Archive for the 'Throwing' Category

04
Oct
08

Cool Kunai…

If you were following my last few posts, you may remember a comment I made about the cutlery industries use of “Metal” (aka cheap cast alloys) to form certain sword parts (usually the hilt), in spite of the fact that steel is relatively cheap.

Now I will readily admit that steel is much harder to work into complex shapes than it is to case an alloy, but still, there are some times when steel is the right thing to do. Like with these Kunai:

Red Kunai

Red Kunai

[click image to view full size]

Now the beauty of these kunai is that they have been designed for throwing use, which usually means all steel (usually a high carbon or spring steel) construction, and a properly balanced design. Now these  Kunai have been modeled after those used in the Naruto series, and barring the use of a red grip wrap as opposed to the white wraps used in the anime, are a fairly close approximation.

But more importantly, notwithstanding that this particular kunai design is not really the ideal for throwing (Yes, you heard right, in spite of all the anime hype, they are not the best throwing knife design) the fact remains that they will probably be made from steel. Sweet, sweet steel.

No alloys, no resins, no cheapo construction… Well maybe a *little* cheapo construction methodolgy, but not with cheap materials, making this one of the best replica anime Kunai that I am aware of today. And IMHO, the fact that it is steel alone, would probably make it worth having.

And incidentally for the curious among you, i’ll explain my whole “not the ideal throwing implement” comment. An ideal throwing knife should be able to be thrown either from the tip or the grip. This design will make a great tip thrower, but the large abrupt ring on the grip increases the chances that it would hang up in the hand if thrown from the grip.

that ring could also makes it a little harder to balance, (which is important for other reasons) though that could theoretically be figured out during the design stage. The topic of what makes an ideal throwing knife is one I think I will dedicate a post to in the future because it is quite the interesting one. But I digress.

My point is, I really wish knife designers could do the same for every knife they designed and made. Real grips, not alloys, proper steels, etc. I know it’s an unreasonable request, but if they did, they would make lots of folks, like me, happier than a foody at a food fair…

We’d also be perpetually broke for the rest of our natural lives, but so long as I got to adorn the walls of my cave with lots and lots of cool, well constructed swords, I don’t think I’d mind all that much… 😀

Red Kunai – [True Swords]

18
Jan
08

The hollywood glamour of the Ninja throwing star…

As a great fan of Ninja lore, I’ve always loved the Hira-Shuriken, or throwing star. It was a very useful tool for the Japanese Ninja, but simply not as lethal or as universally effective as Hollywood has made them out to be. Nonetheless this Hollywood glorification of ninja throwing stars has spawned some rather unique variations, like the following pieces of junk “art”:

Shiflett Iron Cross Twister

Shiflett Iron Cross Twister
[view full size]

OK, so this is hira-shuriken pocketknife hybrid design. Very cool lookin’. But of course, the first question that popped into my head was… “A ninja would not touch this with an extended length manrikgusari…”.

Folding blades are neat in concept, but even if they are cool and open in mid flight, so you don’t have to stand there for 5 minutes opening them up before you throw them, they always introduce structural weaknesses, and you can never be sure the blade locks will survive the chronic repeated impacts of throwing… I think I’m gonna pass on this one…

Shiflett Tech Twister

Shiflett Tech Twister
[view full size]

Now here I thought I was making progress. Then that little nerd in my head deigned to raise his screechy voice at me: “Buuuut why are the points all split in half? Won’t that weaken the points?” Blasted geekoid… But good question. No good answers. Save perhaps because it makes it looks a little cooler. But we all know a true Ninja craves not things like “cool”. Only strength, efficiency and functionality. So we move on…

Ninja Shuriken

Ninja Shuriken
[view full size]

AHA! What’s this!? Ninja Shuriken! Now this is a design I could see a ninja using. Simple, effective, solid, reliable, What more could a Shinobi Warrior want? Look at the thickness of this weapon. The sharp points. It would be heavy, and strong… Except for one thing. It’s cast from some cheap metal. If you look closely you can see the casting imperfections superficially covered by black paint. Dagnabbit! The points on this thing are gonna wear down to nothing, in mid air, during your first throw…

At the end of all of this, as I sit here writing my conclusion, I realize two things. First, I am torturing myself for no good reason. After all, there are actually a good number of perfectly good stainless steel hira shuriken designs available that I have chosen to totally ignore, just to rip on the stupid Hollywood and TV inspired cheap rip offs reproductions.

