The Lure of The Balisong Knife

I purchased my first Butterfly Knife [Pic.1] when I was a teenager. About 1984. I found a table full of these rather odd folders at a Flea Market, I thought they were cool and picked one up. Then, I just started flipping it open, then closed...then faster and faster. I was hooked. They were so cool, almost hypnotizing at times and very relaxing. I think that aspect of the Balisong gets lost sometimes, they are not only fun and neat to flip and to watch others flip, they really are relaxing. Some people, my Wife being one, cannot figure out how flipping a razor sharp piece of steel can be "relaxing," but it is to me and many other people as well.

I was very competent flipping a Balisong years before I ever had a lesson in Filipino Martial Arts. In fact, I was already skilled in Jujutsu by the time I ever held a Balisong. It really was just a... neat to twirl and flip...pocketknife. That was about it. Sure, some people were intimidated by them in and around my neighborhood but...honestly, that was more out of the fear that one would lose their grip and the knife would go flying and put someoneís eye out...more than it being feared as some sort of nefarious street-gangsterís weapon.

In fact, the Bikers in the neighborhood I grew up in favored two basic knives, the Buck 110 Folder and very short bladed skinning knives, fixed blades they would openly wear, usually Bucks, Old Timers or Schrades...something along those lines. All of these knives were every bit as common as the Biker/Trucker Wallet and Chain. [They used "chain belts" to fight with sometimes too, but thatís another story...]

I remember having pocketknives, with my Fatherís permission, before I was ten years old. I had all sorts of pocketknives, always liked collecting them and using them. Whittling, cleaning rabbits and squirrels...all sorts of things. My constant companions in the woods were pocketknives, a vintage Wrist-Rocketô Slingshot and/or a Sheridan Blue Streak 5mm Pneumatic Air Rifle.

Around the neighborhood, a Buck 110 was a status symbol for kids. It meant you were trusted by your Dad and this ran hand in hand with the children of Gun Owners. It is so odd looking back and realizing how some kids were made into quivering bowls of fear because of the views of their parents. Most of the "Anti-Gun" Parents were "Anti-Knife" Parents too. No surprise.

In other words, sometimes you would be telling a friend that you were going shooting next weekend, or worse yet, a week of deer hunting and their Mother would be within earshot and they would gasp and start to lecture their kid in front of you about how terrible that was. Sometimes lecture me about how terrible my Dad was for allowing me to do these things...and these were the same parents who flipped because kids had a Buck 110 folder, or even something like a Swiss Army Knife in their pocket. Yes, something so simple as a SAK.

[You know, I think we lost something as a Society when we lost the ability to sharpen pencils with a pocketknife. In fact, the word penknife has a meaning. When writing pens were quills, they had to be re-pointed. A penknife was a knife used for that task. Even the hand-cranked pencil sharpener has given way to the electric pencil sharpener. The can opener will soon be a thing of the past, I bought a can of Maxwell House Coffee the other day and the can appeared to be the same on the outside, but the top was a pull-top lid. My Wife has informed me that some soup cans also have pull-top lids now. If we had to use simple pocketknives for such mundane chores again, pocketknives would seem more "legitimate" again, donít you think?]

Some people wonder why I get so hot under the collar at Anti-gun and Anti-Knife people. Maybe it is because I have been hearing the same liberal drek, the same stupid arguments and the same insane pacifism...since before I was ten years old from Parents and the good little Serfs they were raising. The Emasculation of The American Male Child. Itís worse now, hell, if kids had "big, bad" Buck 110 folders in this same County in 2001, hell, some of the parents today would call 911 and the County SWAT Team would show up. Itís stupid. Itís a mad hysteria that is far worse than the "threat" of pocketknives which is just an excuse to push more rabid socialism down everyoneís throat.

Maybe George Carlin is right when he said this in an HBO Stand-Up Act;

"No wonder kids smoke...it helps."

But, I cannot remember ever hearing a snide remark about a Balisong because it was a Balisong. Parents that were like that just did not like knives period. At least they were "fair" in that respect.

