It is thought that throwing knives originated in the Central Sudan about 1000 AD, although some believed it may date back to 1350 BC due to wall scriptures in Libya. There are lots of references, but none are well documented. Throwing knives were originally created for hunting and warfare, with a maximum effective range of 50 yards.
A throwing knife is usually made of a solid piece of steel with no handle. The knife is divided into two parts called the grip and the blade. The blade is sharpened to a very fine razor edge while the handle is left blunt for holding and throwing. The grip is shaped in a manner to give a good gripping surface for throwing and to balance the blade for accuracy. The speed and power of a throwing knife is determined by its weight. Lighter knives are easily handled and thrown, but may not have the weight to penetrate the target. A heavier knife will penetrate the target and is more stable in flight, but requires more strength to throw.
There are two basic techniques in throwing a knife. There is the no-spin method in which the knife is released and the blade rotated to the direction of flight, or the spin technique in which the blade and grip are constantly rotating until impact. The spin technique requires the knife be thrown at an object at a specific distance to insure the blade hits the target upon impact. On the other hand the no-spin can be thrown at a target at any distance.
When throwing the knife, the thrower will hold the knife in their hand by the grip, bring the hand behind the head and rotate the arm and hand in a circular motion forward releasing the knife at a point when the knife and arm are perpendicular to the ground. The knife when released will rotate the blade toward the target or keep rotating (spin) the blade until target impact. If the thrower waits until the knife is brought down and pointing directly at the target the knife will fly straight into the ground. To cause the knife to spin all the way to the target a slight ”flip of the wrist” is introduced while keeping the alignment of the knife hand and arm in a straight circular motion forward. This spinning technique in the author’s opinion requires more effort and skill and “opens the door” for more error.
There are two different kinds of throwing knives made today. These are the balanced and the unbalanced blade. The balanced blade has the center of gravity at the center of the knife. These knives follow a predictable flight path and are generally more accurate. Also if employing the spin technique of throwing, the balanced knife is easier to work with. The unbalanced knife is either heavier at the blade or the grip and is thrown by gripping the lighter end of the knife. The unbalanced knife has a less predictable flight path. There are knives available with sliding weights on the blade to make the knife either balanced or unbalanced and these are usually used for experimentation or training. The choice of balanced or unbalanced and if unbalanced whether the blade or grip is heavier is a choice of the thrower and intended use of the knife. Adding more weight for better penetration can result in building an unbalanced knife.
As a sport, knives are thrown at wooden or foam targets with a bull’s-eye and outer rings at a specific distance. Points are based on proximity to the bull’s-eye and distance from the target. Two well-known groups that participate in knife throwing are AKTA (American Knife Throwers Alliance, USA) and Euro Throwers (European Throwing Club "Flying Blades", EU). These organization sponsor events for people in the pursuit of knife throwing as a sport. In addition to knife throwing, throwing axes or hatchet throwing has become popular in these communities.
Doug Harper is the owner of SharperSafety.com