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Knife throwing, whether in a martial or sport application, involves the same basic principles of mechanics. The objective in each case is for the point to stick into the target with a sufficient amount of force. For this to be successful, accuracy, distance, number of rotations and placement of the body all must be taken into account.
If the thrower uses a spin technique, the knife will rotate during flight. This means that the thrower, assuming they are throwing the same way every time, must either choose a specific distance for each type of throw or, more practically, make slight adjustments to the placement of the knife in the hand or to the throwing movement. Another adjustment that can be made is the way the knife is held. If it is held at the blade when it is thrown, this makes it spin half, whereas if it is held by the handle, this makes a full spin. So if the thrower estimates he needs one and a half spins for the point to hit the target, he would hold the knife from the blade when it is thrown. If he feels he needs two full spins for it to hit the target point-first, then it would be held by the handle.
With the much more intricate no spin throwing techniques, the throwing motion is made as linear as possible, the knife's rotation being slowed down even more by an index finger on the spine during release. Thrown no spin, knives will make no revolution or only a quarter spin before reaching the target (point first), but the no spin throws are not as accurate or stable in flight as the spin techniques.
In the USA and in Europe, there are communities of people pursuing knife throwing as a sport, similar to archery. Groups such as IKTHOF (International Knife Throwers Hall of Fame, USA), AKTA (American Knife Throwers Alliance, USA) and Eurothrowers (European Throwing Club "Flying Blades", EU) sponsor events, demonstrations and competitions. Those are opportunities for the throwers to exchange knowledge, compare their performances, and enjoy the amiable atmosphere common to those events.
The competition itself consists, in the most common form, of a series of straight throws aimed at a set of standard wooden targets or in some cases foam. Similar to an archery target, competition knife throwing targets have a bullseye surrounded by one or more rings. A sticking knife scores points. The thrower must be standing at least a set distance away from the target, with higher distances for more challenging events. IKTHOF keeps a ranking of its members based on their performance during these sponsored competitions. The scores achieved at Eurothrowers events can be examined at the meetings' reports.
Although it was popularized in America in the late 19th century by traveling acts such as the Barnum & Bailey Circus, the history of knife throwing dates much further back. The art of knife throwing was first used in martial arts or hunting applications. It has been incorporated into the martial disciplines of the Japanese as well as some African and Native American tribes. In such cases, throwing a weapon when fighting is generally thought of as a risk. If unsuccessful, it can leave the thrower without a weapon and arm his attacker. However, many warriors traditionally carried two or more weapons at the same time.
In popular culture
Knife throwing as entertainment is part of a group of performance arts sometimes known as the impalement arts. In the popular young adult novel The Hunger Games, Clove uses throwing knives as her weapon of choice. Another popular knife throwing moment was in the book Divergent, by Veronica Roth, where Beatrice Prior and other Dauntless initiates are taught how to throw a knife. Actor Ed Ames performed a variant of this on The Johnny Carson Show, throwing a tomahawk and hitting a cowboy cutout in the crotch area with the tomahawk handle sticking straight up (Ames had said that the trick is to throw underhand and for the tomahawk to make a full revolution before it hits), achieving its comedic effect along with Carson's quip "Welcome to Frontier Bris!" and adding "I didn't even know you were Jewish!"
The opera Queen of Knives, which premiered in Portland, Oregon on May 7, 2010 tells the story of a brother and sister knife throwing act in the midst of the student protests in Birmingham in the early 1960s.
Notes and references
- "Physics of knife throwing". Retrieved 8 July 2013.
- "Knife throwing training". Retrieved 1 October 2014.
- "No spin knife throwing". Retrieved 28 October 2014.
- "Knife Throwing Family - Universal Newsreel". Texas Archive of the Moving Image. c. 1950s. Retrieved 4 August 2011.
- "Clove′s knives in the movie Hunger Games". Retrieved 13 January 2013.
- McQuillen, James, Opera review: "Portland's Vagabond Opera's 'Queen of Knives' is one sharp show", The Oregonian, May 11, 2010
- Collins, Blackie. Knife Throwing-Sport – Survival – Defense. Knife World Publications, 1978. (ISBN 0-940362-03-1)
- Echanis, Michael D. Knife Fighting: Knife Throwing for Combat. Ohara Publications, 1978. (ISBN 0-8975-0058-X)
- Hibben, Gil. The Complete Gil Hibben Knife Throwing Guide. United Cutlery Corp., 1994. (ASIN-B0006FAV9E)
- Madden, James W. The Art of Throwing Weapons. Patrick Publications, 1991. (ISBN 0-9628825-3-4)
- McEvoy, Harry K. Knife Throwing: A Practical Guide. Charles E. Tuttle Company, Inc., 1973. (ISBN 0-8048-1099-0)
- McEvoy, Harry K. Knife and Tomahawk Throwing. Knife World Publications, 1985. (ISBN 0-940362-10-4)
- McEvoy, Harry K. Knife & Tomahawk Throwing-Art of the Experts. Charles E. Tuttle Company, Inc., 1988. (ISBN 0-8048-1542-9)
- Moeller, Harald. Knifethrowing: The Viper Story. Lynclif Publishing, 1988. (ISBN 0-921444-00-1)