Archive for the ‘Throwers’ Category

Throwing Knives – Part Deux – The Art of Throwing Knives!

Tuesday, October 19th, 2010

OK, so it’s been a while since I posted anything, truth be told, I’ve just had waaaaay too many things going on. So much so that any spare time I might have is a rare and precious commodity. And as you might imagine, rather than sit behind a computer screen during this free time, I prefer to get out and do… Things. Yes. Things. physical things. In ye great outdoors. Or indoors. And stuff. Yeah… OK… Enough of that.

Anyhoo, one of the “things” I like to do in my spare time is… Throwing knives. I may have mentioned it in a previous post, but I have been a knife thrower, on and off, for many years. However recently I’ve been noticing a resurgence in knife throwing interest. Of course it may just have been that I haven’t been looking in the right places, but I think that the relatively recent flood of knife throwing protagonists in movies, anime and video games, may have something to do with it.

I mean if you look at the way throwing knives are used in games like as Assassins Creed and COD:Modern Warfare, anime like Naruto, and of course, Jason Stathams “Hai guise, I’z so hard core ima bring throwing knives to a gunfight” guy from movie The Expendables, it’s kind of hard to miss the glamorization that they have undergone. Much like the lowly Japanese garden trowel morphing into the almighty ninja Kunai…

Incidentally however, even though all I have seen of  The Expendables is the trailer, I thought I should point out that in real life, if anyone was stupid enough to bring throwing knives to a gunfight, they would be dead. Yes. I said it. Jason Statham’s character should have been dead. Many times over. Riddled with bullet holes dead. Dead as a doornail dead. Dead as a doornail riddled with bullet holes dead. D-E-D… Dead. I’m just saying.

And on that note, I’d like to show you a humorous video  I found on Youtube that actually addresses some of the more interesting points about how throwing knives are portrayed in the movies:

A point about throwing knives

A point about throwing knives

Now this guy makes some great points, though he kind of makes a mistake when he presumes a knife that misses it’s target can’t hit (and stick, point first), into the wall behind them. In reality this depends on how the knife was thrown. There are three  main ways to throw a knife. The first, and arguably the most common is what is called the spin or Circus throw, technique.

A knife thrown using this technique spins end over end on the way to the target, which means that the point is only present to the target at specific distances, which limits a thrower using this technique because they must stand at specific distances from the target in order for a stick to occur. Too far outside one of these “sweet spot” distances and you don’t get a stick.

Skilled circus style knife throwers learn ways around this limitation, such as imparting additional spin, by flicking the wrist, or retarding the spin of the knife with the thumb, as it leaves the hand, so as to shift the sweet spots closer or farther away, but personally I think there are just too many variables to learn to take into account to use this style as anything more than a recreational experiment. I do like to use this once in a while, however, since one of it’s great benefits, in my experience, is that it is one of the most powerful throwing techniques, allowing sticks to occur in the hardest of targets.

The second throw type is some times called the “no-spin” though it is technically a very slow quarter spin throwing technique. Now with this style, you have a whole lot more leeway with your distance, since the spin is so very slow, that your effective point stick distances are much , much larger than with the circus style throw. However the knife still spins, albeit slowly, and a thrown knife that misses it’s target, may still hit point first a little ways behind it, but not by all that much. This is the throw I use most often.

I personally find that it is not as powerful as the circus throw, however you are not dependent on being in a “sweet spot” in order to get a stick. Below is a demonstration of the quarter spin through with a unique twist (pun intended), demonstrated by the Japanese weapon throwing expert Houzan Suzuki:

No spin (Quarter Spin) knife throwing - Screw Style

The last, perhaps most difficult, but most interesting, is the spear style throw. Now this throw can actually be performed in a couple of different ways. Some spear style practitioners throw their knives like actual spears, pushing them straight forward, like darts. Yet others accomplish the spear style throw with an overhand or sideways throw. However the distinguishing feature of this style of throwing is that when the knife leaves the hand, it is already point first toward the target, and stays that way across the entire trajectory of it’s flight.

