Knife throwing is an exciting activity that has been enjoyed worldwide for centuries. It’s fun, easy to learn, and increasing in popularity – particularly in the US. In this article, we’ll take a closer look at knife throwing for beginners.
In this beginner’s guide, we’ll discuss all the basics of knife throwing. We will go over several things, including: choosing a knife set, preparing a target, types of throws, grip styles, throwing stance, advanced throws, safety, general tips and more.
Knife Throwing for Beginners – Introduction
In the following steps, we’ll discuss body posture as well as different knife “rotations”. The first goal is to throw a knife with only half of a rotation. Once this skill is mastered, we can then focus on full rotations as well as more advanced throws.
As with any other sport, it’s important to maintain consistency with every part of your knife throw. The stance, grip, wind up, release, and follow-through all affect the knife’s spin as it approaches the target.
Before we throw a single knife, we need to understand what our goals are and how they can be achieved. Depending on your experience level, your goals with knife throwing may vary.
There’s nothing quite like the satisfying “thunk” you hear after sticking a target 15 yards away. So grab your knife set and let’s get going!
Choosing a Location
Knife throwing is typically done outdoors. However, where you throw will dictate the size of the knives as well as the type of target. Will you be knife throwing indoors or outdoors? One of the nice things about indoor knife throwing is that wind is not a factor. If you do throw indoors, however, smaller knives are preferred as you will likely have shorter distances to the target.
Smaller, lightweight knives are also more appropriate indoors as targets are likely weaker than typical outdoor targets. A good rule of thumb for indoor throwing is to keep your length-to-weight ratio to roughly 0.5oz per inch.
Competitions are conducted both indoors and outdoors.
Select Your Knives
Purchasing your first of throwing knives is an exciting experience. But picking a good throwing knife is only the first step. Equally important is learning the best practices for knife-throwing, it will ensure you have a safe and enriching experience.
With that in mind, here are several rules of thumb when selecting your first set of throwing knives.
Each knife should:
- be sturdy and be specifically made for throwing
- weigh at least 200 g (7oz)
- have a blunt edge and point tip
- have a simple design
- are relatively inexpensive, so you can get three.
Yes, it is true that you can technically throw any knife. But only a knife that is specifically made for throwing will perform the best. They will generally be center (or near-center) balanced and result in a more predictable flight. They will also be better able to withstand impact without damage. This is particularly for full-tang knives which are discussed in more detail below.
Another source of confusion for beginner knife throwers is whether the knives need to be sharp. Throwing knives do not actually need to be sharp – a point tip is sufficient, as it will still penetrate the wood well.
Each knife, however, should ideally weight at least 200 grams (7 oz) as this will make the knife easier to control. Lighter knives have a tendency to wobble in flight and be harder to control.
When starting out, focus on a simple design and avoid fancy cut-out designs on either handle or blade. While they may look impressive, chances are they will catch your hand in the release.
In this article, we discuss in detail many other considerations when purchase a throwing knife set. We also review several exceptional knife throwing sets that are highly rated for both beginner and experienced throwers.
Prepare a Target
Selecting a good target is critical for knife throwers of all experience levels. The best target for beginners, for example, is one that is both large and soft. This allows you to first focus on technique and correct rotations – accuracy and power will come later, once you gain proper control of the knife.
A large log round works extremely well, particularly one from a rotting tree. I also find that elevating a log round off the group using a simple three-leg stand works well. Ensure that log rounds are at least 4” thick, as anything thinner than that generally won’t last.
Other target types also exist, including those made from plywood. Keep in mind that, regardless of the type of target, knives can penetrate the wood deeply. When removing a knife from a target, a light up and down rocking motion will reduce the probability of snapping the tip.
We’ve reviewed a few highly recommended targets to get you going here. These are suitable for both knife and ax throwing.
Take Safety Precautions
Obviously since we’re throwing knives, taking the appropriate safety precautions is critical. To begin, ensure that you have a clear view of your surroundings before throwing any knife. This includes an inventory of what’s in front and behind your backstop. If someone approaches your throwing area, stop throwing immediately.
Spectators are always welcome, but always ensure that they stand at least 3 meters (~10 feet) behind you. Absolutely no one should be closer to the target than you.
Always watch the knives – either as a thrower or spectator. Sometimes knives can bounce back from the target and injure someone. Closed-toe shoes are mandatory when knife throwing; always avoid sandals or other open-toed shoes.
Knife throwing is similar to other sports, in that it requies a certain form and stance.
Start by focusing on your body posture and footing. When preparing for a throw, ensure your body is relaxed. A tense body will typically lead to overthrowing the knife and will lead to inconsistent results. Also, stand up straight. Often the tendency for beginners is to approach knife throwing like dart throwing, leaning towards the target. Standing up straight helps ensure a consistent, accurate throw.
Where to place you feet is another consideration. Typically you lead with your “dominant” leg. In other words, for a right-handed thrower, place your right foot forward with your left foot slightly behind it. For left-handed throwers, place your left foot forward with your right foot slightly behind it.
When knife throwing, another area of focus is your grip.
While many grip variants exist, there are two main grip styles when knife throwing: hammer grip and pinch grip. The grip style you choose will impact the way the knife is released from your hand. We discuss these two below.
With a hammer grip, you hold the knife with a lightly closed fist – just as you would hold a hammer. When first starting out, this is the grip that beginners often use as it is simple yet effective. Be sure to keep your thumb on top of your other fingers. Also, ensure that none of your fingers will alter the trajectory of your throw.
The pinch grip is another common grip style. In this pinch grip, you press your fingertips against the handle, keeping the length of the knife parallel to your thumb. In a sense, you pinch the knife between your palm and fingers. An advantage of this grip style versus the hammer grip is that it provides the thrower with added control when releasing the knife. Avoid bending your wrist when using the pinch grip.
