If you’re going to jump down the rabbit hole known as modern axe throwing, it’s best to familiarize yourself with these terms from the main axe throwing leagues around the world. After familiarizing yourself with everything you need to know about Axe Throwing competitions you’ll have to pick a local league near you and learn the terminology.
A bullseye, or bulls-eye, is the goal of axe throwing in every organization. It’s the direct middle, regardless the color or size. It’s the ultimate goal of hurling your axe at the center or the target, and hitting it with satisfaction. Beginner axe throwers are jubilant with joy when they hit it, and veteran axe throwers see murderous red when they miss it.
It’s the focal point for the entire sport, and depending on your league, how many times you can hit it is a make or break situation. Aim at the bullseye, and make sure you hit it! If you want to hone your aim, read this article highlighting how to hit a bullseye every time!
Rotation refers to the spinning motion the axe moves in before landing on the target. However, unlike bowling where the ball can roll any number of times to achieve a strike, an axe must make at least 1 full rotation to stick.
The standard rotation for most axe throwing leagues is 1 rotation, meaning the axe rotates 360 degrees from where it’s released, to where it lands in the target. If you increase your distance away from the target, you can achieve 2 rotation or 3 rotations. Any rotations 4 and above is usually a 40 foot+ hail mary prayer of a toss, just make sure no one is in the throwing path!
If you rotate more than 1 full rotation, it means the axe has rotated too much usually with the top of the axe head, or the axe eye, hitting the target and bouncing back. Best way to reduce the distance so the axe does not over rotate, is to step closer (provided you are not foot faulting) or put your thumb up along the back of the axe shaft. Of course, you could always just follow through more to get the right rotation.
if the handle hits the target before the axe has done one full rotation, it means the axes hasn’t rotated enough to stick. The standardized throwing distance can be altered to accommodate this, usually by moving backwards. Under-Rotation is easily gauged by hitting the handle on the target, which means you are too close and must move back a step, until you find that perfect rotation.
Single bit refers to the single blade edge of an axe, or most likely a hatchet in axe throwing leagues. It’s a front facing axe with a single blade edge. Typical axe throwing hatchets are 1.5lbs and 14-16” long, with a single bit edge. Larger single bit axes are also thrown in instances of tie breaker or of a more difficult challenge. Check out this article that highlights the best competitive throwing axes for various axe leagues.
Double Bit axes are double sided axes with 2 blades on opposite ends. They are typically a lumberjack axe throwin in sports competitions, and are epic to behold, let alone throw. Some of the earliest axe throwing competitions featured double bit axes. They are harder to throw, and are traditionally thrown from further distances.
An axe junkie is someone completely addicted to all things axe related. It may be a beginner axe collector, or one so deep, they’ve kicked their spouse out of the biggest room in the house to accommodate their growing axe & hatchet collection. They live for sharpening and rehanging axes, as well as doing woodworking on an axe handle, something you could do with this.
Axe throwing league members are familiar with this term, as dedicated leaguers have started putting artwork on their wooden handles and steel heads. Some common forms of materials used on axes have been india ink, pencil, acrylic paint, woodturning or engraving of wood & steel. Check out some seriously cool pimped out axes using the hashtag #axeart, or one of these hand painted & woodburned axes here on Amazon.
“Just The Tip”
You can always tell what person in a group of new axe throwers has heard or used the term “Just The Tip” before. Pretty much all axe throwing leagues, have some variation of “Just The Tip” ruling, referring to the steel axe head piercing a point value. NATF applies “Just The Tip” ruling to their clutches, while maintaining a majority ruling for all other point values.
WATL has a smaller bullseye, but enables the “JTT” ruling so if any part of the axe head breaks paint, it’s considered the higher point value. This is literally the only time you should let anyone talk you into playing a game of “Just The Tip”. Perhaps you could play “Ouch. Ouch. You’re on my hair!” if things start getting frisky instead.
World Axe Throwing League (WATL) is the alternative urban axe throwing experience. They started as a direct competitor to the NATF, It’s like Ferrari having Lamborghini as a competitor. They follow a different rule set and scoring system, which you can read all about in this WATL Rules article.
WATL is technically the largest axe throwing league in terms of how many affiliates they have, but they are still small in terms of overall league members. However, they’ve hosted some of the world’s biggest Axe Throwing Opens, like the Arnold Classic, an axe throwing tournament held in 2018 at the body building world championships.
Adjective given to an activity associated with axe throwing to denote cool factor. “That throw was so badaxe!” This is one of those axe throwing terms reserved for Bad Axe Throwing and is not to be used at the dinner table.
Killshot (or Blue Balls)
The Killshot is worth 10 points. it’s 2 blue circles imbedded in the targets and cringingly referred to as ‘blue balls’. It’s only active in a sudden death last shot fashion.
“Sticking an Axe”
Successfully embedding an axe in the target from a throw.
