Mitchell’s Martial Arts studio in Centerville, Ohio teaches cane fu fighting to senior citizens for the purposes of exercise and self defense.
Senior centers and retirement communities are looking for new ways to promote exercise in order to stave off physical decline. Older people interested in honing their self-defense skills, meanwhile, are delighted to find that something they already own can be used as a weapon. Lena Mast, the manager of a senior home in Maryland called Lodges at Naylor Mill, said that the cane fu fighting classes have been a huge hit, and the senior residents really look forward to them.
Mitchell’s Martial Arts teaches cane fighting at five senior centers a week, and also has been demonstrating the cane at local health fairs. Cane Masters, near Reno, one of a number of schools that report rising demand from seniors, expects to teach 110 cane-fighting classes around the country.
Cane Masters is run by 61-year-old Mark Shuey, an expert at tae kwon do and hapkido. He started studying cane fighting while practicing his hapkido, which at advanced levels uses stick fighting techniques. He noticed that his father was using a walking stick and came to the conclusion that the stick could also function as a defensive weapon.
Cane-fighting converts say one of the best things about the cane is that it’s a legal weapon that can be carried anywhere, unconcealed. “No one will tell you can’t take it on an airplane,” says Victor Cushing, a 68-year-old who teaches women’s self-defense at the University of Scranton, in Pennsylvania.