Balisong knife, also called butterfly knife, Batanga knife or fan knife, is a pocket knife with two counter-rotating handles. The handles can rotate around a tang in the way that when closed, the handles conceal the blade inside them. 

Balisong knives also come with various artistic features, an elegant blend of artistry and steel. Balisong knives, other than self-defense, these were also used for entertainment purposes, like ‘flipping’ or ‘fanning’ of a balisong knife. Balisong knife is also said to be a potential lethal weapon.
There is another belief regarding the origin of balisong knives, and that is, these knives basically started from France or USA, which were then brought to other regions like in Philippines, where it was copied quickly and started inhouse manufacturing. But minorities regard this belief and the majority refers to the first one. Below is given a description about the origin of this tool.

Origin of Balisong Knife

Historians has pretty much confused the origin of balisong knife among Philippines, France and USA. 

butterfly balisong knife

Though strong arguments for USA are not found, yet there is a debate between Philippines and France and both have evidences and supporters. In the references, where origin of Balisong knives is found in Philippians, where the word “Balisong” is broadly recognized to have come from the Philippines. It is said that origin of balisong knife has roots in Philippines which goes back to 800 AD. Knives of these style could be opened quickly with one hand and these were used as a self-defense weapon as well as a tool used in daily routine.

Other school of thought, which regard France to be the birthplace of the Balisong knife, claim that these knives were invented between 1500 to 1700 AD in France. The argument in this favor is “Pied Du Roi” which means “Foot of the King”. 

Now this “Pied Du Roi” is a measurement tool that is found back in the 1700s. this tool resembles a lot to the butterfly knife. It is said that proponents from France state that Spain, which was at that time, allied with France, took these knives and used these for everyday tasks. And from there, Spanish sailors took this weapon to Philippine, as they sailed to various countries. This theory sounds pretty reasonable, but it does not have solid proves.

The balisong knives are very popular in the Philippines, it supports the arguments that the origin of balisong knives is from the Philippines. Also, the folklore from generations to generations also support this idea. However, on the counter side, France only has some pictures and documentation of a measurement device. That device resembles a butterfly knife or balisong knife which dates back hundreds of years. That measurement tool was not used for self-defense, flipping, and other tasks though. Nobody is sure that if these arguments are strong enough to support the French origin of the balisong knife.

Construction of Balisong Knife

Generally, balisong knives are manufactured by two ways:
  • Sandwich Construction: In this manufacturing, knives are assembled layer by layer and then pinned or screwed together. This is most cheap and common way to construct beginner balisong knives.
  • Channel Construction: Knives manufactured through channel construction are relatively stronger as compared to sandwich construction. In this type, main portion of handles is made up of one metal piece. The handle has a groove in it in which the knife rests when closed.

Traditionally, balisong blades were made of steel obtained from rail tracks. This steel was stiffer and more enduring. Besides this, recycled leaf springs of various vehicles is also used for making balisong knives. For handles, different types of materials could be used based on the style of balisong knife. Materials such as steel, brass, wood are generally used to manufacture handles.

Parts of Balisong Knife

Different parts of a balisong knife are assembled to make a complete balisong knife. Before using a balisong or butterfly knife trainer, you must have a comprehensive knowledge of its manufacturing. This would make you understand its functioning. Therefore, a brief description and working of its parts, is given below:

  1. Bite Handle: The sharp side of the blade closes in this handle. The user must be very careful with it when closing the knife as it can cut the hand while holding the handle.
  2. Safe Handle: As its name shows, it is a safe handle because it is closed on the unsharpened side of the blade.
  3. Latch: It is a kind of lock to the knife. You can lock the knife in either condition, closed or open.
  4. Batangas latch: Attached with the bite handle, this part is used to lock the blade.
  5. Manila Latch: To lock the unsharpened side of blade to the safe handle, this part is attached to the safe handle.
  6. Spring Latch: In order to open the latch, this spring latch is compelled by squeezing the handles.
  7. Gate Latch: a small block inside the channel of handle for to prevent contact of latch and blade.
  8. Blade: the main part of balisong knife is its blade. Usually made its made up of steel. Generally, on side of blade is sharp and other one is smooth and safe. The sharp side is used for cutting. When closed, the blade is concealed between the Handle: another major part of balisong knife is, its handle which is used to hold the knife. The groove in handles conceal the blade as well.
  9. Choil: the unsharpened side of the blade is called choil and is used to hold the blade while sharpening the blade.
  10. Kicker: this part prevents the blade from any damage by securing it from touching the inner side of handle.
  11. Pivot: the blade is attached to the handles through pivot, which is usually made up of steel or brass. This could be a rivet or a nut and bolt system.
  12. Swedge: Swedge is the unsharpened side of the blade. This part usually touches the hand of user when flip a balisong knife. In some knives, this part is also sharp, which gives it a sword like look.
  13. Tang: This part is the base of blade through which blade is attached to the pivots, via rivet or nut and bolt.
  14. Tang Pins: These are pins, struck on tang area in order to keep the blade in position and away from handle to avoid loosening.
  15. Washers: To avoid axial play, washers are added in between the handle and blade.
  16. Zen Pins: Zen pins are used to maintain the distance between handle and blade, so they could no touch each other. Basically, these are rivets of steel, pinned in the handle.

