All about balisong knives
August 22, 2005 3:02 AM   Subscribe

Welcome to the subculture of the Balisong.

With it's origins in 1700's France and later moving to the Philippines, this knife has now become very popular with a thriving community of seriously bent, obsessive, not to mention masochistic, collectors and tricksters.

Video evidence of their mad crazy knife flipping skills can be found here, here and (do NOT miss this one) here. (I find this girls knife skills utterly hawt, is that wrong?)

And if you insist on learning yourself, buy a bushel of band-aids and start here.
posted by Parannoyed (36 comments total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Thanks. I heard about this decades ago, but I've never seen it done. I rather like it, but I'm weird when it comes to knives.
posted by Goofyy at 3:13 AM on August 22, 2005

posted by maxsparber at 3:17 AM on August 22, 2005

Paging #18039.
posted by Faint of Butt at 3:41 AM on August 22, 2005

It's deja vu all over again
posted by Joeforking at 3:58 AM on August 22, 2005

And then automatic knives were invented...
posted by c13 at 4:14 AM on August 22, 2005

I could do that with one hand tied behind my back. 'Course the other would be sliced and diced and spurting blood in several directions so pay attention because I'll only be doing it once.
posted by hal9k at 4:40 AM on August 22, 2005

slightly off-topic: Anybody know the required codec to watch that one movie we're not supposed to miss? Cos even WMP's built-in codec finder didn't know what to do with the file...
posted by slater at 4:58 AM on August 22, 2005

most folks who start off practicing with a balisong start off with a single-edged version. Harder to slice an artery that way. Practice enough that your hand motions become part of muscle memory, and after a while it's no different from, say, pen spinning.

mortally perilous pen spinning, that is.
posted by bl1nk at 5:28 AM on August 22, 2005

She is "hawt", but I think the knife ain't the major factor in that.
posted by imperium at 5:33 AM on August 22, 2005

What an absolutely wonderful post!!

I, too am part of this community. I'm an ok flipper, but really I am just hooked on the beauty of the custom balisongs. I've been collecting for about 5 years, and have aprox. 120 different ones.
Quality can range from garbage for the average Charmine Chinese Cheapie to customs worth thousands of dollars.

Thanks for the great post, getting them open is half the fun!
posted by Balisong at 5:44 AM on August 22, 2005

Probably the best place to start, would be HERE.
posted by Balisong at 5:52 AM on August 22, 2005

That girl was holding a knife?
posted by gramschmidt at 8:10 AM on August 22, 2005

Good fun, not especially hard really though. I used to have a beautiful balisong knife but that bastard customs agent in Boston wanted it so he confiscated it. I hope he cut his knuckles with it a lot while learning.

Nice post! The girl didn't need the knife to be hawt but I like how that vid stops with her getting ready for her kill strike. I wonder what score the judges gave her in the talent competition?
posted by fenriq at 8:14 AM on August 22, 2005

These things are supposedly prohibited from import to the US (see 19 CFR 12.95 and 12.97). The only exceptions I know of are for the armed forces and, a bit of import trivia, "individuals with only one arm" (15 USC 1244). Seems like a relatively silly prohibition but it's on the books. Maybe Customs see it the same way and has decided not to spend time and other resources on enforcement.
posted by Carbolic at 8:30 AM on August 22, 2005

Based on fenriq's post, maybe not.
posted by Carbolic at 8:32 AM on August 22, 2005

(I find this girls knife skills utterly hawt, is that wrong?)

So wrong it's right.

And aren't these called butterfly knives, or do they have to come in three-parts?
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 8:39 AM on August 22, 2005

slater: should do the trick
posted by jeffmik at 8:39 AM on August 22, 2005

If I ever decide to start carrying one, first I'll buy two identical ones, grind the edge off the blade of one, and use it to practice my technique until I'm confident enough to carry the sharp-edged one.
posted by alumshubby at 8:42 AM on August 22, 2005

they are called butterfly knives by us uneducated Americans, yes. However, balisong is the original and, imho, a much more poetic name.
posted by Parannoyed at 8:47 AM on August 22, 2005

They do make a high quality trainer.
posted by Balisong at 9:00 AM on August 22, 2005

Intimidation is useful. Full tang knives are more dependable in a fight tho. And speed is speed with anything. Train with a folding knife and you could match draw speed with one of these.
They do look cool though and allow more of a display of skill. And again, initimdation....
Although some people (like Parannoyed) get turned on so I suppose there's a trade off there.
posted by Smedleyman at 9:51 AM on August 22, 2005

Stll, nothing says juvie like a good old-fashioned switchblade.
posted by maxsparber at 9:54 AM on August 22, 2005

This is what happens when daggers and nunchukas get busy.
posted by cleverusername at 10:56 AM on August 22, 2005

I like how the name of the third video is "my rolly thingy.avi."
posted by mr.dan at 11:29 AM on August 22, 2005

Probably one of the best videos is the IconOfSin VS. Arokiem showdown.

