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  • The U.F.O. - What is it?

    June 21, 2024 3 min read

    The U.F.O. - What is it?

    This is a U.F.O. – an Unidentified Flipping Object. It’s the distillation of a balisong trainer into its simplest form, with a Flytanium twist of course. We’ll go a little into Balisong history, modern flipping, and why we made this entry level flipping device.

    Balisong History

    Balisongs – also known as butterfly knives or fan knives – are a type of folding pocketknife. They can be easily opened and used with one hand and were often used as utility knives and for self-defense. There’s no clear answer for when or where Balisong originated, oral accounts place it as far back as 800 AD in the Philippines or 1500-1700 in France with the pied du roi. We do know that in the early 1900’s the two villages Balisong and Pandayan were the hubs for balisong knife production. We also have evidence of numerous balisong created before the turn of the century in Europe – with pieces dating back to 1867 and an 1880 patent issued to Bontgen and Sabin’s, a cutlery company.

    Fully conjecture – I would assume the pied du roi from France spread through neighboring countries, which in turn took the concept and put their spin on it until it evolved into the more modern version of a balisong. This is not academic, as there is no solid evidence to support the spread and adaptation of the knife.

    There’s also evidence of Balisong existing in the United States before World War II, most notably the various butterfly knives sold by Hemmings Brothers Cutlery from New Haven, CT also in the early 1900’s. Modern accounts often cite soldiers returning from the Pacific Theater during WWII as bringing the balisong to the United States. While this statement might not be completely true, it would account for the rise in popularity. Balisongs surged again in popularity for their ease of use, albeit with bikers and gangs in the 1950’s-1960’s. The Switchblade Knife Act of 1958 banned spring assisted knives, along with any gravity or intertia opening knives in effort to curb the violence. In the 1980’s this law was utilized to ban the import of balisong knives, which had soared in popularity thanks to being featured in action movies. It was quickly overturned by the court in 1986, which deemed balisongs to be excluded from the Switchblade Knife Act on account of their latch and two handle system.

    Modern Flipping

    Flipping continued to grow in popularity, US companies like Benchmade (formerly Pacific Cutlery and Bali-song, Inc ) were joined by Kershaw, Boker, and Spyderco with their own takes on balisong design. The community grew, in the early 2000’s bali specific forums and websites popped up to encourage and facilitate growth, talk, and a place to compete for flippers. In 2006, the first live balisong flipping competition was held, paving the way for the likes of Bali Comp and WCFC (West Coast Flipping Championship).

    Modern day balisong s have evolved from utilitarian knives into skill toys. It’s now akin to pen spinning, yo-yos, or card/coin tricks, albeit more dangerous with a live blade. Balisong flipping requires precise hand-eye coordination, dexterity, and rhythm, something that takes tens of hours of practice. During my research, multiple sites claimed there was a large uptick in balisong related injuries in the 1980’s leading to ER visits. Balisong trainers have (hopefully) brought those numbers down – they’re balisongs without the live edge, and sometimes with specialized blade shapes. It’s a lot easier to practice flipping a knife around when you’re not worried about it slicing into your fingers.

    The U.F.O.

    Our first trainer was replacement blades for the Benchmade Morpho 51, a model that never had an official trainer version. We released a kriss trainer blade with our flagship Talisong Z in 2021, and in 2023 we launched the Zenith trainer and the U.F.O.

    The U.F.O. is our take on the core principles of modern balisong. We kept the main mechanisms of two swinging handles on a “blade ” with two tang pins to stop the handles from hitting. It also features adjustable bushing pivots so you can fine tune your swing. We removed the live blade and replaced it with a Flytanium twist – a round aluminum ring. It’s a simple object that provides a low barrier to entry into the mechanics and properties of balisong flipping. It’s not meant to be a precise, high-level trainer, but a simple toy to spark joy and interest – sort of like a fidget spinner.

    We released two new colors of the U.F.O. – Lava Red and Glow in the Dark. We’re excited to keep providing opportunities for expansion in the balisong community at all levels, especially in welcoming new and younger members. Thanks for reading, and keep on flipping!