JOINT BASE SAN ANTONIO-FORT SAM HOUSTON, Texas —
The Jimmy Brought Fitness Center at Joint Base San Antonio-Fort Sam Houston was buzzing with activity Feb 3 as weights were clanging, elliptical machines were churning, music was blaring, and patrons seemed to be keeping their New Year’s resolution to take care of their bodies.
There was also a distinct group of 40 active duty service members, wounded warriors, veterans and family members who commandeered some space in the gym to learn the intricacies of walking cane self-defense.
Grand Master Mark Shuey and several other instructors from the Warrior Cane Project offered training to the group ranging in ages from 30-80 years old. Training consisted of threat awareness, blocking and striking techniques, and throws.
“There is nothing worse than having three people coming at you (to attack), and then you’re thinking, ‘Gee, I wish I had my cane,’” Shuey explained. The team of instructors try to get veterans and wounded warriors to carry their cane with them everywhere they go, so they can be prepared for the unexpected.
According to 2017 U.S. Department of Justice statistics, persons with disabilities are three times more likely to experience a violent crime, such as rape, sexual assault, robbery or aggravated assault, than those without disabilities. The report covers the years 2009-2015 and classifies disabilities according to six limitations: hearing, vision, cognitive, ambulatory, self-care and independent living.
The U.S. Census Bureau reports that 47.8 million people are over the age of 65. Part of this population are military veterans and wounded warriors who often use a cane to assist their mobility.
Statistics show seniors and individuals that are less ambulatory are vulnerable to an attack. Shuey’s instructors want to teach this special demographic how to protect themselves in the event they are in a situation to become victim to a violent crime.
“We’re going around, helping any veteran that wants or needs it,” Shuey said. “We want to let them know the cane is not a crutch. It’s a tool you carry anywhere in the world. It can move at more than 250 miles an hour in half a second. That’s my sales pitch to seniors, because they are the hardest people to sell using a cane to.
“A lot of seniors who get diagnosed and have to use a cane, won’t go out of their house anymore,” Shuey said. “They’re scared; they think they’re falling apart; they’re worried about being mugged.”
Chief Warrant Officer 3 Robert Hunter, Brooke Army Medical Center Warrior Transition Battalion, heard about the cane self-defense training from a friend who works at the Center for the Intrepid.
“This is perfect because I use a cane,” Hunter said. Hunter was issued a cane over a month ago following hip replacement. “I’m not old, but I’m walking slowly with this cane, and I’m still vulnerable.”
Shuey said approximately 40 percent of women in the United States are attacked. More than 20 years ago, he went to visit his brother in Florida, and while there, three women over the age of 65 were brutally attacked, two of which had canes, but didn’t know how to use it as a defense measure.
“My brother told me it happens all the time,” Shuey said. “Criminals will see a weak point on a person and take advantage of you anyway they can.
“It’s just like a martial artist,” Shuey said. “The cane is not a fancy tool. People should learn how to carry the cane everywhere they go, because you never know when you are going to get into trouble.”
“A lot of times when people see you with a cane, they see you as an easy target,” Hunter said. “Now (after cane self-defense training), I’m less of an easy target. They taught us 12 techniques so far and I have three of them I know I can use for sure.”
Two of his favorite techniques are using the hook of the cane to attack an assailant’s groin, and strategically placing the hook into an attacker’s ribs if you’re restrained from the back to pull the assailant off of you.
“I’m really amazed the training would be this good, or this lethal,” Hunter said.
The Warrior Cane Project has 5,000 followers on their Facebook page and they have helped more than 800 veterans to date. “People in that Facebook community are sending in their stories about what they’ve done and how the cane has helped them,” Shuey said.
Hunter saw the value of cane self-defense training and its benefit to others.
“I would definitely recommend this training to other members of the WTB,” Hunter said. “It’s worth every minute of their time and I think it should be integrated into the WTB at least twice a year.”