As a martialist, I have been watching the evolution of terrorist tactics and weapons with some intensity considering my love of going walkabout.

One of the greatest challenges for the law abiding citizen of our little green planet is having an effective means to defend oneself and companions close to hand at all times. This one thing alone, and above all others, is why I still live in the U.S. Frankly speaking, I take more grief from troglodytes of “The Swamp” than I have ever taken from any other government, or government official, on the planet. If the dark time should come to pass where my shootin’ irons are outlawed, it will no longer matter where I hang my hat.

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Since most places outside of the U.S. have some pretty severe restrictions on firearm ownership, and outright ban the carry of handguns for visitors, the “best” option in personal protection is off the table. Now that the Brits, and other EUnuchs, have legislated knives out of common use, (Except for the muzzy terrorists of course. We must be tolerant ol’ boy!), we are now back to humankind’s first tool, THE STICK!

I say the “first tool” because sticks and plant stalks are commonly used by the great apes as tools.

Jane Goodall observed chimpanzees “fishing” for termites using sticks.

Modern observation by Josep Call and colleagues from the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Biology in Germany, indicates chimpanzees in the Republic of Congo using a specialized toolkit intended for termite fishing. The apes used one type of strong stick to penetrate above ground termite mounds, and a different type of stick for opening underground nests. These chimps also developed a more efficient fishing pole by chewing one end of the stick to separate the wood fibers creating a “paintbrush” on the end of the stick. This spray of finer fibers allows the termites to get a better grip, so more insects are captured each time the fishing stick goes down the hole.

Other researchers have noted Congolese chimpanzees show a strong preference for specific types of plants to make their fishing kit. They choose specific types of wood and carry it to the termite mound instead of picking stems from plants near the mounds.

Professor William McGrew of the Leverhulme Centre for Human Evolutionary Studies, University of Cambridge, UK, studied chimps living in the Nimba Mountains of Guinea, Africa. He observed a band using stone and wood tools against natural stone outcroppings to smash hard fruits into manageable pieces.

Over the centuries, the stick has remained a primary tool and weapon for people across the planet.

With increased restrictions on the law abiding, and the increased viciousness of those trying to harm those same law abiding people, the stick is coming back as a viable option for self-defense.

The Asian martial arts are well known as sources for training in the use of the staff and cane in combat. Probably the best known are the Philippine arts Kali/Escrima/Arnis (They are really the same art. The names reflect regional differences.) They have a heavy focus on stick fighting that translates well to the walking stick or cane.

Lesser known are the European arts:

H.C. Holt comments on staff fatalities in Robin Hood’s own county:

In the 103 cases of murder and manslaughter presented to the coroners of Nottinhamshire between 1485 and 1558 the staff figured in 53, usually as the sole fatal weapon. The sword, in contrast, accounted for only 9 victims and 1 accidental death.” 1

Organizations like HEMA (Historical European Martial Arts) are resurrecting the classic treatises and practical application of the Western masters.

Even Sherlock Holmes got in on the act through the practice of Bartitsu. This was Britain’s modern mixed martial art created by E. W. Barton-Wright. Bartitsu combined techniques from Jiujitsu, Pugilism, Savate, and stick fighting into a comprehensive self-defense system.


The walking stick, cane, and umbrella  are common items that attract very little official attention that would prevent a traveler from being armed almost anywhere in the world. Due to the ravages of age and infirmity, it is almost impossible of legislate these items out of existence.

A person with a bit of training and real-life practice can really turn the tables on an assailant armed with a knife or club. Best of all a cane leaves no “fingerprints” to bring trouble to a person who exercises self-defense in places (UK) where forcibly disagreeing with the plans of one’s murderer has negative legal repercussions. Recall the battle cry raised during the London bridge attack: “Run Hide, Tell!”

I’ll bet them muzzy wankers were quaking in their sandals.

For those without easy access to a martial arts school or HEMA chapter, a number of books on cane and stick fighting are available. Make sure to get at least one partner to practice with, and “All Weapon” fencing masks are a MUST!

Broadsword and Singlestick:: With Chapters On Quarter-Staff, Bayonet, Cudgel, Shillelagh, Walking-Stick, Umbrella, and Other Weapons of Self-Defense
Raising Cane – The Unexpected Martial Art

A martialist, regardless of discipline, should also take in the Principles of Personal Defense by Jeff Cooper. It frames the issues of self-defense very clearly.

Stay safe out there!