Axe-throwing is all the rage, but is it a real sport? Does it count as fitness? Our blogger Tracy says it is and does. Here’s her report from the field.
A couple of weeks ago, I headed to King Richard’s Faire, our local Renaissance faire in Carver, Massachusetts—but not for the reasons you’d think. Don’t get me wrong, I like eating fried food and yelling “Huzzah!” with the rest of ‘em, but for me, the real draw is the access to three hard-to-find sports: archery, knife-throwing, and axe-throwing.
For a long time, the Ren faire was the only place I could indulge my passion for axes, and uh, throwing them, with one exception: You may remember my axe-throwing shenanigans at this year’s Big E. But luckily, axe-throwing is becoming more of a trend these days; you may already have a league or an axe-throwing bar in your town. As you might expect, axe-throwing has been around for a long, long time, but first became popular as a recreational indoor sport in Canada before making its way to the U.S. and beyond.There are all kinds of venues to choose from—check out Bad Axe Throwing or Kick Axe to see if there’s a location near you.
Hard to Handle: The Basics of Axe-Throwing
There are different types of equipment, but UrbanAxes, a chain that’s just about to open a new location in Boston near where I live (yay!), uses 1 1/2 pound hatchets, which are thrown at wooden targets marked with a bullseye. Players score points based on where the axe sticks the target. Generally, you can throw with either one or two hands, and there are different strategies for each method—but for casual axe-throwing, it all depends on preference.
I spoke to comedian Kate McCabe, pictured, who recently threw axes with a group of comedians at Whistle Punks in Manchester, UK. Why did she go? She said it was part of a “try-athalon” she organized with a friend—basically, “trying” weird sporting activities in a friendly competition. On the question of one hand vs. two, she says, “I wanted to be better at the single-handed throw, as I think it looks cooler, but really my strength was with two hands.”
Two more questions I know you’re asking: How do you play? Well, it varies. When it comes to casual axe-throwing, UrbanAxes (for one) offers round-robin tournaments for groups, but also provides walk-in times if you just want to try it out or practice. Second question: Is axe-throwing really an organized sport? Yup: The National Axe Throwing Federation has more than 4,500 league members in 7 countries and sponsors the National Axe Throwing Championship, giving out more than $16,500 in prize money and charitable donations. There’s also the World Axe Throwing League, which, you should know, has a countdown on its site for the 2018 World Axe Throwing Championship, and really specific rules if you want to get down to the nitty-gritty.
And if you’re wondering whether it’s safe, my answer is “axe-olutely.” Before you throw, a coach shows you the ropes. Participants play next to each other in empty lanes akin to those you’d see at a bowling alley, and all play is supervised. At UrbanAxes, the throwing coach even keeps score for you. And given that many establishments are called “axe-throwing bars,” what about the liquor? As it turns out, many of them don’t even serve it—it’s BYOB. Teetotalers (and your livers) rejoice!
Rage Against the Target: Why It’s Axe-Tastic
There’s so much to love about this sport: It’s relaxed, you go at your own pace, and you can get as strategic as you want or just hurl stuff, which makes it a great stress reliever. It’s tactile and weirdly satisfying, because as this story The Ringer about how axe-throwing went global puts it, “The sound of the ax lodging itself into wood holds a similar appeal to a baseball bat making contact with a baseball or a perfectly calibrated high five.” Yes. Yes, it does.
McCabe agrees. “I loved it because it was something that seemed quite fierce to engage in but not overly complicated. Throw something hard, aim for the bullseye. Simple but not easy. Form and focus were key,” she said.
And it’s great exercise, too. According to Men’s Health, axe-throwing builds up your lats, shoulder muscles, and core. (Incidentally, that article has good pointers on technique, too.) Self magazine points out that, in an axe-throwing stance, you’re also working your hamstrings and calves as well.
Finally, are there any other benefits? “Come the zombie apocalypse, I’ll be able to handle myself,” McCabe says.
See? Fun, fitness, AND zombie protection. I hope I’ve convinced you to try it.
Epilogue: In case you were wondering how the Ren faire excursion turned out: I failed to stick a single axe—in my defense, they were way heavier than I expected—but, you know what, it was great motivation. The following weekend, I went out and started pricing 10-pound kettlebells. Gotta build that core!