My First Balisong

Like I said, my first Butterfly Knife was bought at a Flea Market. It had brass handles and a funky Weehawk-type of blade, more like the classic "Bayonet" blade on an Italian Stiletto [Switchblade] actually. It was open edge construction and had brass pins to boot. I thought it was cool even though you could tell the quality was nowhere near the Bucks and Old Timers I owned and admired. Once it was broken in, it became easier to flip, and I soon broke one of the pins. Simply wearing the knife out flipping it.

This Pakistan-made piece of garbage, well...I owe alot to that crappy knife. It opened a door for me. I love these knives for many different reasons. Thatís what this article is more or less about. My own attitudes, observations and opinions on the Balisong [Butterfly] Knife. I think if you want an excellent online source to learn how to flip them in more ways than you can imagine, there is no better site than my Buddyís site, Clayís www.balisongxtreme.com is a killer site with multiple pictures in sequence and downloadable MPG videos. Clay is awesome and anyone that has seen him in person will know that. As for the history and all other related information on the Balisong, my Friend Chuckís www.balisongcollector.com is awesome in that way and he also has interesting articles on his "Balisong Opinions" as well. More information than you can read and watch on a quiet Sunday morning between both of these sites. My fellow Balisonger, John, he has an excellent site called BalisongFans.Com and if you are a fan of this type of knife, go submit your info to him!

[Note: If you click on any of the above links, you will need to use your browsers back button to return to drearic.com]

My good Friend Malcolm, once I described my first Balisong to him...he actually found one! I guess they were made literally by the dumptruck-full so it was easy to find one although I never could find another one in this area.

I owe him a large debt for this simple gift. It is not that the knife is a great knife, hell...itís not even an "O.K." knife, itís horrible as a knife. But it means something to me personally because it is the same, exact model that I learned on. I think that is pretty cool and something I can pass on to my Son, along with the story behind it.

So, after beating my knuckles raw with a cheapy and breaking the pins and replacing the pins with round brass stock from a local Hobby Store and breaking them some more, I found a better Balisong and purchased that one...

The Second Balisong, Major Upgrade

According to Jeff Imadaís Advanced Balisong Manual, my second Balisong was a Valor Model #563, the blade was marked, "Eye Of The Tiger." This was a much better knife, stainless steel blade and open edge constructed stainless steel handles. This knife was a breeze to sharpen and held an edge reasonably well for a $30.00 knife. It was very slim in the pocket and was a really cool knife. Iím looking for another one of these Balisongs. Maybe one day I will find one along with the other Valor I am looking for, the one with two pocket/belt/boot clips on the handles. A Model #558, the blade marked, "Silver Dragon." [If you have either of these knives and you would like to sell or trade them, please E-mail me: don@drearic.com ] I should have bought several of each when I first found them! I bought the Valor and later my first Pacific Cutlery at a Martial Arts Supply Store in Baltimore City.

Eventually, inevitably, I was hooked and I flipped and twirled the Valor until I broke one of the pins in it as well. I custom cut, filed and fit a piece of tool-steel for a pin from a pin punch and I was flipping again. I had to fix it a few times as I would wear the other pins out. But once I fixed them with this material, the pin replaced did not wear out!

Not only would I love to get my hands on these two knives once again, I wish someone would make a clone of the Valor #558 out of Titanium and BG42. With a screwed together, open edged handle out of Ti with an excellent blade steel and dual Ti pocket clips...as slim as the Valor was...that would be an incredible carry knife. You could have your pants tailored as Michael Janich suggests in one of his excellent books, so you could have a Balisong Pocket on the leg and with something like these knives, there would be no bulk whatsoever.

Jacobís Ladder

No, not the movie. This was a cool Tri-Folder that I also found at a Flea Market around this time and because I liked to flip Balisongs, I started to flip this crappy little [Made in China] folder. Cold Steel has since produced a Tri-Folder they call, "The Triple Action." The design is excellent, the materials are HORRIBLE. In fact, as neat as this knife is and as excellent as it could have been, the only thing I can praise is the design, the materials are worse than HORRIBLE when you consider the price. The aluminum is VERY soft and will not hold up to regular use, let alone flipping it. Had they made it out of a better, harder, grade of Aluminum like Microtech uses [I think T-6.], it would be great. Titanium would be even better. Lightening holes could have been drilled in the sides if the body was Titanium and it would be a dynamite knife!