Second, I am anal retentive, and need to seek help about that shrill voice I keep hearing in my head that I sometimes wish I could burn out of my skull… It’s OK now though. I’m fine. No, really, I’m fine… 🙂

Ninja Shuriken – [True Swords]

Shiflett Tech Twister – [True Swords]

Shiflett Iron Cross Twister – [True Swords]

16
Jan
08

The combat spear…

Today we have yet another treat from the infamous movie “300”. I present to you the signature polearm of the Spartan army, the long spear:

“300” Spartan Warrior Spear

300 Spartan Spear

[view full size]

Now some people underestimate the power of the spear. People look at it and say, “Well yes, it’s cool for throwing, and for distance attacks, but beyond that it’s useless. Not so. It has it’s drawbacks, yes, but in the hands of a skilled warrior, a spear can be just as deadly as a sword. People don’t realize how functionally flexible a spear can really be.

Besides the obvious advantage of being a good projectile weapon, a spear at full length is a great distance thrusting tool. the fact that a spear was usually used with both hands meant a skilled warrior could be both fast and accurate with their strikes. And while a spear was more or less it useless for slashing, depending on it’s design it could also be used much like a staff weapon. Once you got it spinning, it could be used to deliver some serious blunt trauma. And if grasped at half length it could be used like a short thrusting spear/sword.

Interestingly, in the Movie “300” we are treated to numerous sequences where the long spear is shown used to it’s maximum advantage. In large numbers, an army armed with spears could keep even mounted, well armored attackers at bay quite efficiently. And even in one on one combat, a spear can be quite the effective stand off tool, keeping an opponent at “spears length”, as it were, and making their supposedly “faster” close in weapon, like an axe or a sword, useless.

And lets not forget also, that unlike a sword, a spear is much easier to throw, and the ability to engage the enemy at long distances was a big advantage to a spear wielding combatant. Given also that the amount of steel that was needed for a spear was usually only a small fraction of that used for a sword, you could make many more spears with the same amount of steel.

300 Spartan Warrior Spear

300 Spartan Warrior Spear
[view full size]

All of these factors combined are what made the spear such a flexible, formidable battlefield weapon. But besides all of that, I just happen to like this spear because its got that really mean looking, sharp point, it actually comes apart, and as we all know, flexibility is golden when it comes to weapons like these. And of course, being spartan, this one has that “Don’t mess with me, I’m Spartan…” look…

But ultimately, and most importantly, while most other spears are of light colored woods and chrome, this one is all black… You can’t beat that with… anything. No wonder the Spartans were so full of WIN! 🙂

“300” Spartan Warrior Spear – [True Swords]

07
Nov
07

The Dark Sai…

I am an ever constant lurker in a couple of martial arts and blade forums. It just so happened in one of these forums, that there was an interesting discussion about the origins and use of sai, a unique impact weapon I blogged about earlier. Many opinions were offered, but I think it is fair to say that nobody knows for sure where sai truly originated. However I thought quite a coincidence that I also happened to come across this dark beauty:

Japanese Sai Dagger

Japanese sai dagger.
[view full size]

Now this is a cool looking sai. According to the website I found it on, this sai is an “exact replica of the 16th Century fighting knife.” I dunno about all that. I mean, it’s hard enough to find any reliable documentation about the sai, let alone any documentation that would allow anyone to make an exact replica of anything.

