The tomahawk is a type of hatchet with a characteristically straight shaft that is native to many of the original inhabitants of the North American continent.
Used by both Native Americans and the early European colonizers as tools for every day use, it has also been widely used as a weapon, with the most common tomahawk fighting techniques involving both handheld and thrown techniques.
The earliest Native American tomahawks were fashioned out of stone–polished soapstone in particular–and featured intricately designed handles and blades. Some other materials used in the construction of tomahawks are flint rock, the jawbones of large animals, and even deer horns.
Many other cultures have some form of hatchet type tool or weapon, and their usage as a combat tool tended to be quite similar to many Native American tomahawk fighting techniques.
The Vikings were long known for their proficiency in the use of an axe as a weapon, the French had the fransica, and the British had the familiar belt axe.
Aside from its use as a tool and as a weapon, tomahawks were also used to smoke tobacco, through the pipe bowl that was typically built into the opposite side of the blade.
This dual purpose was in fact highly appropriate, given the state of relations between the Native American tribes and the European settlers at that time.
The tomahawk could serve either as a peace pipe offering, or if relations between the parties turned sour–as they often did–it could instantly be turned around and serve as a weapon of war.
A tomahawk can either be used on its own or in conjunction with another weapon, which was more often than not a long bladed knife. This combination has proven to be particularly effective in a wide range of combat situations, either with single or multiple opponents.
The tomahawk works equally well as a defensive and an offensive weapon, and a number of tomahawk fighting techniques have been identified as key components to these roles. Tomahawks can be used to chop, slice, cut, rake, catch and pull, punch and even deflect oncoming blows from opponents.