You can flip one though, Fred Perrin has handmade some and Custom Maker Phil Boguszewski makes a Custom Tri-Folder/Jacobís Ladder called a "Sidewinder." Mr. Perrinís Tri-Folder looks as crude as my old China-cheapy, but Mr. Perrinís work is very deceptive and sometimes it is not the prettiest work, but it is solid Craftsmanship and razor sharp.

I think it was Chuck Gollnick who once stated that he had never seen a Jacobís Ladder manipulated, rest easy, they can be. They are just different from a Balisong. I would love to have a high-quality Tri-Folder with a four or five inch blade that would not either destroy itself or fall apart like the Cold Steel Triple-Action.

Third Balisong...

This was a Pacific Cutlery Model #158, a Tanto Balisong with Zamak handles and black resin inserts. A friend of mine has carried this same Balisong all the way to Ketchikan, Alaska a few times where he worked in a Salmon Processing Plant and it has lasted many years as a utility knife. Zamak does not hold up well to hard and/or extended manipulation. It is NOWHERE near as strong as steel or Ti and they fetch prices now that I simply cannot believe. They were entry level Balisongs, in my opinion, used to put the marketing "hook" in people so they would eventually buy a better one.

This knife is the one that led me down a path to happiness. After Pacific Cutlery perished and was then born again as Benchmade, the Mighty Models #48 and #45 [Utility and WeeHawk, respectively, Pic.2] were manufactured and these remain, in my opinion, the best Production Balisongs ever made. The Model #44 was a funky, flared out at the tip, Tanto that was totally different from the blade on the PC #158. I dulled and rounded my #44 and used it as a Trainer. I believe the Man that got it from me then gave it to Guro Dan Inosanto as a gift. To have a cool trainer.

An "Interesting" Opinion Surfaces

I donít know, is it rude to call something or someone stupid if you really think what they say or do is stupid? Iíll call these "interesting" opinions that I have seen lately. Letís say that the opinions are stupid and not the people as they have excellent taste in blades otherwise.

When it was clear that Microtech was planning on manufacturing a Balisong Knife, The Tachyon, someone said something along these lines;

"This will give Microtech a bad image..."

Man, what in the hell are some people thinking? Switchblades have been demonized for DECADES. Microtech specializes in SWITCHBLADES. I mean, yeah, we could use the sugar-coated term, "Automatic Knife." But I could call a cat a feline if the word "cat" is offensive to someone. Like the High-Tech term, "Automatic Knife" erases the fact that the knife has a button and spring and is a Switchblade. I know the Switch needs some help in the image arena...but... Come on, what the hell? This is a valid criticism or observation? Sounds like nonsense to me. I sat here at the monitor and I could not believe the person even said it! Took the time to type it out! DAMN!

If anything, the Balisong has suffered because of SWITCHBLADES, to even think that the Switchblade will suffer from an association to the Balisong is so absurd...I guess people will say anything without thinking.

There were alot of very positive responses to the possibility of a Microtech Balisong, but the negative responses really amazed me. I could not believe it! And there was no basis for the arguments really...all personal prejudice and/or ignorance.

A Stupid Knife?

Some other people have referred to the Balisong as being a "stupid" knife, or whatever term they used. Why? I think part of this is because kids tend to like Balisongs, but hey, some kids in some neighborhoods like Glocks too. Does that mean that Glocks are stupid as well? Of course not. How about a wave of Sig-Sauers being popular with kids? Is a Classic Colt Single Action .45 "stupid" because some people twirl them in exhibitions or because Hollywood portrayed that? Of course not, anyway, I saw a little conversation about this and I passed that one up. If people are so blind, there is no sense in my even attempting to discuss it. I guess people think they are stupid or silly because people like to flip them [?] like the old Colts or maybe, hey, Chuck Connors flipped a lever action carbine around in "The Rifleman," I guess theyíre stupid too! Yeah, ignore the solid actions on these two firearms and concentrate on what some people do with them, yeah, yeah...[groan]

So, the Balisong is a "stupid" knife, letís see how "stupid" it really is, compared to the "smart" pocketknives that are out there...