In fact there are quite a few design features that are markedly non traditional about this sai. Like the contoured ridged grip. And very sharp point. Traditional Sai usually had a straight cylindrical grip, and a fairly blunt tip. And then there is the flared pommel. Traditional Sai pommels were either straight, had a thick squarish cylinder, or have a multifaceted ball that was used for striking. Not a flared flattened one.

And lets not forget the weird contour of the side prongs. Traditional sai have simple curved prongs, that narrow at the tip, not the complex talon like prongs that this one does. Probably more telling is the fact that this even has a sheath, while traditional sai practitioners wear their Sai in their belts, unsheathed. So I’d take their claims of exact duplicity with a grain of salt.

Thats not to say that this isn’t a beautiful weapon. I love what they’ve done to it. The scale-like contours of the grip, the complex curves of the side prongs, the rather ominous point to the tip, the black finish and even the kanji on the sai and sheath are excellently done.

Traditional sai were mostly used as truncheons rather than daggers. But as a dagger, this sai truly comes into it’s own. I love it.

Japanese Sai Dagger – [Medieval Weapon Arts]

10
Sep
07

The Ever So Versatile Ninjatō

You are probably all familiar with Japanese swords. And I’m willing to bet that when someone talks about a Japanese sword, you conjure up visions of a long, shiny, curving blade. The swords of the samurai. They were ornate, and highly symbolic blades. It was said that the soul of a Samurai rested in his blade. As a result, Samurai swords were elevated to aristocratic status, and became symbols of rank and prestige.

Today, however, we aren’t going to talk about samurai swords. Nope. There was another, more pragmatic sword that probably had just as much an effect on Japanese history as did the Samurai Sword. And it was a soulless, heartless instrument indeed. None other than the spartan Ninjatō. The sword of the Ninja. The Ninjatō (or Ninjaken) were designed to play a much different role. They were neither swords of ceremony or of prestige. They were made to do one thing, and they did it very well. They were the Ninjas weapon-of-all-trades.

Ninjaken – Polished and Gold trim

Ninja Katana Polished ChromeNinj Katana 24k Gold trim
[view full size] [view full size]

Samurai swords were excellent weapons. However Ninja needed more from their weapons than just cutting excellence. They needed functional flexibility and versatility. And thus was born Ninjaken. Ninjaken differed from their high-brow cousins in many ways. First off, they were shorter. This allowed them to be used in smaller spaces, concealed much more easily, and were faster on the draw than the longer Samurai sword.

Battleready Ninja, Blk, Musashi Koga Ninja, Blk

Battle Ready Stealth NinjatoMusashi Koga Ninja Sword Black
[view full size] [view full size]

Another advantage of the shorter sword is that they were a little lighter, stiffer and less susceptible to lateral bending stresses than their longer Samurai counterparts. Ninjaken usually have a larger, square tsuba (guard). This, in conjunction with the shorter stiffer blade allowed them to be used in ways a samurai sword might not have tolerated well, such as leaning it against a wall, and using the larger, stronger square guard as a step.

They could also still be used with a full sized saya (scabbard), which would deceive an opponent into underestimating how long the sword was, and how fast it could be drawn. Then there was the added bonus that the remaining saya space could be used to hide all manner of small items, such as blinding powders and such. Between the numerous hiding places that could be engineered into a ninjaken and it’s saya, one could conceal a set of spike or star shuriken (throwing knives), tenouchi (small, hand-held impact weapons), powders, rope, tools, etc. The possibilities were endless.

Deluxe Ninja Warrior Set

Ninja Warrior Sword Kit
[view full size]

Due to the popularity of Ninjas in the media over the past two decades, Ninjaken design has been copied rather shamelessly, spawning numerous replicas, such as the weapon used by the Operative in the movie Firefly Serenity. But the basic formula has always remained the same. A medium sized, full tang, single-edged straight blade, usually with a square tsuba (quard), and a uniquely angled, tanto-like point.