– Throwing an axe that sticks momentarily then falls is not sticking an axe. You must pull it out for it to count.
Throwing an axe that appears to stick but is supported by means other than its blade in the target is not sticking an axe.
On the rare occasion that the axe sticks to the target with the back of the blade, the shaft of the axe or any other part of the axe, the throw still counts and points awarded accordingly.
Touching the Line:
If the axe is in 2 rings simultaneously, then the player is awarded the points for the higher valued ring.
As long as the axe is touching the higher value ring, the higher amount of points is awarded. Also, see “Just the Tip” above.
When the axe is thrown but doesn’t stick.
An axe throw of 1.5 rotations.
When a player gets three bullseyes in a row
An official who watches a game or match closely to ensure that the rules are adhered to and to arbitrate on matters arising from the play.
WATL has helped elevate the hashtag #trickshottuesday, with some seriously epic and insane axe throwing trick shots. Check out some of the world’s craziest axe throwing trick shots using the hashtag #trickshottuesday. If you find yourself bored on a Tuesday, why not submit a trick shot of your own!?
NATF stands for the National Axe Throwing Federation. It is one of the most deeply rooted axe throwing leagues in the world. The NATF was established in 2016 “with the vision of creating a standard rule system to enable broad and accessible competition amongst players.”
They’ve revolutionized the axe throwing industry with an in depth scoring app that keeps track of over 17,975,620 axes thrown. The NATF represents the sport of axe throwing on behalf of over 4000 league members, from over 50 cities spread across 5 countries (Canada, USA, Australia, Poland & Thailand). Their mandate is to “promote safety, sportsmanship and competitive protocol.”
Clutch is slang for something that is immensely epic or awesome. In axe throwing, specifically in NATF, it is the rare 7 point 5” green circle target, that can only be thrown on the 5th & final throw per round. It is similar to an 8 ball called called shot in Billiards/Snooker. You must declare you are going for the 7 point ‘Clutch’ by yelling it at the top of your lungs. If you whisper it, and no one hears it, then your shit out of luck. Clutch must be declared, loudly, for all to know you aren’t going for anything but the Clutch. If you get it, well then, that’s just clutch! All you need to get, is the tip of the blade touching the green paint of the circle, and it’s good. Axe Throwers call this scoring the clutch method “just the tip”. That’s the only time you should let someone tell you “just the tip” is ok!
Best 2 out of 3
A NATF match is 15 throws divided into 3 rounds. You must win ‘2 out of 3’ rounds to win a game. Sort of like sets in Tennis. Win the majority of rounds and you win the game, easier said than done, depending on your competition! In playoff situations, Best 2 out of 3 increases to 3 out of 5 or even 4 out of 7 for the finals.
81 or “Unicorn”
81 is no longer some number for a motorbike club, it’s the absolute perfect score in a NATF sanctioned match. Technically, 75 is a perfect (natural) game (15 throws X 5 point bullseye). Therefore, 81 is declared to be supernatural, as you must hit 4 bullseyes & 1 clutch through 3 rounds. In the first 10 years of the sports, 81 was super elusive and rarely recorded. Just 3 years ago, there was only a handful of throwers in NATF that had recorded a supernatural perfect 81.
Today, as throwers improve their game and join more leagues and play more throws, the 81 club is well over 100 throwers, and it seems like new members join in multiples every week. It’s not that the sport is getting easier, just that the throwers are getting much better as they hone their throwing technique and skill. Some venues, call the 81 the “Unicorn” because it’s so rare, league members can’t believe it exists until they see it happen live!
75+ Avg. Season
To reach this milestone, throwers must achieve a season average of 75 points or more through their entire 28 regular season matches. Remember, a perfect game is 75 points (81 supernatural). Congrats to all 11 throwers who belong to this ultra-impressive club… oh, and some have qualified more than once! They literally haven’t missed a perfect game all season!
The NATC is the National Axe Throwing Federations year end tournament, held in February annually. A year worth of over 100 leagues culminates in a 128 person, double elimination tournament to crown the NATC Champion, and award the Wilson Cup to the winner. Over $16,500 in prize money and charitable donations is also handed out during the NATC All-Star Weekend.
The Wilson Cup is the ultimate prize or the final winner of the NATC Championship finals. Over 4000 league members compete year round, just for a chance to qualify at the Regionals, which leads to the Road to NATC. 128 of the best throwers over the past year, are welcomed to compete for the Wilson Cup and try to oust some of the best axe throwers in the world. Only 1 person can win the Wilson Cup, named after the pioneer of the modern urban axe throwing sport, Matt Wilson. When you start a global league centered around the niche sport of axe throwing, you get to name the trophy after yourself!