Balisong Attributes

Some carry their Balisongs in a sheath. Leather, Ballistic Nylon or Kydex. The Balisong has its own sheath though. While some Makers and some people fret over a knife being tip-up or tip-down carry in the pocket and worry about the possibility of the knife opening in their pocket, this is not a consideration with a Balisong. The handles form a metal sheath that totally encases the blade and the point. No ball and detent required or any such thing. If it is a latchless Balisong, it should be carried in a sheath, but latchless Balisongs have always been more rare than a Balisong with a latch.

The blade and point being totally encased in metal, also allows for the knife to be double edged with absolutely no fear of the owner/user being cut by their own knife when carried in the pocket without a sheath.

Double edged knives are usually placed in the "Fighting" category instantly, but if you think about it, if you wanted a Utility/Survival Folding Knife, having two edges is very attractive as you will not have to sharpen the knife as often.

The lock. So many people write volumes of opinions, facts and opinions parading as fact with regard to locking devices. There is no stronger lock than that found on a Balisong Knife. The lock is the latch. The secondary lock if you choose NOT to latch the Balisong or if you have a latchless Balisong is your HAND. Your fingers are saved by your own hand strength. If you are so weak that this means nothing to you, you should leave knives alone anyway as you will always be in peril! In my opinion, the hand strength is the primary locking device and not the latch. The only time I would use the latch with the knife in the open position is if I were using it over and over again, doing a series of tasks in one sitting, etc. I just rely on my hand strength to keep the blade in the open position, and in all of these years, a Balisong has never failed me. Ever.

In my opinion [that I happen to believe is a fact], the only folding knife that can compete with a Balisong in the lock strength and reliability category is a frame lock/integral lock like that found on the Sebenza. And even then, there is something that COULD be moved by some strange incident with a frame lock. Not so with the Balisong. The Balisong has two pins that are driven in, pressure fit and I have NEVER seen one fail on a high quality Balisong knife. Even on the lower quality Pakistan Knife mentioned above, when the BRASS pin broke, it did not cause a closing of the knife. It is impossible for a Balisong to fail in the way any other folder can fail. There is NO possibility of catastrophic lock failure with a high quality Balisong Knife. I feel supremely confident in saying that and stating that as a fact.

The Most Fun Attribute

I wanted to keep this separate from the other attributes, this attribute being, the Balisong is a One-Handed Opener. No-brainer, right?

There are the Utility Openings, which means you could open it with two hands or only one. And they are very simple and easy to learn.

Then there are the Combat/Fighting Openings which are One-Handed Operations. These should not be extended, flashy manipulations. Sure, some attackers might be deterred by the possibility that you are skilled with opening the knife in this manner, but do you really want to bet your life on it? Because that is exactly what you are doing, betting your life on the deterrent value of the flashy opening.

Keep the Openings for Self-defense as simple as possible, simple, extremely fast and direct.

Now...there is everything else! This is where the "Artsy" part comes in and possibly what makes this knife "stupid" in the opinion of some people. The fact that people like to flip, twirl and otherwise manipulate them. Have fun with them...enjoy them. I look at it like whittling. Whittling is stupid or silly if you donít like to do it I imagine, and it is also done with a knife. I donít know. Seems like so much bruhaha over nothing really.

These can be as Artsy, Flashy or Dangerous as you like, people throw these things, toss them behind their back in the open position, catch them, all sorts of things. Aerials impress me on one level, but I have never been interested in learning them. I wanted to cultivate my own, personal style with the Balisong, I think theyíre neat. But the most radical I get with them is finger twirls really. I do love flipping them though. Slow or fast, makes no difference except the feel of it.

I have to say something now, Iíve said it before but it needs to be said again. If you think a Switchblade is inherently faster than a Balisong, you have not been around Balisongs enough, or have not been exposed to the right people. Clay, for example, has some awesome speed and a latch drop, once mastered, is lightning fast. Set the prejudice aside and educate yourself!

I believe an Emerson Waved Folder is the fastest fighting folder you can have, FROM THE POCKET it is the fastest folder I have ever seen and Iíve seen alot. If the knife is already in the hand and you have to use a button, lever, flipper, hole, stud or disc, the Balisong can be opened as fast.