No Spin Wave Knife Throwing Technique

No Spin Wave Knife Throwing Technique

This last method of throwing, demonstrated above by the Russian martial arts expert Yuri Fedin, using either a sidearm or overhand spear throw, is perhaps the most difficult of all to master, but it is the one throw for which a point first stick is almost guaranteed, regardless of where the target happens to be along it’s trajectory. This means that you can miss the target, and still get a point first stick quite a ways behind the intended target. This is the style I’d like to master, but believe me, it is not an easy one to learn.

At the moment at which you release the knife, you must use a a light brushing motion along the spine of the knife, with the forefinger or thumb, to counteract the knifes natural tendency to spin due to the rotational inertia imparted to it by the arc of the throwing arm. Too much and it will rotate in the opposite direction, too little and it turns into a quarter spin throw. You have to get it just right. I can do it fairy easily at half spin distances, but beyond that, it’s hit or miss… Yet again, pun intended.

I leave you with a video clip of what an expert who has mastered this style of no spin throwing can do with… well… anything that has a point on it…

Enjoy!

Fedin System No Spin Knife Throwing

Fedin System No Spin Knife Throwing

If Professor Xavier were a ninja, What would he throw?

Friday, September 18th, 2009

Now, clearly Ninjas are awesome. But how would a ninja fare against Professor Xavier from the X-Men? My rational mind clearly and logically argued that a ninja wouldn’t stand a chance. But lo and behold, the ninja fanboi in me tried to argue, that Professor X would get pwned. In the resulting mental struggle, I was forceed to rip that stupid fanbois arms off, and beat the sense back into him with his own limbs.

Now as a side note, this should be a clear warning regarding how much I dislike fanbois. I do not even tolerate my own. So for future reference, don’t tempt me. You’ll just make me home sick.

Anyway, my inner nerd ran across something he thought might redeem him. Take a look.

X-WAR Throwing Stars

X-WAR Throwing Stars

Well, I’m no genius, but those look a little to me like X-Men themed hira shuriken. And (of course) my inner nerd argued that Professor Xavier could just as easily be a ninja.

Well… No. He can’t. you see, one of the trademarks of a ninja is their physical agility. And Professor X, you see, well, he can’t walk. Thus, he could not be a ninja. He objected to this line of reasoning, and I actually had to pick up his dismembered arm again to get him to shut up. I also had to point out that if Professor Xavier were a ninja, the question of who would pwn whom would be pointless, because he would be a ninja, and he couldn’t very well fight himself.

However, I did cede that *IF* Professor Xavier were, in fact, a ninja, he might use something like this. And he would be awesome, because he could throw them using his mind… 😀

Wait wat? Dagnabbit nerdboi! Don’t make me go in there and rip out one of your legs…!  >: {

X-War Throwing Stars – [True Swords]

A Mini Ninja Tool Kit.

Wednesday, August 19th, 2009

And just in case you are wondering, no, I am not talking about a tool kit for little ninjas. Though, as a side note, I am sure they do exist and are just as deadly as their larger counterparts. But no, they will not be the topic of today’s post. Rather I will be talking about ninja weapons. I’m sure you have all seen those gazillion piece ninja sword sets, that have hira shuriken in the guards, small knives, throwing spikes, and blinding powder in the saya, etc. etc, etc. Well, today I ran into a small scale version of that kit. the Ninja Battle Tanto set:

Ninja Tanto Battle Set

Ninja Tanto Battle Set

Yessiree, everything the aspiring ninja might need for a little clandestine action, all in an ultra mobile, compact form factor. Now technically, I think it is inaccurate to call this a “battle” set, since to my knowledge, Ninjas are not traditionally known to engage in “battle” in a traditional sense. They were more the special forces/guerrilla type, experts in asymmetrical warfare. So I prefer to call this the Ninja “tool kit”

And it’s got lots of cool tools. in addition to the cool little jet black, full tang tanto, with a push dagger hidden in the pommel, it’s got a sweet little sheath that holds three bo shuriken, and a small compartment for Tashibishi (aka Caltrops) that could be thrown on the ground to dissuade any pursuers eager to expedite your demise at the completion of a mission. 😀

To be honest, I’m not a big fan of excessive amalgamated accessorization. Putting too many things in one place can cause problems. I can see those bo shuriken getting caught on things as you walked by, maybe even interfering with the deployment of the knife, so I’d probably find a better less snag-likely place to put them. And the same goes for the caltrops box. It’s a cool idea, but I think it would hinder any kind of low profile knife carry. It would also get relocated.

