One of my favorite movies is Gangs of New York. The antagonist
of the film, William “Bill the Butcher” Cutting (played by the always
intense Daniel Day-Lewis) remains one of the most memorable characters
of recent cinematic history. Bill the Butcher was a bad, bad dude, but
the man had mad skills when it came to throwing knives, which came in
handy for entertaining crowds, hewing down would-be assassins, and
fighting on the mean streets of NYCs Five Points.
Like the tomahawk,
throwing a knife in combat has a significant downside–even when you’ve
successfully stuck it in an enemy’s back, you’ve still lost your weapon.
Which is why knife throwing has always been more popular as
entertainment, sport, and simply as a method for whiling away time. In
the 19th and early 20th centuries, the “impalement arts”–in which a
thrower hurls his knives breathtakingly close to a human target in order
to demonstrate his accuracy–were popular as vaudeville, circus, and
sideshow acts. Today there are groups that take part in knife throwing
as a sport, similar to archery competitions.
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