Galaxy Viper, Striking Cobra

Galaxy Viper Sword SetStriking Cobra Sword Set
[view full size] [view full size]

All in all, Ninjaken fulfilled their design objectives admirably. It is truly an interesting weapon, well suited for it’s task as the versatile, multi-function, close quarters combat version of the prestigious Samurai sword, kinda like the medieval equivalent of a carbine, as opposed to a rifle… Not quite the same range, but just as deadly…

Galaxy Viper Sword Set – [True Swords]
Ninja Katana – 24-K Gold Trim – [True Swords]
Striking Cobra Sword Set – [True Swords]
Ninja Katana – Polished Chrome Trim – [True Swords]
Deluxe Ninja Warrior Sword Kit – [True Swords]
Musashi Koga Ninja Sword, Black – [True Swords]
Battle Ready Ninja Tech – [True Swords]

24
Aug
07

Another Fantastic Axe!

Today I thought I’d talk about another interesting designer melee/throwing axe I ran into a while back.

The Fantasy Axe

The Fantasy Axe
[view full size]

Now the first question that popped into my head when I read the description, and then looked at the axe, was: Couldn’t anyone come up with a more fitting name than “Fantasy Axe”? Did marketing run out of fantasy weapon descriptors? Bah! Anyway, this axe has a lot of similarities to the War Shark axe I blogged about not too long ago. They may have had the same designer.

But unlike the War Shark axe, the Fantasy axe seems to have a lot more aesthetic design cues that do not appear to have any functionality beyond trying to make it look… Fantastic… At which they do a mediocre job. Not that it’s an ugly axe mind you. It looks good. Just doesn’t seem to deliver what the name promised. Freakin’ marketing…

I will say however that it does have the kind of wicked points and curviness about it that I really like. It certainly beats the snot out of the Reaver Axe I blogged about a while back. In fact with slightly more depth to the design, I think this axe would have made a better companion for the Reaver sword than that poor, butchered excuse of a battle cleaver did.

The fantasy axe does have some good things going for it, in that the spike opposite the axe blade seems like it could do some damage to armor, and is better positioned to do so than the on the War Shark. It also looks like it would be better suited for throwing, though how much so is hard to tell. But it does look cool nonetheless, and complemented by the nifty leather-wrapped handle, it seems like a nice, all around melee/throwing weapon I could see taking into battle with me, were I a medieval warlord…

Fantasy Axe – [Medieval Weapon Art]

14
Aug
07

The Elegant Francisca…

As I have stated before, I have always been a big fan of throwing axes, especially those of the smaller, more versatile variety. I recently came across one of the more timeless classic throwing axe designs, I thought I’d share.

 

The Francisca

Francisca
[view full size]

Allow me to introduce the Francisca. The Francisca (sometimes also called the Francesca) throwing axe represents, in my humble opinion, one of the most elegant but functional designs that ever to grace the word of throwing axes.

Notwithstanding it’s visual simplicity, it is a weapon that has been very well engineered. The head of the Francisca has been contoured in such that it is both quite beautiful, but was designed to be an excellent throwing weapon, providing the widest possible sticking/cutting range, especially for a small, single-bladed throwing axe of it’s size. It is also designed to be the perfect weight for speed, and could easily be used as a melee weapon, while still being heavy enough to shatter an opponents wooden shield.

All in all, a very beautiful Frank design. A close look at the aesthetics of the head of a Francisca, reveals that the Francisca axe design incorporates a range of complex curves and contours that I normally see reserved for knives and mid sized swords. Quite impressive. And of course I should mention that this particular reproduction gets brownie points with me for coming in black…

Francisca Throwing Axe – [Medieval Weapon Art]

01
Jul
07

Another Double Bladed… Throwing… Thing…

Having recently composed several dissertations on the impracticality of the variety of so called “Glaive” style throwing weapons, I found it interesting that I should run across yet another throwing weapon of questionable heritage:

The Black Ronin Double Bladed Thrower

Black Ronin Double Bladed Throwing Knife
[view full size]

Not a folder. But does that make it better? Well let’s find out shall we? Now the first thing that struck me about this weapon was it’s vague similarity to the Shredder Glaive used in the movie Blade, though as we have already established, this blade is not a folder. However this is only a plus in my book. No folding means no pivots or hinges, no moving parts and therefore greater reliability. However the basic problem with all of these designs remains. What is the best way to throw something like this? Fortunately, at least for this particular blade, I may have an answer.

