I t’s not of­ten that two big-name artists ex­press a will­ing­ness to share the spot­light in an ar­ti­cle. It’s even less fre­quent that we see two masters col­lab­o­rate to cre­ate a self-de­fense sys­tem that bor­rows from each per­son’s ex­per­tise. Be­cause it is so rare, Black Belt jumped at the chance to cor­ral Dana Ab­bott and Mark Shuey Sr. — both bona fide weapons ex­perts and Black Belt Hall of Famers — so the mag­a­zine could pro­vide the public with the lowdown on a new sys­tem of prac­ti­cal self-de­fense.

The ed­i­tors chose me to re­search and write this story be­cause I’ve known both mar­tial artists for quite some time — in Ab­bott’s case, about three years, and in Shuey’s, more than 20.

THE CANE MAS­TER In the mid-1990s at a tour­na­ment in Hawaii, I got my first glimpse of Shuey and his com­bat cane. He was com­pet­ing, and I was judg­ing his ring. He seemed a stoic fel­low, stand­ing there with his weapon at his side, pa­tiently wait­ing. When his turn came, he per­formed flaw­lessly, demo­ing a range of ul­tra-prac­ti­cal cane tech­niques.

I mused at how re­fresh­ing it was to watch a skilled black belt wield a weap- on with an em­pha­sis on com­bat rather than flashy ma­neu­vers. Later, I asked Shuey how he made his cane rou­tine look so real. “I just vi­su­al­ize that I’m be­ing at­tacked and that I’ve got to use life-or-death moves,” he said. “I’m out there break­ing bones.”

I re­count that story be­cause it’s in­te­gral to un­der­stand­ing what makes Mark Shuey tick. You see, Shuey de­vel­oped an en­tire sys­tem based on prac­ti­cal and ef­fec­tive cane fight­ing. Called Amer­i­can Cane Sys­tem, it’s prop­a­gated through Cane Masters In­ter­na­tional As­so­ci­a­tion (cane­mas­ters.com), an en­tity he founded in 2000.

The in­spi­ra­tion for many of the moves that make up ACS come from

tang soo do, taek­wondo and hap­kido, all of which he holds black belts in, as well as var­i­ous forms of stick fight­ing. The re­sult is a con­tent-rich eclec­tic sys­tem of cane fight­ing that in­cludes both lin­ear and cir­cu­lar move­ments for ef­fec­tive­ness in vir­tu­ally any self­de­fense sit­u­a­tion.

“One-hand and two-hand po­si­tion­ing, close quar­ters, small cir­cle, fenc­ing — we prac­tice it all be­cause you never know how you’ll be at­tacked,” Shuey says. “The more you know, the bet­ter you’ll be able to win a con­fronta­tion.”

THE SWORDS­MAN The first time I saw Ab­bott in ac­tion was at the 2005 Black Belt Fes­ti­val of Mar­tial Arts in Los An­ge­les. He and Frank Sham­rock were en­gaged in a sword-fight­ing chal­lenge match of sorts us­ing padded weapons. Sham­rock gave it his best, but Ab­bott just toyed with the fish-out-of-wa­ter MMA champ. The speed, power and fi­nesse the swords­man dis­played left an in­deli­ble im­pres­sion on me.

The first time I met Ab­bott in per­son was in 2012. We’ve con­versed on nu­mer­ous oc­ca­sions since then, and I got to spend sev­eral days learn­ing his samu­rai ways while writ­ing “Zero to 60: How Ken­jutsu Mas­ter Dana Ab­bott Trans­formed 3 Mar­tial Artists With Limited Blade Skills Into Ef­fi­cient Swords­men!” for the De­cem­ber 2014/ Jan­uary 2015 is­sue of Black Belt.

Ab­bott has trained in the tra­di­tional Ja­panese sword arts for 40 years. He owns Samu­rai Sports (samu­rais­ports .com), an or­ga­ni­za­tion he uses to mar­ket his prod­ucts and ser­vices. Much of what he teaches are time-hon­ored bush

ido tac­tics and prin­ci­ples that have been passed down in Ja­pan for gen­er­a­tions.

