The first video I ever did with Paladin Press™ was called Mastering the Balisong. At the time, I was assigned to the U.S. Embassy in Bangkok, Thailand, and Paladin™ did not yet have an in-house video department. Since they were not prepared to fly me to Colorado, nor would they fly a cameraman to Thailand, we compromised. I shot all the raw footage myself (in the bedroom of my Bangkok apartment) and they contracted Petyon Quinn to edit it. For an early 1990’s video, it wasn’t bad and provided better step-by-step instruction that its professionally-produced competition at the time. However, within a few years—and especially after I was running Paladin’s™ video department—the state of the art of video production had come a long way and the original version of this video looked poor by comparison.

To remedy that, I proposed that we completely re-shoot the project from the ground up, using the Paladin™ video studio I built and three state-of-the-art digital cameras. My partner in Stay Safe, Mike Rigg, did the primary camerawork, which forms the core of the video. He also carefully supervised the editing process, which was performed by the other cameraman whose heart and head were not in the project. Thanks to Mike’s perseverance, the resulting video is the best step-by-step instructional video on the mechanics of manipulating the balisong ever produced.

The video begins with a discussion of the basics of the balisong’s structure, the difference between the safe handle and the free handle, and the critical elements of training safety. It then provides detailed, step-by-step instruction in all the basic openings and closings possible with this dynamic knife. Every technique is shown and explained from a variety of camera angles, including a front view, right and left side views, and both overhead and over-the-shoulder views that come close to providing a first-person perspective. The first-person views allow you to see the opening as you will see it when you perform it yourself and are an invaluable learning tool when learning balisong technique.

It should also be noted that every technique is shown both full speed and in slow motion and that all critical points in the technique are highlighted and clearly explained with the help of carefully timed freeze frames.

With the basics fully understood, I then move on to teach intermediate techniques. These are more complicated, intricate movements, but by relating them back to the fundamental skills introduced earlier, a linear progression of skill is established. Once again, this creates a step-by-step progression that shortens the learning curve and produces very quick results.

Continuing the progression, I then introduce advanced techniques, including numerous aerial techniques. Once again, these are carefully cross references with the basic techniques from which they evolved and all critical points in the technique are highlighted with freeze frames and slow motion.

Finally, I discuss the practicality of the balisong as a defensive weapon and explain the criteria for reliable combat openings. This includes a discussion and demonstration of the tactics of mid-fight deployment of the knife.

When the original Mastering the Balisong was released, it not only provided clearer instruction than the competition, it also included some techniques that other practitioners were not yet performing—such as reverse-grip aerial catches. By the time the revised version was released, my abilities with the balisong had easily been eclipsed by other practitioners who were doing openings that I had never dreamed of. However, their ability to teach their methods—or even the basic manipulations—remained very limited. For the beginner or intermediate bali player, the revised Mastering the Balisong still provides the clearest, most effective instructional presentation available. Also, Stay Safe’s Mike Rigg personally authored the DVD version of this video, which includes multiple menu layers that allow the viewer to drill down to the exact technique he wants based on its context in the curriculum.

Michael D. Janich