This page is part of the official ARCHIVE COPY of the pioneering but abandoned Thrower website on knife throwing. Copyright and details


By: Gene Hauenstein

This article was first printed in Tactical Knives Magazine, Summer, 1996 issue.
It is reproduced here by permission of the editors.
Tactical Knives can be reached at Harris Publications, Inc.
1115 Broadway, New York, NY 10010
Tel: (212) 807-7100, Fax: (212) 807-1479
Letters to the editor should be sent to:
Box 538, Castle Rock, WA 98611

The room was oddly quiet with only the resounding thud of steel meeting its target punctuating the morning stillness. Seven different types, weights, and lengths of knives were being thrown in quick succession. Bowies, hunters, long bladed, short bladed, heavy bayonets and professionally made throwing knives were all hitting the target face with deadly accuracy. Welcome to the world of instinctive knife throwing, championed by a man with close to fifty years of knife throwing experience and known as the "Master of the Blade"- Bob Karp. Bob is a big bear of a man, standing over six feet, one inches tall with a quick wit and a smile that matches his great size.

Bob was in town to give a knife throwing seminar and was demonstrating his instinctive style of knife throwing. Holding again the seven different types of knives in his great paw of a hand, he began to lecture and throw at the same time. Bob calls this "walkin', talkin', and throwin'". One of Bob's greatest assets, honed from years of throwing experience, is his ability to pick up any sharp object and throw it; making it stick from any distance. Most knife throwers throw from a predetermined distance that allows the blade to travel in a half-spin, full turn or a full turn and a half before hitting the target. Bob, on the other hand, instinctively judges the distance and then by altering his throwing style, grip, balance, feel, and force, will throw a variety of knives from various distances.

At a recent Arizona Knife Collectors show, Bob and his son had just finished setting up their targets and Bob grabbed a handful of his Bob Karp designed throwers. He stepped in front of the target about sixteen feet away and as a "warm-up" threw six knives into an area that I measured as a circle, four inches in diameter. When I commented on the tight circle he had thrown he told me that the problem was not in hitting the circle but to throw and miss the knives that were already in the circle! He next "walked" the knives across the face of the target in a straight line. As part of the actual demonstration he threw what he calls the "clock", throwing around a square target hitting the 12, 3, 6, and 9 o'clock positions and then going back and filling in the 1, 4, 7, and 10 o'clock positions.

Bob has taught his whole family to throw including his wife, sons, grandson, son- in-law, and assorted nieces and nephews. Bob and his family live in Phoenix, Arizona and a get-together at the Karp residence always revolves around knife throwing. At a recent backyard barbecue, five of the Karps were betting with each other on who could nail a bottle cap at the center of the target with a knife throw. They took turns and Bob's thirty-five year old son, Rob, nailed it on his second try. Bob was a little miffed at having to fork over five bucks but told me later, "it wasn't the money that bothered me so much as the big grin on Rob's face the rest of the day!"

Although knife throwing has been used in self defense situations and even in hunting, those are the seldom used aspects of throwing. Bob believes that knife throwing is a great family oriented sport that anyone can practice. Throwing can be a great stress reliever as well as a great eye-hand coordination exercise. After an initial investment in throwing knives, the sport is virtually free. All that is needed is a safe place to practice and some throwing targets.

Over the years Bob has experimented with many different types of targets, including cardboard targets, foam targets such as those used for archery, targets made from tree stumps, wooden pine boards, bales of hay, and even dart boards for the smaller knives. Most of the types of targets mentioned can be chewed up rapidly through constant practice and if tomahawks are used they can destroy a target quickly. If a wood target is desired, try to use a softer wood like pine. You can also soak the wood before hand to soften it up a bit. Targets should be two inches thick at a minimum for knife throwing and at least three to four inches thick if throwing tomahawks. What Bob uses mostly now are palm tree stumps acquired from local landscapers who drop off cut down palm trees to him. A palm tree stump is ideal because the inside is a firm but fibrous type of material that will absorb a lot of punishment. If you start with a two foot thick stump of palm it can be turned around to the opposite side for throwing once the first side has been used up. When that side becomes worn out, a chain saw, cutting about six inches off the face, makes a new target.