However the push dagger in the grip ois a nice touch, and I really do like the profile of the blade on this tanto. It has the traditional tanto profile, with a false edge which would give it a great combination of both cutting and thrusting ability. Pretty cool design. So, Do a little trimming and relocation of the sheath accessories, and Voila! A nice little ninja EDC kit.

Just the kind of thing any enterprising ninja might need. 😀

Ninja Tanto battle set tool kit – [True Swords]

Traditional Ninja Weapon Design – Part 1: The Kunai

Monday, August 3rd, 2009

I’ve always been a fan of the traditional weapons of the Japanese Ninja. Back in the old days, ninja were the Japanese equivalent to the modern day special forces. Special training, special tactics, and, of course, special weapons! Which, if you haven’t figured it out by now,  is definitely one of my favorite things about them. 🙂

Folklore, history, and Hollywood has certainly added to their glamor and mystique, and in many cases elevated them to the status of magicians and super soldiers, who could, some legends have it, make fondue, sans fondue pot, from mouldy gouda. And tame dragons using nothing more but a finger nail clipped from their left pinky toe, and other such fantasies.

But in reality they were only human. What made them special, was that they were very resourceful, had extensive training, were extremely motivated,  and possessed a unique set of tools. Of the physical, and mental, in addition to the bladed and non-bladed variety. They understood and employed social engineering tactics long before it became such a popular term, and could in fact turn the most innocuous everyday items into weapons. Not magic really, but given the era they lived in, it might as well have been.

But the purpose of this post is not to add fuel to the already epic mythos of the great Shinobi Warrior. No, today, I thought I’d talk a little bit of the practical side of Ninjutsu, specifically, their weapons. Not too long ago, one of my readers, Matthew Wright, aka Mangetsu, posted a link to one of his own hand made Kunai, and I have to admit that I really liked what I saw. It is clear that he went through a great deal of trouble to remain as true as possible to tradition, and it shows.

There are no spring loaded, rocket powered or demon spirit controlled movie or anime style ninja weapons on his site. Not that that wouldn’t be cool. I would love to have some medieval Japanese Da-Vinci style Ninja weapons in my arsenal. But that is a topic for another site. Matthews site, NineDirections.com, has only great, realistic, functional designs that are as close as possible to traditional Japanese Ninja weapons design as you can get with modern materials and tools. Interestingly enough, in keeping so close to the traditional designs, he has also illustrated quite graphically, many of the limitations that the old school Ninja had to face with respect to both materials and technology.

This week, I thought I’d run a three part series on my favorite weapons from Matthews catalog of excellent work, and also share some of my thoughts on the designs he replicated. So grab a cuppa Joe, Mountain Dew Game Fuel, Jolt, Red Bull, whatever your poison is, and grab a seat!  🙂

All comfy? Good. Today we will start with one of the most poorly represented weapons of the Ninja’s arsenal: The Kunai.

Now in a several previous posts, I’ve talked a little about how the kunai has either been non-existent (often usurped by the ubiquitous shuriken) or misrepresented in modern media, especially in anime, and how it was originally not really a weapon, as much as a lowly gardening implement. The upshot here is that there are now a gazillion so called “kunai” being sold by collectible knife makers, and sadly, they have little in common with the original.

