The Origin of the Balisong Knife

Have you ever seen a knife with a dual handle? This is more than a complicated aesthetic. It’s a mechanism that provides protection for the blade, as the handle bends over. Also, it reduces the length of the knife by half.

Read on, to find out more about the origin of the balisong knife, and how flipping it became a popular sport.

What Is a Balisong Knife?

Two things set a Balisong knife from other knives: their peculiar shape, and interesting name.

A Balisong knife is a vanity weapon, often used for show rather than utility. It looks a lot like medium-sized pocket knives.

However, it stands out in its dual-handles and folding action.

The name ‘Balisong’ is believed to come from the Tagalog phrase ‘baling sungay’, which roughly translates to ‘broken horn’. This is most probably in reference to the folding movement and split appearance of the Balisong knife. Also to the fact that the handle of the knife was made from deer horn.

Another common name for the Balisong knife is the ‘Batangas knife’. This province is home to the prime blacksmiths of these knives. It’s not a surprise that the title Batangas knife is on par with the Balisong knife tag.

People sometimes ditch both and go for other names that are easier on the tongue and the ear. The Balisong knife is also known as the ‘fan knife’ or ‘butterfly knife’. The latter has widespread usage.

Where Did the Butterfly Knife Come From?

The exact origin of the Balisong or butterfly knife can’t be pinpointed with any conclusive evidence. Some say that it’s an ancient tool, but no evidence to date supports this statement.

More rational opinions place the beginnings of the butterfly knife around the late 18th, early 19th century. The collective knowledge about the matter comes down to two theories.


A flipping ruler was invented in France sometime between the 15th and 17th centuries. It was an outstanding creation at the time. People were blown away by this gimmick when a knife was added to it for enhanced utility.

It seems that sailors were huge fans of the invention, and soon they showed it off to their Spanish friends. Spain was France’s ally at the time.

2. Philippines

In the 18th century, trade was quite active between Spain and the Philippines. Along with the regular goods, the flipping knife found its way to the Philippines.

The province of Batangas embraced the butterfly knife and took its design to a whole new level of perfection. Crafting a Balisong knife was an art form rather than a mundane blacksmithing job.

Balisong Today

Nowadays, balisong knives are popular among young people all over the globe. Flipping and showing off manipulation skills is a widespread ‘sport’.

There’s also a dull-blade version of the Balisong knife for beginners to train with.

Are Butterfly Knives Illegal in the USA?

Some parts of the USA consider butterfly knives daggers or switchblades. Accordingly, their use is either banned or limited.

Each state has its own stance regarding the legality of owning, buying, selling, showing, or concealing butterfly knives.

For example, in Maine, a person can carry, buy, or sell balisong knives. On the other hand, In Washington, a balisong knife is considered a ‘spring blade knife’, and so, it should not be manufactured, owned, bought, or sold.

Meanwhile, other states have a middle ground ruling: “The balisong is legal for open carry but is illegal to carry concealed”.

Therefore, it’s best to double-check the state regulations before flipping a Balisong knife anywhere in the USA.

Parting Thoughts

The balisong knife appeared in several movies like Tomb Raider, The Mummy, Pacific Rim, and many others. It was also featured in major computer games like TF2.

If you want to know more about Balisong knives leave a comment below. There’s plenty of glamor surrounding these exotic knives. The early origin of the Balisong knife might not be confirmed, but its true origin will always be in the Philippines.

Brian Casey
About Brian M. Casey

As a food lover, Brian M. Casey developed a fascination for cooking at an early age. He soon realized that not only the ingredients matter but also the knives and the accessories used to turn those ingredients into a delicious dish. This way, Brian began his journey on the magnificent world of kitchen knives, outdoor knives, knife accessories, and much more. After years of experience with many ups and downs, Brian now wants to share everything he’s learned during his journey as an avid knife collector, a well-seasoned knife maker, and an all-around knives enthusiast.

Leave a Comment