Everyone who comes to Rage Montreal becomes part of an ancient tradition. With roots in warfare and pioneering, axe- throwing connects you to a lineage of some pretty bad-ass activities carried out by those who went before us. You’re lucky enough to be able to experience axe-throwing as a fun pastime rather than as a way of staying alive, but still…you’re tapping into something that will make you feel very different by the time you leave our facility.
Axes have been around for over a million and a half years, but the concept of the throwing axe really took off and spread around the time of the 5th century, when both Teutonic tribes carried them on their great migrations and Frankish soldiers used them in their raids. The Franks were pretty impressive- arriving to battle strung up like a Christmas tree with multiple weapons and wearing no armor or helmets.
Since the Franks became the most powerful force in Western Europe at one point, suffice it to say they were pretty handy at pitching their small, double-edged axes, of which each soldier carried several (that explains why they chose not to wear heavy armor). Forged from a single piece of iron, these axes were razor sharp. The axe heads were thick and did heavy damage when thrown from about 10 or 12 paces.
Skip ahead a couple of centuries and you find multiple groups across Europe using the Franziska. Probably invented by the Franks, its use spread to the Lombard, the Goths, the Burgundians and the Teutons.
A Franziska has a distinctive shape…it’s strange and intimidating looking so probably served as a psychological weapon as well as a fiercely effective combat tool. The axe head is curved but also pointed at the top, almost like a tear drop.
Picture this: Frankish lines of soldiers would, on command, throw their Franziskas all at once to wipe out the entire front line of the enemy. Franziskas could shatter shields and do all sorts of terrible damage.
Here at Rage, you’ll be glad to know that we’ve decided Franziskas aren’t right for using in our facility.
Axe-throwing is an old Celtic sport, as it taps deep into the Celtic people's roots going all the way back to ancient times. As they and other Europeans moved into the New World (here's where Canada comes in), they brought the hand axe weapons with them.
In the New World, however, they used them for building log cabins rather than chopping down enemies.
As the American frontier become more tamed and settlers transformed themselves into farmers, they liked to keep some of the old ways alive (just like we do today!). Axe throwing contests were hugely popular. They may have even served as a pre-cursor to the notion of women’s rights: the contests were open to women as well as men (even children participated).
Since Boy Scouts love to connect with old ways and sporty events, they’ve been all over axe throwing since day one. At exhibitions they like to demonstrate their skill by throwing in patterns.
They coordinate their team throws with shouted commands and highly orchestrated routines. For example, the run-throw (+whoop) lets team members throw rhythmically to a cadence so onlookers get an exciting and dramatic chain-reaction of whooping, throwing, and timed axe-throwing that results in a “smack-smack-smack” sound of axes hitting the target in precisely timed succession. It’s quite a show: leave it to the Boy Scouts!
Once trade got underway full force in the New World, throwing axes became a huge commodity. The tiny throwing axes made of stone originally used by the Native Americans were traded in for better ones made by the Europeans. The Europeans cashed in on the Native Americans’ preference for the throwing axes, developing the techniques so the axes became lighter and smaller. That occurred when they figured out how to make Tomahawks out of steel.
In the U.S. Revolutionary War, state militia were known to carry tomahawks, not swords. In fact, it was required that soldiers show up for duty carrying either a tomahawk or a sword, their choice. Picture it: wouldn’t you rather carry a hawk than a sword… and which do you think is easier to use?
And of course we all know that Native Americans used tomahawks, especially after the 1700s. Once settlers caught on to all the wonderful uses of a tomahawk, they adopted them for close combat too.
Tomahawks were used regularly by U.S. soldiers right up until 1876 at the Battle of Little Binghorn, commonly known as Custer’s Last Stand. That’s when the 7th Calvary fought the Sioux in Montana and lost (got annihilated, actually). Of course the Lakota, Arapaho and Northern Cheyenne fighters were well-equipped with tomahawks too.
Finally, believe it or not, throwing axes were used in the Vietnam War by U.S. soldiers fighting in the close quarters of the Vietnamese jungle. Their weapon was called the LaGana Hawk.
It’s from the pioneering spirits who settled Canada that we draw inspiration today. Throwing an axe isn’t a violent act as it once was – although you can certainly let off tons of steam – it’s a tradition which no matter where you’re from and who you are, offers you a way to connect with history while you enjoy a great round of throwing an axe. Here at at Rage Montreal we try to bring this experience to you.