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The Art of Knives: How to Use Butterfly Knives

butterfly knives

The butterfly knife is a common first weapon in martial arts training. It’s a folding knife with two rotating handles. It also has hidden grooves that conceal the blade when closed.

You can open a butterfly knife by flipping the handles with one hand. A butterfly knife is also known as a balisong or Batangas knife.

These knives originated in the province of Batangas in the Philippines. “Balisong” means broken horn.

There are “live” butterfly knives and butterfly knife trainers. Live balisongs are real knives with sharp blades and can have varying legal statuses. Trainers have blunted or plastic blades used by enthusiasts and are completely legal.

Flipping butterfly knives is also a sport. People have been playing with it for centuries. However, serious competition evolved only in the 21st century.

Read on to look at the different uses of this elegant weapon.

The Versatility of the Butterfly Knife

Butterfly knives have efficient uses beyond knife flipping competitions. People in self-defence training also use balisongs. They are a form of personal protection and a good alternative for people who may dislike guns.

Keep in mind that owning butterfly knives can be illegal in some places. Remember to check your locale laws before you go shopping for knives online.

A Knife for Playing Tricks

For martial artists and enthusiasts, the balisong is great for playing tricks. The butterfly knife’s double handles make it ideal for performing simple or complex tricks. Skilled balisong tricksters usually showcase these tricks to an audience.

A Utility Knife

A butterfly knife is also a great utility tool. You can use it as a kitchen knife to peel fruits or cut vegetables in preparing food.

It can also be handy in utility work when cutting wires or ropes. Some quality butterfly knives have blades strong enough to cut through thick cables.

An Everyday Carry Essential

Balisongs also make for a great everyday carry (EDC) tool. Because of its size and concealable blade, you can keep it with you all the time. Take note that this will only be possible if your state permits it.

This makes you prepared for any problem or task that might come up. These may be routine tasks like opening packages, letters, cans, and bottles. As an EDC item, it can be handy for emergencies where you might need to cut.

A Knife for Survival

Butterfly knives are also perfect for survival. Having already mentioned it as an EDC item, it’s even more practical when you’re in the wilderness. Having it on your person all the time can ensure your survival.

When camping, you can use a balisong in building a shelter. A good balisong has a blade that can cut branches and wood. It can also be handy in fending off wild animals or cutting through meat.

A Knife for Self-Defense

There are many more potent devices and weapons for self-defense. Few are as practical and mobile as the butterfly knife.

The balisong’s concealable blade makes it pocketable and easy to have on you all the time. This can be crucial if you live in more dangerous or isolated areas.

A folded butterfly knife is easy to hold at the ready. A potential attacker can’t identify it right away. A surprise counter-attack will be your advantage.

The balisong’s folded handles make for a thick and sturdy grip. This, coupled with its sharp blade, and proper training, can make for a lethal weapon.

Butterfly Knife Flipping

Flipping balisongs is an art. It will test one’s dexterity and hand-eye coordination and is a fun skill to master. As with any sport, balisong flipping has a beginner, intermediate, and advanced level.

Expert or not, doing tricks with live butterfly knives is hazardous. Don’t buy into any myth saying that you’ll learn best by starting with a live blade.

For beginners, it’s best to use a butterfly knife trainer instead. You’ll be able to avoid unwanted cuts or serious injuries. Even when using a trainer, respect it as a live blade.

Butterfly knife trainers allow you to move forward with the learning process. Balisong trainers are also completely legal in the United States.

If you only have a live butterfly knife, you can wrap it in electrical tape to make it safe for training. This will prevent your hands from getting cut and allow you to make mistakes when training.

While a trainer is helpful during the learning process, you can develop bad habits over time. Since you know a trainer has a dull blade, you can ingrain poor flips. These might not hurt with a trainer knife, but doing it with a real balisong can cause serious injuries.

Tricks You Can Do With Butterfly Knives

Before trying out balisong tricks, let’s go over the different parts of a butterfly knife.

A butterfly knife’s blade has a single edge and swedge. For safety reasons, the blade’s tang is wider. This provides enough material to accommodate two handles.

Each handle attaches to the tang through its own hinge pin. The two handles also have different names.

The “safe handle” is the handle you use to hold the knife and start a trick. The “bite handle” is the other handle and has a latch on its end.

The principle behind the butterfly knife is that it’s quick to unfold. A regular foldable knife needs two hands to open. A balisong only requires one hand and a quick flick of the wrist to open.

Many advanced-level butterfly knife tricks use combos. You may notice that they consist of beginner-level tricks executed together.

Zen Rollover

This is a great balisong trick for beginners. It makes a perpetual loop and can open you to greater concepts.

To start, grip the bite handle using your thumb and index finger. Next, allow the safe handle to swing free around your thumb.

This allows you to catch the safe handle using your middle finger and thumb. The idea is to get the knife to do the action of moving around your thumb and timing the catch. It’s fine to drop it during your first few attempts.

From here, you can do the “wrist pass” by swinging it around and catching it with your middle finger and thumb.

Turn your wrist over the knife as you do this. This allows you to prevent the blade from touching your fingers. If you started with the wrong handle and caught the bite handle by accident, the wrist pass keeps the blade from cutting you.

After doing the wrist pass, you can throw the balisong around your index finger again and again. You can then catch it using your index finger and thumb with a pinching motion.

After, you can take the safe handle and throw it over your index finger. Catch it again with your index finger and thumb. 

Flip Opening

This is an easy one for beginners and likely one of the first you’ll learn. You’ll only be holding the balisong stationary at the end of this trick. However, the process is often impressive to watch.

With your dominant hand, start by holding the knife closed. The grip should be loose, and your attention should be on the handle faced by the blade’s back.

Swing it open in an arcing motion until the other handle reaches the back of your hand. Next, rotate the handle until the blade points in the same direction as your thumb.

Repeat the same motion, then cast it forward until it’s open. Put your thumb around the handles to hold a grip.

Flip Closing

This is the opposite of a flip opening. You start with an open knife. You’ll have a better understanding of this trick if you’ve mastered the flip open.

Remember to keep your palms wide open to catch the two handles when you flick the blade to close. This prevents you from injuring your fingers, especially with a live blade.


This is more advanced than the regular flip-open. However, this gives you a better familiarity with a balisong’s mechanics. Practising this allows you to work the knife at a more adept level.

Start by holding the opposite handle like in a flip-open. This is the handle that allows the blade to cut you if you close it. Point the balisong outward so that gravity can open the knife on its own.

Make an upward motion with your wrist while you drop the other handle and let the knife go. The swinging handle will cause the balisong to rotate in midair.
After doing a full rotation, catch it in the open position. This can be a complicated move, but it’s flashy and quick.

Practice Safety When Using Butterfly Knives

Real butterfly knives are indeed elegant and versatile. They’re ideal for self-defense, utility, and practicing martial arts.

Another knife that’s as pocketable as butterfly knives is an OTF knife. We at TacKnivesUSA have the highest quality OTF knives. Contact us and get your first OTF knife today!

One comment

  1. […] that information anywhere on the internet. Instead, we will talk about this knife’s particular uses and design, making us choose the Balisong as an […]

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