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Easy Balisong Butterfly Knife Basics and Tricks

I've been training in martial arts since the 1980s and consistently since the '90s. I am a 2nd-degree black belt in Kenpo Karate.

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.

How to Use a Butterfly Knife

The Balisong, or butterfly knife, is a bladed instrument and weapon from the Philippines. It is 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 its 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 in order to use one 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. Make sure you see which side the latch of the handle is on. This will help you keep track of where the sharp edge of the blade is. See the chart below for more details.

Safety First

The purpose of this article is to cover very basic moves of opening and closing the Balisong. 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, and safest way to open the Balisong. There are no extra moves, and the chance that you might lose your grip or fumble the knife is reduced. It involves opening the knife by pulling the handles apart, with the blade down and the back of your hands facing you; turn the blade upwards, turn your hands with your palms facing you, then close the handles with the knife exposed. To close, reverse the process. Of course, you could also open the knife starting with the blade pointing upwards first. In this, case you simply pull the handles apart and close them together with the knife exposed. Here is the first method with the blade down.

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; the chances of dropping or fumbling the knife are minimized. You let the bite handle and blade dangle down, keeping hold of the safe handle in the thumb and index finger. Spin the knife clockwise in hand until the blade points forward and the bite handle dangles. Keep a hold of the safe handle between your thumb and index finger. Open your other fingers to grip the bite handle into your palm.

The Three Move Flip Open

This one is a bit more intricate. Be conscious of where the latch is (see above and see your knife). You should 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 clockwise motion, spin the handle in your palm, gripping with your 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 you now have both handles in your hand and the knife is exposed and ready. To close it, use the same series of motions, but the blade and bite handle should pop up into your hand at the end.

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 clockwise 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 your 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 your 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.

© 2012 Nathan Bernardo


Nathan Bernardo (author) from California, United States of America on July 23, 2013:

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 Badovskyi from Kyiv, Ukraine on July 23, 2013:

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.