Such is the back­ground that Ab­bott con­trib­uted to ACS.

Be­fore dig­ging into the meat and pota­toes of ACS, it’s worth dis­cussing the sys­tem’s weapon of choice. Word to the wise: If you’re go­ing to train for com­bat with a cane, you’d bet­ter make cer­tain you’ve got one that will with­stand abuse in the dojo and po­ten­tially on the street.

“Hav­ing an in­fe­rior cane can get you hurt,” says Shuey, who pro­duces his own line of weapons. “My canes are at least ½ inch big­ger around than most canes. If you hit some­one with a chintzy drug­store cane, it’s likely to break. If you whack some­one with one of mine, it’s likely to break a bone.”

Shuey de­signs his mod­els with a crook that en­ables the user to en­cir­cle var­i­ous parts of an op­po­nent’s body — like his arms, legs and neck. “That al­lows you to use it to crank on some­one’s limbs,” he says.

Be­cause it can be used to strike as well as to crank, the cane of­fers a ver­sa­til­ity that’s sel­dom seen in mar­tial arts weaponry. For in­stance, you can hang onto ei­ther end while swing­ing it, and you also can jab with the tip, ap­ply pres­sure with the shaft and en­tan­gle with the crook. “There are 26 ways to hold one of my canes, of­fer­ing you a va­ri­ety of locks, lever­ages and strikes — in­clud­ing pres­sure-point strikes,” Shuey says.

Hold­ing the cane with one hand lets you strike with more power be­cause you can gen­er­ate greater speed, which can come in handy if you’re ever fac­ing a thug with a knife, Shuey says. “You can hold the cane be­hind you with one hand, then in­stantly swing it up to 200 miles an hour. First, you hit the hand hold­ing the knife, then you smash the head.”

In con­trast, two-hand grips af­ford you more con­trol, he says. “You can �ight up close, do mul­ti­ple strikes and even use the crook to rip the skin off an at­tacker’s neck or other body parts.”

Such is the ver­sa­til­ity that Shuey brought to this mar­tial part­ner­ship.


In­ter­est­ingly, much of that ver­sa­til­ity is of lit­tle con­cern to Ab­bott when he teaches the ACS cur­ricu­lum. Like all stu­dents of the Ja­panese sword, he tends to be a min­i­mal­ist when it comes to tech­nique. It’s why he prefers to adapt the cane to the sword move­ments he’s burned into mus­cle memo-

ry while keep­ing the num­ber of vari­a­tions small.

When he wields a cane, Ab­bott imag­ines him­self with a sword — which is why he al­ways points the weapon at his en­emy. As he ma­neu­vers, he can stab at his op­po­nent’s face, neck and chest, or raise the cane over­head be­fore smack­ing him on the nog­gin or the hand.

Ab­bott isn’t into cane de­sign; he’s con­tent to leave that to Shuey. In­stead, he fo­cuses on grip and po­si­tion­ing. Re­lax, re-grip, ready po­si­tion, guard — those four com­mands are of­ten heard when Ab­bott teaches ACS.

Re­lax refers to your state when you’re us­ing the cane as a walk­ing aid or ma­neu­ver­ing it for no par­tic­u­lar pur­pose. You’re nor­mally grasp­ing the crook, Ab­bott says.

Re-grip refers to the �irst thing you do when con­fronting a threat. “Bring both arms down to your sides, loosen your grip on top of the crook and al­low your right hand to slide down to where the curve be­gins,” Ab­bott says. “Re-grip in this new po­si­tion.”

Ready po­si­tion refers to the stance you as­sume when trou­ble is un­fold­ing. “Bend your el­bows to raise your fore­arms and the cane,” Ab­bott says. “Com­plete the two-hand grip by grasp­ing the shaft with your left hand in front of your right hand, which is close to the crook.” The cane should be held fairly low with the tip aimed at your op­po­nent’s chest.

