By Scott Shaw
I received an interesting email from a man who is sixty years old and lives in Detroit who is interested in learning self-defense applications with the cane to protect himself and possibly protect his dog from attacking hounds, as well. As the man had never trained in the martial arts and had read an article I wrote where I stated that the Hapkido Cane should only be taught to advanced students of the art he was curious if I had any suggestions about where he could gain some additional information because as he put it, “Cane defense information online is crap.”
Interesting question. It set me to thinking. So, I thought I would answer it here so that other people who have wondered about Hapkido Cane techniques may gain some insight.
To tell my story of training with the cane… When I begin training in Hapkido, in 1964, the art was taught, at least to me, in its purest, most original, form. There was no weapons training at all. It was all about hand techniques, throws, deflections, punches, and kicks. It was not until I begin working with my third instructor, in the 1970s, that I was exposed to Hapkido weapon’s training. I was already a black belt. I operated a studio with the man, who had just arrived from South Korea, so he was much more in tune with the new techniques being embraced in the art in Korea at that time. He taught me swords, (Kumdo), the short staff, and the cane. I had already been practicing, on my own, with the long staff and, of course, the nunchaku, which had become somewhat of cultural phenomena in my late childhood and early teen years.
As we ran a school together, we begin teaching weapons to our students at the blue belt level. We felt that was an appropriate time, as they would then possess enough experience to understand the fundaments of body movement in association with a weapon. We would begin by training them with the long and the short staff as these weapons truly teach body/mind coordination. At the red belt level we would then begin their training with sword forms and cane self-defense techniques. As the movement associated with these weapons is much more advanced, we felt it was at the red belt level that the student could actually understand the subtlety of the physical movement necessary to operate these weapons from a refined perspective. Thus, as a teacher, I always felt it took at least a year of training for a student to actual comprehend weapons such as the Hapkido Cane with a cultivated understanding.
All this being said, a weapon is a weapon is a weapon. And, anything can become a weapon. Any item you garb can become a useful weapon to defend yourself if necessary. This is also true with the Hapkido Cane.
The cane is an ideal weapon for the trained or the untrained individual. All you have to do is swing it and it can become your weapon of self-defense. Though this is the case with the cane, as with any weapon, a refined understanding of how the weapon most ideal works, in association with how it best can be used in association with the body, helps in any applied self-defense application.
The reason I believe that training in the fighting arts is important is that what they provide any practitioner with is an understanding of physical combat. Though combat in the studio may be limited to sterile sparing, physically interacting with a supposed opponent trains the body and the mind in how to remain calm during combat and react with precision. This is why I still believe receiving at least basic training is the fighting arts is something anyone should do if they hope to be a proficient self-defense technician. But, as in the case with the person who emailed me, this may not always be possible. Thus, any weapon one decides to employee, as a means of protection, must be understood as best a possible.
As stated, the cane is a very natural weapon. One moment you can be using it to aid in your walking and the next moment, if you are attacked, it can be swung at an opponent. But, how do you swing it?
Wildly swinging any weapon leads to limited results. Yes, you may get lucky and hurt your opponent. But, maybe not. It may only infuriate them. Thus, to understand self-defense with the cane, you need to study its self-defense applications.
I really need to say this… Hapkido Cane self-defense should really be precisely studied over a long period of time as its self-defense applications are very subtle. In a pinch however, you simply need to understand the three elements of the cane that I discuss in the article I believe the gentleman has read. Here’s a link to it, The Hapkido Cane. There, you can find out a lot more precise information about the Hapkido Cane and its usage.
The three elements are:
1. The Length of the cane
2. The Shaft of the cane
3. The Hooking Handle of the cane
In brief: The length of the cane gives you the ability to strike out at an opponent. The shaft of the cane can be used by the untrained user as a striking weapon. The hooking handle allows the person to not only maintain control of the cane but can be directed toward the attacker as a stronger, larger striking weapon. In addition, due to the fact that the length of the cane give you distance between your attacker and yourself, be it a person or a dog, simply by bringing the cane up and jabbing it into your opponent, you can use the tip of the cane to strike your opponent multiple times in a rapid manner.
The main thing to kept in mind, whenever you plan to use anything as a weapon is, whatever weapon you choose, it is only as effective as your ability to use it in a precise manner. Thus, whether you are a long trained martial artists or a novice, you need to practice with whatever weapon you plan to employee. Meaning, yes, you can use anything as a weapon, but if you hope to use it effectively, you need to know how it moves and how it feels. Thus, if you want to develop the ability to use a cane as a weapon of self-defense: practice, practice, practice. Swing it in the air. Strike at objects. Experience how impact feels with the cane. Come to understand how you can best use it as an effective weapon of self-defense. Imagine opponents coming at you via various means. Develop the ability, in your mind, to understand how to best use the cane in each of those imagined attack scenarios.
Though I suggest everyone, who hopes to become a competent self-defense technician, train under the guidance of a qualified instructor, this may not always be possible. If this is the case, and you hope to protect yourself with any specific weapon, the only way it can become truly effective is if you understand its mechanics. Meaning, you’ve got to practice with it. From this, you will hopefully come to understand how the cane, or any other object, can become your ideal tool of self-defense.
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