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How To Use A Cane For Self Defense by Derek Smith

Following my article on the baton vs. escrima sticks, one of the readers asked me to write about using a cane for self-defense. I thought that was a great idea because canes can be legally carried and can be a very effective self-defense tool. I learned how to use a cane for self-defense when I earned my black belt in Hapkido.

Back in the early 1900s aristocratic Londoners trained in the gentlemanly use of the cane against street thugs. There are also self-defense canes like the popular sword canes that come in many different designs and have been carried and collected by people for years. I am sure you have seen one of these before. It would be very handy to possess a weapon cane for protection in case you are unexpectantly attacked. Having a weapon inconspicuously concealed in your walking cane could be a smart move, offering you peace of mind, especially when some street thug tries to mug you.

I won’t tell you which to buy as there are many unique styles and options to choose from, but I want to talk about using a cane for defense. For generations, the cane has been made in various forms. But while a pretty carved cane may look stylish, if you are serious about using it for self-defense the traditional hook or curved handle is the way to go in contrast to the ball-end knob or the right-angle style grip of cane, both of which I own. The hook-style handle can be used for many self-defense moves.

Let’s get to the self-defense aspects of the cane.

First, you have to get over the stigma people have about those using a cane. Many people don’t like the walking cane for self-defense because it does not go along with their age and attire or they simply don’t want to be associated with someone who may be disabled. I have a pretty snazzy cane that I carry sometimes. I have bad knees, and sometimes they hurt so bad I have to break out my cane. The thing is, even if I am not limping, people hold doors for me, let me go first through doors, etc. If that bothers you, then you will have to get over that.

This can be used to your advantage because your appearing to be weak might be the edge you need in a physical confrontation. I call that a “Combat Ruse.” Younger, stronger attackers might make the incredible mistake of thinking you are easy prey, to find out all too late that you’re not.

Another good thing about the cane is that it gives you more reach than the telescoping baton or escrima sticks I talked about in my other article. One significant advantage is that the cane is already “drawn.” You can strike with it immediately, and then draw your hidden weapon if you need to.

There is an old saying when it comes to gun fights, “The fastest draw is to have the gun in your hand when the trouble starts.” This applies to a knife, stick, or cane. The advantage is that it is a cane, not a not a gun or a knife, and therefore you can take it anywhere unless it hides a sword or knife. That might get you in trouble going through a metal detector or trying to carry it on a plane.

Here are the TSA rules on carrying a cane: “Walkers, crutches, canes or other mobility aids and devices must undergo X-ray screening. A TSA officer will inspect the item if it cannot fit through the X-ray. Notify the TSA officer if you need to be immediately reunited with the device after it is screened by X-ray.”

So, they will likely discover a hidden weapon in your cane. However, being able to take it anywhere is great news because what happens when you’re faced with a threat and your trusty pistol or blade is unavailable or prohibited? Your cane is right by your side.

Using a Cane for Self Defense

Let’s get into how you can use the cane for self-defense. With very little training and practice, you can become pretty good at defending yourself with your cane, and it can come in very handy against multiple assailants. With a little more training, you can learn some higher-level skills from sweeps, takedowns, joint locks, and even throws.

Starting with the basics, you can learn the same basic angles of attack and the methods I teach in escrima. They are twelve different angles of attack, but just the basic five will serve you well. You can also learn the types of strikes used in Japanese Cane techniques, also known as Hanbojutsu.

How to Effectively Use The Cane:

When striking with the cane, be careful not to telegraph your moves. One way people do that is by suddenly assuming the “batter’s up” baseball stance. If I saw you do this, I would wait for you to take that first awkward swing and then I would be all over you. Instead, hold the cane diagonally across your chest with two hands to use to block strikes.

Following this, you can drop back into a back stance and use the cane for a counter strike, and if trained to do so, a takedown. With a cane as your tool, delivering one hard arm or leg block may take the fight out of an attacker or cause him to lose his weapon. Here are nine angles of attacks you can use as well as how to strike your attacker.