Bob always, always, ALWAYS stresses safety and respect for knives at his seminars. Always know what you are throwing at. Always have a backstop to stop any erratically thrown knives. Do not have young children around when you are practicing. Do not attempt to throw around a live target, leave that to the professionals. Since professional throwing knives can weigh over a pound apiece, serious injury could result if someone were even just hit let alone struck with the sharp end.

Bob is on constant call for knife throwing demonstrations and seminars around the country. You can usually find him at the larger knife shows such as Pasadena, Dallas, Denver and Atlanta. He also participates in Wild West shows and Mountain Man gatherings. He has given throwing seminars to law enforcement officials, military personnel, Boy Scouts, martial artists, Hollywood stuntmen, Doctors, Judges, and even a US Senate hopeful.

Bob has been privileged to count among his friends some of the greats of the knife throwing world such as Paul LaCrosse, Dan Dennehy, and Harry McEvoy. Bob is also quite a knife collector with a collection numbering in the thousands but he is most proud of his collection of professional throwing knives. These date from the 1940's and include a 16 inch Paul LaCrosse circus thrower, various McEvoy throwers and an odd assortment of unusual throwing implements such as a "Klife" (Cleaver-Knife). This is a product designed and made by an old friend of Bob's, Mr. Leonard Werner, also known as "the Hawk".

Bob has a line of professional throwing knives appropriately named the Bob Karp throwers. He has designed what he believes to be the ultimate in professional throwing knives. The knives come in various weights and lengths and can be thrown either from the blade or handle side. They are made from high carbon steel, 440C, or ATS 34 Stainless steel and are tempered specifically for throwing. They come with or without handle panels and are 1 1/2 inches wide. You can order them in lengths of 11,12,13 or 14 inches and in either 3/16 or 1/4 inches thick.

"Don't touch" was Bob's introduction to the world of knives. Bob was born in Cincinnati, Ohio in 1939 and as an eight year old heard those words from his father as he was setting down a box load of bayonets that he had just bought at the local Army surplus store. The bayonets were a collection of Austrian, German, Italian and even Japanese bayonets. Of course, as soon as he could, he took one of those bayonets to the woods and began to throw at an old tree. He also experimented throwing with screwdrivers when a knife wasn't available. Once his father noticed his interest, he encouraged him in his throwing by cutting down one of his bayonets to make it easier for Bob to throw. Three years later, he was further encouraged after seeing the movie the Iron Mistress, a movie that starred Alan Ladd and showcased knife throwing.

After Bob had joined the military he was surprised to find another throwing aficionado in his commanding officer, Howard C. Hessell. They would train together throwing Bowies at old tree stumps. He was quite an inspiration to a young soldier and their love of the knife throwing sport turned into a lifelong friendship.

There are five basic throws utilized by the "Master of the Blade". Bob throws a 1/2 spin, full turn, a spin and a half, a double spin from an overhand position and a palm throw. He throws from either the blade or the handle. His specialty is the palm (or slider) throw. This type of throw starts with the knife resting in the palm of the hand and is "palmed" and thrown with the knife sliding out of the hand. Bob routinely reaches distances of over thirty feet with this type of throw. It is also reminiscent of the Japanese way of throwing straight pointed spikes known as shuriken.

One way of getting distance or of controlling the spin on this particular throw is by how much push you give the knife as it slides from your hand. A stronger push means the blade will fly through the air further before turning in flight. All knives in flight are subject to the laws of gravity so trajectory also plays a part in how far the knife will travel.

There are also a number of throws Bob uses occasionally, such as a side arm throw, throwing under the leg and throwing underhanded. Bob's advice to seminar participants is to learn the basics thoroughly before advancing. Start by throwing a half spin and then move up to a medium distance to throw a full spin with medium velocity. To gain an instinctive throwing style will take a lot of practice but you can begin to get a feel by altering the velocity and changing the angle of release for a full spin.

The seminar was only scheduled to be two hours long but it was finally winding down after four. As we began to get ready to leave I had to suppress a chuckle as Bob just couldn't resist picking up a handful of knives and instinctively throwing them one more time.

Walkin', talkin', and throwin', Bob Karp - "Master of the Blade".

NOTE: The article above is as written by Gene Hauenstein. The version that appears in Tactical Knives is slightly edited, but Gene's original was the only electronic copy to which I had access.

Mail to mjr, goto Knives, Survival, or back to Thrower

This page is part of the official ARCHIVE COPY of the pioneering but abandoned Thrower website on knife throwing. Copyright and details