Balisong proves to be a fun and stress-relieving skill toy

February 7, 2021 — by Bill Yuan

Winter break rolled around, so it was time for me to learn another useless skill. Naturally, I asked for a butterfly knife trainer for Christmas. 

A butterfly knife, traditionally called a balisong, is a folding knife with two handles that rotate around the blade, which conceal the blade in a groove within the handles. Because of its flippy nature, people have come up with tricks to open, close and flourish the knife. 

A balisong is still a knife, and carrying one around is illegal and flipping it can be dangerous. Surprisingly enough, I did not want to run that risk, so I got a balisong trainer with a dull blade. The trainer I got costs around $30, making it an excellent option for beginners. 

The first thing I did when I got the knife was to do some slight modifications, as instructed by a review of this knife. These included removing the pin, gluing the screws in place, and lubricating the pivots. These small customizations made the knife feel like it was really mine and made me enjoy using it.

The first few tricks I learned were the fundamentals: the simple and standard open, the fan close and the wrist pass. These didn’t take me long to master, and were a matter of simple repetition to get down. However, some of the tricks involving spinning the knife were much trickier to perform consistently.

These spinning tricks, including the zen rollover, the index rollover and the simple aerial, involve letting go of the knife, allowing it to spin freely, then catching it again. Practicing these tricks were more nitty-gritty, as they require more precision and getting used to the momentum of the knife.

I never really dedicated much time to practice flipping, but I realized that the balisong is a very good fidgeting toy. I found myself flipping my balisong aimlessly walking around the house, in my room, or even in class, repeating the few beginner tricks I knew.

Normally I would practice flipping over my bed, as to not damage the balisong or the floor when I drop it, but as I got more confident, I began practicing wherever. However, not being able to land an index rollover 100% of the time meant that the hardwood floor under my desk took a beating.

I eventually got good at one somewhat cool-looking combo — the basic twirl into zen rollover and fanning. I wanted to show anyone and everyone my newly acquired skill, even though nobody seemed  to care.

On my more stressful days, I found that practicing these tricks was a good way to clear my head. Repeating a trick over and over until I was able to get the hang of it really got my mind off things, and was something that I really needed during the second semester of junior year. Feeling the momentum of the knife flow smoothly as you flip it and then cleanly catching it is the most satisfying thing ever. 

Though the time hasn’t come yet, I’ve also looked for butterfly knives for when I graduate from my starter. More premium balisongs can cost anywhere from $200 to $1,000. After seeing others flip these knives in videos, the elegant design and satisfying “clang” makes me really tempted to dump some more money into another useless hobby.

Although carrying an actual balisong is illegal in California, making this an even more useless skill than others I’ve picked up such as lock picking or leathercraft, balisong flipping is definitely a hobby I will keep around. That way, if I happen to be traveling with a balisong and need to defend myself, I’m sure as hell gonna do a behind-the-8-ball flip before fending off my attacker with my nonexistent knife-fighting skills.

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