A tomahawk is a traditional American weapon. It is a type of hatchet with a handle less than two feet long. Its tactical use by the United States military goes back as far as 1757, and continues to this day.

Advantages

The tomahawk's greatest advantage as a close-range weapon is its deadliness. In the hands of a trained soldier, it can kill in one blow. The head of a well-made tomahawk is virtually indestructible, and if the handle should happen to break, it is easily replaced. The production and repair of tomahawks is comparatively inexpensive. Lastly, its head can be used to hook or trap an enemy soldier's limbs in order to use another close-range weapon on them (such as a machete or other field knife).

Grip

A tomahawk should be gripped near the butt (or non-blade end) of the handle, with enough wood sticking out of the fist to land a blunt strike. This allows a longer reach and heavier impact. For better control (in close combat or in exhaustion after a long period of fighting), the handle may be gripped closer to the head.

Stance

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The most effective stance for tomahawk combat is similar to a boxing stance--that is, facing forward with one foot back and at 45 degrees to the other. Your dominant side should be the one in front (that is, the right side for right-handed people and the left for southpaws). This improves reach, control of the weapon and freedom of movement.

Offense

Offensive moves using the tomahawk include the speedy punch attack, which involves shooting the tomahawk forward from a strong-side-forward stance and snapping the wrist down. The drop stroke is similar, but the swing begins above the head, and its strength is intensified by a bend in the knees and a drop in the hips. A power shot is executed with the strong side back and the tomahawk swung with the weight of the body behind it.

Other offensive techniques include stabbing an opponent with the corner of the blade or (if pointed) the backside of the head, and hooking an opponent to jerk him off his feet or otherwise destroy his balance.

Defense

Good, fast footwork is the best defense in a tomahawk fight. A good tomahawk combatant is adept with quick side-steps and direction-switching--or, faking a move to one side long enough for an opponent to commit to an attack, then quickly changing to take him by surprise. Tomahawks also may be used to parry (or deflect) and block blows.

Training Tips

As with any sport or form of combat, practice makes perfect. A good sparring partner, a blunt practice tomahawk, and a fencing mask and armor are essential to proper tactical tomahawk training. You can make a practice tomahawk out of PVC pipe, tape, and foam--this, however, will not be as heavy as a real tomahawk and is useful mostly for form and footwork practice.