From maple syrup to Blackberry cellphones to Michael J. Fox, Canada has bestowed many gifts upon the U.S. Now we can add one more to that list: axe throwing.
Bad Axe Throwing opened its first location in the District this month, making it the 10th U.S. city to rouse revelers in the pastime of launching a sharpened blade at a wooden target.
“Ax throwing is kind of like a hobby in rural Canada,” said Nick Jahr, operations manager for the D.C. location. “It’s one of those things that — with the family or just with friends — you’ll post up a target on a tree and toss axes in the back.”
A little over three years ago, a Canadian named Mario Zelaya wanted to transform the rural tradition of heaving hatchets into an urban movement, and Bad Axe Throwing was born.
“He wanted to take the idea and urbanize it, bring it to the cities, bring it to places where obviously this isn’t heard of or a common practice,” Mr. Jahr said.
The company’s first location opened in Burlington, Ontario, in 2014 and grew in popularity from there. Bad Axe Throwing is now in nine cities in Canada and all over the U.S. — including in San Francisco, Denver, Philadelphia, New York — and now the capital.
The space, located at 2419 Evarts St. NE, is a large warehouse with a few wall murals in different states of completion. The main logo shows a burly lumberjack with an ax, but Mr. Jahr said Bad Axe Throwing looks forward to working with local artists to make the space unique to the District.
The site doesn’t have a liquor license yet, but people are encouraged to bring their own food and nonalcoholic drinks for an evening out or afternoon activity.
Birthday parties, bachelor or bachelorette parties, and Father’s Day celebrations are just some of the good opportunities to come out and throw axes, Mr. Jahr said.
“Or it’s just a group of friends that want to do something crazy on the weekend,” he said.
Up to six throwing lanes are separated by waist-high wooden slats and chain-link fencing to prevent any errant ax from causing bloody mayhem.
Reservations for eight to 12 people are encouraged; the more people participating, the greater the competition.
“Obviously, more or less is perfectly fine,” said Mr. Jahr, adding that groups of 35 get corporate rates and a few extra lanes and that walk-ins are accepted at specific times.
The cost is $20 per person for walk-ins, $44.25 per person for group bookings and $35 per person for groups of 35 or more.
Closed-toe shoes are required, and comfortable clothing is encouraged for freedom of movement.
Each group gets a professionally trained ax-throwing coach to ensure safety and offer tips on the best techniques.
Mr. Jahr jokes that the worst injury Bad Axe Throwing has had was a splinter from all the wood in the warehouse, which absorbs a lot of the force of the ax if it bounces on the ground or off the walls.
“We have all the safety precautions necessary,” he said, adding that the personal coach walks anxious ax-throwers through safety procedures before training them in the “safest way possible” to throw.
The technique is simple, requiring more speed than strength to land a satisfying stick: Stand with one foot slightly in front of the other, use two hands to raise the ax over your head and behind your back with your arms bent at 90 degrees. From there, it’s a straight shot forward with a quick release.
“Once people feel comfortable with that, we’ll teach one-handed if you like or a couple trick shots — but definitely two hands, overhead,” Mr. Jahr said.
A person could get a good workout in an hour, using the core, lower back and arms.
“You end up feeling it in muscles you wouldn’t think you’d feel it in,” Mr. Jahr said. “I guess the most surprising part is you use muscles that you don’t typically have to use.”
The competition of ax throwing is often compared to bowling, darts and skeeball: It’s good for teams, like bowling; it focuses on speed and agility, like darts; and its scoring is based on hitting rings assigned different values, like skeeball.
The company developed the sporting standards for the World Axe Throwing League. Enthusiasts around the globe follow a set point system using specific axes and making a set number of throws.
“It’s a lot of fun in terms of a sport,” Mr. Jahr said. “It’s a great stress relief, honestly. Very therapeutic. So it’s a healthy way to kind of get out that anger.”