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Balisong Information and Resources

This page is for those who practice the Philipino art of Balisong. Many people do not know what Balisong is. Balisong is a Filipino martial art that centers around the use of knives. A very deadly use of knives. The general opinion in the world of martial arts is a skilled Balisong practitioner is the deadliest of all martial artists.

Jeff Imada is a big name in Balisong. Inside Kung-Fu Magazine has featured him many times. A specialized knife, the butterfly knife, is perhaps the most famous of all Balisong weapons.

Balisong Quick Links

About Balisong

By Cathy Richey, the Cathy Factor


The Balisong, called a Butterfly knife in the West, and sometimes known as a Batangas knife, is a form of folding pocket knife with two handles that counter-rotate around the tang such that, when closed, the blade is concealed within grooves in the handles.

In the hands of a trained user, the knife blade can be brought forth quickly using one hand. Manipulations (flipping) are performed for art or amusement and require great skill. Translated from Tagalog, the word "Balisong" means "Broken Horn" (literally, "baling sungay") as the original Balisongs were made from carved animal horns and recycled knife blades.

The balisong can be a lethal weapon in the hands of a skilled professional, and can be opened faster than a western switchblade.
The early butterfly knives were made from available materials, and were rather crude when compared to Japanese blades. But unlike Japanese blades, the balisongs weren't meant to pierce through armor. In the heat of the tropics, the target of a balisong was usually a nearly nude human body. For that purpose, they were more than adequate.

The first butterfly knives were introduced to the United States by early Filipino immigrant farm laborers, and by returning GIs who brought them back as war souvenirs. The soldiers referred to them a click-click knives because of their fancy but noisy action. For the same reason, the Filipino-American kids of that era called them balisongs- bali meaning to break and song for the song of the blade. In the Filipino communities like Stockton, California, the balisong was as common as baseball to American kids. Every 5 year old knew how to open one, even though they might not know how to use it.

The balisong almost disappeared in the 50s because of the bad reputation attached to the switchblade, flick knives, and motorcycle gangs of the period. Remember Marlon Brando in The Wild One, James Dean in Rebel Without a Cause and The Blackboard Jungle? All knives were considered dangerous weapons in the hands of criminals, delinquents, and motorcycle gang members. The switchblade and gravity knife became illegal to manufacture, import, or carry across state lines under the “Switchblade Knife Act."

The present resurrection of the balisong can be credited to Les de Asis, Daniel Inosanto, and Jeff Imada. All famous names in the martial arts world, with Jeff Imada as a well-known martial arts stunt coordinator in the movie business. Of course, the Fililipino martial arts and the action films of today have also given it a boost. It got a further boost from the September 28, 1970, ruling that lifted the importation ban when the balisong was declared “not a switchblade knife.”

In the 70s, Les de Asis used modern aerospace technology to produce the best butterfly knife ever. It took the knife world by storm, and de Asis knife received the Blade Magazine Award of the Year for the best American-made new design. Today, he is the president of Pacific Cutlery Corporation, the only licensed manufacturer of the patented Bali-Song knife and the only registered owner of the name Bali-Song.


Dan Inosanto began using the balisong in his Filipino martial arts demonstrations and in films. He created a balisong sequence for the movie Killer Elite in 1975, but it was completely cut out of the finished movie. The balisong eventually appeared in Jackie Chan's The Big Brawl, where Dan was Ron Max's behind the scenes advisor. In 1981, Burt Reynolds chose Dan to portray the knife-wielding villain in Sharkey's Machine. The balisong was used to open a bottle of wine in a Cheech and Chong film. Other movies using the balisong are: Silent Rage, Ten to Midnight, and Outsiders.

 

About Cathy: She and her Doberman Trooper conduct research into all kinds of topics and produce articles like the one you see here. To contact Cathy, write to thecathyfactor@yahoo.com. Get the facts from Cathy, and let the Cathy Factor give you an edge.

 

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