When you think of a hobby or sport you might play, you’re probably not going to make the leap to knife throwing. We started by thinking of this the same way you did. What? Why? Isn’t this something you’d see in a movie, frontier reenactments or maybe at the circus?
This fast-growing hobby is especially liked as an exercise at corporate events to teach teamwork and focus while getting those white-collar workers into the outdoors. This and tomahawk throwing as a sport has grown exponentially over the past decade. The main thing helping this renaissance along is the web. You can find so much about the weird, odd and rare that it isn’t any longer and the instructions to get started are easy and sometimes entertaining.
I hear you say, “Isn’t this dangerous/”, and we say ‘yes’, it can be if you don’t practice it right, in a safe place and with common sense. But do those things and this sport appeals to a wide variety of men, women and children. It may seem scary at first, but as your comfort grows, you’ll more times than not really love the challenge and want to do it more. So, let’s take a closer look at knife throwing-
In the past, anyone tossing a knife usually did so out of simple boredom and used whatever was at hand, such as kitchen utensils, whittling and field knives, hatchets, heck anything that they felt could stick in a target.
Although there is still debate in the US, the first design really thought to work OK after being thrown was the Bowie knife. Yep, named after that famous frontiersman Jim Bowie and actually designed with his brothers input too, Rezin. This long, large, all-purpose knife took some getting used to, but it actually does work pretty well, we still see Bowie’s in competition from time to time. There’s even documentation of bored soldiers from the Civil War tossing similar knives at targets for sport and wagering.
Knives don’t exactly travel through the air point. Instead a knife circles around its center of balance on the way to the target.
(Shhhh…we’re going to tell a little secret about throwing- be consistent.) This means with your chosen knife, throwing motion and distance. The thrower should release the knife the same way each and every time.
The center of gravity on most throwers is about halfway between the handle end and blade tip. If the knife is balanced differently, then the rotation and path will be less predictable, which, as you can imagine, makes it harder to stick. Once a thrower learns to throw consistently at one distance, it’s pretty easy to move forward or backward in one-revolution increments to still make the knife stick.
Like any sport, the equipment can make a huge difference. If you stick your throw properly, you’ll hear a well-deserved ‘thunk’ sound. But if any other part hits the target, ‘clang’, the knife will bounce off and hit the ground. To maximize your chances you need a well-balanced, specialized throwing tool with a strong tip edge, AND a specially constructed target.
A specialty knife for this sport is usually 8 to 12 inches long and weighs between 10 and 18 ounces. You’ll find they come shorter and longer, but keep in mind they each have short comings. Longer knives are usually heavier which will need more muscle to get it on target and the shorter tend to be so light that they don’t have the weight to stick well and often have shorter handles you can’t grasp properly. Keeping in mind the length, weight and where the knife has its balance point are critical when buying your knives.
In addition, it’s a good idea to look for a knife that is made from heat treated alloy. This can be a high-quality stainless variety or high carbon steel, which if made stout enough you might just pass down a generation or two. The Rockwell should be high enough to hold a tip edge, but not so high a number as to make the steel brittle to shatter or crack on impact. The higher the RC the more unique the care as well. On one hand it holds an edge longer, but on the other, when it comes time to re-sharpen it will be much more difficult.
Just as important is the target. You’ll want to start with a soft wood like pine approx. ¾” thick with the grain running vertically. Never use a live tree! The depth of the knife point can create a fairly deep wound and repetitive hits can harm its growth, make it susceptible to outside dangers like borrowing bugs or even kill it.
You’ll want to find a large open area where you can see a minimum of 30-40 feet in all directions. You could also set your target up against a solid wall that has no windows or doors. Let people know your there and what you’re doing and keep an especially sharp eye for pets and animals. Once that knife leaves your hand you are wholly responsible for where it lands and must be prepared to handle the consequences.
You’ll miss, not just once, but a lot. We’ve thrown many knives and still couldn’t perform in a circus. Due to this it’s not a bad idea to have a softer ground surface absorbing the impact. You may want to throw over dirt or short grass to prolong the life of your knife.
What do I really do?
It’s not very hard to learn this skill and it can be great fun doing so, but it’s the time it takes to hone that skill we all work at. If you can throw a ball, you can throw a knife.
There are many good instructional books and YouTube videos showing proper technique, but basically you lift your arm over your head with a slightly bent elbow. Then swing your arm forward and downward from the shoulder. At point of release your hand should be pointed forward with a rigid wrist (no snapping!) and just follow through.
For consistency you should release the blade the same way from the same position every time. Once you know the magic distance of the throw sticking in the target, throw from that distance each time.
That said, there’s no one method, but there is one rule, Be Safe-
- Throw only in suitable areas.
- Use knives made for throwing. The right tool for the right job.
- Inspect the knife frequently. If you notice anything amiss, don’t throw it!
- Don’t run with unsheathed knives in hand (or scissors for that matter).
- Store them properly when not in use.
- Be able to apply and/or call for First Aid help should it ever be needed.
To be really good at this takes practice, a lot of it, but the satisfaction from the accomplishment has little comparison and we’ll bet you’ll be the only one on the block who can brag about this skill!