A tomahawk is a type of single-handed axe native to the many Indigenous peoples and nations of North America, traditionally resembling a hatchet with a straight shaft.The term came into the English language in the 17th century as an adaptation of the Powhatan (Virginian Algonquian) word.
Tomahawks were general-purpose tools used by Native Americans and later the European colonials with whom they traded, and often employed as a hand-to-hand weapon. The metal tomahawk heads were originally based on a Royal Navy boarding axe (a lightweight hand axe designed to cut through boarding nets when boarding hostile ships) and used as a trade-item with Native Americans for food and other provisions.
The name comes from Powhatan tamahaac, derived from the Proto-Algonquian root *temah- 'to cut off by tool'. Algonquian cognates include Lenape təmahikan, Malecite-Passamaquoddy tomhikon, and Abenaki demahigan, all of which mean 'axe'.
The Algonquians in early America created the tomahawk. Before Europeans came to the continent, Native Americans would use stones, sharpened by a process of knapping and pecking,attached to wooden handles, secured with strips of rawhide. The tomahawk quickly spread from the Algonquian culture to the tribes of the South and the Great Plains.
When Europeans arrived, they introduced the metal blade to the natives, which improved the effectiveness of the tool. Metal did not break as readily as stone and could be fashioned for additional uses. Native Americans created a tomahawk’s poll, the side opposite the blade, which consisted of a hammer, spike or a pipe. These became known as pipe tomahawks, which consisted of a bowl on the poll and a hollowed out shaft.These were created by European and American artisans for trade and diplomatic gifts for the tribes.
The tomahawk's original designs were fitted with heads of bladed or rounded stone or deer antler.
According to Mike Haskew, the modern tomahawk shaft is usually less than 2 ft (61 cm) in length, traditionally made of hickory, ash, or maple. The heads weigh anywhere from 9 to 20 oz (260 to 570 g), with a cutting edge usually not much longer than four inches (10 cm) from toe to heel. The poll can feature a hammer, spike, or may simply be rounded off, and they usually do not have lugs. From the 1900's onward, these sometimes had a pipe-bowl carved into the poll, and a hole drilled down the center of the shaft for smoking tobacco through the metal head. Pipe tomahawks are artifacts unique to North America: created by Europeans as trade objects but often exchanged as diplomatic gifts. They were symbols of the choice Europeans and Native Americans faced whenever they met: one end was the pipe of peace, the other an axe of war.
In colonial French territory, a different tomahawk design, closer to the ancient European francisca, was in use by French settlers and local peoples.In the late 18th century, the British Army issued tomahawks to their colonial regulars during the American Revolutionary War as a weapon and tool.
Tomahawks are useful in camping and bushcraft scenarios. They are mostly used as an alternative to a hatchet, as they are generally lighter and slimmer than hatchets. They often contain other tools in addition to the axe head, such as spikes or hammers.
Modern tomahawks were used by selected units of the US armed forces during the Vietnam War and are referred to as "Vietnam tomahawks".These modern tomahawks have gained popularity with their reemergence by American Tomahawk Company in the beginning of 2001 and a collaboration with custom knife-maker Ernest Emerson of Emerson Knives, Inc. A similar wood handle Vietnam tomahawk is produced today by Cold Steel.
Many of these modern tomahawks are made of drop forged, differentially heat treated, alloy steel.The differential heat treatment allows for the chopping portion and the spike to be harder than the middle section, allowing for a shock-resistant body with a durable temper.
Tomahawk throwingis a popular sport among American and Canadian historical reenactment groups, and new martial arts such as Okichitaw have begun to revive tomahawk fighting techniques used during the colonial era. Tomahawks are a category within competitive knife throwing. Today's hand-forged tomahawks are being made by master craftsmen throughout the United States.
Today, there are many events that host tomahawk throwing competitions.
The tomahawk competitions have regulations concerning the type and style of tomahawk used for throwing. There are special throwing tomahawks made for these kinds of competitions. Requirements such as a minimum handle length and a maximum blade edge (usually 4 in [100 mm]) are the most common tomahawk throwing competition rules.
Tomahawks were used by individual members of the US Army Stryker Brigade in Afghanistan, the 172nd Stryker Brigade Combat Team based at Grafenwöhr (Germany), the 3rd Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division out of Fort Lewis, a reconnaissance platoon in the 2d Squadron 183d Cavalry (116th Infantry Brigade Combat Team) (OIF 2007–2008) and numerous other soldiers.The tomahawk was issued a NATO stock number (4210-01-518-7244) and classified as a "Class 9 rescue kit" as a result of a program called the Rapid Fielding Initiative; it is also included within every Stryker vehicle as the "modular entry tool set". This design enjoyed something of a renaissance with US soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan as a tool and in use in hand-to-hand combat.
The tomahawk has gained some respect from members of various law enforcement tactical (i.e. "SWAT") teams. Some companies have seized upon this new popularity and are producing "tactical tomahawks". These SWAT-oriented tools are designed to be both useful and relatively light. Some examples of "tactical tomahawks" include models wherein the shaft is designed as a prybar. There are models with line/rope cutting notches, cuts in the head allowing its use as a wrench, and models with broad, heavy heads to assist in breaching doors. [ self-published source ]
There are not many systems worldwide which teach fighting skills with the axe or a tomahawk to civilians. However one martial art known as Okichitaw teaches tomahawk fighting in conjunction with other indigenous weapons such as the plains dagger, lance and gunstock war club, mostly based on Plains Indian combat principles. In the 21st century, tomahawks have been prominently featured in films and video games (e.g. The Patriot ; Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter ;Bullet to the Head ; Assassin's Creed III ), leading to increased interest among the public. Tomahawks are among the weapons used in the Filipino martial art escrima.