Historical Use of Balisong Knife

During 18th and 19th century, Spanish sailors used to possess balisong or butterfly knives as everyday useable tool and for safety during operating canonry. Blade of those knives were generally made of steel and brass was used to make handles. As brass do not produce spark, this ensures safety while surrounded with gunpowder. In 1905, balisong knives were highly used by American servicemen.
Then these knives were a major part of propaganda campaign. This use demonized balisong knives due to which, several estates banned the possession of butterfly or balisong knives.

Modern Use of Balisong Knife

Balisong knife are very handy tool for everyday use. As these are foldable, they can easily fit into a pocket. This is the reason that these are also called pocket knives. Another feature makes these knives safe to carry around is that, these knives don’t have a sheath because the blade is concealed in handles. 
Absence of sheath on blade means that is in any case, self-defense is required, the user would not have to indulge more components, instead one can flip open the knife with only one hand as well. 

As the purpose of balisong knife is self-defense, thus its blade does not require regular sharpening. However, as an everyday tool, the blade should be sharp enough to assist you efficiently in times of need. For example, if someone needs to cut a rope with only one hand, these balisong knives are very useful. 
Balisong knife can open a tin or a bottle, cracking nuts, . The handles can be used to pull a nail. Imagine at workplace, an employee’s tie or clothes, somehow get stuck in machinery and you immediately have to cut the tie or clothes to save him. 

The balisong knife you will be carrying in your pocket will be the most sought out tool at that time. Apart from this, flipping balisong knife would be quite an entertainment and once you are pro with this trick, you can show it off among your friends.  To practice flipping, start from beginner or training balisong knife. The blade of training balisong is not sharp and dulled so the practitioner may not hurt himself or cut his hands. One can really enjoy flipping on different levels. 

Balisong knives hold a complete culture in them. There are martial arts schools dedicated for training and learning of self-defense with balisong knives. 
There are several different styles for beginners and advanced learners to be learnt for defense in everyday life.

Shopping Guide

Do you plan to buy a balisong knife? Before going to get one for yourself, you know the difference between an actual balisong blade and fade balisong blade. Fade balisong blades are dulled on purpose as these are generally manufactured for beginners to practice self-defense. Therefore, the user may not hit and cut himself, the faded blade is used. 

However, if you are a pro, and intend to buy balisong knife for self-defense, then knife you would select will have a noticeably sharp blade. Another thing to ensure is the latch on the handle of balisong knife, which keep the handles in place when the knife is not in use. The handles of balisong knives come in various designs. But these designs are merely for decorative purposes which will only add in the price of knife. 

If you use a decorative knife for flipping, there are chances that design on handle may fade away. There are many companies, like Benchmade, Microtech Custom and Bradley Cutlery, that manufacture best balisong knives.


Balisong knife could be a great gift for knife lovers. A person who have a variety of collection of balisong knives, would love to have one more to add to his collection. 

If you are good with knife tricks, then you can impress your friends with balisong knife. Balisong knives could be a source of hour and hours of entertainment. But before you go to purchase a balisong knife. Keep in mind that it has a great deal as a weapon. And in many countries, like Canada, Philippines, Australia, Switzerland, it is illegal to carry a balisong knife with you. So, check out the laws of your country about what you can or cannot do with balisong knife, before going to have one. 

In the regions where one is legally allowed to keep balisong knife, should care enough, not to give it in hands of kids. And keep this potential weapon at safe place, away from the reach of children as they can hurt and injure themselves while considering it a toy to play with.