Axe throwing is now off my bucket list. This past week a girlfriend and I spent about one and a half hours learning the ancient art. Let me back up, while they call it axe-throwing, it was really a hatchet, a short-handled axe. There were three different weight categories. The lightest ones were enough for me.
The air-conditioned facility consisted of cages, with two bullseyes, made of cottonwood.
Lines were marked on the floor, showing you where to stand. A few instructions: don’t throw when someone is pulling their axe out of the target, don’t throw another axe if you have hit the target.
We had a wonderful instructor who showed us the movements: Two handed, over the head, follow through, and voilà! Amazingly enough, I managed to stick a few. We were provided a list of games to play as you would in darts. My partner beat the socks off of me.
After a bit, the manager brought us some ninja stars that are actually named shurikens (Japanese: 手裏剣; literally: “hand-hidden blade”) is a Japanese concealed weapon that was used as a hidden dagger or metsubushi to distract or misdirect.
Now, this is my kind of weapon! I did pretty well slamming those babies into the target. He also produced some metal playing cards that you threw. Thankfully, a few I flung stuck in the target.
Later, he brought over some balloons and darts. By this time, we were both pooped, our over-the-head muscles starting to ache. I knew I could never hit a balloon with any of the tools, even if my life depended on it.
Oh, and did I tell you refreshments were available? Beer and wine.
THE HISTORY OF AXE THROWING
The history of axe-throwing is fascinating. During the Middle Ages, the axe was first used as a weapon by the Franks, a Germanic tribe, who perfected the Francisca axe; it became their national weapon.
Some historians believed it was not thrown in battle. Makes sense. You would no longer have it to fight with, however, it was good for hunting animals. Others believe they were thrown before hand-to-hand combat, with the express intent of scaring the bejabbers out of their enemies, causing them to run away.
By the late Middle Ages, many foot soldiers and knights had axes made of iron.
NATIVE AMERICANS AND AXE THROWING
Native Americans had a similar tool they called the “tomahawk” , most likely from the Algonquian words “tamahak” and “tamahakan,” an instrument used for cutting. At first, they were made with stone, bone, or shell. Later they adapted metal heads. Unlike the European axe, the shaft is straight and usually less than 18 inches in length.
Indigenous people used them as a general purpose tool to for hunting, chopping and cutting as well as in combat. Again, warriors seldom threw the tomahawk as you would then be defenseless.
The tools also played a part in ceremonies, such as signing peace treaties. The modern term, “bury the hatchet” comes from the act of putting away the tomahawks at the end of hostilities. Some even had a bowl for tobacco at the end of their shaft! These dual-purpose things were often presented to other tribal chiefs and European as a gesture of goodwill.
AXE THROWING TODAY
Axe throwing is one of the fastest growing sports in the U.S. Who knew? The World Axe Throwing League boasts 27,000 members worldwide.
AXE THROWING THOUGHTS
I had so much fun I plan to build a throwing pit at the ranch. I have plenty of soft wood and it will be a snap. I even own a hatchet. I think I’ll even buy some stars. Sounds more fun than horseshoes.