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Cane Fu Fighting: Self Defense for Seniors
by Marjorie Dorfman

Muggers better beware of senior citizens the next time they consider them a vulnerable target because a new phenomenon will soon be putting them in their place. Cane-Fu fighting, a self-defense program, which transforms a cane into a formidable weapon, is out to get those baddies! Read on but…watch out!

Although it is probably better in most instances to avoid confrontation with would-be assailants whenever possible, sometimes there is no choice but to stand one’s ground. Enter Cane-Fu fighting, a brilliant adaptation of Teddy Roosevelt’s old adage: "walk softly but carry a big stick." The stick in this case is a legal weapon that can be carried everywhere, and the teacher of this new self defense art form is Mark Shuey, a 61-year-old tae kwon do and hapkido expert who founded Cane Masters, an Incline Village, Nevada, school for senior cane fighting.

Journalist, Jennifer Levitz, exposed this new self-defense art form in a recent front page story in The Wall Street Journal. She writes:

"Cane-fighting converts say one of the best things about the cane is that it’s a legal weapon that can be carried anywhere — unconcealed. No one will tell you not to take it on an airplane…"

The beauty of Cane-Fu fighting is the idea that something one already owns and is likely to have on hand can be used as an effective weapon. Senior centers and retirement communities see this as a new way to promote healthful exercise as well. Cane-Fu fighting is a big hit and according to Lena Mast, manager of an independent living complex for seniors in Salisbury, Maryland, who began offering cane classes earlier this year: "It’s a huge hit. And now it’s the top thing our seniors look forward to."

The popularity of Cane-Fu fighting has been enhanced by the YouTube video, "Granny C. Takes On the Bullet Man." It depicts an agile woman in her seventies jabbing and taking down a man in a helmet pretending to be an intruder. Mark Shuey has also done much to propel Cane-Fu Fighting to its current "star" status. He started studying cane moves about a decade ago while practicing his own personal form of self defense (hapkido), which incorporates stick fighting at advanced levels.

Mr. Shuey has traveled all over the world teaching his martial arts program known as the "American Cane System" to other teachers. According to him, the number of Cane-Fu instructors has tripled in the last two years and numbers about 300.

The beauty of Cane-Fu Fighting is that any kind of cane can be used, including those made of aluminum or the pine wooden varieties available at many drugstores. Best of all the canes however, are the hard-wood variety which are made of hickory or oak because they don’t easily break upon impact. (In this case, consider your attacker’s feelings; by all means!)

The cane does have a history as a weapon and a rather bloody one at that, especially in Washington, DC. There in 1856, abolitionist Senator from Massachusetts, Charles Sumner, was brutally attacked with a cane on the floor of the Senate by Preston Brooks, a representative from South Carolina. The motive for the beating was Sumner’s mockery of one of Brook’s relatives in a speech. He was carried away unconscious and bleeding and it took him years to eventually recover.

Although many seniors take Cane-Fu classes, it is rare that they ever use the skills they have honed. Last year, Bill Carter from Jacksonville, Florida, however, found his instruction came in handy when he returned to his home one spring day only to find an intruder in his kitchen who was stealing TV dinners from his freezer. He said:

"As the man approached, I popped him on the kneecap and hooked him behind the neck. I was then able to guide him to the door."

Carrie Harmon, spokeswoman for the Transportation Security Administration, a division of the Department of Homeland Security says: "We do allow canes as carry-ons in planes just as we allow walkers or crutches, but all these devices have to go through the X-ray machine."

According to this same agency, baseball bats, cricket bats, bows and arrows, golf clubs, hockey sticks, pool cues, axes, hatchets, cattle prods, crowbars, billy-clubs, brass knuckles, meat cleavers, ice picks, pellet guns, stun guns, spear guns, saws, swords, sabers and snow globes are also allowed, but they must ride in the luggage compartment.

So far, the only problem with Cane-Fu fighting, which senior centers refer to as a gentle form of exercise, is the fear that some instructors are teaching overly fancy moves that might cause a loss of balance. Relying on the cane for balance and swinging it in the air can result in a nasty fall.

Still, there’s no question about the popularity of Cane-Fu Fighting. So, my friends, speak not so softly and carry a stick that’s not so soft. Or in other words,

Move over, Bingo, there’s a new game in town!

Did you know . . .

Copyright 2009