My training in the defensive use of the cane or walking stick dates back to my earliest formal martial arts study. Back in the mid-1970’s, I studied a style of martial arts called American Self-Protection (ASP). This system, developed by Evan S. Baltazzi, was a fusion of principles drawn from aikido, judo, Savate, and Western boxing. In addition to empty-hand tactics, it also included weapon skills—primarily the use of the walking stick.

Although I enjoyed ASP, I found its cane tactics overly complicated and impractical. I was certain that the cane had tremendous potential as a weapon, but ASP’s approach to realizing that potential was off-target.

Years later, I explored a number of other cane-related arts, including jojutsu and the Korean martial arts approach to the cane. Once again, I found that much of the technique was complicated and did not offer practical, reflexive skills. As a field of martial arts study, it was fun; as a practical means of self-defense, it required too much effort for too little return.

When I had the opportunity to formally study the Filipino martial arts, my understanding of stick fighting—and fighting in general—was revolutionized. Specifically, the opportunity to study Serrada Eskrima with my instructor John Lau really helped me understand what practical stick tactics are all about and where to draw the line between martial arts practice and true lifesaving skills. Perhaps the most fascinating part of that study was a sub-system of Serrada called De Cuerdas—a very basic but incredibly functional tactic that traced its history back to Serrada’s parent stick art.

After moving to Colorado in the early 1990’s, I started a small private training group that included a very good friend of mine who, at the time, was in his mid 50’s. A life-long martial artist with an impressive training resume, he was looking to change his approach to training to better fit the physical limitations that aging imposed. He liked my practical, flexible approach to defensive tactics and was my motivation for renewing my exploration of cane tactics.

Using the De Cuerdas tactic as a foundation, I developed a straightforward, extremely functional system of cane tactics that I eventually dubbed Martial Cane Concepts. At its basic level, the MCC system is not only very quickly and easily learned, it is also easy to apply—especially for people with limited physical capabilities, like those that might actually have to use a cane on a regular basis. This requirement of the program, although seemingly obvious, is actually not considered in many other cane systems, which prefer to focus on spectacular martial artsy techniques that require as many physical attributes as most advanced unarmed techniques.

After formulating the system and teaching it to my private students, I introduced it at the 2005 Martial Blade Camp. The response was incredible and many of the veteran martial artist at the camp lauded it as the most practical cane system they had seen. That response inspired further refinement of the system and a number of public “crash course” seminars around the country. These four-hour seminars presented the core concepts and skills of the system and were extremely well received.

Based on the positive feedback I received, it made sense to document the system—and make it more widely available—by producing an instructional video on it. I approached Paladin Press™ with the idea and received immediate approval for it and another project on a military knife fighting system that I had developed with my friend, former Canadian Special Forces operator Brent Beshara.

In August 2007, Beshara flew to Colorado to assist in the production of both videos. With the support of Mike Rigg’s expert camerawork, we shot both videos over a period of three days—just before the beginning of the 2007 Martial Blade Camp event. Sadly, Paladin™ later determined that the military knife fighting video was “too intense” for their taste and refused to edit and release the project. Their Video Production Manager, whom I trained, also opted not to edit the cane piece because he considered me too demanding an author.

To ensure that our efforts were not wasted, I negotiated with Paladin™ to edit Martial Cane Concepts myself, ensuring that it was a faithful and accurate presentation of the key elements of the system. The resulting video is, in my opinion, THE most practical and logical presentation of defensive cane technique ever offered. Like any other video, it is not an end-all in itself. It provides the foundation of a very solid, reliable defensive skill set. Based on the overwhelming response I’ve received thus far, it will also serve to inspire follow-up videos that will teach how MCC skills can be applied to a wide variety of common street attacks. These future videos will of course be produced by Stay Safe Media and will be available exclusively through www.staysafemedia.com.

Michael D. Janich