What do you say about a man who can draw a knife and hit a moving target with supernatural accuracy in under one second?
Most simply say, “Holy shit.”
But Jason Johnson isn’t a man who does things for recognition. He does things because he can.
America’s professional Combat Knife Thrower, Blade Concept and Design and Consultant, and Educator, Jason Johnson’s authority in the edged weapons arena is well-respected. An accidental social media sensation, Jason Johnson is best known for his unconventional, yet remarkably effective, combat knife throwing systems.
An Omaha, Nebraska native, the champion knife thrower lives a life in pursuit of the balance between his craft and philosophy. A diligent student of martial arts history, lifeways, and combat systems, Jason Johnson is the real deal – an American-made original blending generations of tradition and unapologetic swagger.
Currently featured on HISTORY Channel’s new Forged in Fire: Knife or Death TV series, Jason Johnson has rapidly earned accolades and respect from peers and contemporaries, alike, and is in-demand for seminars and masterclasses worldwide.
Today, this video may be considered a tutorial on how not to parent. But in the 1950s, it was just another day of family fun for Luella Gallagher, a knife thrower extraordinaire, who demonstrated her skills in a backyard in Austin, TX, using her two young daughters as her “target girls.”
Since the late 1800s, knife throwing has been considered one of the premiere impalement arts. At circuses around the country, performers demonstrated their skills with the blade as squeamish onlookers in the audience gasped. But no act was quite as nerve-racking as that of Mama Gallagher, who showed off her precision by putting children, five-year-old Connie Ann and two-and-a-half year-old Colleena Sue, in the hot seat.
Any family involved in the circus is one that’s a little bit renegade to begin with, but the Gallaghers took their unique act a step further. The typical knife throwing duo involves a male star using a woman — sometimes his wife in family acts — as his “target girl.” But in the Gallagher’s case, Luella took center stage as the expert knife thrower, and she used her young daughters as her human guides.
Luella and her daughters were known to tour sideshows, and, at least for a time, they managed their own line-up of acts. In the October 23, 1948 issue of Billboard, the Gallagher Side Show was reported to be appearing on H.B. Rosen’s Magic Midway. In addition to young Colleena Sue appearing in the impalement act, there was to be a magician, a human pin-cushion, illusionists, and a showcase for big snakes. The circus bug apparently ran in the family; “Mrs. Gallagher’s father operates the Animal Show on the Rosen midway,” Billboard reported.
In this video The Bladed Broad took on two different can challenges at 3 meters.
The first challenge was to throw the knife into the opening of the can, while it was attached to my target. I first saw this challenge done by Octavio Garcia a while back and have been wanting to do it ever since.
David Adamovich, The Great Throwdini, didn’t start throwing knives until he was 50 years old. He admits that in his career as a thrower he’s “scraped” a girl. But “I’ve never impaled the girl,” he says. “And I don’t want to either.”
Question: How did you discover your talent for knife-throwing?
David Adamovich: I was the director of a graduate program in exercise physiology at Long Island University, from there I went out with a friend who had an emergency medicine practice where he would oversee the physicians in an Emergency Department at different hospitals. So I left the university to work with him. I stayed with him for about five years and then went out on my own and decided to open a pool hall. And within the first years of running the pool hall, one of the guys I shoot pool with, Joe Tauraka came in with a small knife; showed it to me and I had no idea what it was. And he said, “Let’s go outside and I’ll show you.” So, we walked outside the pool hall, across the street to a tree and I threw the knife, stuck it into the tree, and said, “I could do that.” It was just natural for me. And believe it or not, I was 50 years old at the time. I never even saw a throwing knife before then, or would have known what it was when he was showing it to me. It just came as a natural, easy talent for me. As soon as it left my hand, I knew it was going to stick and I understood the physics and the mechanics of how to throw a knife. I believe that everyone has a natural talent; they just have to find what that talent is in, and for me it was definitely knife throwing Question: How do you deal with the risk involved with throwing knives at another human being?
So, I always use the expression, “I throw around my target, I don’t throw at.” Simply because they last a lot longer if you throw around them than if you throw at them. There’s a risk involved, it’s an incredible risk, and it’s really the target girl that takes the risk. Not me. And the most important thing of my act, I can’t express it any other way than to say, I think of the girl’s safety 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Any stunt I devise, anything I doing, I understand the risk that’s involved, just how close I can throw, how close I shouldn’t throw depending on the stunt, but always what can happen if something goes wrong as to where that girl is up at the board. Always think about it.
Question: Have you ever had a knife-throwing accident?David Adamovich: Well, there’s two or three questions I’m always asked, one of them is, “Do you do the wheel?” Yes, I do the Wheel of Death. The other question is, are the knives real? Do they come from your hand, or the back of the board? Yes, they’re real, and they do come from my hand. They do not come from the back of the board. And the third question always is, have you ever hit the girl? So I have to answer honestly and say, yes, we’ve had some incidents and I have scraped a girl, I admit it. I got a little closer, I was a little out of control on a fast stunt where I’m throwing at about a half second per knife and after I released that knife I have to come down to my hand to get the next one, and as I do that, sometimes I pulled in a little too fast as the knife was released and then the knife hit her dress, instead of the board. So, yes, I admit, there have been some incidences, scrapes only. I’ve never impaled the girl. And I don’t want to either.
Recorded on July 15, 2010
Interviewed by Max Miller