Review: "The Cane as a Weapon"

Discussion in 'Weapons' started by Devon, Oct 17, 2007.

  1. Devon

    Devon Valued Member

    Andrew Chase Cunningham was a fencing and self defense instructor attached to the US Navy during the early years of the 1900s. In 1912 he produced a booklet on practical self defense with a walking stick, under the title "The Cane as a Weapon".

    A PDF of that booklet has been floating around the Net for years, but never attracted much attention, probably because Cunningham only included 12 photographs of himself in various "attitudes of defense" with his cane, as an appendix at the end of the booklet. The rest of the booklet consists of large chunks of text, and although it's reasonably well-written, without pictures it's difficult to follow what he's saying.

    An expanded re-print became available in 2006, including all of the original text and pictures plus a new introduction and 170 new photographs of the system in action, which make it much easier to follow the technical instructions.

    Cunningham's system was unusual in that it didn't just treat the cane as a substitute sword. Acknowledging the risk of an attacker grabbing the cane if it was held in an orthodox fencing position, Cunningham advocates three guard positions. In two of them the cane is held low in the right hand with the left hand up in a boxing defense position, and the third guard is a double-handed grip on the weapon.

    Targets, defenses and attacks are sensibly chosen. Cunningham was well aware of the "de-fanging the snake" principle and many of his parries are actually counter-strikes to the attacker's hand or wrist, usually followed by a combination of cuts and thrusts to the face, throat or solar plexus area. He also advocates striking to the attacker's knee/shin region while sidestepping or retreating away from the initial attack.

    Much attention is paid to using the cane ambidextrously, quickly shifting grips from one hand to the other, and to the different types of striking techniques (snapping cuts, half-arms cuts, circular cuts, etc.) The system is versatile enough to cope with attacks from an opponent wielding a stick, knife or other short weapon, or attacking with punches or kicks.

    He offers some sensible advice about how to fend off a group of attackers, and even discusses how to use a bowler hat as a "shield" in the off-hand and how to fight off an attack by a dog.

    My major criticism of the system would be that he doesn't spend enough time on stick grappling or how to deal with an enemy who closes in to grappling range. Overall, though, the Cunningham system is a good, solid cane defense program and a very interesting example of how self defense was taught in the US about a hundred years ago.
  2. Jang Bong

    Jang Bong Speak softly....big stick

    Very interesting - our teacher advocates the cane as a useful 'tool' for life, and I'll follow up your information here to find out more.

    Regarding the 'grappling' side, as a major element of our training is JJJ we simply incorporate the cane as an 'extra' to the art. It extends the reach in some occasions, and adds a lot of pressure pain for other techniques :)

    My cane is in the side of my car seat, and I carry it on a regular basis to get the feel of moving holding it and moving it about. I always make sure of carrying it when on the beach with our small dog. ;)

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