The tomahawk, sometimes referred to as a “hawk,” is a type of axe that was commonly used by the Native Americans and European Colonials in the early days of America. The name entered the English language in the 17th century as an adapted version of a Powhatan word.
In the 18th and 19th century, thousands of unique tomahawks were made by hand so that no two were exactly alike. Metal tomahawk heads were first introduced based on Royal Navy boarding axes, and before they came into common use, they were used as a trade item with Native Americans. Prior to this, tomahawk heads were usually made of stone.
Tomahawks were used as tools as well as melee or thrown weapons. Today, modern tomahawks serve several different purposes:
Sports: Hundreds of events host tomahawk-throwing competitions, so many that the International Knife Throwers Hall of Fame Association introduced an internationally-recognized ranking system for knife and tomahawk throwers to measure and score their accuracy.
Law enforcement: Tactical tomahawk axes have gained popularity in law enforcement units like swat teams. These devices are tools before they’re fighting tomahawks, often featuring shafts that double as prybars and heads that can be used to breach doors or operate as spanners. Tactical tomahawk axes are used primarily as entry tools.
Military: The military also uses tactical tomahawk axes as entry and rescue tools, though they can double up as hand-to-hand weapons. They experienced a resurgence when many soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan began employing them.
Fighting: Due to the popularity of the tomahawk in movies and video games like Bullet to the Head and Assassin’s Creed III, there’s a growing interest in training with tomahawks and axes in the field of martial arts. However, there still aren’t many active fighting systems which teach students to use tomahawks.
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