Archive for cane

When Congress Was Armed

Posted in Commentary, Masters and History with tags , , , , , on January 12, 2011 by bigstickcombat

Old School Congress

When Congress Was Armed and Dangerous is a surprising, informative article that sheds light on the way the American congress really was.

In the rough-and-tumble Congress of the 1830s, 1840s and 1850s, politicians regularly wore weapons on the House and Senate floors, and sometimes used them.

During one 1836 melee in the House, a witness observed representatives with “pistols in hand.” In a committee hearing that same year, one House member became so enraged at the testimony of a witness that he reached for his gun; when the terrified witness refused to return, he was brought before the House on a charge of contempt.

Perhaps most dramatic of all, during a debate in 1850, Senator Henry Foote of Mississippi pulled a pistol on Senator Thomas Hart Benton of Missouri. (Someone eventually took it from his hand.) Foote had decided in advance that if he felt threatened, he would grab his gun and run for the aisle in the hope that stray shots wouldn’t hit bystanders.

Most famously, in 1856, Representative Preston Brooks of South Carolina caned Senator Charles Sumner of Massachusetts on the Senate floor so brutally that Sumner had to be virtually carried from the chamber — and did not retake his seat for three years. Clearly, wielded with brute force, a cane could be a potent weapon.

By the 1850s, violence was common in Washington. Not long after Sumner’s caning, a magazine told the story of a Michigan judge who traveled by train to the nation’s capital: “As he entered the main hall of the depot, he saw a man engaged in caning another ferociously, all over the room. ‘When I saw this,’ says the judge, ‘I knew I was in Washington.’”

In Congress, violence was often deployed strategically. Representatives and senators who were willing to back up their words with their weapons had an advantage, particularly in the debate over slavery. Generally speaking, Northerners were least likely to be armed, and thus most likely to back down. Congressional bullies pressed their advantage, using threats and violence to steer debate, silence opposition and influence votes.

In 1842, Representative Thomas Arnold of Tennessee, a member of the Whig Party, learned the hard way that these bullies meant business. After he reprimanded a pro-slavery member of his own party, two Southern Democrats stalked toward him, at least one of whom was armed with a bowie knife — a 6- to 12-inch blade often worn strapped to the back. Calling Arnold a “damned coward,” his angry colleagues threatened to cut his throat “from ear to ear.” But Arnold wasn’t a man to back down. Ten years earlier, he had subdued an armed assassin on the Capitol steps.

As alarming as these outbursts were, until the 1840s, reporters played them down, in part to avoid becoming embroiled in fights themselves. (A good many reporters received beatings from outraged congressmen; one nearly had his finger bitten off.) So Americans knew relatively little of congressional violence.

Congressman Lincoln Davis Decides to Upgrade from a .38 Special Snubbie

As a practitioner of the big stick, I was especially interested by the comment, “Clearly, wielded with brute force, a cane could be a potent weapon.”

Of course I am not condoning threats and violence over political (or other) disagreements, but it is enlightening to compare and contrast the bold men of the past with the mealy-mouth representatives of today:

Senate Sergeant at Arms Terrance Gainer confirmed on ABC’s Good Morning America this morning that threats to congressmen increased from 2009 to 2010, but he doesn’t believe more members carrying guns is the answer. “I’ve been a policeman for 42 years, and I don’t think introducing more guns to the situation is helpful,” he said. “I think we should leave the law enforcement and security to those professionals.”

Let us ignore for the moment that many congressmen are wealthy, and can afford to live in gated communities and leave only with their own armed bodyguards. In New York, which has some of the nation’s most repressive gun laws, wealthy residents could hire off-duty cops, who were the few people in town who could legally carry guns. (William F. Buckley Jr. was one of a handful to get a legally issued gun permit, and he was hardly a taco truck driver.) So the wealthy were protected, the cops had guns and extra cash, and who cared about some poor guy in Harlem trying to get home at night?

So here we have the same tired advice: don’t arm yourself; don’t fight back, just get raped; don’t carry a gun or a knife, carry a whistle and yell “Fire!” Leave it to the professionals, who are in no way responsible for preventing you from being victimized. Never mind that every hero at the scene of the Tucson massacre was not a professional (God bless them), but an amateur.

No congressman, nor any citizen, should have to live in fear. Denying gun and speech rights is not the solution to the acts of a madman.

Congresswoman Giffords–Wishing her the best.




The Problem with Cane Techniques

Posted in Masters and History, Other Stick Methods, Weapons with tags , , , , , , on April 13, 2010 by bigstickcombat

Many martial artists are looking for effective cane/walking stick techniques, yet finding efficient, no-nonsense techniques isn’t easy. I think there are several reasons for the shortage of powerful walking stick techniques.

I Guess 1 Out of 4 Ain't Bad.

1.  Some of the techniques out there are pure garbage. There are more bad techniques with the cane than with any other weapon. Don’t kid yourself if you’re planning on wading into an opponent in full fist-thrashing mode, hooking his neck, spinning, and throwing him to the ground. The fancy armlock techniques are no match for right and left hooks to the head. One group even sells sticks with nodes so you can rub them against the opponent!