“Guard is your ini­tial line of de­fense, which es­tab­lishes your phys­i­cal perime­ter,” Ab­bott says. “There are two guard po­si­tions: the full guard and the half­guard, both of which are ex­e­cuted from the ready po­si­tion. In the full guard, your for­ward arm is par­al­lel to the ground and the tip is point­ing to­ward the ag­gres­sor’s throat, keep­ing him at bay. In the half-guard, your for­ward arm is bent at the el­bow. The half-guard protects your head and shoul­ders from close-quar­ters at­tacks.”

In the guard po­si­tion, you’re poised to attack, de­fend or ma­neu­ver out of harm’s way, Ab­bott says. Note that you can ex­e­cute tech­niques from the ready po­si­tion, but most are more ef­fi­cient and ef­fec­tive when done from the guard.

TECH­NIQUES FOR COM­BAT When us­ing a cane as a sword, Ab­bott teaches that you have ac­cess to tech­niques that fall into four cat­e­gories.

“A strike is a long-dis­tance tool,” Ab­bott says. “It’s of­ten done from the up­ward po­si­tion, where you lift the cane above your shoul­ders and bring it down­ward onto your op­po­nent. Di­rect strikes can tar­get the head, neck, torso, arms, hands or other boney ar­eas. You can use strikes to hit the at­tacker or just to keep him out of range.

“The jab is for thrust­ing and stabbing. Tar­get ar­eas are the head, neck, so­lar plexus and groin.

“A rap is a short-dis­tance strike. Speed and power are gen­er­ated from the cen­ter of your body. It strikes or pushes your op­po­nent away. Tar­get ar­eas in­clude the head, neck, torso, arms and hands.

“A hook is a short-range tool used like an up­per­cut — for when some­one gets too close or has grabbed you.” It uses the crook to make con­tact, Ab­bott says.

No mat­ter which of th­ese tech­niques you use, don’t ne­glect sit­u­a­tional aware­ness, Shuey says. “Pay at­ten­tion to your sur­round­ings. Most peo­ple who are at­tacked never see it com­ing.”

If a �ight erupts, go all-out, Shuey con­tin­ues. “When you �ight soft, you

get hurt. Put out [max­i­mum] ef­fort un­til the at­tacker is down and the threat is gone.”


You’re al­ready an ac­com­plished mar­tial artist. Why should you con­sider learn­ing ACS for per­sonal de­fense? The fol­low­ing are among the rea­sons Shuey sug­gests:

You can carry a cane any­where. It’s the only weapon you can legally pos­sess on a plane, in a theme park or wher­ever.

Your cane will al­ways be in your hand and ready to deploy. You never have to pull it out of a pocket or purse.

The cane’s con­struc­tion en­ables you to keep an at­tacker up to 5 feet away — or gen­er­ate lever­age at close range.

With the right train­ing, you can as­sume a ready po­si­tion or guard stance with the cane in front of your body, let­ting the ag­gres­sor know he’s fac­ing a mar­tial artist who’s pre­pared to de­fend him­self. That alone can de­ter an attack, which, Shuey and Ab­bott agree, is al­ways prefer­able to en­gag­ing in an ac­tual �ight.

Black Belt eall of camer Dana Ab­bott holds his sword in a ready po­si­tion (1). ee cham­bers the weapon over his right shoul­der (2) be­fore ex­e­cut­ing a down­ward cut (3).

Black Belt eall of camer Mark Shuey holds his cane in a half-guard po­si­tion as he faces the threat (1). then the man be­comes ag­gres­sive, Shuey cham­bers the weapon (2) and swings it down­ward into the ex­posed part of the op­po­nent’s neck (3).

(1). When the de­fender is cer­tain that the man plans to attack, he thrusts the tip of the cane into his throat (2). Shuey then steps for­ward and ex­e­cutes an up­ward strike to the chin us­ing the crook (3). If the op­po­nent is still a threat, Shuey can cham­ber the cane over his right shoul­der (4) and drive it down­ward into his chest (5). Shuey has the op­tion to con­tinue with a di­ag­o­nal strike to the base of the neck (6).


Although the cane-as-a-sword tech­niques that Mark Shuey and aana Ab­bott have de­vised will work with any sturdy hooked walk­ing stickI they’re more ef­fec­tive when ex­e­cuted with a spe­cially de­signed tool like this one from Cane MastersK



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