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The Cane, Senior Citizens, and Police Tactics

In past articles for Arresting Solutions, I've written about the value of the 36" riot baton to law-enforcement. In addition to the crowd control aspect of the baton, I discussed the baton's versatility as a personal defensive weapon, aiding an officer in defending against attacks, and restraining and controlling an assailant. These techniques are effective for law-enforcement officers, but may be ill-suited to the public in general and senior citizens in particular. Yet, there are many seniors who use a cane for support. Since a cane is approximately 36" in length, it would seem to be a practical tool for seniors when confronted with a threatening situation, whether the threat is unarmed or armed.

This author recalls thinking about the cane's value some thirty-five years ago, after learning that some systems of Korean martial arts (e.g., Hwa Rang Do, Hapkido-Do) taught the cane as part of their curriculum. Back then, the number of schools teaching cane techniques outside of Korean dojos could be counted on the fingers of one hand. Today, the cane is not only being taught by non-traditional schools, but by numerous Karate dojos, including those whose style did not include weapons, or those whose style only included the traditional weapons of Okinawa. The question now becomes, does the teaching of cane techniques to seniors warrant a place in police tactics? (It is noted that there are many non-seniors who need the use of a cane to assist them. This article deals specifically with seniors.)

If one looks at the various types of cane techniques being offered, it seems that they fall into three categories: cane techniques as part of a traditional Korean martial arts curriculum; cane techniques which emphasize an aggressive approach and style in the implementation of the techniques; cane techniques which are primarily defensive or even passive in nature. Logic demands that the first two categories are simply not appropriate to teach seniors. If they need a cane to assist them in walking, moves requiring much flexibility or much strength or much speed could not be applied, even if the seniors were willing to learn.


With this in mind, we return to the question as to whether police departments should include the use of the cane in its curriculum, focusing on those techniques which are applicable and useful to seniors.

In the opinion of this writer, the answer is a qualified "yes". As a group, seniors are most vulnerable to muggings and robberies. This is a sad reality. Why should they not be provided with a practical means to defend themselves in threatening situation? Here is where the qualified "yes" comes into play. There are considerations outside the techniques themselves which must be realized and addressed. Many seniors have health issues, and training, even non-intensive training, could pose a risk. Prior to learning, a physician's note could be required, and the instructor should have knowledge of just how much exertion may be used, as well as CPR for in the event of an emergency. Additionally, seniors too must operate within the parameters of the law in terms of force appropriate to the situation. As law-enforcement officers teaching the techniques (as opposed to private instructors), this knowledge can be imparted adequately and professionally. Further, there are the techniques themselves. They should be intelligent, and using the principles of Taiho-Jutsu, should be easy to learn, easy to use, and will increase the odds of the senior's safety. Lastly, the seniors must not develop a sense of false confidence. They should not, for example, think that the cane is a good weapon to use if approached by an attacker with a gun. Nor is it a magical defense against multiple attackers. Giving up a wallet and possessions is better than giving up your life.

In conclusion, while it may not be fiscally practical to include a special unit within a department to teach cane defenses to seniors, it seems that it could be a wonderful means to preserve the safety and dignity of this valuable segment of our population.

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