How to throw an ax, according to an expert at the Boston area’s new ax-throwing bar

Are you ready?

Two players tap axes as a sign of sportsmanship before competing at Urban Axes.
Two players tap axes as a sign of sportsmanship before competing at Urban Axes. –Urban Axes

“Everybody likes to throw an ax,” according to Urban Axes “axepert” Kyle Hough. “They just don’t know it yet.”

Hough has taught both young adults and grandparents to throw axes since he joined the Philadelphia-based company in 2017. A manager at the Austin, Texas location, Hough traveled to Boston to train the coaches at Urban Axes’ new Somerville location, which opened on Dec. 7.

He offered the following tips for those hoping to throw an ax in the new year.

Dress for the sport

When it comes to ax-throwing clothing, your footwear is most important, Hough said.

“Closed-toe shoes are required,” he said. “You are throwing an ax the whole time, and we just want you to leave with the same number of toes that you walked in with.”

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The rest of your look is up to you.

“Flannel is always encouraged, if you want to get into that lumberjack spirit,” he said.

Know that it’s more about finesse than power

Hough said he starts by teaching people to throw an ax with both hands, and then they can decide if they’d rather throw with one.

His reasoning?

“It’s way more of a full-body workout than a shoulder and wrist workout,” he said. “It’s not a football, so if you try to flick your wrist and snap your wrist when throwing the ax, it’s not going to stick in there.”

Throwing with two hands helps folks get the right feel for it and understand that it’s “way more of a finesse game than a power game,” Hough explained. It’s not about speed, but technique: Your core is doing the work, your hips and abs are making the motions, he said.

Don’t hold on for too long

After you learn how to stand and how to hold your ax, you’ll bring your elbows or elbow over your ears to throw, Hough said. And you’ll want to release the ax before you can see it.

“If I’m bringing that ax forward and I can see it, I held onto it too long,” he said.

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It’s also essential to follow through.

“Just like a good golf swing,” Hough said.

Remember the ax tap

How do you show good sportsmanship in ax throwing? With a friendly ax tap, Hough said.

“Two people come into the arena, they pick up their axes, they touch them together, and start throwing,” he said. “It’s like the kickoff.”

In an ax-throwing competition, you will throw at two different side-by-side targets for a total of 15 throws, Hough said. You’ll switch targets after every five throws, and it’s customary to tap whenever switching targets, Hough said.

Understand the power of the clutch

It turns out that the most difficult spot on the target isn’t the bullseye, Hough said. It’s a spot called the “clutch,” and there are rules for when you can go for it.

In ax throwing, a bullseye is worth five points, the middle ring is worth three points, and the outer ring is worth one point. The elusive clutch is worth a whopping seven points.

“If you ever look at our clutch — the little green circles —they have the fewest number of ax marks in them,” Hough said.

You can hit the clutch in one of two spots on the target: a green circle in the upper left corner and a green circle in the upper right corner.

“It works just like the eight ball in pool,” Hough said. “It’s a callout shot.”

You can only announce you are going for the clutch during the fifth and final throw during a round, Hough said. If you hit it, you’ll earn the seven points. If you miss it, you’ll earn nothing — even if you hit a bullseye instead.

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“If you call clutch and throw a dead-center bullseye, I’ll be very proud of you because bullseyes are hard,” Hough said. “But you just told me you were going for the green circle, so you don’t get any points.”

Overall, be careful

Obvious alert: You’re tossing around sharp objects.

“We’re going to make sure everything stays safe,” Hough said of the experience at Urban Axes. “We’ve got a plan from the moment you walk in.”

For example, you must remain outside of the ax-throwing arena until your coach invites you in, and when throwing axes, you and your opponent do so at the same time and retrieve them at the same time.

You also have to be 21 years old to go to Urban Axes, where there is a bar.

“Alcohol has always been involved in the concept at Urban Axes,” Hough said. “Absolutely, we want our guests stopping by the bar, we want them having fun, we want them relaxing.”

But know that your axepert assigned to you will be watching your alcohol intake, Hough said.

“We can’t allow overly intoxicated people to have an ax,” he said. “Urban Axes isn’t a place where you binge drink and then throw an ax. It’s a place where you throw an ax and have a beer once in a while.”

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