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What are Rope Darts?

Momo Bonobo

fire performer holding a fire rope dart

Rope Dart, a captivating tool that has carved its space in the world of flow arts, traces its origins back to ancient China. Known as “Shéng Biāo” in Chinese, the rope dart was initially developed as a military weapon over a thousand years ago during the Tang Dynasty.

In its original form, the rope dart consisted of a long, thin rope attached to a sharp, metal dart. Soldiers wielded this weapon with lethal precision, using the rope to launch the dart at enemies from a distance.

Here’s a snapshot of the rope dart’s transformation through the centuries:

  • Ancient Beginnings (618 – 907 AD): The rope dart was first used as a weapon during the Tang Dynasty. Its long-range capabilities made it a valuable tool for soldiers and warriors.
  • Cultural Integration (960 – 1279 AD): During the Song Dynasty, the rope dart began to gain prominence in the cultural sphere. It became a part of traditional martial arts, showcasing not only the warrior’s skill but also their artistic flair.
  • Modern Adaptations (20th Century onwards): The rope dart has found a new lease on life in the world of flow arts. Artists use it for performance and expression, often replacing the sharp dart with a softer weight, LED lights, or fire heads.

Despite its deadly origins, the rope dart, as we know it today, is not just a weapon. It has transformed into a tool for self-expression and creativity within the realm of flow arts. Artists today manipulate the rope dart in a dance-like performance, using swift, fluid movements to send the dart spinning around their body.

One of the most popular adaptations of the rope dart in flow arts is the fire rope dart, where the dart is replaced with kevlar wick that is lit on fire. The dart’s swift movement combined with the flickering fire creates a stunning show that never fails to mesmerize audiences.

Modern rope darts used in flow arts can be made of anything! The most common types of heads are made of bean bags, metal darts, kevlar wick, LED’s, or anything else that can be tied to a rope. The most common leashes are made of cotton, silk, technora, dyneema, and many more.

Although there are countless people who have been crusaders in how we currently use rope darts within the flow community, two of the most prominent figures are Sam Tobey (who also goes by Flow Mayhem) as well as Frank Hatsis (owner of Rope Dart Academy). Sam popularized a very fluid dance style of rope dart within the community, whereas Frank has a colorful martial arts background and has competed with rope dart. He also hand makes silk darts with his wife and business partner Sara which have become a staple of the flow arts community.

The rich history of the rope dart and its evolution from a weapon of war to a tool of creativity and self-expression is a common theme we see in many of the flow props commonly used today that were once weapons. Check out our inventory here!