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"Stay 'unreasonable.'  If you don't like the solutions [available to you], come up with your own." 
Dan Webre

The Martialist does not constitute legal advice.  It is for ENTERTAINMENT PURPOSES ONLY.

Copyright 2003-2004 Phil Elmore, all rights reserved.

Cane Masters: Basic Foundation and Street Techniques Videos

A Product Review by Phil Elmore


When I reviewed the Cane Masters Triple Grip fighting cane at PhilElmore.com, I was very impressed with the product.  Well made, relatively innocuous, generally legal, and remarkably versatile, the cane should be considered by anyone seeking a self-defense tool that can be taken almost anywhere.

The cane is, up to a point, a fairly intuitive instrument for delivering force.  Those inclined to take a simpler-is-better approach to self-defense will not need to go much farther than what they can intuit.  A crook-top cane is, after all, a big stick with a hook on it.  There are obvious applications of such a thing.

For those looking for more complex material, the Cane Masters instructional video line includes two tapes that complement each other.  These are the Basic Foundation and Street Techniques tapes, which I'm told are among their more popular products.

Both tapes feature Mark Shuey, Sr. and Mark Shuey, Jr., while the Foundation video includes other members of the Cane Masters team.  The elder Shuey holds multiple black belts.  The canes his company produces are highly regarded and often coveted by those who see the merits of this weapon.

CANES FOR SELF-DEFENSE

My own experience with the cane came in June of 2002.  Sparring outdoors on a broken plain of rock, I stepped into a jagged hole.  My ankle, though protected by a leather combat boot, was horribly contused and swelled to almost three times its normal size.

Finding crutches bothersome and worried about both my mobility and my self-defense prospects, I spoke with one of my teachers about learning cane techniques.  I had only a Walnut cane purchased from a local drugstore, but it was enough to get me started.  Don Rearic's introductory article on the cane helped, too.

Eventually I bought my Cane Masters triple-grip and cannot imagine not owning one now.  My teacher Dave also liked it quite a bit.  While the cane techniques with which he is familiar are not the same as those on the Cane Masters videos, the opportunity to show him wielding the cane was too good to pass up -- so I have included a couple of photos here.

The tapes are for those interested primarily in crook-top canes.  Cane aficionados often debate the merits of crook-top versus straight canes.  Those favoring straight canes argue that they are easier to use as weapons and hooking techniques are too complex or too slow to be workable for self-defense.  Crook-top fans counter that straight canes are more likely to be viewed as illegal weapons, whereas crooked canes are universally accepted.  Fans of crooked canes also argue that hooking techniques can work and are too useful to ignore completely.


David W. Pearson puts the triple-grip through its paces.

THE VIDEOS

My first impression of the videos was that the cane style the Shueys advocate appears very Karate-influenced.  Fans of hard styles in this tradition may find this to their benefit, feeling drawn to the material out of familiarity.  There will be those -- FMA practitioners, for example -- who would prefer to see greater fluidity of movement.

Production values of the tapes are okay, with some variation.  Sound is a little quiet on the Foundation video.  The camera moves in and out as needed.  There is light, unobtrusive music in the background.  The beige backdrop of the Foundation video is more interesting than a blank white wall, but not distracting.

The Street Techniques video is filmed outside in a very picturesque setting.  The natural lighting is a bit too conducive to shadow and there is some background noise from the environment, which makes the sound inaudible at times.

The Foundation video begins by describing the parts of a cane -- the horn (the end of the curved part), crook (the curved part), the shaft, and the tip (the rubber-capped end).  It continues with warm-ups, which are stressed as being very important to avoid injury to muscles and tendons.  These include:

Many specific techniques are presented on the Basic Foundation tape.  (As I indicated before, some will find this complexity appealing, while others will think it unworkable and reject it as offered.)  If I have a complaint about the "instructional design" of the tape, it is that the techniques are presented too quickly.  Rapidly listed and demonstrated on both sides of the body, the moves are thrown at the viewer at a pace that may seem a little overwhelming.  One can compensate for this by viewing the tape (or segments of it) more than once -- this is a videotape, after all -- but slowing down the actual demonstrations would be helpful.  There are graphic titles displayed on the screen with the techniques, which helps somewhat.

