You just got into knife throwing, or you have been at it for a short while and are beginning to feel confident in your throwing. By this point, throwing a knife will not be as much of a challenge as it previously was, and you will be bored unless you are able to spice up your throwing sessions in some way.
There are two ways to make knife throwing more challenging and fun: Increase the range or learn new techniques. Here, we will look at all the mainstream knife techniques that an expert knife thrower should know.
Before we look at the techniques, let’s briefly discuss how you should choose a knife-throwing technique relative to your skill level. Also, I highly suggest making sure you’ve gone over the beginner’s guide on how to throw a throwing knife.
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Use the Right Throwing Knives
Not all throwing knives were created equal.
We had a student who told us they already had hundreds of hours of practice. They had been throwing an old butcher knife and couldn’t understand why it never worked. Needless to say, we had to start from scratch.
Throwing knives are made to be balanced. They’re made to have a semi sharp point, and they don’t have the usual hunting knife style or shape. They’re made to hit the target and stick to it.
Before we get into the weeds on the techniques you can use, make sure you’re using an actual throwing knife. And that doesn’t mean you have to break the bank. A lot of good beginner throwing knives are just as cheap as the generic knives you’ll find.
Overall best: Cold Steel Sure Flight
Easiest to learn: Perfect Point RC-595-3 Thunder Bolt
Cheapest: Whetstone Cutlery Throwing Knife Set
Intermediate /expert choice: Uzi Throwing Knife Triple Set
How to Choose a Knife Throwing Technique
There is no best throwing knife technique.
Some knife-throwing competitions will have specific requirements, but, for the most part, it’s a matter of preference. The best way to find the technique that’s right for you – is to try them all.
(We’ll go through the different techniques and how to use them in a moment). Spend some time with the different knife throwing techniques and see what suits you.
Remember that the more spins a technique requires, the more difficult it is for you to do. Not only is it more difficult to be accurate when trying to spin the knife multiple times, but you also need to be at the right distance for the technique. Gauging this distance, especially as a beginner, can involve quite a bit of trial and error.
The half-spin is usually considered the simplest technique to perform. However, remember that each technique will have multiple variations. For example, it may be possible to perform the technique with both the pinch grip and the hammer grip. The results may vary depending on your grip and whether you are using lightweight or heavier knives.
Sounds confusing? Don’t worry, we’ll start with some easier techniques and as soon as you start throwing knives and understanding the basics, the rest will come pretty quickly.
Take a look at our knife throwing guide if you are a beginner knife thrower, as we’ll get a little more into the weeds on your knife grip and throwing stance but rather than get into throwing basics again, let’s look at the actual techniques.
Let’s take a look at each technique, going from the most basic to the most advanced. Just remember to take all the safety precautions necessary before you begin throwing. As a beginner, the rule of thumb is not to have anyone standing remotely close to the target, as a stray throw may hit and injure them.
Also, make sure that you are using a balanced knife rather than one that tends to favor the blade or the handle. While those knives have their place, and a professional thrower may have a specific preference, your job is to first master the basics. As such, a balanced blade is a one-size-fits-all approach that will allow you to perform all the basic techniques and their variations.
The half-spin is the very first technique that you should learn once you get into the art of knife throwing. It is incredibly simple to perform and can be used at a variety of distances as long as you use the correct variation.
Tip: remember that you want an accurate throw before a fast throw. Speed will come with practice, focus on getting your spin and number of rotations right. Your first goal is hitting the target with the right number of rotations.
The Conventional Half-Spin
The standard half-spin can be performed by just about anyone with some practice. You hold the knife by the blade. Both the pinch grip and the hammer grip can be used to perform the conventional half-spin. Those looking for a bit more power usually gravitate towards the hammer grip, while those looking for accuracy at a short distance usually use the pinch grip.
Hold the knife by the handle and stand with your preferred foot slightly ahead of the other. For example, those that use the left hand to throw the knife should have the left foot slightly ahead of the other.
Then, perform the throwing motion. Make sure to keep your body relaxed and not to twist your wrist too much when bringing your arm forward, as that may overspin the knife.
The Military Half-Spin
The military half-spin is only slightly different from the conventional ones but has a lot more benefits. For one, it can be used to throw without having to aim much. As such, it is great for when you are trying to throw instinctively. Moreover, with the right amount of practice, it can also be used to throw the knife from a longer distance than the conventional half spin.
For the military half-spin, you need to hold the knife from the blade and make use of the hammer grip. However, your thumb should be resting on the side of the blade. It is also important to remember that the farther away you are from the target, the higher you need to hold the knife. This is what makes the military half-spin so versatile. It can be used effectively at five feet or at twenty-five with the same precision.
As a beginner, we would recommend dedicating a practice session to perfecting the military half-spin. It is the easiest way to throw the knife in a fast manner. At first, aim where you are throwing. Eventually, you will begin to develop a feel for where the knife will go and will be able to throw it without having to aim.
Remember that there are numerous other half-spin variations, many of which can be used to throw reasonably accurately art even a distance of twenty meters. However, the military and the conventional half-spin serve as the basis for pretty much all of them. As such, once you master the two, you should have no trouble moving on to the rest.
The Right Distance for a Half-Spin Throw
The conventional half-spin can only be performed reliably at small distances. However, it makes up for it by being extremely accurate. The military half-spin is able to push this distance back by quite a bit, allowing experts to throw accurately from as much as ten meters. If you want to go beyond that, then you will need to learn advanced techniques that make use of grips not commonly used.
