No dull moment when you pick up Fort Wayne’s new bar sport
Our columnist tries his hands at axe throwing
December 16, 2020
After I scheduled my session at the axe-throwing emporium called Deadeye Dick’s, I went around my home imitating Gimli, the axe-wielder from The Lord of the Rings.
Although I think I do a fair impersonation of John Rhys-Davies, the Welsh actor who portrayed Gimli, my wife was not amused.
She retaliated by suggesting I would injure myself at Deadeye Dick’s in a manner reminiscent of Ed Ames’ tomahawk throw on The Tonight Show in 1965.
If you don’t know what she was referring to there, it’s well worth Googling.
I wanted to tell my wife that she was being unfair, but I had to admit to myself that I am a clumsy person.
For example, there are people who spill things and then there is me.
My spills regularly have an upward trajectory, defying logic. If Sir Isaac Newton had seen me spilling in 1687, we would not now know what gravity is. My clumsiness is apparently more elemental than the laws of physics.
Sometimes, the liquid flies in so many unlikely directions that you’d swear a small detonation must have been involved.
Prepared for all comers
Luckily, Deadeye Dick’s is fully prepared for people like me.
The business was started by Jennifer Rao, a former nurse turned entertainment mogul. She cashed out her 401K to open an Escape Room in 2016. The Escape Room was so successful that she expanded her recreational holdings and opened Deadeye Dick’s earlier this year.
Throwing axes sounds dangerous, and it is. But Deadeye Dick’s takes every precaution.
Every group that comes into Deadeye Dick’s gets its own axe-throwing expert. If you think I am going to describe these people as “axperts,” then you obviously take me for a less principled feature writer.
Nor will you find the following sentence in my column, except as an example of what not to do: “If you have an axe to grind, try axe-throwing. Any way you slice it, it’s cutting-edge entertainment. It is everything you could possible ‘axe’ for in a pastime.”
Any feature writer who uses such puns in earnest should be forced to write a first-person account of a more obscure sport: Axe-catching.
Training and safety for all
My personal axe expert was Antione Brewer.
He demonstrated several safe and effective axe-throwing techniques and advised me of rules that seemed designed to curb my natural idiotic tendencies.
If more things in nature (not to mention, nurture) were designed to curb my natural idiotic tendencies, the world would be a better place.
This is probably as good a place as any to raise the specter of that viral axe-throwing video in which a hurled ax bounces back like a squash ball and sails over the thrower’s abruptly ducked head.
Rao said there are many things wrong in that video: inadequate equipment, poor throwing technique — and, by extension, poor training.
“Axes will bounce back, don’t get me wrong,” she said. “But I am in a forum with owners from all over the world and we have never seen anything like that. That axe took a beating. Thank God she didn’t get hurt.”
How to play the game
As extreme as axe-throwing seems on the surface, the pastimes of which it is most reminiscent are bowling and darts.
In bowling, you choose the ball that is right for you. In axe-throwing, you choose the right axe.
In bowling, you play in groups and everyone watches while each player takes his or her turn. The same is true in axe-throwing.
There is no such thing as special axe-throwing shoes, but you’re not (for obvious reasons) allowed to wear open-toed footwear.
If I ever dropped an axe while wearing sandals, I just know that it would be one of the few times that the laws of physics worked for me the way they are supposed to.
Scoring in axe-throwing is similar to scoring in darts.
Throwing axes involves one of two techniques: One-handed throwing and two-handed throwing.
I tried one-handed throwing first.
It should surprise no one who has read this far to learn that I am not a very coordinated person, although I am a passable dancer.
I was not adept at throwing axes one-handed.
If I had tried throwing dead egrets instead, I might have looked more graceful. (Editor’s note: No egrets were harmed in the writing of this article.)
Brewer, who was having a tougher time training me than Master Shifu had training the Kung Fu Panda, suggested I switch to a longer-handled axe and a two-handed throwing technique.
So I worked with that for a while.
Folks, you will probably disbelieve what I am about to type and accuse me of empty boasting.
But in the last 30 minutes of my 60-minute session, I hit the bullseye nine times.
I thoroughly ruined my reputation as the Inspector Clouseau of Participatory Journalism.
Less power, more flow
Here is what I learned about axe-throwing: Despite its seemingly aggressive and macho nature, ax-throwing isn’t about power.
It’s about flow.
Women tend to be better axe-throwers than men, Rao said. The reason for this is that most men’s solution for poor axe-throwing is to throw the axe harder.
“Women don’t throw as hard,” Rao said. “Often, you’ll see a woman throwing and you’ll think, ‘That looked like it was moving in slow motion. How did it stick?’ And then a guy will just throw harder and harder and harder…”
It doesn’t work.
I went in thinking axe-throwing would be a great way to “blow off steam” and get my aggression out.
But I think it’s closer to meditation, even though I’ve never meditated. Or closer to yoga, even though I’ve never yogaed.
I wanted to try yoga, but when the teacher saw me in tights, she said, “Why not try axe-throwing instead?”
She was right, as it turned out.