By Mitchell Banks | The Tribune
Seymour is home to one of the world’s top knife flippers, a hobby that also is an art form in which people do tricks and routines with balisongs, aka butterfly knives.
A balisong is a knife with two handles that can completely cover its blade, prompting a flashy display when the knife is flipped out.
The name comes from the Balisong village in Batangas, Philippines, which is where the knife originates.
Corbin Lovins, 23, has been intrigued by balisongs since he worked at The Pines when he was 15.
He became friends with Mitchell Hall, son of the owners of the Seymour restaurant, who flipped balisongs.
When Lovins turned 18, Hall gifted him a balisong from Smoky Mountain Knife Works in Sevierville, Tennessee.
“I tried to learn as much as possible as quick as possible after my 18th birthday,” Lovins said.
Tutorial videos on YouTube put him on the path to learning more about knife flipping.
Lovins’ interest in balisongs doesn’t stop at flipping. He has a shop at his house where he creates his own knives.
In his house, he has a studio where he practices flipping, records videos and keeps all of his awards, knives and memorabilia.
The passion to learn more about flipping eventually grew into going to competitions.
While there are random competitions sponsored by knife companies and curated by people online, he said there are two major flipping competition in the United States in a year: Blade Show in Atlanta, Georgia, and Blade Show West in Long Beach, California.
In 2019, Lovins was the champion of the Bali Comp balisong flipping tournament at Blade Show.
Blade Show West will happen in October and is Lovins’ next competition.
Since no Blade Shows happened in 2020 due to the global pandemic, Lovins said he is excited to get back to competing in person again, rather than doing online competitions.
His reputation for being an expert with balisongs is spreading. Recently, he did a meet-and-greet at Smoky Mountain Knife Works for National Knife Day.
BRS Knives is a sponsor for Lovins. The company is one of the big four companies that makes balisongs. The others are Squid Industries, Hom Design and Benchmade.
Benchmade is credited with popularizing balisongs with their Benchmade 42 knife, which Lovins called the “godfather of balisongs.”
Competitive-level balisongs can range from around $300 up to $4,500, Lovins said.
This month, tech magazine WIRED is releasing a video on its YouTube channel that will feature an interview with Lovins and footage of him flipping.
Even though he is considered a top knife flipper, Lovins said new tricks are created all of the time and there is still much to learn.
Flipping knives is credited as being therapeutic for Lovins’ “severe anxiety.”
He said he loves creating a way to use a knife to where it’s not harmful and “sits back, flips a knife and gets lost in the motion.”
That’s not to say knife flipping is a harmless hobby.
A couple of years ago, Lovins said he was flipping a knife when he decided to catch it while it was falling, which he said is something no one should ever do.
As a result, he cut the top of his middle finger off. Some of it has grown back, but he said it’s still blunted.
Getting a hand nicked by a blade is common when flipping, so Lovins said he always keeps Band-Aids on him.
Going into a competition, he said he brings his knives, baby powder, Band-Aids and his skills.
He said the hobby of knife flipping has only been around for about 20 years but has exploded in popularity in the over the past couple of years.
Approximately 15,000 people are in two separate Facebook groups dedicated to people wanting to learn more about balisongs, Lovins said. There also are active balisong groups on Instagram and Reddit. When Lovins first joined one of the balisong groups on Facebook, he said there were only around 6,000 members.
Aside from his interest in knife flipping, Lovins said he is outdoorsy and likes to sit by a fire, hike and fish. With all of that being said, he said he can never be found without a knife and flips for about two hours every day.