If you find that your knife slips out of your hand too early, consider improving the grip by applying tape around the handle. However, to insure a smooth release, don’t overdo it. Also, avoid material that is too rough. Wrapping the handle in paracord is not recommended, and is not something serious knife thrower do. Thick wrapping can result in a wobbly release, and the cord may get cut if knives hit each other near the target area.
Having discussed correct throwing stance, form, and grip styles we’re now ready to head out to your target to start throwing!
Half Spin Throws
WARNING: Before preceding, you must take safety precautions. See our section on safety precautions above. Proceed carefully and cautiously, especially if you are a beginner!
Our first goal is to throw a knife into our target with half of one rotation. Once mastered, you can build upon this simple throw towards more advanced knife throws.
For this throw, we need to select the proper distance to the target. This will depend on you and your knife. However, for a half rotation spin a good rule of thumb is to be about 6 feet from your target.
Next, grip your knife with blade facing you. You want the handle pointing towards the sky. Now, throw the knife at your target in a controlled manner with moderate force. We’re not looking for maximum power here. If you have proper throwing knives, good form and posture, and a quality target, a moderate throw is more than sufficient.
Notice how the knife hits the target. It the knife hits the target with its handle up, the knife had more time to spin before connecting. Simply adjust your toe line by walking up a little bit. Likewise, if the knife hits the target with its handle down, the knife didn’t have enough time to spin. So walk back from the toe line a little bit. You way need to experiment a few times to locate your particular “sweet spot.”
Sometime you’ll find that the knife will not stay in the target, even though your throw is accurate and the rotation is smooth. In this case, ensure that your knife’s tip is sharp and that you are using a target with soft enough wood.
One Spin Throws
Once you’ve successfully landed a half rotation throw, we can now move to a full rotation throw. Note that this throw takes a bit more precision to get right, so be sure to pay attention to your throwing stance and technique.
Like with the half rotation throw, you will need to identify your optimal distance from the target for this throw. Generally speaking, expect to stand about ten to eleven feet from your target for a single rotation throw. Again, you may need to experiment a bit to find your individual “sweet spot.”
Grip your knife with blade facing you. Keep the handle pointing towards the sky. Focus on your stance and stay relaxed. Now, throw the knife at your target in a controlled manner with moderate force. The same general mechanics as the half-rotation throw apply, although this throw will take more precision to stick the target.
Again, if the knife doesn’t stick in your target even after a smooth release don’t give up. Ensure your knife’s tip is sharp and that you are using a target with soft enough wood.
In the below video, Paxton Elrod gets a beginner’s lesson in knife throwing from expert Jason Johnson. Please be sure to like the video and to subscribe to Rated Red’s YouTube channel!
Hopefully the above steps will get to started along your knife throwing journey. For those looking for more of a challenge, we can apply some simple math for more advanced throws.
An accomplished knife thrower, Tim Valentine developed a simple methodology for determining the optimal distance to the target for any desired number of rotations:
Distance per turn= (Toe Distance – Reach Distance) / (Turns + 0.25)
Toe distance refers to the distance from the toe line to the target. Reach distance refers to the arm reach, which is typically about 2 feet. Turns refers to the desired number of full rotations in flight.
For example, if you assume the toe distance from the target is 10.9 ft and you stick the knife after one full rotation, the distance per turn = (10.9-2)/1.25 = 7.1 ft. If you want to stick your target using two rotations (and without changing your technique), your new toe line would by 10.9 + 7.1 = 18ft.
The chart below gives a summary of distance to target as a function of number of turns:
This is an approximation, and your style, force and knife will may all result in different distances. Additionally the accuracy of this method may break down for longer distances, as the trajectory arc needed by the knife to reach the target would increase in height. However, this distance method works well for anybody doing basic handle or blade throwing!
In addition to rotation throwing, there is also a “no-spin” technique – a style of throwing where the knife has no rotation. Generally speaking, a “no-spin” style of of knife throwing is more practical for close distance throwing.
If you would like to get more into advanced knife throwing, there are many informational resources available. For a review of several excellent books and DVDs, check out our list here.
Experienced professional knife throwers can easily throw a knife from a distance of 15m (~45 ft), where the knife make seven full rotations. In fact, the official world record for long distance knife throwing comes in a just over 23m. How’s that for a goal to work towards!
Throw Safely and Practice!
Now that you’ve learned the basics of knife throwing, it’s time to practice. As with any other sport, consistency is key. The stance, grip, wind up, release, and follow-through all affect the knife spin as it approaches the target.
As you practice, keep in mind that switching between different knives may require slight adjustments to your throwing technique. Training with different knife models in the same training session is generally not recommended. Because each knife is different, you can never be sure if your imperfect throw is due to your throwing motion or the characteristics of the knife itself.
As you practice, don’t be surprised if you snap a knife every once in a while. Throwing knives are extremely sturdy, but it can happen.
In addition, slight burrs can occur as knives hit each other at the target. Have a file handy so you can file these down as needed to retain the knife’s smooth finish. Not only can burrs catch on your release, but they may potentially impact the knife’s ability to stick into the target.
Finally, consider joining a club to hone your skills. Clubs are a great way to meet new people and learn a new trick or two. Check out our post on knife throwing clubs to see if any exist in your area. If not, consider starting one!
We hope you enjoyed our article on knife throwing for beginners.
Purchasing a knife set is only the first step. Once you how to control a knife in flight and start throwing with consistency, the next step is to practice! Joining a club and participating in competitions are also great ways to improve your skills quickly and efficiently.
In addition to this article, we’ve also reviewed a number of excellent instructional resources – including books and DVDs – to promote your zeal for steel. Happy throwing!