Skillz competitions are a variety of Trick Shot games designed to be fun, yet competitive. BATL & Urban Axes hold these type events bi-annually, once in the summer & again in the winter. Here are the list of trick shot games:
Players throw two axes, held in seperate hands (Left/Right) at the same single target, aiming to score highest out of 5 throws per 3 rounds. The skill set here comes throwing with your non-dominant arm as well as your regular throwing arm, but if you win, then you are truly a ambidextrous axe thrower!
Around the World
Around the World is a race to hit 6 specific spots on a NATF target in order from left to right culminating in a final clutch attempt. Each thrower squares up in a race to finish first, 6 throws being a quick, perfect game. If 2 players reach the end of Around The World at the same time, then they have a “Bull-Off”…a race to hit the most bullseyes without missing. This continues until their is a definitive winner.
Doubles is a partner axe throwing competition, where 2 throwers chuck 1 axe each at a single target. Both competitors must throw their axes at the same time, and at the same target, getting a high score in a regular 2/3 rounds/15 throw match.
Blackjack is a game where throwers must get 21 points, or closest to without going over, within 10 throws. If they go over 21, then they “bust” and lose. Competitors throw 10 throws, with 1 point, 3 point, 5 point & 7 point clutch all being active each throw. Any dropped throw results in -4 points. Math and strategy are key to getting 21 without going over, while besting your opponents score as well.
Yahtzee is a four-player team competition in which all team members must accomplish set throwing goals to receive points. This is not your grannies Yahtzee game anymore…It’s quite in-depth, and the specific rule set can be found here:
The time trial competition is a timed event comprised of three rounds of four throws each, moving along the targets in a single arena. Players may choose to throw from left-to-right or right-to-left within the arena.
Each of these three rounds is a different type of throw, and players must use each type to score highest points per throw, while beating the clock in the least amount of time:
Overhand, 1 rotation
Underhand, 1 rotation
Overhand, 1.5 rotations
If you ever find yourself in one of the many NATF regulated venues, make sure you dust up on your NATF terminology:
NATF Venue Axe Throwing Terminology
Arena: one set of four axe throwing targets.
Lane: one target setup from block to bullseye.
Perimeter Wall: the four foot wall that separates throwers from spectators.
Fencing: 9 gauge heavy chain link fencing to separate the lanes from one another as well as the outside social area.
Target: five 2×10 boards screwed to a backboard comprising four point areas.
Backboard: 3/4 inch plywood backing to support and mount target boards.
Sub-Frame: the three layer wooden framework that attaches to where the backboard is mounted.
Block: a small block that some throwers may place on the black line to position their lead foot while throwing.
Helmet: there is a lower and an upper helmet on each lane. The upper is made of high density rubber and the lower of wood mounted below the target. Helmets protect axe heads from damage on a missed throw.
The Red Foot Fault Line: the red line located between the Black Throwing Line and target that players are not permitted to cross (while throwing) until both throwers complete their throw.
The Black Throwing Line (Standard Axe Throwing Line): the standard throwing line where players must position themselves for competitive throwing. This also doubles as the Big Axe foot fault line.
The Blue Line (Big Axe Line): the standard throwing line where players must position themselves for competitive throwing of the Big Axe.
The Yellow Line (Perimeter Line): the yellow line represents the separation of the throwing arena and the viewing area. Spectators are not to cross this line.
Axe: technically a hatchet used in all standard competition. 1.5lbs head & 14-16” overall length.
Big Axe: the full size felling axe type used for tie-breakers. Big axes are 2.5 pounds with a 27-28 inch wooden handle.
Head: the metal blade portion of the axe.
Device: a set of vernier callipers used in measuring the point score for instances of an that axe sticks between two ring values on a target.
In addition to the following terms, an explanation of NATF terminology specifically relating to Board Throwing
Match: also sometimes referred to as a game, is set of three rounds totalling 15 throws.
Round: one set of 5 throws, three of these make up a match, sometimes referred to as a game.
Clutch: green dots located in upper left and right sides of target worth 7 points.
Drop: an axe that does not remain sticking in the target, and falls out before being retrieved, resulting in 0 points.
Out of reach: a match or round that can not be won by any throw value
Rubber Match: a match in which the 3rd round of throwing determines the match winner (.i.e. third match played when first two rounds are tied).
Perfect Round: occurs in which all 5 throws are bullseyes, totaling 25 points.
Unnatural Perfect Round: occurs when round score is 25 points, but is achieved by throwing 3 bullseyes, a 3 point and a clutch.
Supernatural Perfect Round: occurs when the total score of a round is 27 points. Achieved when the first 4 throws of a round are each a bullseye an 5th throw is a clutch.
Perfect Match: occurs when the total score of a match totals a minimum score of 75 points, and a maximum of 80 points.
Supernatural Perfect Match (aka ‘an 81’): occurs when the total score of a match equals 81 points., represented by 3 super-perfect rounds. The highest score possible in a standard season match.
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