The Ultimate Military "Survival" Pocketknife?

So, we have the Balisong that has a latch, maybe it is double edged. Well, if it is, you have two cutting edges, do not have to sharpen the knife as often and it is better as a weapon if it is double edged. It can be safely carried because the handles completely encase the two edges and point. Because it has a latch, it is safe in the pocket without an additional sheath.

The knife is incredibly strong, the lock is your hand and the latch, it is not going to break unless you begin to pry something very heavy with it. Weíre talking about a survival knife that can serve in a fighting role, and it can fold. Not something that can survive a torture test that someone can dream up and be broken by tests that will never be duplicated in the field [You can break ANY knife.], but a very strong folding knife.

If the handles are skeletonized Titanium, it is incredibly strong and very light. The Benchmade Model #42 Balisong, for example, weighs about 4.2 ounces or so. In a Pilotís Survival Vest, weight matters. You could have possibly TWO folding knives of this type for the weight of ONE, "regular" folding knife. All depends on what knives are being discussed. For the WEIGHT and SIZE, there is no better pocketknife to fit this role when you consider the safety in both closed and open positions and the safety of the lock.[Iím being redundant to impress the good points].

I have to be honest, I have not busted a BM #42, 43 or 47 Ti-handled Balisong testing it, but I would bet this folder is almost as tough if not AS tough as the U.S.A.F. Survival Knife. I have one, Iím not very impressed with it. I would rather have an EXCELLENT folding knife [and better yet, two of them] than to have an "O.K." fixed blade.

Some "Survival" Knives have lashing points to make a spear out of the knife. I guess you could do that, but in my opinion, better to make a spearhead with the survival tool you have instead of possibly losing or breaking the survival tool using it as a spear/gig head. However, if you wish to lash it, the holes for skeletonizing are already there. A little ParaCord and a stout staff and you would be good to go. IF you wanted to do that.

On both of the mini-guards, you could have a straight blade screwdriver on one side and a Phillips head on the other. I believe Jimmy Lile did this on the first "Rambo Survival Knives." [I hate to inject the name "Rambo" into a good article...]

Because the knife is Ti and steel, the whole thing could be coated, Boron Carbideô is about the toughest coating to date and would provide protection from the elements and a non-glare finish so the knife would not attract attention from a distance.

A clip could be added to the knife, but in general, in a role as a "Survival" pocketknife, I donít think a more versatile, tough and safe pocketknife could be carried. Because of modern materials, it would be extremely light. A Pilot could carry two of them, one in a sleeve pocket and the other in the Survival Vest or Survival Kit.

And...it is still a one-handed knife. And it is not hard to learn a basic opening and that could be taught in 5 minutes or less.

And the idea will never see the light of day because of the bad reputation, prejudice and ignorance surrounding the knife, or because some people think it is a "stupid" knife. Go figure.

The Batangas Knife, The Fighter

Well, itís a knife, right? Itís a pocket knife that can be opened with one hand, that does not necessarily make it a "Fighting Folder."

Back in the "Attributes" section of this little article, I mentioned that the Balisong Knife can be double edged and still be safe in the pocket. I think this, along with the ability to be opened with one hand and the fact that the knife is so strong...all adds up to it being a formidable "Fighting Folder."

For a balls-to-the-walls, streetfighting pocketknife that you can simply put in your jacket or vest pocket, the Balisong has ALOT going for it.

Some things happen so fast in the street that you may not have the time to open any folder. The exception to this is a Waved Emerson Folder which opens coming out of the pocket. Anything else, no matter how fast your thumb is or how fast the spring is in your Switchblade, you might just end up pommel [punyo] striking someone on that incoming limb [vertical or diagonal] then into the side of the neck or front of the throat [horizontal] with the closed folder as a Tabak Maliit [A/K/A, Olisi Pilad], a pocket stick or palm stick, whichever you prefer [See my Koppo Stick Article.]

For the rest of a discussion on this sort of thing, I would refer you to the SWAT Brass Tiger Balisong Review. That should round this section out well and give you a better idea of using the Balisong as a Pocket Stick as well as some other ideas on flailing with a Balisong.

Don Rearic

DonRearic.com

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