The techniques presented include the following, demonstrated on both sides of the body.  Footwork is integrated as appropriate, with the admonition not to cross the feet.  Punches are done with full chambering of the off hand, as in Karate.  The difference between offensive and defensive techniques is that offensive techniques are done stepping forward into the opponent, while defensive techniques are performed stepping back and away from the opponent. 

Blocks

Punches

Crook Strikes

Pokes

Swing Strikes

Strikes

Two-Handed Jabs

The tape concludes with demonstrations of twirls and figure eights with the cane, intended to teach control.  Everything is done from the back of the head rolling forward.  Figure eights can be used as a warding technique, we are told.

Mark Shuey, Sr. asserts that when  you carry your cane, you should walk as if you don't need it (unless you do).  Walk, he says, as if you have some style, occasionally twirling the cane as you stroll.  Do not look like a victim dependent on the cane, he urges.  He ends the Foundation video with the exhortation to practice.

The Street Techniques video applies some of these numerous moves to what the Shueys consider practical self-defense.  The tape features both Mark, Sr. and Mark, Jr. (I thought it this was kind of neat -- a father and son who both study the same art and instruct others in its use).

"The cane is one nasty tool," we are told.  The Shueys assert that a 95 to 98 percent chance of death exists when striking the head.  They suggest that you start lower on the body when defending yourself, working your way to the head if the situation escalates.  They also suggest, when asked why you carry a cane, to say anything but "self-defense."

While going to the attacker's blind side -- to the outside -- is preferable, moving to both the inside and the outside is covered on Street Techniques.  There are many techniques demonstrated -- a wide variety of strikes and combinations involving blocks, hooking takedowns, pokes, jabs, and even kicks.  The target, the Shueys explain, is through the body.  This is consistent with the Karate influence I saw in the tapes.

In one typical sequence, for example, Mark Sr. uses the crook and shaft, placed under Mark Jr.'s arm and behind the back of his neck, to lever him to the ground.  Not everything demonstrated is quite that complicated, however.  The response to a grab, for example, could be as simple as whacking the attacker with the cane.  Defeating various chokes, grabs, and attacks from behind are all covered in Street Techniques

Knife defense is also discussed on the Street Techniques video.  Given the controversial nature of such material, there will be those who love what is presented, those who hate it, and those who don't get terribly excited about it.

One technique demonstrated, for example, involves striking the inside of the knife hand with the tip of the cane, following up with the crook end to move into a takedown after a head strike.  The defender steps offline of the attack but to the opponent's inside.

Mark Jr. discusses knife anatomy and explains that one must never use the inside of the arms to defend against a knife.  He also talks about distance and the advantage in distance provided by the cane.

"Defanging the snake" is demonstrated, striking the hand and wrist, then controlling that hand as you counterstrike with the cane.  Do not ever hesitate, the Shueys warn.

Another technique demonstrated is a defense against the classic "Norman Bates in Psycho" overhead stab.  The defender strikes and moves offline, counterattacking with the crook of the cane.  Do not be mild, we are told -- because a knife is lethal force, which justifies striking to the throat and attacking other potentially fatal targets.  Once your attacker is on the ground, however, Mark Sr. advocates leaving him there.  Do not "overdo it."

Blocks demonstrated are fan blocks, using the cane for advantage.  Parries and counterstrikes are used to defeat thrusts.  Mark Sr. also talks about controls and breaks that can be done by using the crook of the cane around the neck.  He demonstrates a circular parry and follow-up taken into a neck hook control/break (all while moving to the outside of the attacker).

The Shueys also demonstrate a scenario in which a knife is held to the defender's throat from behind.  Grabbing the hand and using the cane to pry it down, the defender follows-up while still holding the knife hand.

"I hope and pray that you will never get attacked with anything," Mark Sr. explains.  "I hope you never have to use these canes for what I sell them for."  He urges the viewers to avoid finding themselves wanting a cane.  Buy one and then carry it -- and use it like you mean it.

CANES AND YOU

Opinions of individual instructional videos are always relatively subjective.  The Cane Masters videos may be exactly what you want when training with the cane, particularly if you study Karate, or they may be totally unacceptable to you.  The cane itself, however, is a tool whose versatility you cannot afford to ignore.

In a world increasingly hostile to the possession of defensive weaponry, the use of benign and accepted items like canes for individual protection is something I advocate to everyone reading this.  Do yourself a favor and explore the Cane Masters products.

Don't wait until you need a cane to discover that you want one.