Walking sticks in lieu of impact weapons?
In the last issue we discussed collapsible impact weapons. One might wonder if walking sticks and umbrellas might serve as a reasonable alternative to impact weapons for those providing protective services, yet not involved in law enforcement. To find out, we carried a walking stick for a month, and practiced a lot of stick techniques from various sources.
There are plusses and minuses to carrying a walking stick.
Plus: Canes are legal in places where impact weapons, guns, and knives are not.
Minus: If you are not old enough to look like you might actually need a cane you might have to do some explaining as to why you have it (with the easiest explanations being either that you have hurt your knee, leg, or foot; or that you like walking sticks and it is simply an affectation).
Plus: You can always have it with you.
Minus: If you don’t need a cane, and are not used to carrying one, you are likely to leave it in a restaurant or car.
Plus: It is already deployed and in your hand.
Minus: You always have at least one of your hands full when you carry it.
Assuming that you can carry a walking stick without looking like a total fool, you next need to address the question of how to use it. One approach is to use it as you would any other impact weapon for which you have received certification. This approach has the advantage of allowing you to use your existing physical skill set backed up with certification in a set of techniques, even if the tool with which you are using them is different. It has the disadvantage of removing many techniques associated with use of sticks.
A second approach is to take non-impact weapon stick fighting training. Note that some stick fighting training comes from martial arts, rather than being developed specifically for canes and umbrellas, and may not be appropriate for most of us. This is not because the techniques are flawed, but because martial arts are arts, and require continual practice to be able to use successfully. For defensive tactics, long experience by generations of law enforcement trainers tells us that it is more appropriate to adopt a small set of techniques that can be learned quickly and retained for a long time without practice.
A third approach is to find instructions for non martial arts cane fighting in books or on the Internet and self-train using that. One option would be the January/February 1901 article on can fighting from Pearson’s Magazine written by E.W. Barton-Wright, and reproduced in the December 2000 (vol. 3) issue of the Journal of Non-lethal Combatives (http://ejmas.com/jnc/jncvol3_1200.htm). These articles can be found at http://ejmas.com/jnc/jncart_barton-wright_0200.htm and http://ejmas.com/jnc/jncart_barton-wright_0400.htm. While quite instructive and useful, these articles (which seem to us to cry out for heavy canes such as blackthorns), are doubtless merely a précis of what was offered in training.
Two things are striking (if you will forgive the pun) about the Barton-Wright article. First is the assumption that your adversary will also be carrying a walking stick. While this was likely true in 1901, it is not the case now. Second is the fact that while the article’s Conclusion notes that the more dangerous techniques are not described, in the less dangerous techniques shown there is a willingness to whack people over the head, or break their arms or knees.
Even assuming the basics of a reasonable claim of self-defense (opportunity, ability, jeopardy, and preclusion), you may have a hard time explaining away why you were carrying a cane when there is no medical reason for you to have one, and the amount of force used (breaking a knee is grave bodily harm). This is an acceptable risk if your life is, in fact, at risk (which happens to the average American once every 83 years, with the risk being higher in the trade). You will face liability if the situation was not as you envisioned it to be, so you must think of a cane as the equivalent of a firearm.
A more modern option is the 1923 book The “Walking Stick” Method of Self- Defence by “an officer of the Indian Police.” This book addresses directly the potential for injury of walking sticks, noting that “Certain of these exercises will occur to many as being somewhat brutal. This may be the case; but we must not overlook the fact that no sane person will employ them in any but the last resort. At the same time we should bear in mind that the individual who attacks us without provocation is unlikely to observe the “Don’t hit below the belt” rule, and when up against such a one we owe it to ourselves and those dependent on us not to allow ourselves, in an affair not of our seeking, to be overcome by an opponent out to employ any means best suited to attain his own ends, “Your money or your life!” The techniques still require you to think of the cane as being at the same level of force as a firearm. This book, available through Paladin Press (http://www.paladin- press.com/detail.aspx?ID=1086) favors the light stick, with the techniques being less obviously lethal, yet, one might hope, equally effective.
There is also a contemporary program offered by Canemasters, which will be covered in the December issue.
Independent of the approach taken, walking sticks and umbrellas can be an effective emergency safety tool, and may well be a good alternative to impact weapons for some of our professional readers.