  • No. 1 Angle of Attack. A downward diagonal slash, stab or strike toward the left side of the attacker’s head, neck, or torso.
  • No. 2 Angle of Attack. A downward diagonal slash, stab or strike toward the right side of the attacker’s head, neck, or torso.
  • No. 3 Angle of Attack. A horizontal attack to the left side of the attacker’s torso in the ribs, side, or hip region.
  • No. 4 Angle of Attack. The same as No. 3 angle, but to the right side.
  • No. 5 Angle of Attack. A jabbing, lunging, or punching attack directed straight toward the attacker’s front.
  • No. 6 Angle of Attack. An attack directed straight down upon the defender.
  • No. 7 Angle of Attack. An upward diagonal attack toward the attacker’s lower-left side.
  • No. 8 Angle of Attack. An upward diagonal attack toward the attacker’s lower-right side.
  • No. 9 Angle of Attack. An attack directed straight up-for example, to the attacker’s groin.

Some other very simple, but effective, techniques you can use include the following.

IF you are standing toe to toe with an attacker, you simply lift the cane tip and deliver a foot-crushing smash to his or her instep.

If you happen to be seated when attacked, you can deliver a straight-up, hinge-like strike to the groin or strike the stomach or chin.

If your attacker throws a kick, punch, or grab, you can deliver a sharp, forceful block with your cane shaft to inflict pain, set up a countermove or takedown. Once you do that, finish the fight with multiple strikes to vital areas until the attacker is down and out.

If attacked with a stick or knife, the cane can be used to deflect the strike.

Retaining Your Weapon

It is VERY IMPORTANT that you don’t have your weapon taken from you and used against you. So, I need to give you a weapon retention tip. If you attacker grabs your cane tip, break it free from them by rotating against the thumb, snap down, and twist the tip away the same way, you would break free from a grab. Practice this with someone and don’t assume it’ll be as easy as it sounds. The last thing you want is your means of defense taken away from you.

In one of my articles I wrote about concealed carry so, this begs the questions “Should the cane be carried by someone who also has a concealed carry pistol or knife?”

Well, my answer is yes, because as mentioned before, you may find yourself in an environment where you cannot carry your weapon. Although authorized to carry my firearm, I cannot take it to my federal job or into my kid’s school. What if I end up in an active shooter situation in one of those places and all I have is my cane. With training and practice you can learn to use your cane to establish distance, deflect, circle, or even take down an attacker, and then draw your concealed weapon immediately after. The cane may provide you a fraction of a second or a little distance to keep you from getting tied up in a close-range encounter, enabling you to shift position, draw, and connect with a shot.

When it comes down to it, a cane can be a great “all the time weapon.” THE IDEA IS TO HAVE IT WITH YOU WHEN YOU CAN’T HAVE A WEAPON OR EVEN IF YOU CAN.

Click here for brutally effective self defense moves taught by Derek Smith.

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23 thoughts on “How To Use A Cane For Self Defense by Derek Smith”

  1. I walk with a cane so the advice is most welcome. One always hopes that the lessons and advice that you give will never need to be used in a situation of real personal danger. “Be prepared” is the motto. Thank you

  2. I use a cane because of being injured on active duty. This information was great and raised my confidence. Kept up the great information your putting out.

  3. Hey guys thanks for the incredible self defence programs you continue to provide – I am a 67 year old dude and am very interested in your self defense cane – as well as your short sword – any way i can these two items from m you guys – at least let me know the dimensions of the fighting cane so I can get one similar on my own – thans for all you guys do ~~

  4. Can you write an article on how people that are disabled can defend them from attacks. I do use cane so this article is very welcome surprise. Not many people will talk about people with disabilities being able to defend themselves or in a survival situation. I know each disability is different but there must be some basics to share. Any information or techniques are welcome. Thank you for this arrival and any in the future for people with chronic illnesses and disabilities. Thank you.

  5. Well written I always have a cane with me when I go for walks, recently I walked around a corner and big unfriendly dog came at me trying eat a piece of my leg I stuck the curved end of the cane in his mouth and kicked him square in the throat. I love dogs so it pained to do this but it was enough to get me out of that situation and the dog took off so I think I scared it more than hurt it. Any way cane is good for man of beast!

