with a quick and short upward motion, pop the bite handle up into your hand so that now you have both handles in your hand and the knife exposed and ready. To close it, you use the same series of motions, but the blade and bite handle are popped up into your hand at the end.

Hold Balisong in one hand.
Hold Balisong in one hand. | Source
Let bite handle dangle.
Let bite handle dangle.
Spin knife clock-wise.
Spin knife clock-wise.
Spin the knife one more time clock-wise.
Spin the knife one more time clock-wise.
Bite handle and blade will  be dangling downward.
Bite handle and blade will be dangling downward.
With a quick and short upward motion, jerk the bite handle up.
With a quick and short upward motion, jerk the bite handle up.
Holding safe handle with thumb and index finger, catch bite handle in palm of your hand.
Holding safe handle with thumb and index finger, catch bite handle in palm of your hand.

Ice-pick or Reverse-grip Opening

An Ice-pick or Reverse-grip is a grip in which the blade is pointing downward out the bottom of your fist. To open the knife in this fashion, you again drop the bite handle and use the small clock-wise circular motion to spin the safe handle in your palm so that the bite handle dangles. Slip your index finger to a position so that it rests on the safe handle between the safe handle and the blade. You then pop the blade and bite handle upward so that the safe swedge part of the blade rests on your index finger. Then hold the safe handle between your index finger and other fingers and put you thumb on the outside of the safe handle. With a quick motion downward and out, flip the blade and bite handle using your thumb on the outside of the safe handle to propel them, until the bite handle rests in you hand with the safe handle. This last move takes dexterity, because you will have to keep a hold of the safe handle and move your fingers and thumb out of the way so the bite handle can land in your palm.

Hold Balisong with one hand.
Hold Balisong with one hand. | Source
Let bite handle and blade dangle.
Let bite handle and blade dangle. | Source
Spin knife clock-wise.
Spin knife clock-wise. | Source
Source
Slip your index finger on top of safe handle so that it's between the safe handle and the swedge (safe non-sharp edge) of the Balisong blade. Then pop the blade and bite handle upwards until the swedge rests on your index finger.
Slip your index finger on top of safe handle so that it's between the safe handle and the swedge (safe non-sharp edge) of the Balisong blade. Then pop the blade and bite handle upwards until the swedge rests on your index finger. | Source
Put thumb on outside of safe handle as shown.
Put thumb on outside of safe handle as shown.
Using your thumb on safe handle to propel with a quick pop downwards,throw the bite handle and blade downward.Allow the momentum to whirl the bite handle into your palm,move your fingers out of the way while gripping safe handle with finger and thumb
Using your thumb on safe handle to propel with a quick pop downwards,throw the bite handle and blade downward.Allow the momentum to whirl the bite handle into your palm,move your fingers out of the way while gripping safe handle with finger and thumb | Source
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    • NateB11 profile image
      Author

      Nathan Bernardo 4 years ago from California, United States of America

      Yes, making knives is an art, requiring knowledge and skill; knives are constructed specific ways, with balance and correct structure. By the same token, almost anything can be a weapon. Thanks for stopping by, Pavlo.

    • Pavlo Badovskyy profile image

      Pavlo Badovskyi 4 years ago from Kyiv, Ukraine

      Any weapon is a specific thing. Some people like weapons, others - do not. The same about knives. After I visited some web pages devoted just to sharpening of a knife I understood, that knives can be a piece of art as well.

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