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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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