A Look into the World of Balisong Competitions
Competition is a desire innate to humanity. The compulsion to challenge ourselves and others is one of mankind’s most powerful driving forces, whether it be for money, glory, or simply pride.
It should come as no surprise that flipping competitions sprang up very early on in the modern history of the hobby, and that they continue to persist to this day.
Formats, sizes, and rules of balisong competitions have varied significantly over the past couple decades, ranging from sponsored double elimination tournaments with various prizes, all the way down to spontaneous friendly battles for nothing but fun and bragging rights.
Although this is not a comprehensive catalog of every balisong competition that has ever taken place, it does review most of the major modern flipping competitions that have taken place, how they work, and what the current state of balisong competitions looks like.
|Balisong Flipping Champions (Live Comps)|
|Year||Comp||1st Place||2nd Place||3rd Place|
|2006||Bali-Ville||David Fettig aka 'Blasto'||IconOfSin*||*|
|2014||KIL Tournament||Israel Espinosa aka @TakeItEasy.3||Kumu Mark Nunez||Walter Talens|
|2016||Balifornia||@skooma___ aka Ethan Mitchellfirstname.lastname@example.org aka Israel Espinosa||@knifestuff aka Curtis Crowe|
|2017||Bali Royale/Bali Comp||@flipzone999||@ryykker||@eric_strable|
|2017||Balifornia||@knifestuff aka Curtis Crowe||@skooma___ aka Ethan Mitchell||@balibone aka Evan Knecht|
|2019||Balifornia||@skooma___ aka Ethan Mitchell||@ethan_reapor aka Ethan Goudarziemail@example.com aka Riley Whitmer|
|Balisong Flipping Champions (Online Comps)|
|Comp||1st Place||2nd Place||3rd Place|
|AD Flipping Comp Season 1||@adriel4231||@shrimp_flips||N/A|
|@bali_flipping_comp Season 1||@knownlyrics15||@that_kid_nikom||@bali_hub|
|@bali_flipping_comp Season 2||@the_bali_flipper||@firstname.lastname@example.org|
|@bali_flipping_comp Season 3||@r3dflipper||@email@example.com|
|@bali_flipping_comp Season 4 (Live Blades)||@_murkiness_||@tripletflows||N/A|
|@bali_flipping_comp Season 4 (Trainers)||@bootleg_boy_a1an||@snowy._.static||N/A|
|@bali_flipping_comp Season 5||@adriel4231||@whehi_||N/A|
|@ndk.art Tag Team||@the_knife_girl & @mickey_flippy||@hotforbeanos & @_keoni._||N/A|
|Speed Flipping Comp 1 (Live Blades)||@flipping_bali_flipper||@oximityy||N/A|
|Speed Flipping Comp 1 (Trainers)||@deaths_flips||@bylanan256||N/A|
|Speed Flipping Comp 2||@bylanan256||N/A||N/A|
Origins: Early Balisong Competitions
The Flipping Arena
Although at the time there was already some balisong activity on BladeForums, the first major development in the growth of the balisong community came from a website called the Flipping Arena. Founded by a couple members from BladeForums, it was created to provide a structured way for flippers to compete with each other and further the art of balisong manipulation.
In addition to being the first popular and structured place for butterfly knife competitions, the site had several other sections including a market, chat, and various sub-forums for modding, maintaining, and more.
One of the main features of this site was the ladder: a ranking system that allowed flippers to challenge one another and move higher and lower in rank. There was a main ladder for flippers to climb the ranks on, but there was also a noob ladder for “smurfs” - a term for beginner flippers just getting into the hobby.
Challenges on the ladder involved one flipper challenging another, setting the rules and conditions, and if they win they advance in the ranking. Setting the rules involved establishing parameters such as a time limit, due date, or theme (such as an aerial theme, doubles, etc.).
In addition to the ladder, the Flipping Arena also hosted FATOC - the Flipping Arena Tournament of Champions.
This was an annual 5-round competition with each round having a different theme. Once all the clips were in, everyone would vote on which ones they thought were best. All of the votes were tallied up after all of the rounds were complete, and the flipper with the most total votes won.
JDBA: JerzeeDevil Balisong Alliance
It was also around this time (late 2000s/early 2010s) that major flipping competitions started being hosted on the JerzeeDevil balisong subforum.
Although somewhat less formal, comps were hosted on JDBA with formats similar to those from the Flipping Arena. Competitions had voting systems, different themes, and there were even some team competitions.
One of the main reasons for the decline in popularity of JDBA comps was the rise in popularity of the now defunct site balisong-techniques.com. The site was created by Vincent Dark (a.k.a. Bitehandle), who wanted to create a forum dedicated specifically to flipping, and was officially launched in 2012.
There were numerous comp formats held on Balisong-Techniques. One of the more noteworthy was Friday Night Fights, a versatile format which involved a different theme for each week. The changing theme kept the competitions fresh, allowing flippers to get creative, push boundaries, and flip outside of their comfort zones.
BT also held comps called “Finding Lines”, where competitors would have a list of tricks that they would have to include in a combo. Flippers would then find their own ways of linking all the tricks together into a good looking routine.
Although the original site no longer exists, there is still a Balisong-Techniques Instagram account run by some of the former members. Several battles and comps were hosted on this page, including the BT Royal Rumble in 2017.
