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KBS System of Filipino Martial Arts

The Proper Design and Use of the Batangas Knife
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          It is not unusual to see people in the Filipino martial arts playing with butterfly knives. It can be very impressive seeing the various openings and closings, the spinning and twirling, the changing of hands, etc. There are many videos on the market which go to great lengths to show how to do all this. One set includes 3 tapes! The irony of all this, however, is that it is not genuine!

For the student of the FMA who wants to learn the real use of the butterfly knife, there are very few people teaching it. The reality of the use of this blade can be summed up in the words of Mr. Arsenio Diokno, who lives in Barangay Tulo near Barangay Balisong, and who is a master craftsman of Batangas blades:

...our balisong was made only for one purpose- open quick and use it. Then close it after the job is done and leave.... (Dr. Jopat Laraya, The Making of the Batangas (Balisong)Knife, Filipino Martial Arts Magazine, vol. 2, No. 3, 2000.)

The proper use of this knife means that it is kept closed and hidden until the last moment. We are not talking about duels, where both men have a blade opened, but an attack. The knife is unlatched (often by brushing against the thigh), opened and used all in the same motion, and on the return, the blade is closed again. If done properly, the victim as well as any witnesses would not even see the blade!

With this type of use in mind, the knife must be constructed in a specific way. The cutting edge of the blade must face the side of the handle where the latch is attached. This is so that the blade swings open with the blade in the correct position for a slash. This works for both the forehand and backhand slash.

Many balisongs made in the West are actually made with the latch on the wrong side for correct use of the blade. People who want to twirl and spin the blade like the latch on the other side, so that when the knife is unlatched and the twirl begins, the back of the blade is flipped back over the hand, not the edge.

Playing with a balisong can be great fun, it might attract young, impressionable people into the arts, and it may even help people with arthritis or stiff joints loosen up, but don't pay much attention to those videos of all the fancy moves. They aren't done by the people who invented and designed the blade!