2. Some of the old WWII vintage styles have some solid techniques, but the martial arts world has evolved considerably since then. I feel that these styles overemphasize close range techniques over long range techniques. What is needed is for intelligent, dedicated practitioners to help modernize and improve these systems.

Old School Fairbairn

For example, Tapado is a relatively new stick fighting system (even though some say it is based in an older Oido system). After studying with the late founder GM Mamar, GM Vasquez improved the art, so that it evolved even further. It is no disrespect to the old masters or to the validity of their teaching to advance the art.

3. The Vigny techniques are based on a light cane (reed) which is more of a light whip than a heavier bat. These techniques are effective for a lighter weapon, but ill-suited to a heavier weapon (such as the stance with the stick held in the right hand over the head, the tip pointed forward at the opponent. Try that with a bat.

Try This with a Bat

4. Most of the Filipino Martial artists who do the stick approach it from a short-stick perspective. A long stick is governed by an entirely different set of principles, and attempts to treat the walking stick as a “long short stick” are doomed to be ineffective. Some “long stick” styles are merely using longer rattan sticks –in my opinion the big stick must be more substantial than a rattan stick with a few extra inches. Even many of the Filipino long stick stylists are rooted in one-handed techniques, perhaps because of an emphasis on sword or blade technique.

A Long Stick, But Not a Big Stick.

My aim is perhaps unique, to take the sophistication of the Filipino long stick systems and merge them with old school stick/bayonet combat and heavier weapons, like the bat.

Real Life Combat:Psycho Attacks Doctor

Posted in Princples and Theory, Real Life Combat with tags , , , on January 3, 2010 by bigstickcombat

What Went Down

In the March ’09 issue of Combat Handguns, a doctor specializing in pain medicine tells of his nightmarish encounter with an addicted, mentally unstable patient who began stalking the doctor after he refused to prescribe drugs to the addict. The unhinged patient had sent threatening, semi-coherent letters to the doctor.

One day the addict showed up in the doctor’s office, in an angry and confrontational mood. He thrust one of his rambling screeds to the nurse, while loudly warning that he was at the “breaking point.” The doctor and his staff were safe behind a locked door. The police had been called and were on their way.

Then the doctor saw a young woman in the waiting area. Fearing for her safety, he decided to go out and talk to the agitated addict.

Without warning the psycho clawed at the doctor, ripping his shirt and scratching his chest. The crazed man then drew back his cane with both hands like a baseball batter, and swung at the doctor’s head.

The doctor caught the cane with his right hand, just inches from his temple.

Successful defense, right? Not quite.

The psycho then yanked on the cane, and the doctor heard a sickening sound like a turkey leg being torn from the carcass. His rotator cuff had been damaged, and he will live for the rest of his life with the effects of the injury.

The doctor quickly retreated to his office, where he got a pistol. He could hardly chamber it because of the agonizing pain in his arm. Once the addict saw the gun, he fled.

Lessons Learned

  1. Unfortunately for the doctor, the psycho made a couple of good decisions. He used a long stick –even though it would have been worse if he had used a heavier stick. Most walking canes are too light.
  2. The psycho wielded the cane with both hands. If he had used one hand, he wouldn’t have hit as hard. Also, because he had two hands on the stick he was able to counter the doctor’s hold on his cane, with disastrous consequences for the doctor.
  3. Just because you grab an attacker’s stick, or he grabs yours, the fight is not over. You can and should learn how to counter a grabbing opponent.
  4. The psycho did not know how to strike. With a heavier stick and proper power strikes, the psycho would have crushed the doctor.
  5. If you have a gun, have it with you. The doctor should have had the gun discreetly hidden. He also should have maintained distance. In combat, distance gives you enough critical time to detect and respond to an attack.

My Weapon of Choice

Posted in Weapons with tags , , , , , , , on November 30, 2009 by bigstickcombat

Any weapon is a trade off in qualities.

While the 28 inch short stick (and the very short stick, too) used in most Filipino martial arts is useful in close, it lacks stopping power and reach.

The short staff of Tapado has incredible stopping power, but it is cumbersome in close. Both the short stick and the short staff are obviously weapons, and awkward or illegal to carry to a party, on the street, or in a car.

I believe that the long stick is the ideal combination of characteristics. It has greater reach, and as a two-handed weapon, greater stopping power. A walking stick, a cane, and a baseball bat are legal and can be carried inconspicuously.

The real challenge with the long stick is to use it effectively in close, especially because opponents will either attack from close range or try to move in to close range to negate the reach and power advantages of the long stick. I believe that with the right techniques and training, it is possible to overcome the close range Achilles heel of the long stick.

My weapon of choice is a light baseball bat. In a future post I will explain the advantages of the baseball bat as a weapon.

Seated Defense

Posted in American Arts, Videos with tags , , , , on November 28, 2009 by bigstickcombat

I’ve uploaded a video on defense while seated.

I got the idea from an old Wallace textbook from the 70’s on long stick self-defense, depicted in the photos above.