Smack Fu Game Merges Martial Arts and Darts

By Heather Holland on June 29, 2012 7:46am 

BOERUM HILL — Smack Fu, a feathered-dart game based on a Vietnamese sport, is poised to become the trendiest activity among urban youth since Hacky Sack, according to the game’s founder.

Minh Chieu Nguyen, 38, an entrepreur from Boerum Hill, took the popular Vietnamese sport Da Cau and Brooklynized it — resulting in a mashup sport that involves a flat-ended dart similar to a Badminton shuttlecock that's hit back and forth by opposing players' hands.

Nguyen dubbed the game Smack Fu, because the moves resemble martial arts movements and the object of the game is to slap the dart at your opponent, getting points for hitting the other player's torso with the dart.

“It’s important to me that Smack Fu grows out of New York City, and not other places,” Nguyen said. “It’s ideal for New York City because it doesn’t require a lot of space and there’s no extra equipment. It was designed to be played in the city.”

The dart is made up of a feather, either duck or goose, attached to the back of an accordion-shaped piece of plastic. Players, either in teams of two or one on one, smack the dart back and forth with their hands, attempting to hit their opponent’s body, Nguyen said.

Players stand 10 feet apart and the first to score 10 points is the victor, though people tend to make up their own rules along the way, Nguyen said.

While the game is mostly played using the hands, players can earn extra points for tricks like using their elbows or their heads to propel the dart.

In Vietnam, the game is played by kicking the piece back and forth with the foot. But it’s no Hacky Sack, Nguyen explained. Vietnamese players pass the dart by kicking backward over their heads.

"My favorite thing about the game is that there's no equipment with it," said Twan Matthews, a 21-year-old Smack Fu player from Coney Island. "I can come out in my pajamas and play with it, and you don't have to worry about injuries."

Smack Fu darts come in three different models, which dictate the level of difficulty of the game. The models are dubbed Smackticus, Patriot and Ninja.

Smackticus and Patriot are made with duck feathers and are used in more competitive games due to their better aerodynamics, Nguyen explained.

The Ninja, which uses a goose feather, moves more slowly and is ideal for children and beginners, he said.

Nguyen was so enthralled by the Vietnamese game during a visit, he brought the dart back with him when he returned to the New York. But the dart game was too hard for the average American to use, so he had to re-engineer it for hand use, he said.

“It’s insane to watch them play it the way it’s meant to be played,” Nguyen said. “But when I brought it back to the city, no one could kick it to save their lives.”

The dart was originally intended for people between ages 15 to 24, but when children saw Nguyen playing the game in local parks, they jumped right in and enjoyed it too.

“I meant it as a new urban sport, but that’s when it got the toy vibe,” Nguyen said.

Still, the game is not recommended for children under age 12, because kids that young don’t have the motor skills yet to really enjoy the game, Nguyen said.

Nguyen said that he is set on making this game original to New York City, which is why he branded the product Smack Fu NYC. The darts are already being sold in small toy shops in the city, and he said he’s recently given away free Smack Fu darts to children in low-income neighborhoods in Brooklyn so they get the chance to play with it first before it spreads elsewhere.

Nguyen will be working on selling his product in small toy stores in Boerum Hill and Cobble Hill this summer. 

He is also planning to get a booth at the upcoming Atlantic Antic event in Boerum Hill, an annual festival that takes place on Atlantic Avenue. At the event, locals will have an opportunity to try out the toy and Nguyen will be offering demonstrations on how to play the game.

“I’m hell-bent on getting this game to come out in New York City.” Nguyen said.

Smack Fu darts, which are priced between $15 to $18 each, are sold online at www.smackfunyc.com.

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