In every sport, hobby, activity, job, and skill, there is always a desire to know who or what is the “best” in its class. It may be lonely at the top, but for many athletes, artists, and performers, it is the ultimate goal to become the champion of their craft.
The world of butterfly knives is no different. Once people discover the amazing tricks and manipulations that people are able to do with balisongs, it’s only natural to ask “what’s the best balisong?” and “who is the best balisong flipper?”
Although there have been many online and in-person balisong competitions, unavoidable drawbacks in these competitions still fall short of ultimately crowning the “best flipper”. Similarly, every flipper has different preferences for what they like in a knife or trainer, making it difficult to say which balisong is best.
Despite not feasibly being able to provide answers to these questions, this article will explore different contenders for who the best balisong flipper is, and what the best butterfly knife is.
Who is the Best Balisong Flipper?
Balisong flipping is a hobby that falls under the larger umbrella of “flow arts” and it is challenging to determine who is the best. Butterfly knife manipulation is an artistic expression by the performer, and any type of judgment applied to any form of art is intrinsically subjective.
Of course this hasn’t stopped people from trying to determine who the best flipper is, which normally takes the form of competitions. After all, sports such as figure skating and snowboarding are similarly subjective, but that hasn’t stopped the Olympic Committee from awarding gold medals to the “best” skaters and snowboarders.
It certainly seems, then, that the best and easiest way to find the best flipper in the world is through flipping competitions. Balisong comps can be divided into two main categories: live and online.
Some of the largest live competitions have been held at Blade Show, but other notable comps have been held at other conventions and events including Balifornia, and more recently at Smokey Mountain Knife Works. Past winners of these live competitions include incredible flippers such as @flipzone999, @ryykker, @lovinsbalis, @ihatejoff, @balilover23, @seijib, and @skooma___.
One of the main issues with in-person competitions is that not everyone is able to be present, which excludes a large number of potential competitors. One way to account for this is to move competitions to the internet, which is actually where balisong competitions originated.
Online competitions have an edge over in-person competitions since people from all over the world can compete against each other, but still have some issues. One of the main criticisms of online comps (and conversely, one of the main appeals of in-person comps) is that online competitions are not live, but rather pre-recorded.
This means that not only do online competitions lack the atmosphere and excitement of flippers going head-to-head face-to-face, but allow competitors to record as many takes as they need in order to execute their routine as close to perfect as possible. This is not necessarily a bad thing, as it allows for people to push themselves to perform harder combos knowing that they can always do it again if they make a mistake, but the argument could be made that having to perform under pressure is an important element in decisively crowning a champion.
Over the years there have been many different online flipping comps all with different formats, rules, and hosted on different sites and platforms. Some notable comp winners include @adriel4231 (who has won both @ad_flippingcomp season 1 and the most recent @bali_flipping_comp), @ndk.art’s tag team flipping duo @the_knife_girl and @mickey_flippy, and 2020 Master of the Baliverse (MOB) winner @bruschettatron.
Although competitions are a great start, they don’t quite get to the bottom of determining who the “best” flipper is. Those who are even somewhat involved in the balisong community may notice that several top-tier flippers haven’t been mentioned yet.
Determining the best flipper is problematic because not all flippers are in the hobby to compete. Some are in it to express their creativity, others to gain popularity, and some just because they enjoy the hobby and the community.
To use an analogy - each year someone wins the Grammy for “album of the year”, although the artist that wins the award was not intentionally competing for it. Rather, they were trying to produce a work of art and express their creativity, but ended up winning a “competition” because so many people appreciate their craft.
There are many flippers in the balisong community that despite not entering competitions, still end up on “favorite flipper” and “best flipper” lists. Maybe they can be thought of as the “soul skaters” of the balisong community.
It is also possible that the best flipper in the world used to compete, but hasn’t competed recently. To use another analogy, if you ask someone who the greatest basketball player of all time is, you will probably find yourself in a Lebron vs. Jordan debate.
Some flippers stand out from the crowd due to their originality, style, flow, creativity, and innovation, and are considered by many to be the “best” or, at the very least, many people’s favorite flippers. Notable examples include (but are not limited to) @iigu.h, @jameshill8520, @red_edge.eh, @slashncuts, and @assassinflonne.
Of course this is not a full or exhaustive list, but given the difficult nature of naming just one “best” flipper, perhaps this is a good place to start. Who knows, maybe someday there will be a more objective or standardized method of getting to the bottom of who the best really is.
What is the Best Balisong?
Now that we’ve determined once and for all who the best balisong flipper is, that leaves us with only one question: what is the best balisong?
