26 March 2009

Human Interest News: Cane-Fu Fighting for Elderly

From Denny: Now this is an interesting development for the elderly. They are learning how to use a walking cane, especially designed to be effective against attackers, as a new style of self-defense martial arts.

Here are a few excerpts from the article:

"At the helm of the class is one of the country's most recognized cane fighters, Mark Shuey, a slight man who, at 62, has hair and skin starting to show signs of age. He has traveled from Lake Tahoe, Nev., to teach this group of 16 how to protect themselves from attackers.

"He calls it Cane-Fu.

"Cane fighting classes have popped up all over the country, in part due to the influence of Cane Masters, the company Shuey founded that sells wood canes made of harder, thicker wood, to sustain wear and wider crooks to fit around an attacker's neck. Now, it's being offered at dojos and increasingly in senior centers and retirement communities.

"'You don't have to be powerful, you don't have to be fast,' said Gary Hernandez, who runs the dojo here northeast of Tampa where the session was held and where he teaches cane fighting classes himself. 'It's a piece of hard wood. It hurts...'

"Fitness alone won't ward off those who might hurt them, though, and Shuey talks briefly of recent attacks on elders. His hazel eyes look severe as he points to the cane and delivers his message.

"'When you put this little crook around someone's neck, their whole attitude changes real fast,' he said...

"It takes years to master cane fighting like Hernandez or Shuey, but they say they can teach a senior several crucial moves in an hour. Perhaps more importantly, though, it gives them confidence that can help them escape a dangerous situation...

"It isn't an entirely new use for the cane. In ancient Rome and Egypt, canes were used as weapons. In the 13th century, swinging a cane before a member of royalty would assure your beheading. In the 17th century, canes required a permit.

"'Things changed 200 or 300 years ago. You don't want to take a cane to a gunfight, so the cane became a crutch and it's been visualized as that for the last couple hundred years,' Shuey said. 'Today when you carry a cane, they think you're a gimp.'"

By Matt Sedensky @ AP
Photo by AP

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