A note on Axe-Throwing

Axe throwing is another hobby I have enjoyed for some years now after my friend Ben introduced me to it.

One of the most interesting things about throwing these heavy, oddly-shaped and slightly sharp objects is how intuitive it is. In all my years of P.E. class in elementary school I never really got the hang of throwing a basketball or hitting a volleyball, but I’ve learned that its easy to teach someone how to throw an axe successfully in around twenty minutes.

I’ll save the explanation of how to do it for another time, but for now what I’m interested in is why? Why is it so easy?

I think the answer rests in the evolution of humans to be able to throw objects. I have read that our ancestors evolved one hand to be better at stabilizing or holding things, and the other dedicated for finer motor skills. This makes a lot of sense, an arm to stabilize, and an arm to throw. A hand to hold a rock steady, another to strike it to make a tool, or start a fire. One hand to hold the paper, the other to draw, or write. This is something encoded in our DNA, as much as our relatives the orangutans are built for climbing trees.

While someone may have never picked up an axe before (almost certainly not with the intention to throw it), their body and more ancient parts of the nervous system can intuitively feel the balance. Once you can feel the balance of the object, it becomes easy to imagine the throw, to visualize placing the point of the axe on the exact spot on the target you are aiming at. Of course, it takes practice to master, but it is far easier to pick up than bar games like darts or beer pong.

I wonder what other ways our modern hobbies and activities are shaped by our early ancestors.

Shane King