Choosing a weapon for self-defense can be a real challenge. Ideally, you want something that offers both lethal and non-lethal capability, allows you to fight at a distance, is easy to carry, inexpensive, and is innocuous enough to be legal to carry virtually everywhere. Sound too good to be true? Well, it’s not. The weapon I’m referring to is the cane, and it’s one of the best-kept secrets in self-defense.
In addition to serving as a mobility aid, the cane can be a very potent personal-defense tool. Best of all, it is a weapon that you will invariably have “in hand” when the fight starts, so weapon deployment is never an issue.
While most sturdy canes can be used for self-defense, some are purpose-designed to maximize their potential as defensive weapons. Let’s take a look at two examples that take the humble cane to new combative heights.
TDI’s Heavy Metal
Unlike typical gun-centric schools, TDI (Tactical Defense Institute) focuses heavily on non-firearm defensive skills and is perhaps best known for its groundbreaking TDI/KA-BAR Knife, a weapon-retention tool that has found great favor with law enforcement officers. Recently TDI President and Chief Instructor, John Benner teamed up with KA-BAR again to offer another unique less-lethal weapon: the TDI Cane.
The shaft of the TDI Cane is constructed of 6061-T6 aircraft aluminum tubing with a 1/8-inch wall thickness permanently mated to a solid aluminum crook. The end of the crook is finished to provide an angled—but not too sharp—edge that focuses the energy of the crook’s tip without turning the cane into a fisherman’s gaff. Two sections of machine knurling on the cane’s shaft, one near the crook and one a few inches up from the tip, offer a secure grip without being too aggressive or abrasive to the user’s hands.
Customize Your Cane
Right out of the box, the TDI Cane measures 39 inches long with a cylindrical shaft that is 1 inch in diameter. As all savvy cane users know, a cane’s length must be tailored to the user’s height to allow it to be used comfortably. With your arms hanging relaxed at your sides, the cane should reach the height of your wrist, so that when it’s in use, your elbow bends about 15 to 20 degrees. Achieving this with the TDI Cane is easy. Just remove the rubber tip, use an ordinary hacksaw to cut the shaft to the proper length, and replace the tip. The cane sports a durable baked-on black polyester powder-coat finish.
Weighing an impressive 34 ounces, it is noticeably heavier than ordinary geriatric canes and most so-called combat canes on the market, but not so heavy that it is burdensome to carry.
A few practice strikes on a heavy bag quickly confirmed that the TDI Cane hits hard and transfers energy into its target exceptionally well without reverberation or kickback. Although it might be argued that it is somewhat heavy for people with very limited physical strength, remember that wielding a cane—any cane—may be just as inappropriate for folks with those limitations. If you are strong enough to swing a cane as a weapon, you’d want to be swinging this one.
The girth of the shaft and strategically placed knurling ensure a secure grip and make controlling the cane very easy. In my preferred ready position, the knurling provides a positive index for both hands without being too abrasive.
The crook of the TDI Cane also reflects careful thought, offering a curve that is generous enough for large hands and hooking tactics without being excessive. Its angled tip helps snag “hookable” body parts and provides an edge that focuses impact and pressure extremely well without turning the cane into a war hammer.
I supported the cane’s ends on pieces of wood and stood on the middle of the shaft with 200 pounds of body weight. It didn’t budge. I also put it through its paces with repeated full-power strikes on a padded target with no signs of bending or wear.
The best definition of a defensive cane is one that offers all the attributes of a purpose-designed weapon without actually looking like one. The TDI/KA-BAR Cane hits that mark extremely well. MSRP is $100. For more visit Tactical Defense Institute at tdiohio.com or KA-BAR at kabar.com.
Despite its many advantages as a personal-defense tool, the cane also has one inherent shortcoming: If you actually need to use it to achieve mobility, you may not have the strength and balance to wield it as a weapon. That presumes, of course, that we’re talking about a conventional cane applied as an impact weapon. What if instead the cane had additional defensive functions—like maybe a one million-volt stun gun—built into it? Then you’d have a very unique self-defense weapon known as the Zap Walking Cane.