This basic design is a directional one, meaning that it would only stick or do damage if thrown in such a way that the blades rotate towards the target. Now in order to impart rotation to the blade, it would likely have to be held by one of the blades, with the blade facing upwards. However it could be done with either a pinch grip or even an underhand grip though I find an underhand grip a bit harder to use. Nonetheless either grip would allow for a strong throw, fairly good control and a clean release, which will ensure that at the end of the throw, you still have the same number of phalanges that you started with.

However regardless of how (in)effective this knife may be as a thrower, it is a cool design, and possessing a single piece, fixed blade/handle, suffers less from the short comings of the other flashy, super foldy, multi-bladed, throwing type objects that we have looked at in the past… And it’s black… You can’t beat that with a baseball bat… Well is suppose you could, but it wouldn’t be much use now would it? Might as well find some other way to vent all of your pent up hostilities… Ya might wanna try Krumpin’… I hear it’s a great stress reliever…

Black Ronin Double Bladed Thrower – [True Swords]

25
Jun
07

Flying African Blades Of DOOM!

Today I would like to introduce you to some very, very special guests. A set of particularly wicked throwing implements. Following are examples of one of the more historic and rare forms of throwing knives, originating in Africa, that are certainly one of my most favored, unique, and rarely seen throwing knife designs. Grab yourself a cup of tea, coffee, vodka and tonic, or a lemon-lime mocha frappuccino – if that’s what floats your boat (though I would have some serious concerns about you if it does) and make yourself comfortable, as I present to you, my favorite throwing knives of Africa.

African Throwing Knives

Banda Tribe (RCA) <——> Mabo Tribe (RDC)

Banda Throwing Knife of RCA <—————-> Mabo Throwing Knife - Democratic Republic Of Congo
[view full size] <———–> [view full size]

Now these have been called a number of different names, most notably “Shongo”, “Kpinga”, “Sapa” and one of the most popular (probably an butchered version of one of it’s tribal names) : “Hunga-Munga”, names which seem to be used, incorrectly, to describe nearly every form of this kind of blade. It is important to remember that, as you can see from just the two examples above, there are actually many different variations on this blade, each from their own unique African tribe; many of them were not named, and the ones that were likely had a unique name depending on where it was made and which tribe it was from. But one thing is universally certain, these are some hella crazy throwing blades, no matter what you wanna call them!

What is also cool is that this blade design has actually made it into Hollywood! In the movie “The Mummy Returns” we can clearly see one of the baddies toting one of these blades in his belt in the small of his back:

African Throwing Knife in the Movies
[view full size]

Shortly thereafter we see him throw it, very narrowly missing a (very fortunate) protagonist:

African Throwing knives in the movies
[view full size]

YA MISSED!! 😛 (Whew!!)

Anyway, as you can see from the pics above, these blades generally have three points, give or take, depending on where it’s from, arranged in order to maximize the amount of time that any sticking points will be presented to a target. You will also notice, especially on the Banda tribe version, that every possible blade edge has been sharpened as well, to provide as many cutting edges as possible.

At the same time, this innovative design even allows for a handle, so that it can be thrown without injuring the thrower. Genius! African weapon engineering at its best. They certainly beat the Hollywood glaives I’ve been ranting about hands down, though they do so at the cost of portability, which I will talk about shortly.

To me, the most interesting aspects of these particular blades is how their cool and evil looking aesthetics are entirely functionally motivated. The observant will notice that these designs are asymmetrical, unlike similar smaller weapons like hira shuriken, Or even equivalent weapons like the fuuma shuriken, where all the blades/points are arranged radially around it’s center of rotation. I believe the asymmetry of the design served a specific purpose.