Unfortunately this is not the easiest question to answer, not only because everyone has slightly different preferences in a knife, but the meaning of “best” is not entirely clear. Different people use balisongs for different reasons, and so one can mean different things when they’re referring to the “best balisong”.
A competitive flipper might have a very different idea of what makes a balisong great than someone who carries a butterfly knife as an edc item. Most flippers prefer a latchless and clipless balisong with good balance and tight tolerances, yet someone who wants the best balisong for edc will probably want both a clip and latch, and would gravitate towards lighter knives that disappear in the pocket, not worrying as much about balance and tolerances.
Still others might consider a balisong the best based on its looks, craftsmanship, or materials used. Collectors might be looking for the “best balisongs” in order to occupy spaces in a display case, using them not to flip or use but rather as eye candy and wall decorations to show off to their friends and family.
This is all technically correct (the best kind of correct), but let’s be honest: nine times out of ten people mean the best balisong for flipping when referring to the “best”. It is also much easier to talk about the best flipping butterfly knife than the best looking butterfly knife, since there are certain features that the vast majority of flippers look for in their balisongs.
Best Flipping Balisong
One way to figure out the best balisong for flipping is to look at the balisongs that the best flippers use. After all, those who are the best at their craft typically use the best equipment that is available.
Of course this is not a definitive way to answer the question, it is a good place to start. There are many factors that go into how competitors choose one knife over another - their personal preferences, any sponsorships they may have, their budget for knives, and the legal status of butterfly knives where they live.
Despite everyone having their own preferences, opinions, and budgets, there are two balisongs that seem to pop up in the final few rounds of competitions more than any other: the Replicant from Bladerunners Systems and the Krake Raken from Squid Industries.
The Krake Raken has several appealing things about it. It has two different blade variants (tanto and bowie), each with slightly different weight distribution. Though subtle, these minor differences are noticeable to flippers, and so having two different blade profiles can appeal to different flippers not only because of looks, but because of feel.
Squid Industries Krake Raken with a tanto blade
It is also fairly inexpensive, at least as far as butterfly knives go. Many balisongs can easily cost over $400 or $500, yet the Krake Raken sells for under $300 from the manufacturer.
Yet another contributor to the success of this balisong is that it comes in a trainer variant. In addition to trainers generally being less expensive to produce, they open up the accessibility of this balisong model to the entire world, not being restricted to states and countries where butterfly knives are legal.
Finally, and most importantly, the Krake Raken flips great! It’s a knife that is very obviously designed to be flipped. Running on bushings and weighing 4.19oz, the Krake Raken has incredible tolerances and balance, good grip on the handles and jimping for ladders, and the v2.5 comes with a milled slot on the side of the handle, which improves grip and looks really sick.
The BRS Replicant shares a lot in common with the Krake Raken, but also stands out on its own. Like the Krake Raken, the Replicant comes in two blade variants, runs on bushings with zen pin construction, and retails at a similar price point.
Despite these similarities, there are many differences between these two knives. A stock Replicant weighs 4.9oz, is sandwich construction, and has handles consisting of titanium liners and g10 scales (the Krake Raken having channel aluminum handles).
Replicants also have one massive advantage over the Krake Raken: moddability.
The amount of aftermarket balisong parts made for the BRS Replicant likely outnumbers the amount made for any other butterfly knife. Anything can be upgraded or replaced in order to change both the look and feel of the knife when flipped.
A BRS Replicant with a @hammerdesigns reblade, scales from @balinerd, @fox.fire.factory liners and spacers, and modded by @xkknives. Photo by @arinbabbel
Spacers can be replaced with full-length or faux-channel ones, liners can be swapped out with skeletonized ones that reduce the overall weight, the scales can be changed to add grip or adjust the weight, even the blade can be swapped out with an aftermarket live blade or an aftermarket trainer blade. All of this means that the Replicant platform allows for every flipper to alter how their knife looks and feels in order to suit their specific preferences, allowing it to be a great flipper to a much larger number of people.
As I’ve stated already, just because some of the best flippers flip these knives in competition doesn’t make them the best. One thing is certain though: the best balisongs for flipping have all come either from people who take input from the flipping community, or from those who are flippers themselves.
There’s no avoiding that determining the “best” of any category often comes down to subjectivity. The “best” of something is also always subject to change, and as new balisong models come out and new flippers start flipping them, champions will be dethroned and new knives may explode in popularity.
Did your favorite flipper get mentioned above? What do you think is the best balisong? Comment down below, especially if your favorite wasn’t mentioned!