by George B. Wallace
Review by Craig Gemeiner
Printed in 1972, this small manual was intended as the first of 3 volumes on stick fighting for self-defense. The short introduction touches on the history of cane fighting in Europe, Asia, and North America. Famous gun fighters and frontier men such as “Wild Bill Hickok”, James “Bud” Ledbetter and con- man Soapy Smith received mention as those who found the stick a great asset in a fight when shooting was inconvenient or not possible .The author also writes about a French man who had, on several occasions, defended himself successful against Parisian hooligans with nothing more than an umbrella, seeing the advantage of using such a short and efficient weapon he developed his own system of defense based on the walking stick . Wallace goes on to write that the influence of this Frenchman’s system is partly represented in his book.
When comparing the techniques from Wallace’s book with other western stick fighting manuals it becomes apparent that the long range cuts and two handed stick work featured in SFFSD has been influence partly by the Pierre Vigny and H. G Lang methods in addition the classic clearing maneuver, upper cuts, head cuts and two handed stick work are clearly represented.
Basing his cane skills on principles relevant to modern society, as the possibility of facing an enemy with an equally weighted walking stick is a rarity, Wallace has chosen to wisely focus his attention on combating unarmed opponents from various positions of disadvantage.
Through out the introduction the reader is offered small but useful pieces of advice such as staining ones walking stick a dark color to make it difficult to visually track at night and gaining the psychological advantage when fighting single or multiple opponents by attacking first and putting the assailants on the defensive.
The author mentions that total reliance on the stick as a means of self defense will result in a deficiency in ones all round combative skills, the use of low line street kicking as taught in Savate and dirty tricks such as throwing an ash tray, pepper shaker and any liquid into the opponents face plays a part in the Wallace method.
Ways to deal with a Judo-ka, Karate-ka and Boxer are also touched on. The author points out that a two handed thrust with the walking stick can produce more shock and damage than a punch from a heavy weight Boxer. Using a crook headed cane to hook the opponents neck, legs or arms is not recommended as the cane could easily be torn from one’s grasp. Wallace goes on to mention that the training required to become proficient at handling a stick for self defense is far less strenuous and takes less time to acquire than most combat sports, making it ideal for the elderly.
Skill presentation covers stances, grip types and passive guard position’s from which to launch various attacks.
Strikes include long range cuts as mentioned earlier with additional close range hits using the pommel or butt of the stick from a variety of angles.
Two handed stick work includes grips with the hands joined as if holding and striking with a baseball bat and hands spaced, that is griping the stick at either end. Of the two grips the later permits a larger grouping of offensive and defensive maneuvers which includes sliding thrusts, two handed thrusts, end cuts, and strikes with the center shaft of the stick. Defensively two handed brace blocking is used to counter bludgeoning attacks from an assailant wielding a larger weapon to your own.
Simple counters to body holds, kicking attacks and defending oneself while seated on a park bench or in a bus are briefly covered.
The book’s format does suffer in some areas. All the photos are very small and bunched together onto several pages, which requires the reader to flick back through the manual to source the appropriate information. For easier reading the text could have been placed above or under the matching photo.
Instructors teaching traditional martial arts weaponry who generally utilize a ritualized format rarely cover the skills presented in Wallace’s book. Learning stick fighting for self-defense requires one to source a different kind of instructor and adopt a totally different kind of mindset.
While this small book cannot completely replace formal training under a competent instructor it does offer efficient skills for real world self defense.