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  • Writer's pictureThe Paladins

How to use a Balisong

The Balisong is one of the most excellent weapons amidst the armouries of the Far Eastern traditional martial arts. All sane people should be trained to a high standard in at least one of those martial arts, to learn dignity, poise and calm under pressure. This author is a huge admirer of the Far Eastern traditional martial arts.

A Balisong, sometimes known as a 'butterfly knife', is a Phillipino invention. It is possibly the best concealed close quarters weapon available, if - but only if - you are skilled in using it. The skill comes from knowledge of how to keep the knife in working order: and extensive practice in how to use it.

The first point to emphasise is that Balisongs, while excellent weapons and utility tools, are rare outside the Phillipines where they are ubiquitous. You will be lucky if you can find one for sale. Most people do not know how to use them and hence demand for them is limited.

Warning: Balisongs are illegal in many jurisdictions. You will not be able to buy one, even from a specialist shop, in many countries. Do not buy second hand ones or 'nlack market' Balisongs as their moving parts are likely to have rusted; and a rusted Balisong is worse than useless.

Be careful if you buy one in a jurisdiction where they are legal, and if you seek to travel with it across borders to countries where they are illegal. Always check the law. We do not counsel you to do anything with a balisong contrary to the laws of any particular country where you might be.

Also be aware that several jurisdictions - in particular in the United States - have different rules about possession of Balisongs in a public place depending upon whether they are visible (which rather defeats the point of a Balisong, which is designed to be concealed). You must check the law extremely carefully in your jurisdiction before you own, possess or carry a Balisong.

Here is a definition of a Balisong::

[The knife's] distinct features are two handles counter-rotating around the tang such that, when closed, the blade is concealed within grooves in the handles. A latch holds the handles together, typically mounted on the one facing the cutting edge (the "bite handle")


  1. Are small and therefore convenient. Knives with long, strengthened, sharp blades. They can take the place of a regular pocket knife for non-violent purposes, and they are much higher quality forms of flickknives in violent encounters.

  2. Because they are small, and due to their x-ray profile, they are easy to conceal. You can probably get away with carrying one in your hand luggage on an aeroplane (although this would be highly illegal); that is why in large part they are banned.

  3. A Balisong can also easily fit into your male or female underwear.

  4. A Balisong can also fit comfortably and safely into a bodily orifice - not the mouth , but per vaginum or per rectum are both plausible. Because the handles safely encase the blade, and the entire package is compact, there is no significant risk of internal injury. If you do this, keep the latch uppermost upon insertion into the pertinent cavity to prevent it from being caught upon flesh upon removal from the orifice. A balisong will easily fit in a small condom that can be lubricated. Remember: place the latch at the top and tie the knot in the condom at the bottom.

  5. Do not buy a balisong with both edges of the blade sharpened! The reason for this is obvious from what follows. They should be sharpened on one side only, leading to a sharpened point.

To release and expose the blade requires a three-motion flick of the wrist and this is what you must master to be able to obtain the comparative advantage of a Balisong over other knives intended for violent or deterrent purposes.

The movements required to release a Balisong:s blade are as follows.

  1. Hold the Balisong in your natural hand for complex tasks (your writing hand), with the catch at the bottom and pointing inward, i.e. the pivot of the latch is closer to the tips of your fingers and the loose end of the latch is closer to your wrist. The most important thing about opening a Balisong is to hold it correctly in relation to your hand at the beginning of the manouevre.

  2. Unhook the latch using the thumb of the hand holding the balisong and then swing the part of the handle closer to your fingertips than to your wrist straight over in an arc, while holding the part of the handle closer to your wrist in your hand, so that the loose part of the handle collides with the back of your hand at the same time as the blade is exposed.

  3. Place your fingers between the two parts of the handle and swing the loose part of the handle back towards your fingers. The blunt edge of the blade will then colllode with your fingers, causing no damage because it is the blunt edge.

  4. Swing the loose part of the handle back again towards the top of your hand, at the same time flipping over the part of the handle remaining firm in your hand.

  5. The net result is that you will be holding both parts of the handle together in your hand, with the blade exposed and the sharp edge of the blade upwards. Hence if you then wish to strike straight away with the blade, you drive upwards to pierce the flesh as the blade is facing upwards. (The knife will have the blade facing the opposite way to in the picture above, in which the blade is facing downwards. An experienced user of a balisong should never find themselves with the blade facing downwards.)

Here is a video that may help illustrate our descriptions.

This process sounds tricky but can be learned with repeat practice. You can also re-sheath the blade by reversing the movement. With a few hundred goes (it can become as habitual as counting rosary beads), you will have mastered the technique for life.

If you get the catch the wrong way round on commencement, then the sharp edge of the blade will cut into your fingers and potentially sever or slice them. You will only make this mistake once but it will be painful! The direction of the latch is everything.

There is an 'expedited' method of opening a balisong, ostensibly in a single movement, but we do not recommend it until you have acquired full mastery of the three-move opening which is far safer. If you try this and get it wrong, you will slice off your fingers.

Aside from the compactness of the weapon, the real advantage to a Balisong is that, unlike a flickknife, the one second of demonstrative skill in opening the Balisong and exposing the blade typically causes your assailant or adversary to think again. Flick knives are too quick - and a bad one may cause the blade to draw back in on puncture, particularly against thick clothing. Also flickknives only tend to be sharp at the point, whereas a Balisong has a full exposed sharp blade. Finally flickknives break; eventually their spring fails. (A plastic flickknife - and most of them are plastic - may only have a few dozen spring actions in its lifespan; a metal handled flickknife, which are quite rare and expensive, maybe a hundred spring actions. Most flickknives are worn out by bored or intrigued people playing with them.)

Finally keep your Balisong well oiled. Cooking oil will do. The joint between the blade and the two parts of the handle must be oiled continuously to prevent rusting and ensure continued smooth use without jamming.

If you draw a Balisong on someone proficiently and by surprise, they will run for their lives. It is an excellent deterrence weapon.

Balisongs are less lethal than flickknives, because you can use them to slash (a non-lethal strike, for the most part) whereas flickknives you can use only to stab (typically lethal).

For more information on knife fighting, we recommend Sammy Franco, Knife Fighting: A Step-by-Step Guide to Practical Knife Fighting for Self-Defense, available on your local Amazon website.

Balisongs are also excellent practical choices for nonviolent purposes, such as skinng a fruit or vegetable; preparing an animal for cooking and consumption; or lifting latches in doors etcetera. Their blades are both thin and have high tensile strength.

Balisongs are cheap. You should not pay more than USD20 for one, absolute maximum, where they are legal. They are simple small-bladed weapons. There is no such thing as an elite or deluxe model of Balisong. (You might be able to buy one with painted calligraphy; but that is irrelevant.)

If you can find one to buy, then enjoy using your Balisong! They are exceptional weapons in every sense. Just don't break local laws about owning or carrying knives; and (as always) never use one as an instrument of violence save in self-defence where you judge that there is really no other choice.

Postscript: jurisdictions where ownership of a Balisong is illegal (this is not an exhaustive list)

  1. Hawaii

  2. Texas

  3. United Kingdom

  4. Australia

  5. Belgium

  6. Canada

  7. Denmark

  8. Germany

  9. Ireland

  10. Netherlands

  11. New Zealand

  12. Norway

  13. Sweden

  14. New Mexico

  15. Washington state

Note: these are restrictions on ownership. Restrictions on carry may be more onerous.

We welcome all readers' contributions of other jurisdictions where Balisong ownership is illegal. Please send your observations to with the subject line 'Balisongs'.


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