Smaller throwing weapons like hira shuriken are symmetrically designed in order to periodically present a sharp point to the target during flight, regardless of what direction it is rotating. However a hira shuriken are light, usually only a few inches in diameter, designed for speedy deployment, can be held between the fingers or in the palm of one hand, and can easily be thrown in a controlled fashion with a light grip.

Not so with these blades. What may not be apparent from these pictures is that these African throwing knives can be over a foot and a half in length, with the combination of large mass and razor sharp edges intended to inflict massive cuts on impact. To safely control such a weapon in battle, you need a handle. But adding handles always reduces the chances for a throwing weapon to stick, due to the possibility of the handle hitting the target.

Their solution was to build a small handle into the design, and skillfully position the blades so that the desired balance of the weapon was not negatively affected, angling all of the points in one direction, and then shrouding the handle with a blade pointing in the same direction. The end result? A directional throwing knife with almost the same the sticking potential of the much smaller shuriken, the mass of a throwing axe, with a safe, built in throwing handle for maximum power and control. These folks design a mean weapon!

The only (minor) caveat to this design is that, unlike most hira shuriken, these knives have to be thrown with all of the points facing the target in order to maximize the chance of a stick. Throwing it backwards could still wound an enemy if they were struck by a blade, but your risk hitting with the handle and bouncing off. But unlike a hira shuriken, thrown properly from the hands of a fairly strong warrior, it would be more than just a distraction. This weapon could take you out of a battle very quickly. Without the need for poison either.

What was even scarier about these weapons is that their design is such that, if they hit the side of an opponents shield, its rotating momentum and mass would keep it rotating long enough to cause it to hook on to the edge of the shield and rotate around it and hit the unfortunate victim on the other side. Talk about a clever (albeit very mean) design. Throw in their size, their sharp lines and (of course!) their many pointy bits, you can probably see why I like these weapons so much. Their dark metallic finish just adds to their evil charm. They are just so freaking cool and intimidating all at the same time, on so many levels… What more is there to say?

Mabo Tribe (RDC) Throwing Knife – [Mambele]
Banda Tribe (RCA) Throwing Knife – [Mambele]

21
Jun
07

Nzappa ZAP!!

No, before you even ask, I am not about to blog about a stun gun. Or Lightning. Or anything even related to electricity. Nor am I testing out the new knife forging and sharpening spells I learned at Hogwarts, even though though from the heading you might be tempted to think so. No, since I seem to be running into a lot of different throwing axes, I decided to “throw in” (pun intended… … … OK, y’all need to c-section that pregnant silence right now! Yes, that was corny, cheesy, whatever, just humor me and laugh anyway dagnabbit!!) a look at another interesting African style axe called… You guessed it! The Nzappa Zap!

Nzappa Zap

Nzappa Zap African Axe
[view full size]

This axe, like one of my very favorite other knives, (which I plan to blog about in the very near future) is from the Congo, and features a funky design that is interesting and unique on many levels. First off you’ll notice that the handle is club shaped, with a rounded knob for a head, and a flared base. Another unique feature is how this club is attached. Instead of attaching an eye to the axe head, through which the handle is fixed, this axe head is attached to a post that is fixed through a hole in the nob on the head of the axe handle. Yet another difference, a necessary result of this design, is that the blade is attached to the post via a series of struts all attached to the post.

Functionally, this kind of axe was used in battle for close in combat, and could also be thrown at intermediate distances. A very unique, all around, multipurpose battle axe design. Not as wicked, dark or pointy as I like my weapons to be, but you can’t have everything now, can you… Hmmm… Maybe I could design a wicked mutant Nzappa Zap… With all points and wicked curves… and powder-coat it black… no, black chrome… Yeah… That would be awesome… Time to break out the sketchpad…

Nzappa Zap – [Widforss]




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