Designed specifically to meet the needs of those with limited physical capabilities, the Zap Cane is at first glance a rather ordinary-looking T-handled walking stick. Closer inspection reveals that the front of the handle includes a built-in flashlight powered by multiple LEDs. Activated by a switch just below the handle, the light illuminates several feet in front of the user, ensuring that he or she can safely negotiate the terrain. Flipping that same switch in the opposite direction activates a small LED below the handle, as well as a powerful stun gun engineered into the lower end of the cane. Like smaller hand-held stun guns, it is designed to deliver a debilitating high-voltage electric current to an attacker to either discourage him or disable him completely.
The stun-gun end of the cane features two long metal strips, each with a series of “stun contact probes”—teeth that extend from the strips and are separated by a small gap. When the cane’s switch is moved to the stun position, the cane draws power from an on-board rechargeable battery to power up the circuitry. Depressing a button just below the front of the handle activates the circuit and sends a high-voltage, low-amperage charge to the probes, creating an intimidating, sizzling arc that jumps across the probes’ teeth. If the probes are placed in contact with an attacker, he completes the circuit and gets a disabling 1 million-volt jolt.
The premise of the Zap Cane is like all stun guns: to overload the human body with an external electrical signal. All muscles of the human body move in response to electrical signals from the brain. When the signal reaches the target nerve cell, a neurotransmitter chemical is released that causes the muscle to move. Stun guns disrupt this communication system by providing an external source of electrical energy. These external signals combine with the brain’s signals to create “noise” that can cause the muscles to seize and the person to become confused and unbalanced. Short bursts less than a second in duration cause a startling pain. Bursts of one to four seconds cause muscle spasms and disorientation and may make an attacker fall to the ground. Longer bursts of five seconds or more can immobilize an attacker, leaving him weak and dazed for several minutes.
Because of its high voltage, the charge of the Zap Cane will penetrate clothing and skin to affect the underlying muscles. However, to deliver the charge effectively, both probes must come in contact with the target—almost like the cutting edge of a sword. To confirm this, and to get an idea of the actual effect of the Zap Cane on an attacker, I had one of my students apply the cane on my leg through a typical pair of jeans. A brief, half-second burst from the cane was painful and definitely something that would dissuade an attacker. However, if contact was not made at the proper angle and only one probe touched me, there was no effect. Since the Zap Cane’s shaft is cylindrical, some practice is necessary to be able to orient it for accurate contact.
Although the ergonomics of the handle and activation button seem to be designed for gripping the cane by the T-handle, I found that this grip or any attempt to extend the cane like a one-handed sword left it vulnerable to being deflected or grabbed by an assailant. After a bit of experimentation, I found that the guard position used in my system of Martial Cane Concepts provided an excellent platform for using the Zap Cane, allowing easy orientation, quick application and positive weapon retention. In the guard position, the button is activated with pressure from the little finger of the hand gripping closest to the handle allowing the cane to attack the upper-body targets recommended in the user’s manual—including the shoulders, rib cage, and pelvic area—as well as MCC’s preferred target, the legs.
The lower portion of the Zap Cane includes a screw-tightened collar that allows the length of the cane to be adjusted to seven different lengths. This enables the user to easily tune the length of the cane to his or her height. Every Zap Cane comes complete with an AC charger that plugs into the tip of the handle and brings the cane’s on-board batteries to a full charge in about four hours. Zap Canes also come with a zippered storage/carrying case—a useful accessory when traveling since the Zap Cane would not be allowed aboard an aircraft or in many other non-permissive environments.
Because it is an electrical device, the Zap Cane is not recommended for use in wet weather or around water. Aside from that limitation, and the fact that accurate application of the probes does require some practice, the Zap Cane successfully combines the function of a stun gun with a traditional walking stick. The result is a viable personal-defense weapon for people whose physical limitations might make combative cane technique impractical. Its flashlight function is also extremely practical and a great advantage in conventional daily use. My only suggestion would be to apply some black adhesive tape or a coat of black spray paint over the “Zap Cane” logo to allow a lower-profile appearance. The Zap Cane is available from Bud-K at www.budk.com for $89.99.