The carrying of a cane, or walking stick, is so much a fashion and is such a universal and ancient practice, that is would almost seem to be the survival of an instinct implanted by the habit or necessity of carrying some more substantial club for self-defence. The game of single-stick was formerly well known and practiced, and it is surprising that whilst all other branches of sport in and out doors, have their conspicuous positions in the world of athletics, the art of single-stick up to the present date is so little understood.

Single-stick practice has indeed fared even worse than the foil. Canes are carried just as much as ever by the sterner sex, but in the main they are merely carried as mute companions. The usefulness of the cane as a weapon is overlooked.

In view of these facts, I am prompted to write upon the subject and explain, as clearly as it is possible to do in writing, what a trustworthy friend a walking-stick becomes in the hands of one who knows how to use it.

Few persons who carry canes or umbrellas realise that they have at once an effective and, in the hands of a skilled fencer, a formidable weapon for protection against assault.

Even in the hands of a novice it may be so wielded as to stand off and subsequently subdue a " gang" of roughs when no other weapon, except possibly a revolver, would avail.

The principal advantages of the cane are these:
  • First, your opponent is kept at a distance, and therefore you get a free opportunity to defend yourself against the attacks of others.
  • Next, your weapon is always loaded and is equally effective at long or short range.
  • Last, but by no-means least, there is no law against carrying a cane, while most stringent regulations govern that of revolvers.
Many have witnessed the use of the stick in repelling attacks on many occasions, and the user of it always came forth victorious from the mêlée. In Europe the use of the single-stick is cultivated both for itself and as a preliminary training for sabre fencing, as the use of the latter heavier weapons requires that the wrist should be trained to withstand the strain. Such is the success of such training that is was compulsory in most Cavalry Regiments of the British Army.

Now to explain how the cane is to be use for self-defence. Although it is not possible to attain as much proficiency in its use without the aid of competent instructor, it is possible to learn the method of delivering the cuts, and by practice, become fairly adept by merely following basic instructions of the cut and thrusts found in many fencing manuals.

  • The point thrust is most effective in close quarters, for it attacks the solar plexus of pugilistic notoriety, and no matter how powerful a man may be it is a knockout blow.
  • Let us suppose one is attacked by three thugs. Turing your attention to the nearest you play for the head, if possible, but if that is too well guarded resort to shin cut, using all the force that you can command. If properly delivered that means ‘one man out’. In the meantime your other assailants will most probably rush at you front and rear; such is the time to call into play the point and butt thrust. Should, however, one of the opponents try, by bending down to get under your cane, either use an upper cut or a blow on back of the neck. Should he straighten himself plant your point for the stomach - all this can be done in an instant.
  • If an assailant comes at you armed with a knife or razor, cut for the arms, and, on his dropping it, proceed with treatment as before. The thrust for the eye is sometimes used, but should only be resorted to as an extreme measure, for it might prove fatal.
  • There is no reason why a lady should not cultivate the use of the stick, for while it is giving her a healthy and invigorating exercise, it is training her in a means of protecting herself in case of emergency.
For greatest success the cane should be of thoroughly seasoned, straight-gained hickory, tapered like a billiard cue, about one and a half inches at a butt, down to three-fourths of an inch at the point. The butt should be surmounted by a knob of silver or other heavy ferrule. Under no circumstances should a crook handle be used (except in the French system of La Canne, as it is apt to become entangled in the clothing at the critical moment, and in such mêlées every second counts.

It might be well to say also, in the event of an encounter, see that, if possible, you have a clear space on all sides so that you may have ample opportunity, by quick advances, retreats, and side-steps most advantageous, to wield your weapon.

Another point of great value is to maintain a safe distance from the assailants by executing retreats, advances, and side-steps to right and left according to their position when attacking. Do not forget that all movements must be executed with rapidity and precision. This is where the knowledge of handling your cane comes in.

Play for the face when the opportunity offers, but always employ the point thrust for the stomach, and the cut or the shin. After you have punished one or two out of a crowd, the rest will often take to their heels.

Let it be said that it is not the intention of this article to prove that, so armed, one is invincible, but that, if used with precision, the cane outranks most other weapons, with the exception noted, as a means of protection.

Finally, my advice is, keep out of quarrels if possible, but if the encounter is inevitable keep constantly moving, not only your body but the stick, and remember, the first blow very often decides the outcome of the battle.

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