Kjai Block starts off with a simple overhand throw: two hands on the blue rubber of the ax handle, arms extended up and arched back, then falling forward into the release. The ax spins one turn and sticks into the wood with a thwack.
It’s a bull’s-eye. That would be six points, if he were counting, but this is just some light coaching.
That’s part of the deal at Bad Axe Throwing, which operates 30 ax-throwing clubs across the U.S. and Canada. It comes to Fresno this weekend with an open house, where guests can try a round of ax throwing for free.
Ax throwing has become popular as an alternative sport with clubs like these popping up in urban markets across the country. There are sanctioned leagues and a world championship tournament that aired on ESPN this year.
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That’s the actual cable station, not one of the offshoots, Block says.
“We thought we’d be on the Ocho,” Block says, in a reference to the film “Dodgeball: A True Underdog Story.”
As a game, it operates sort of like darts. Throwers face off against each other, scoring points for each hit on the wooden target. The outer ring is worth a point; the inner rings are worth two, three and four points. A bull’s-eye is painted in red at the center of the target and is worth six points. Two small blue circles high up on the edges of the ring are worth 10 points.
The highest point total wins.
As an experience, Block likens it to bowling.
“It’s like bowling 2.0,” says Block, an operations manager with Bad Axe Throwing.
“But unlike bowling, they don’t just hand you your shoes and tell you good luck,” he says.
This is a curated experience.
Inside the club, rustic wood panels line the six throwing lanes, each with two wooden targets. There are ax coaches on hand to explain the safety rules – don’t step into the lane or retrieve your ax until everyone has thrown – and run throwers through the basics.
Groups of six or more can reserve a coach and two targets for two hours for around $35 each. Otherwise the rate is $20 an hour, per person, when targets are available. You should check the Bad Axe Throwing website for schedules.
There are no age or physical requirements to throw, and Block says most people can learn enough to hit the target and make the ax stick with five minutes of coaching. From there it’s just repetition.
It takes longer to nail trick throws, of course, like the claw, the corn hole or the Canadian flick. There’s also something called the scissor, which Block demonstrates by throwing two axes at the same time.
One ax is thrown overhand, the other underhand causing them to scissor in the air on the way to the target.
Block threw his first ax about a year ago, when he started working for the company. Now, he can train one of its ax coaches in a single day, though he’s been in Fresno for the last week getting coaches ready.
”It’s easy to learn, hard to master,” Block says.
Really good throwers – like world-champion Benjamin Edgington, who happens to work at Bad Axe Throwing’s Denver location – might throw for eight hours a day, Block says.
The hardcore throwers end up joining the weekly leagues. In Denver, Bad Axe runs two leagues that can bring out 50 or more people.
Fresno should have a league up and running this spring, Block says.
Bad Axe Throwing
Free open house
- 6-11 p.m. Friday, noon-11 p.m. Saturday and 2-9 p.m. Sunday
- 3132 N. Palm Ave.