It has a badass soundtrack, too... There's a better quality but large file here.
posted by Balisong at 2:44 PM on August 22, 2005

Carbolic -- how long ago was that enacted? I've been to pawn shops and flea markets in half a dozen states and seen the damn things everywhere over the last 20ish years. Not the especially high-finish nice-looking ones, but some knockoffs that look like they'd fit the definition OK.
posted by alumshubby at 4:37 PM on August 22, 2005

Balisongs have a strange catagorization.
They are totally legal in some states, Oregon, Arizona, and totally illegal (over 2") in states like California and New York.

US Customs defines it a switchblade, and is illegal to import, but that doesn't stop the $5 Chinese cheapies from comming in.
In Colorado, they are legal to own and cary as long as they are in a sheath/clipped to your pocket.
Some other places, they cannot be carried.

They are not considered a switchblade because there is no button to open it. They are not fully considered gravity knife, because gravity alone will not open the knife to a usable position.

Open, they are the closest to a fixed blade of any folding knife as far as lock strength, and the double handle design means that the blade profiles are limitless, double edged, single edged, wide, skinny, long, balisongs encompass it all.

It's like a big, candy-like legal limbo, which is just that much more cool.
posted by Balisong at 5:01 PM on August 22, 2005

Do these mouth-breathing psychos actually do anything with their knives, other than waving them around while fantasising about stabbing people? I mean, do they have any purpose apart from being rather unpleasant surrogate penises?

I like how that vid stops with her getting ready for her kill strike.

'Kill strike'? Actually, I think it stops with her reaching for the off button on the camera. Interesting to see the headspace that goes with a desire to play with deadly weapons, though.
posted by Soulfather at 6:14 PM on August 22, 2005

A knife is a very usefull tool. It's been around for a long time. Second to the hammer.
Why do you think we're mouth breeding psychos?

I carry a little tiny one, so does that I mean I like to penis out to short people?

These give your hand a toy. A cure for boredom. And a bit of danger. Perhaps Zippo tricks are more your style. Or do you just have no style?
posted by Balisong at 6:42 PM on August 22, 2005

That was a reference to the tubby guy in the first set of videos, who reminds me of every person I have ever met who had unsettling anger-management issues. Still, every hobby or subculture has certain proponents who give judgemental people like me something to dislike about it.

From his appearance, I strongly suspect that his main attraction to his knives is not an aesthetic one. From your comments, that's certainly not something I would have said about you.

I totally support and embrace the impulse to amass collections of things which one personally finds beautiful and interesting. And if one can do fun things with their collection, rather than just leaving it to gather dust, so much the better. The nastiness in my comment was because I get creeped out by pastimes which glorify or rationalise violent impulses. However, that describes a number of my own favourite pastimes, too. So I should really be more careful not to come across as if that was the only aspect I was perceiving, or as if I thought that invalidated said activities.
posted by Soulfather at 7:12 PM on August 22, 2005

Perhaps this is my own bias, but I find men (or women) drooling over "finely crafted firearms" to be completely repulsive, whereas I am not affected in this way by some knife enthusiasts, who I truly believe can appreciate the artistry or skill without admiring its lethality.

But then, I own several items from this place.
posted by dreamsign at 7:33 PM on August 22, 2005

alumshubby: The import prohibition has been there as long as I've been paying attention (20 years?). I think it goes back a good ways. I'll try to remember to look it up tomorrow and add an update. The Customs laws on the subject only apply to imports. I don't know what the regulatory situation is regarding domestically made knives. I know the made in the US Kershaw I have (Leek?) functions like a switchblade even though I don't think opening it actually depends upon the spring.
posted by Carbolic at 8:42 PM on August 22, 2005

As best as I can tell the statutes underlying the ban on the import of Balisongs (15 USC 1241-1245) were enacted in 1958. Based upon my half-assed research it seems that there maybe some Balisongs that might not fall under the ban such as those with single edge blades. There was a Federal appeals court case on the subject in the 1980's, Taylor v US 848 F.2d 715.
posted by Carbolic at 7:43 AM on August 23, 2005

That is true. John Taylor (Taylor Cutlery) fought an extensive lawsuit, and lost. I thought it was much later, in the 1980's.
Balisongs are illegal to import, and I have had some friends get $500 custom knives from Brazil confiscated at customs.

But there are plenty of American makers, too.
Benchmade, Microtech, Cold Steel, and Spyderco all have a production balisong of superior quality than any of the flea market fodder people usually see.

The cheap ones sneak in. For every shipment that gets confiscated, 5-6 get through.

Really, almost any decent lockblade today can be opened with a flick of the wrist. There are spring assisted folders, like the Kershaw Leek that are perfectly legal, yet just almost a switchblade.

Most of the interstate regulations came about in the seventies, by lawmakers that had seen a couple Kung-Fu movies, and balisong, shuriken, and nunchaku bans were born. Just too many mall ninjas, someone's gonna put an eye out!
posted by Balisong at 9:46 AM on August 23, 2005

Balisong, thanks for the showdown video. That was my dose of cool entertainment for the day. How long have those guys been practicing?
posted by rush at 3:06 PM on August 23, 2005

8-15 years I think.. quite a while.
There's some other videos where they flip it up over their shoulder, and catch it behind their back open...blindfolded.

It's just insane.. I can see me loosing a bit of ear, or a gouge across my shoulder, easy.
posted by Balisong at 7:07 PM on August 23, 2005

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