Kim Mitchell is a soft-spoken artisan with a gentle spirit and quirky sense of humor. She’s also an award-winning knife-thrower.
That’s right: She throws knives.
When asked how she discovered this unique sport, Kim credits her husband. She says, 15 years ago, “he was very big into bushcraft and picked up knife throwing. We used to sit in the backyard and throw a knife at a log stump.”
Kim and her family moved to Globe eight years ago for her husband’s new job with Freeport McMoRan. A few years later, life challenges and responsibilities were growing and Kim’s stress began to feel overwhelming. She hoped a hobby might distract her worried thoughts.
“I thought back and I really liked throwing knives. I don’t know why I picked that, but I did. I literally went into the backyard and had a stump and tried to stick it. I wasn’t doing very well, so I went to YouTube. I had no idea how big the knife-throwing world actually was.”
Kim stumbled into a male-dominated sport focused on different techniques for ax, tomahawk, and knife throwing (i.e., rotational, no spin, and half spin). “All of that combined kind of blew my mind, and within a matter of weeks, I was totally enthralled.” She spent days learning techniques. “I really had no clue what I was doing, but I knew where I wanted to go with it.“
She began to practice every day. “When competitions roll around, I’ll be out there for two to three hours. I lose track of time. When I went to my last competition, I was out every day all day while my kids were at school. Then I’d be like, ‘Oh my gosh, I have to go get my kids!’ You zone everything out to keep your focus.”
Knife throwing is inherently perilous. “It can be dangerous if you’re not paying attention. I’ve been hit by a few knives.” This means injury. “I had one ricochet and hit me in the thigh and another hit me in the lower back. I saw it coming and turned, but it hit me and it was pretty rough. I didn’t even know it was bleeding as badly as it was, so I kept throwing. I thought I was sweating and went to wipe, but it was blood. I was like, ‘Oh, dear! That’s not good.’ It was pretty crazy!”
Crazy focus also describes Kim’s skill acquisition. “I did a video on YouTube a few years back on accuracy. In the video, it’s me literally throwing something in a trash can, and throwing laundry in the laundry basket. All these skills intertwine because I’ve hit a lot of different things” – with her knives – “like bottle caps and matches. I’ve split golf tees. I try all kinds of stuff to improve my accuracy.”
Her process of splitting a golf tee was intense. “With that golf tee one, I cried in the YouTube video because I worked on that for so long. It took me a few weeks to split it exactly the way I wanted to, but I was so determined to do it precisely. I can’t even sleep when it comes to that stuff because I can’t get it out of my head. I have to get it. I have to hit that thing right in the center, so that golf tee would split. That’s what I wanted and I finally got it.”
When asked if she saved the split tee, she laughed. “I did! I surely did.”
Practice and focus come into play at competitions. Kim has attended three and participated in two. “The first one, I went just to observe because I’ve never been a competitive person. I’ve never been into sports, so it was kind of nerve-wracking, but I loved it.” In 2018, Kim went to Las Vegas and took first place in an amateur knife-throwing event and third place in “amateur no spin.” She did similarly well in 2019, then COVID-19 shut down competitions.
Knife throwing still helps her manage her stress. Kim says, “It’s therapeutic for me. If I have a bad day, I go out there and start throwing. It releases all that tension.”
Even more than this though, knife throwing has unveiled a life passion. “I always knew my whole life long that if I ever really found this niche that I was so passionate about, that I would probably blow it out of the water. I’m super stubborn, and once I love something, I’m all in and can’t get enough.”
Being “all in” means the last six years have immersed Kim in the knife-throwing world. Her journey has included forays into social media, photography, and knife making.
With social media, Kim says, “I found many people had YouTube channels, so I started my own. I started making videos and just being silly about it and having fun.” She adds, “Instagram is where I do most of my stories, like my daily quirky little 15-second videos that a lot of people watch. if I’m out in the shop working or sharpening knives, then I’ll put up little videos so that people, especially women, can understand what I’m trying to do and know they are able to do these things, too. I really enjoy doing my own thing, and it just blew up from there.“
By “blew up,” Kim is referring to social media influence. She soon had approximately 8,900 followers on Instagram, 7,400 followers on Facebook, and 3,500 YouTube subscribers. Her knife target building tutorial alone has been viewed more than 67,000 times. This level of popularity opened new doors.
“The more known I became in the industry and sport, the more I got approached by knife makers who wanted me to help promote their knives. They would send me knives and I would make videos with a review of sorts. I think mainly the attraction there was just the goofy fun of it, because some reviews are so boring when you watch them. I think that’s what drew people in – that I was just myself and doing what I love to do.”
Kim also tapped into her lifelong passion for photography and started experimenting with how best to showcase the knives she was reviewing. Ultimately, this led to knife competition sponsors requesting she do promotional videos and photos at their events.
At the same time, Kim needed additional targets for practice, so she starting working with various power tools in her home shop. “It’s strange because my husband is in construction and we’ve had all these tools for so long, and I think ‘Where have I been all those years?’ I love it so much. When I talk about getting women involved, that’s part of it too. I want to show other women that they can do all this stuff.” This includes making her own knives with beautiful inlaid handles.
Kim was an early adopter of an emerging sport – which then adopted her.
“In the six years that I’ve been involved in this sport, it has grown tremendously. It’s cool to be a part of something, and as a woman, too, because there’s not a lot of women knife-throwers. I love the camaraderie. It’s just like family. I feel like I fit in, like this is what I’m meant to do.”
For more information, check out Kim’s “Bladed Broad” website and social media presence on Facebook, YouTube, and Instagram.
Thea Wilshire works as an author, psychologist, speaker, healthcare consultant, and AirBnB host. Her passions include community development, the creation of public spaces, trying new adventures, and sharing her therapy dog with schools and medical facilities. Find her blog at https://www.acornconsulting.org/blog.