In the past, axe throwing has been a pastime exclusively for lumberjacks. However, it has grown into a national phenomenon and a sport, with leagues like World Axe Throwing League (WATL) and National Axe Throwing Federation (NATF) emerging over the years. In addition, there are dozens of axe-centric bar venues with names such as “Urban Axes,” “Bad Axe,” and “Mother Huckers” that have popped up in major cities throughout the United States.
Axe throwing is also quite popular in Canada, Australia, New Zealand, and the United Kingdom. Axe Throwing Techniques have become diverse with different techniques in different leagues and countries.
In axe throwing, competitors throw an axe at a target to hit as close as possible to a bullseye. The board will have four rings and a bullseye in the center. A standard game involves ten throws followed by tiebreakers. There are different leagues and a World Championship.
Before learning the best axe throwing techniques, you first need to know some safety measures:
1. Ensure that the area around you and the target is clear of people before making an attempt. Keep a clearance area of at least 6 feet surrounding the target. You shouldn’t throw an axe if someone is by the target or walking towards it. The rule is: “throw together, retrieve together.”
2. Sharpening the axe will make it stick to the target much more manageable. This reduces the danger to the crowd who may be watching. However, do not touch the blade directly with your fingers after sharpening the axe. The sharper and thinner the profile, the easier it will stick.
3. Axe throwing involves a potentially dangerous weapon, so safety precautions must be enforced. The target area should be taped off using flags or light fencing materials. A first aid kit and a person trained in administering first aid and CPR should be present in an emergency.
Choosing The Best Axe For Throwing
The best part about axe throwing is that you don’t need to spend much money on an axe. According to Melanie St-Amour of Bad Axe Throwing, any camp hatchet will do. However, you can also find other exciting things in the market.
For starters, St-Amour recommends a heavier axe between 3 to 5 pounds. These axes stick to wood much more effortlessly and are forgiving. Once you have improved your axe throwing technique and looking for more precision, choose a lighter axe of about 1.5 to 1.75 pounds.
For the handle, she discourages wooden handles as they tend to break, primarily if used by beginners. St-Amour recommends steel one-piece axes with a 14-16-inch handle.
2 Ways of Throwing an Axe
There are 2 common ways of throwing an axe: one-handed over the shoulder and two-handed over the head.
In the one-handed over-the-shoulder technique, you allow the axe to swing beside the leg and create a swinging momentum to bring it up past the ear of your throwing hand. In the two-handed throw, you grip the axe with both hands and bring it straight back over your head, pulling it forward and releasing it when your hands are lined up where you will attempt the throw.
Two-Handed Over The Head
Most axe-throwers start off with this basic throw. Here’s how to do the two-handed over the head:
· Take your starting position with one foot behind the line.
· Place one hand at the bottom of the handle. Fold the other hand over the one holding the axe and grip it.
· Line up your shot
· In one smooth motion, step forward while lifting the axe above your head and throwing it. Ensure a fluid motion, and you should follow through.
Here’s a video tutorial of the two-handed over-the-head throw.
One-Handed Over The Shoulder
The one-handed throw is also a basic throw but requires more strength in execution. The steps are basically the same for the two-handed throw, but you may need to change where you line up to be slightly on either side of the bullseye.
This basic throw can also be done from a stationary position or by taking a step forward while throwing. However, some people take several steps forward. The one-handed over-the-shoulder technique is challenging to master and is not recommended for beginners.
For right-handed throwers, the right food should be placed forward. Left-handed throwers will put their left foot forward. This creates a balanced torso resulting in a steady and controlled throw. Here’s a video on how to execute the one-handed throw.
Both styles are trendy and easy to do. If the wood used in the target is not soft enough, you may require more power. If the one-handed over-the-shoulder technique is causing you to fall on the floor consistently, you may need to switch to the two-handed method to generate more power.
In both methods, the axe release should not involve any wrist motion or throw with your fingers. Simply release your grip and the momentum of the axe to carry it forward.
Tips For Improving In Axe Throwing
Most axe throwers know that there is no correct way to throw. You can throw the axe at what method works best for you. But while there is no right or wrong way, there are ways you can improve your axe throwing technique.
· Whether positioning to step forward or keeping your feet planted, ensure that your footing is solid, stable, and balanced.
· Moving your entire body directly towards the center of the target while throwing reduces your margin of error. An improper stance would mean you have to correct your balance when you make your throwing motions. This reduces your ability to move precisely towards your target.
· Know your starting position. Ideally, you should release when your feet are as close to the 12-foot line as possible. The axe should strike the board with a flat or nearly flat blade to get maximum coverage.
· Ensure that your final position is right at the 12-foot line. There is an 8.3% larger angle for your throw trajectory to result in a bullseye in this position instead of 13 feet away.
· An inconsistent grip may lead to an incorrect release point. This will result in a large margin of error. Also, controlling the speed of the spin will prove challenging as it may tilt left to right and wobble.
· The most commonly used grip by throwers is a lighter grip towards the mid to end of the palm. If you are a fast thrower, a firmer grip is usually unavoidable. However, some fast throwers have also considered a more finessed throw for better accuracy.
· If you are having problems with vertical inaccuracy and gripping the axe like a hammer, it can be attributed to the following reasons:
o Stronger full-hand wraparound grips influenced by the release point
o You rely on the release point for a stronger throw. You are affected by the moisture in your hand and the conscious release of your hand instead of feeling the release
o The more ideal release is a light grip that releases by itself. It takes practice and experimentation to master. In terms of accuracy in the throw, it is much better than having a solid grip.
Keep it simple
As much as possible, keep your throw simple and easily repeatable. Different or complex motions may cause huge variance in throws. You will find this out once you experiment with an accurate throw involving too much movement.
Have a consistent starting point
The position of your throw arc will determine where it will hit your target. This is the intended release point to the center of the target. Ideally, your axe should already be in line with the throw arc. In a two-handed throw, the target is centered overhead, wherein the throw arc is centered directly between your eyes.
If you refuse to change your starting position, you can still adjust by slowing down your backswing or pausing briefly at the end of your throw.
Choose your axe, handle shape, and handle length.
Try out different axes and be open to changes. Axes with thin handles with flat edges or round handles with slightly flattened edges on the sides can make the grip very easy. However, the shape and length of the handle will depend on hand size and physiology.
Heavier axes have more inertia to sink deeper. However, if the axe is within the weight limit, it will stick consistently. Lighter axes, however, are much easier to throw and practice for longer. Try out different axes to improve accuracy and be open to changing to a more lightweight axe, especially for one-handed throwers.
Adjust to your conditions
Know the board you are throwing on. Different factors could affect how your axe will stick without dropping. Factors such as moisture, hardness, cut of the wood, knots near your target point, and if the wood has already been thrown on can affect your overall throw.
If the board is soft and sticky, adjust your rotation to strike with the blade flat and parallel to the board. If you know that the wood is hard, adjust the rotation of your axe to the tip. It wouldn’t be much of a huge angle adjustment. Even a slight change in handling will hit the tip first and likely stick. You would want to adjust your rotation by changing your throw distance from the target.
Axe throwing is a dangerous sport. You need to practice long and hard to master the perfect throw.
If you want to get some more excellent pointers for beginners, take a look at Axe Whooping’s Ultimate Indoor Axe Throwing Guide for Beginners.