Butterfly Knife Trick Tips
History buffs love to argue about ephemera, and that’s just as true when it comes to the history of knives as it is any other ancient subject. Just consider the butterfly knife or balisong. While it’s generally thought that this unique bifurcated knife with a blade that flips into and out of its handle originated in the Philippines, some dispute that. They state that it began as a folding measurement tool in 16th century France. Whatever its origins, the butterfly knife was originally used as an entirely practical tool, one employed for agricultural work, everyday tasks, and self-defense. Over time, though, the butterfly knife has become almost an artistic implement, a way for users to show off their creativity and agility through two simple actions: flipping it open and flipping it closed.
We say “simple,” but butterfly knife tricks are anything but. In this article, we’ll explain some of the basics about balisong tricks and describe the various types of tricks you may want to try yourself.
Performing flipping feats isn’t as easy as slipping your butterfly knife’s latch and snapping it this way or that way. It requires precision, practice, and prior knowledge. This section will go over some of the most basic general tips you ought to know before you attempt butterfly knife tricks.
In a 2022 video, Wired featured professional butterfly-knife trickster Corbin Lovins, who demonstrated a series of flips that gradually escalated in difficulty. After their initial awe subsides, watchers will soon notice that Lovins has bandages on his fingers. Visit his YouTube channel, and you’ll see that one of his most popular videos is of him slicing a finger right to the bone. (Note that this video contains blood and profanity. Also, the cut required five stitches to close.) The lesson is plain: If you want to learn how to flip butterfly knives, you’re going to get cut. That’s why many beginners purchase practice knives with blunt edges, knives that are gracious to you when you make a mistake — and you’re going to make mistakes.
The next thing you should know are the various parts of your knife. While the blade, catch, pivot, and the like are pretty self-explanatory, you should understand that each side of the split handle has its own name. The handle into which the spine of the blade folds is called the safe handle, while the one that houses the blade’s cutting edge is called the bite end. Knowing which is which matters if you don’t want to slice yourself in the middle of a trick.
Finally, keeping your butterfly knife properly maintained is especially important if you plan to use it primarily for tricks. Not only will removing grime and regularly lubricating it prolong your knife’s life, it will also cause it to operate more smoothly.
Some Basic Tricks
Before we begin detailing different kinds of butterfly-knife tricks, allow us to emphasize that learning these tricks simply from reading text can prove challenging. Watching a trick in person or (barring that) on a video recording is much easier. In fact, even attempting to detail intermediate or advanced tricks is basically an exercise in futility. Check out YouTube videos from channels such as Big Flips or Squid Industries as you begin to practice some of these tricks.
The most basic “trick” is the relatively simple basic opening, an eminently practical skill that will allow you to ready your knife while in the middle of a task or quickly produce a blade to defend yourself. This move begins with you unlatching the knife (a step we’ll omit from our other descriptions since it’s a given) and holding the knife with the safe end pinched between thumb and forefinger. After flinging the bite end over the back of your hand and allowing the blade to stand upright, you will rotate the safe end in your hand and repeat the motion, which will cause the blade to point downward and the bite end to partially cover it. Then you’ll flip the bite end up, and the butterfly knife will be open.
An even easier opener is the quickdraw, a less dramatic trick that’s much more practical. Starting with a pronated wrist, your palm pointing downward, and your thumb and forefinger gripping the safe edge, release the bite edge, letting gravity draw it down. Then lift your thumb while shifting your grip to the other four fingers and snap the bite edge handle up and around. Ta da! You have an almost instantaneously open knife. The icepick quickdraw is a variation that has you holding the butterfly knife perpendicular to the floor and snapping it open so that you’re holding it overhand (much like you would an icepick).
While the vast majority of tricks don’t focus on readying a butterfly knife in a practical manner, they do build on the basic openers. Consider The Chaplin, a feat that has users spinning their balisongs around their index fingers just like the famous silent film star did with his iconic cane. It begins with the basic opening maneuvers, but after the first flip when your finger lies near the pivot point and is sandwiched between the base of the blade’s safe side and the safe side handle, you spin it briskly around your digit either horizontally or vertically.
The Fan works on a similar principle, likewise starting with the basic opening. Instead of pivoting it around your finger, though, you cup the safe edge handle loosely in your fist and allow the knife to twirl. You finish it up by transitioning into the basic opening’s conclusion.
These are some of the most basic tricks that you can do with a butterfly knife, and the more advanced tricks add in flourishes intentionally designed to look flashy. Tosses through the air. Rotating the handle so that it flips underneath your hand. Pivoting the knife around different fingers. The sky truly is the limit, but to achieve this sort of proficiency, you’ll need to put in the time, preferably with a knife that won’t cut you to ribbons. Check out the trainer butterfly knives that we carry here at TacKnives.