Canes and Self-Defense
The Black Belt Walking Cane is a fearsome weapon, bristling with triple hand grips, serrated “shark’s teeth,” and a crook like the tail of a scorpion. It is designed for disciples of Cane-Fu, a martial arts system for the elderly that turns the common walking stick into an instrument of self-defense. For seniors who worry about ruffians and hooligans as much as they worry about personal mobility, the Black Belt Cane offers a blend of prop and protection.
But retirees are not alone in their vigilance. The odds any victim of violent crime will take self-protective measures during the crime are 1 in 1.6 (63%). Weapons can include almost anything—fists, elbows, nails, pens, forks, high heels, chemical sprays. Much of the time, these precautions improve the victim’s chances. The odds self-protective measures will be helpful are 1 in 1.59 (63%). (As a point of comparison, the odds an adult usually showers in the morning are exactly the same—1 in 1.59.)
Though statistics don’t exist on how good canes are at repelling attacks, history shows them to be quite dangerous. The infamous caning of Charles Sumner is proof of this. In May 1856, South Carolina Representative Preston Brooks attacked Massachusetts Senator Charles Sumner following an offensive speech he delivered in Congress. Two months later, in his resignation speech before the House, Brooks said that he had considered two other weapons—a horsewhip and a cowhide—before settling definitively on the cane. Brooks used one made of gutta percha, a tree with rubbery sap. Today, the creator of Cane-Fu recommends hardwoods such as hickory or oak. They are less likely to break on impact.
Long after the days of Sumner, canes continue to be an effective defense. According to the Wall Street Journal, Bill Carter of Jacksonville, Florida, recently drove out an intruder using Cane-Fu techniques. Carter simply “popped him on the kneecap, hooked him behind the neck, and was able to guide him to the door." The man had been stealing TV dinners from Carter’s freezer.