Traditional Kunai - Mild Steel

Traditional Kunai - Mild Steel

Matthews Kunai, on the other hand, are imho, quite simply just about as realistic as you can get. It has the long, wide leaf shape that would have been required for use as a garden trowel, the point that would have been used for digging in hard earth, and a simple grip. If you look at any modern garden trowel, you will immediately see the resemblance. It’s a bit crude in comparison, but it’s there. This traditional design however, looks like it would actually be much better suited for smacking people upside the head. Hey,  I’m just saying. 🙂

You’ll also note the lack of a ring on the pommel of Matthews kunai. While I believe a ring was present in some traditional kunai, it was by no means a mandatory feature. And its size, unlike the consistently huge ring we see in many ninja anime series today, ranged, from a small whole just large enough to pass a lanyard through, up to a finger ring size, large enough for ones thumb to be placed through in order to make it easier to dig with. However these have a simple flat pommel, which would also serve as a great thumb rest for digging duty, as well as a strong striking surface, which is something that would have been a little more difficult to do with a ring pommel.

Traditional Kunai - Profile & Pommel

Traditional Kunai - Profile & Pommel

Matthew was also commissioned to make a special set of Kunai, with serrations on one edge. A very interesting custom design, that might not have been practical using the original construction materials of the day, but still quite visually impressive. He now makes them full time:

Toothed Kunai

Toothed Kunai

Besides the custom designs, Matthews kunai are in most respects, quite authentic, except for the one major difference. Much better materials. These kunai are made of steel. Traditional kunai were made of iron. This is an important point, as the materials in use at the time played a significant role in the physical design of many traditional Ninja tools.

Toothed Kunai - Profile

Toothed Kunai - Profile

If you look at these kunai, you will see that they are very, very thick. Their thickness, is in fact overkill for what they will be used for, however I believe this is how they were traditionally designed. I think the primary reason for this is that iron  was much softer than steel, and the traditional blacksmiths might have made much thicker tools in iron than they would in steel, in order to compensate for the softness of the iron.

Traditional Kunai - Tree Stump

Traditional Kunai - Tree Stump

Today it is easy to make a kunai that are many times thinner than the traditional designs, and still maintain superior strength and durability than the old iron kunai. It is also interesting to realize that incredibly useful features, like serrations, would not have been as effective on the older kunai, due to the softness of the material, and I think that it is great that we can experiment with them today.

I think these kunai are perhaps the most authentic designs I have seen, at least in form, and should be incredibly strong as well. Quite worth it, if you are looking for an authentic kunai that will take abuse that would make most others on the market today go crying to their mommies… 😀

Traditional Steel Kunai – [Nine Directions]
Toothed Kunai – [Nine Directions]

An Interesting Spirit Knife…

Wednesday, July 22nd, 2009

I recently came across an unusual blade design. Actually the design itself wasn’t so much unusual, as much as the way in which it was used.

SOG Fusion - Spirit Knife

SOG Fusion - Spirit Knife

The SOG spirit knife is essentially a small spear point blade, attached to a short handle. The handle is detachable, and the blade itself can then can be attached to a shaft, in order to make a spear. Or you can leave the handle on and use it as a small knife. They even suggest that it could be used as a throwing knife.

The short spear point design is unusual, but I can see the usefulness of the design. It would be work well as a small knife for fine detail work, such as carving whittling, and such. However as a survival tool, I think the design is too limiting. For instance, I can say, with a pretty high level of certainty, that I would not be throwing *any* of my valuable knives at anything, if I were in a self reliance scenario.

The same for using it as a spear. You can make 100 disposable spears and/or throwing implements with a single good knife. A good knife, on the other hand, is hard to make out in the field. The thing is, if you lose your knives, and you’re much more liable to  find yourself  in great big world o’ hurt. So that kind of rules out half of the proposed use cases for this design.

The other thing, as I’ve mentioned in past survival knife posts, is that I consider both detachable and folding blades a liability. Detachable/Folding = weak = easily broken or lost. I would much rather have a small, full tang knife for fine work, than something like this, that is liable to work loose, or break off even, and get lost somewhere.

So ultimately, at the end of the day this may be a good knife for casual outdoorsman stuff, but for a good self reliance/survival tool, I’d probably look elsewhere…

SOG Fusion Spirit knife – [True Swords]

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