Modern tomahawk manufacturers include:
A polearm or pole weapon is a close combat weapon in which the main fighting part of the weapon is fitted to the end of a long shaft, typically of wood, thereby extending the user's effective range and striking power. Polearms are predominantly melee weapons, with a subclass of spear-like designs fit for both thrusting and throwing. Because many polearms were adapted from agricultural implements or other fairly abundant tools, and contained relatively little metal, they were cheap to make and readily available. When warfare would break out and the belligerents had a poorer class who could not pay for dedicated military weapons, leaders would often appropriate tools as cheap weapons. The cost of training was comparatively minimal, since these conscripted farmers had spent most of their lives using these "weapons" in the fields. This made polearms the favored weapon of peasant levies and peasant rebellions the world over.
A spear is a pole weapon consisting of a shaft, usually of wood, with a pointed head. The head may be simply the sharpened end of the shaft itself, as is the case with fire hardened spears, or it may be made of a more durable material fastened to the shaft, such as bone, flint, obsidian, iron, steel, or bronze. The most common design for hunting or combat spears since ancient times has incorporated a metal spearhead shaped like a triangle, lozenge, or leaf. The heads of fishing spears usually feature barbs or serrated edges.
A halberd is a two-handed pole weapon that came to prominent use during the 14th, 15th, and 16th centuries. The word halberd is cognate with the German word Hellebarde, deriving from Middle High German halm (handle) and barte (battleaxe) joined to form helmbarte. Troops that used the weapon were called halberdiers.
Knife throwing is an art, sport, combat skill, or variously an entertainment technique, involving an artist skilled in the art of throwing knives, the weapons thrown, and a target. In some stage performances, the knife thrower ties an assistant to the target and throws to miss them.
A battle axe is an axe specifically designed for combat. Battle axes were specialized versions of utility axes. Many were suitable for use in one hand, while others were larger and were deployed two-handed.
Ernest R. Emerson is an American custom knifemaker, martial artist, and edged-weapons expert. Originally an engineer and machinist in the aerospace industry, Emerson became a knifemaker by producing knives for a martial arts class and making art knives early in his knifemaking career. In the 1980s he became better known for his combat knives and popularizing a style of knife known as the Tactical-folder.
The doloire or wagoner's axe was a tool and weapon used during the Middle Ages and Renaissance. The axe had a wooden shaft measuring approximately 1.5 metres (5 feet) in length and a head that was pointed at the top and rounded at the bottom, resembling either a teardrop or an isosceles triangle. The top of the shaft was fitted with a metal eye or socket that was welded to the head of the axe near the base of the blade. The upper part of the blade extended above the eye, while the opposite side of the socket featured a small blunt hammer head. The head of the axe itself measured approximately 44 cm. (17 inches) in length, was sharpened on the back and flattened bottom edges, and was uniformly decorated with punched and incised abstract floral patterns.
The Nzappa zap is a traditional weapon from the Congo similar to an axe or hatchet.
Cold Steel, Inc. is an American retailer of knives/bladed tools, training weapons, swords and other martial arts edged and blunt weapons, based in Irving, Texas. Cold Steel products are manufactured worldwide, including in the United States, Japan, mainland China, Taiwan, India, Italy and South Africa.
A mambele is a form of hybrid knife/axe in central and southern Africa, originating from a curved throwing dagger used by the Mangbetu.
Okichitaw is a martial art that incorporates the fighting techniques of the Plains Cree First Nations. It was defined and taught by a Canadian martial artist, George J. Lépine.
An axe is an implement that has been used for millennia to shape, split and cut wood, to harvest timber, as a weapon, and as a ceremonial or heraldic symbol. The axe has many forms and specialised uses but generally consists of an axe head with a handle, or helve.
Daniel Winkler is an American custom knifemaker based in Blowing Rock, North Carolina, USA.
American Tomahawk Company is a US-based company which manufactures modern tomahawks for use by the US Military. It was founded in 1966 by Peter LaGana to make tomahawks for the Vietnam War and folded in the 1970s. ATC was revived in March 2019 by RMJ Tactical to produce tomahawks for a wide range of outdoor uses and to continue on the great military history. The famous VTAC has been revised, updated and re-introduced at the Model 1 Tomahawk.
A throwing axe is a weapon used from Antiquity to the Middle Ages by foot soldiers and occasionally by mounted soldiers. Usually, they are thrown in an overhand motion in a manner that causes the axe to rotate as it travels through the air.
Gil Hibben is an American custom knifemaker from Wyoming who is based in La Grange, Kentucky. Hibben designed the first line of Browning hunting knives in 1968, the American Kenpo Knife for Ed Parker, and the Rambo Knife for the films Rambo III and Rambo. Hibben's "Fantasy Knives" have been used in over 37 films and television shows, particularly science fiction, earning him the title "Klingon Armorer" from the Star Trek franchise. Hibben currently serves as a President of the Knifemakers' Guild, a post he has held for fourteen years.
STI Knives is a tactical knife company based in Moissac, France. The president and CEO is Jeff Thenier, who designs the tactical products including knives, Impact Tools and other edged weapons. STI Knives are different from other tactical knives because they are modeled after the hand gun, using pistol bayonet type techniques for combat, these tactical folding knives have multiple locking positions making them able to mimic characteristics of various other weapons.
A fighting knife has a blade designed to most effectively inflict injury in close-quarters physical confrontations. The combat knife and the trench knife are examples of military fighting knives.
Native American weaponry was used by Native American warriors to hunt and to do battle with other Native American tribes and European colonizers.
The Lenape root təmə- means 'to cut off' and the suffix -hikan forms the names of tools
The wooden ballheaded club at this time was also generally referred to as a 'tomahawk'