Recent Online Competitions
“Traditional” Online Comps
Throughout all of this, although comps were being organized on various forums and websites, clip submissions were still reliant on other media platforms. YouTube was the place to go for balisong video content for some time, but eventually flippers started establishing groups and communities on other sites and social media platforms such as Instagram, Facebook, and Reddit.
Eventually these three platforms, in particular Instagram, took the place that used to be held by other websites. Rather than posting videos to YouTube for a competition held on a forum, social media sites provided flippers with places to host comps, post clips, and vote all in the same place.
Modern online balisong competitions take many forms. One of the most common formats is a single-elimination bracket tournament, where flippers go head to head in multiple rounds until a winner is decided.
Although some comps still have themes, it’s more popular to have an open format and have competitors flip however they’d like. Clips are generally judged based on overall flow, style, and difficulty and technicality of tricks.
Most online comps are judged by other flippers in the community. Typically votes are cast on polls or in the comments section of Facebook or Instagram posts that contain the clips from all competitors from that round.
Great examples of this comp style include @bali_flipping_comp, @ad_flippingcomp, Bali Maker Comp (hosted by @deaths_flips and @iusethistoflip), @ndk.arts’s Tag Team Bali Comp, and of course Fliptober (hosted on the BFBK Facebook group).
Although somewhat less common, some online competitions have a panel of judges rather than an audience voting system. One of the best examples of this is the Master of the Baliverse (M.O.B.) competition held by Bladerunners Systems, which had a panel of judges consisting of some of the best and most seasoned balisong manipulators in the community.
“Non-Traditional” Online Comps
In some circumstances comps may have no judges or voting whatsoever. For this to work, the competition must be structured in such a way that removes all subjective factors.
Perhaps the most structured example of this type of comp is @speedflipping, which can be thought of as “Finding Lines” but is judged on speed rather than style. Each round competitors are given a list of tricks, and whoever can perform them all the quickest advances.
Other comps that fit in this category are often much more informal, are usually short-lived, and aren’t as competitive in nature. You might come across spontaneous challenges for slowest shortstop, most consecutive scissors, or people trying to break the record for longest time spent doing continuous chaplins.
One final category of balisong competitions are non-flipping comps. These are most often done to promote creativity and artistry within the balisong community by creating contests that are judged based on things other than flipping skill, but still involve butterfly knives in some way.
Great examples of these types of comps include Bali Photo Comp hosted by @tyler.teebagy, a flipping video editing comp hosted by @arinbabbel, and a very open-ended contest hosted by @blackbalisong where participants were free to do anything they wanted for their submissions (as long as it involved Black Balisong in some way, shape, or form).
Online competitions are great for several reasons. They allow flippers to compete with others from all across the globe, they don’t require people to be at the same place at the same time, and you can compete from the comfort of your own home.
One of the biggest advantages with online competitions is that competitors can record as many takes as they need to in order to get as good of a clip as possible. This allows flippers to showcase their skills at their very best, which can result in some pretty amazing results.
Although this is a fantastic feature of online comps, it’s also a fairly big drawback. Since clips can be cherry picked and sometimes edited together to feature combos without mistakes or drops, it doesn’t accurately represent how someone flips in a “normal” flipping session.
This is one of the reasons why live balisong competitions are so appealing. By their very nature they require flippers to showcase their skills without filters, editing, or the ability to spend hours trying to get the best clip possible.
Live comps bring with them the competitive energy you’d find at any other sporting event, while also promoting a strong sense of community amongst flippers. It’s an entirely different beast to share the same stage with your opponent during a live flipping battle than to simply submit a clip on Instagram.
The first major live balisong flipping competition was Bali Royale at Blade Show in 2017. Sponsored by Blade HQ and Bladerunners Systems, the comp featured 32 competitors and two phases of competition.
In the first round flippers would go head to head in a trick for trick showdown, where competitors would have to perform the same trick as their opponent. Those that advanced to the second round would again go head to head, but this time performing timed freestyle routines in front of a panel of judges. This phase was structured like a normal bracket tournament, eliminating competitors one by one until a champion was crowned.
Blade Show has continued to host a live balisong competition nearly every year. They generally follow a similar format to Bali Royale, but minor variations come with every competition. Some of them have only allowed live blades, others allowed only trainers, and of course the sponsors, prizes, judges, and competitors change from year to year.
Although the main live balisong competitions have taken place at Blade Show, others have popped up as well. In 2017 a “Balifornia” competition was held in Los Angeles, California, and more recently a Bali-tourney was held in 2021 at Smokey Mountain Knife Works.
The Future of Balisong Competitions
As long as flippers flip, flippers will compete. The formats may change from comp to comp, but the competitive spirit shows no sign of slowing down in the hobby.
In fact, balisong competitions only seem to be getting more frequent and more popular. Anyone can host a competition on the internet, and the growing number of people willing to organize and host them speaks to the increasing interest in bali comps.
The wide range of options when developing a comp also helps to keep things fresh and interesting. There can be different brackets for different skill levels, different divisions for live blades and trainers, teams or individual, various criteria for judging, and an endless number of themes.
If you’re interested in competing then make sure to brush up on your skills with 20 Expert Balisong Tricks and How to Do Them, and get some great advice on how to put them in your routines with the Fundamentals of Balisong Flow and Combos!