  6. Hi Bob
    My name is Ivan Girvan and I learnt how to use a cane/stick when I was a 2nd dan in Aikido and I agree it’s legal to carry and people see you as an easy target.
    Thanks for your knowledge about weapons and unarmed combat unfortunately you cannot send overseas now
    Many Thanks

  7. I had a motorcycle injury, had to use a cane for a while. I had practice using the same came for self defence. Well my brother and I began sparring. With my injured knee there was not much on foot movements but was able to block his every punch and kick. He surprised me with a side kick to the abs. But all he got to do was hit the came that I moved in front of me held with both hands. The use of a cane is as important for defense as it is for a stable walk.

  8. Thank you for the info , that said I already have learned how to defend myself since 1968 , when I started learning karate and also became a boxer the next year , I continued both of these and became a karate teacher for 3 years as well . I spent 9 years learning both of these programs and was very good in using both and teaching both .

  9. Very good information. Key is to practice become as familiar with the weapon as your hands . A stick should be an extension of your arm.

  10. Thank you so much for this! I’m almost 62, a widow, and have been totally and permanently disabled since i was almost 30, from 2 failed lumbar surgeries and multiple neuropathies. Barely able to walk even with my cane, so this gives me some hope. It really stinks to be alone in the city, and babysitting my 3 and 6 year old granddaughters full time 2nd shift 6 nights a week. I’m really grateful that someone thought to share this with others like myself. My prayers go out to all of you!

  11. I received my first dan in TSD in my middle age, and have some Hapkido training, but have not trained in 15 years. I’ve become arthritic and expect to have a hip replaced soon. In my youth I could either outrun or outfight pretty much any aggressor, but running away is now clearly out of the question, and empty handed combat might not work out to my advantage either. I can carry concealed elsewhere, but reside in a location where firearms are regulated to death (mine, not my attacker’s). I have carried an MTM walking and shooting stick, which is a combination cane and rifle rest made from very heavy rotomold plastic. It was inexpensive, and looks to me like it would be very effective for close fighting, especially utilizing reinforced blows with the pointed tip. However, it does “stand out in a crowd”, and is just a bit too short for me to serve as a good walking cane. I did recently invest in Ka Bar fighting cane, which is made from extremely heavy wall aluminum tubing, but is nearly as inconspicuous as a standard walking cane. At 39″, it is plenty long. These aren’t cheap, list price is around $140, and typical new “street” price is still around $120. I found a slightly used one in an auction for about half price. Hopefully some of my old bong (the Korean fighting staff, not the water pipe 🙂 techniques will come back to me as I practice…

  12. After looking at many products including the K bar defense cane, I came to the conclusion that all of them are lacking in one important element, not enough MASS. I made one from readily available 1 inch aluminum tubing with a .250″ wall. Makes all the difference in the world and isn’t that hard to carry unless you’re severely disabled or under developed (I’m 74 and it’s no problem). One light blow to a shin or clavicle will be a bone crusher. Rather than using a conventional oversized rubber tip, I used a 1″ OD chair leg hard rubber tip from McMaster-Carr. This serves the dual purpose of an attacker not easily being able to take it away from you and a man stopper with a jab to the throat or rib cage. Expecting older people to learn martial arts that rely on constant practice and speed is ridiculous. Forget canes with a U shaped handle, supposedly used for catching a leg, neck or arm. Capturing a limb and pulling the attacker toward you is a terrible plan. A cane is a good CONTACT weapon, the more mass you can successfully bring to bear, the better your chances of disabling your attacker immediately. Ask yourself, would you dread getting hit with a ball bat more than a broom handle? It’s all about the maximum weight you can bring to a bone or vital organ, let’s don’t overthink it.

  13. I’m a 1st degree black belt in teakwondo and tang soo do. I also have experience in many other types of martial arts. I’ve worked with many different types of weapons but the cane was the one weapon that wasn’t taught. I decided to learn using the cane on my own. I’ve mastered the use of the cane and is one of my favorite weapon to use. The staff is my 2nd. When you use a cane no one expects that you have knowledge of how to use it for self defense. I’m always mentally practicing techniques and aware of my surroundings because anything can happen when you least expect it. I have a solid oak cane that is very painful for someone on the receiving end. The tips are very helpful for a novice and if you choose to learn more advanced techniques it’s that more awesome.