In terms of difficulty, the “no-spin” technique falls somewhere between the half-spin and the full-spin. This is an easy technique to learn but a difficult one to master. There aren’t that many variations of the technique either (at least none that are vastly different than the conventional one), so once you learn it, you learn the whole thing.
For no-spin throwing, a slider grip is usually used. Once again, check our knife throwing guide for details about the grip. However, many knife throwers use their own grips as well, and there are many videos on YouTube that you can watch to learn about all of the ways you can perform a no-spin throw.
One slightly advanced way to throw a no-spin that is extremely accurate is to use the pinch grip but have your index finger resting on the side of the knife. Remember that the knife must be held from the handle, as it will not rotate on its way to the target. Just like the half-spin, the basic stance with one foot in front of the other is more than good enough for this technique.
Then, it’s all about dragging your arm back, bringing it back forward with the appropriate force, and releasing the knife at the right time. We often liken throwing a no-spin to using a bow and arrow. If you have shot an arrow before, the no-spin will be easy for you to learn.
Remember that you must not twist your wrist when bringing your arm forward. Additional movement may cause the knife to begin rotating, and that will almost certainly mean that the handle will hit the target instead of the blade.
The Right Distance for a No-Spin Throw
The primary factor that goes into determining the correct distance for a throwing technique is the distance required for the spin to occur. This is why the half-spin is usually suited to short distances, and only advanced throwers can throw a half-spin at longer distances (that too only with a military half-spin).
Since there is no rotation during a no-spin, the technique can technically be performed at any distance. Also, unlike a full-spin that usually requires you to measure the distance, the no-spin can be thrown instinctively from any distance.
If you are having trouble using the no-spin from longer distances, a lighter knife may solve the problem for you. However, remember that an extremely lightweight knife has a great chance of being influenced by the wind when throwing from long distances. As such, it may be better to practice indoors or make sure that the wind speed is manageable.
The full spin may be the most advanced knife-throwing technique out of the three, but it is also the most versatile and has the most variations.
The Conventional Full-Spin
For the conventional full-spin, you need to first measure the distance to the target. That is the only way to ensure that you are accurate 100% of the time as a beginner. As you become an expert, you will get better at gauging distances without having to measure them.
For the full spin, you grab the knife by the handle. Usually, a pinch grip is used. However, the hammer grip can also be used if you feel more comfortable with that. The standard starting distance is between eight-ten feet, as it provides a long enough distance for the knife to achieve a single complete rotation.
When throwing the knife, the key thing that you need to focus on is the subtle twist of the wrist (apart from being a knife thrower, I am also a poet. Here is an example of my scintillating poetry: Two roads diverged in a yellow wood, and I threw a knife down the middle). You can increase or decrease the speed by which you move your wrist if the edge of the blade is not hitting the target squarely.
The Instinctive Full-Spin
The instinctive full-spin is performed in the same way as the military half-spin. Your index finger rests on the side of the knife, and you try to gauge the distance to the target and the motion required to make the knife stick.
However, remember that this is a very advanced technique, and it will not be possible for you to perfect it without a lot of practice. As such, we advise waiting to use this technique until you are good at the standard full spin.
The advanced full spin involves more than one complete rotation before the knife hits the target. It is much more difficult to perform than the standard full-spin, but it also looks extremely cool (like something straight out of a movie).
The technique is largely the same as the conventional full-spin. However, you need to change the distance to make sure that the knife has enough room to spin more than once. Just like the full spin, you can make up for the blade edge not hitting the target properly by twisting your wrist a little more or a little less during the throwing process.
The Right Distance for a Full-Spin Throw
We have mentioned that the full spin is usually performed at a distance of between eight-ten feet. However, advanced throwers should be able to perform it from a distance of twenty feet or more. At longer distances, the advanced full-spin technique is ideal, as it allows the knife to rotate more than once and makes the process a lot easier. However, considering how advanced the full-spin technique is relative to the others, we advise you to try to master this the last.
Bonus: Knife Throwing Tips
- Practicing with different knives is fine in moderation, just remember that the weight and shape will have a huge impact. Every knife performs a little differently. When you’re really trying to progress, you want to get a knife that performs well and stick with it.
- Keep it slow, to begin with. If you try and speed things up too quickly, you’re going to get inconsistent throwing. Speed comes with practice, don’t try and force it.
- Keep your distance from the target consistent as well.
- Practice a good throwing posture. This might vary depending on the technique you’re using but keep it consistent.
- Your knife tip should be sharp, but most throwing knives will not have sharp edges along the blade. This is intentional. The ideal throwing knife won’t cut your hand as you release but will have a good, consistent stick rate when you hit with the knife’s tip.
- Square your shoulders square towards the target. Be mindful and attentive of this. It’s one of the first things that slip with beginner throwers when they’re trying to pay attention to too many things at once.
- You can play with fancy grips and less conventional throwing techniques but keep it safe. Use the proper equipment and keep the safety of yourself and others in mind.
- Your target wood needs to be durable and you’ll progress faster if it’s something your tip will stick to. I would heavily suggest using a knife throwing target board (either your own or one in an axe-throwing venue) rather than a generic piece of wood or a tree.
- There is no trick to knife throwing. There are techniques you can practice and then it’s just about putting in the work.
The Important Bit
We just went through the three basic throwing knife techniques and some of their most well-known variations. Remember that knife throwing is meant to be an enjoyable endeavor first, and you don’t have to try to learn or master all of the techniques and the countless variations that exist.
Find your own throwing style, and don’t let anyone tell you that there’s a right way of doing it. Instead, do what you like, and learn at your own pace. As long as you keep at it, you should eventually be good enough to take part in competitions (if that is your end goal).