Don Jong: The Hapkido Cane
By Scott Shaw
This article originally appeared in the June 1993 issue of Inside Karate.
In recent years the cane or "Don Jong" as it is known in Korean, has increasingly come into focus as a viable defensive weapon. Through articles, videos, and seminars, many martial artists who were not previously exposed to the defensive applications of the cane have come to accept the fact that it is a very practical and generally legal weapon which can be effectively used in self defense.
With the exposure the cane has been receiving many martial arts instructors, whose systems do not teach the usage of the cane, have been adopting the cane into their overall defensive arsenal and have begun to teach cane techniques to their students.
Though this may seem like a positive step forward, there exists a large problem due to the fact that many of these instructors do not truly understand the defensive physics of the cane and how it is properly used in terms of self defense. Thus, many martial art novices are receiving incorrect instruction in the proper usage of the cane and its high level of defensive effectiveness is being degraded to simply become a striking or blocking weapon.
The cane, as a weapon, was first formalized in the modern era by the Korean martial art of Hapkido. Though other martial art systems certainly have used the cane over the centuries to varying degrees, particularly a few obscure schools of Kung Fu, the defensive applications of the cane have never been so highly defined as they are in Hapkido.
It is important to note that Hapkido is a very expansive system of self defense, which encompasses countless joint locks, throws, and opponent deflection techniques - utilizing not only external but internal energy or ki, as well. In Hapkido, no student is ever trained in the usage of the cane until they have achieved a fairly high level in the art. Usually the first exposure to the cane is given at the Red Belt level — the step just below the 1st Dan Black Belt.
At this point, it is understood that the student possesses sufficient knowledge of body dynamics to correctly understand how the cane is properly utilized and how to make its defensive applications most effective. It is only once the student has mastered all of the basic elements of the cane, usually during the 1st Dan Black Belt level, that they then progress onto the advanced elaborate cane driven intercepting and throwing techniques. It is essential that students first truly understand how to use a cane in its basic applications before they graduate onto its advanced techniques. If the basic level is overlooked, then true mastery of the cane can never be achieved.
This being stated, it will be the purpose of this thesis to attempt to clarify the various offensive and defensive elements of the cane, as well as, the Ranges of Defense which define where the cane is most effectively used.
This discourse will additionally detail some of the basic techniques of how to properly use the cane as a effective defensive weapon. With this, it is hoped that some of the lesser-trained individuals now teaching the cane will begin to understand the proper usage of the cane more clearly so it can continue to move forward as a highly defined instrument of martial art weaponry.
Defining the Cane
The cane has three primary elements which make it an effective offensive and defensive weapon; they are:
1. The Length of the cane.
2. The Shaft of the cane.
3. The Hooking Handle of the cane.
Each of these three elements provides a unique factor for self-defense implementation. The cane technician never uses the cane randomly but, instead, defines what each element of the cane most effectively accomplishes and then utilizes that specific element in practical and necessary self defense applications.
The Length of the Cane
The length of the cane gives you the ability to extend the cane and strike an opponent at a distance. By using the cane in this fashion, the attacker does not posses the ability to move in closely on you and possibly unleash a successful strike, grab, or random attack.
To make best use of the cane's length, in a striking maneuver, the cane is lifted up; one hand maintains its grasp on the handle and the second taking hold midway down the cane's shaft. The end or tip of the cane is then thrust into the attacker as he closes in on you. This thrust is ideally targeted towards an opponent's solar plexus, their groin, their face, or in the case of a kicking attack, the shin level of an opponent's kicking leg.
By utilizing the length of the cane as a defensive tool, it also allows you to keep an attacker at bay. This is accomplished by taking a hold of the cane in the same two handed technique and extending the cane in a controlled, outstretched fashion. Each time your adversary moves in towards you, the tip of the cane is focused towards one of his vital locations and he is forced to back off. If he does finally rush in and attack, then the tip of the cane is unleashed in the previously described style of striking — targeted towards the most debilitating location on the opponent's body.
The Shaft of the Cane
The shaft or side of the cane is effective both in offensive and defensive applications. Though the cane can certainly be swung in baseball bat fashion, possibly causing damage to any portion of your opponent's body it makes contact with, this style random attack is not efficient nor effective, thus, the shaft of the cane should be used in a much more defined manner.
The shaft of the cane is ideal to intercept and block the onslaught of an attack. For example, an opponent punches towards you — as you initially side step the attack, the shaft of the cane, held either with one or two hands, can forcefully encounter the inside region of your adversaries punching arm and knock it from its path of attack.
Once the punch has been nullified, you can then continue forward with your self defense and deliver a well placed strike to one of your opponent's vital points with the tip, shaft, or handle of the cane to keep him from unleashing a secondary attack. In addition, once a block has been successfully accomplished, with the shaft of the cane, you can joint lock your attacker with the hooking handle of the cane and follow up with additional self defense as necessary.
The blocking motion of the shaft element of the cane is not limited to upper level punch blocks. For example, if an opponent attempted to deliver a powerful front kick to your groin region, by slightly backing up out of the path of the kick and then holding the cane in a two handed fashion, the cane can be extended horizontally and a block is easily delivered across the shin of your attacker. Once this is accomplished, further cane self defense can be applied as necessary.
It is important to note that, as detailed, a well executed block with the Shaft of the cane hampers your attacker's ability to continue forward with his assault. This block is elementally aided by the fact that it was executed by a cane instead of a part of your own body. As has been long understood in Hapkido defensive methodology, if you powerfully block an opponent's strike, bone to bone, body to body, you may well injure yourself with your own blocking technique.
This is due to the fact that two body parts, yours and your opponents, are coming together with a forceful impact. On the other hand, in the case of a block executed by a cane, you do not stand this chance of receiving a potential injury as a cane is made of hard wood or steel. Thus, by blocking with it you remain injury free, and, in fact, you may injure the striking element of your opponent's body with the powerful blocking impact of the cane.
The Hooking Handle of the Cane
The hooking handle of the cane can be utilized as an extension of the arm and used as a striking weapon, similar to the tip of the cane. The cane's handle, however, is much more useful as a powerful trapping weapon. For example, in the heat of battle, once your attacker has temporarily been subdued by either a strike or block with the cane, the handle allows you to quickly take control over any limb of your adversaries body and joint lock him, leading to a throw or forcefully guiding him to a positioning where a powerful counter strike can be launched.
The hooking handle of the cane is particularly effective to trap the wrist, arm, and neck of your opponent.
The Three Defensive Ranges of the Cane
The cane possesses three specified ranges of defined combat effectiveness. By understanding these defined ranges the cane practitioner is allowed to use the defensive applications of the cane most effectively and perform specific techniques without over extending the natural limits of the cane and, thus, saving the technician from possible counter attack.
Range three is defined as the extended range. The extended range encircles your body from three to nine feet, around your current positioning. At this range, your opponent is still at a distance, thus, you have more cane orientated self defense options available to you than if your attacker had already closed in on you.
When your opponent is at range three, due to the distance, all of his offensive moments can be clearly seen. Thus, if he begins to rush in at you, an effective deflective action can be made with the shaft of the cane, sending him away from your body, where a powerful counter strike can then be successfully unleashed.
If physical confrontation is eminent, range three is also the ideal distance to reach out with the length of your cane, using the tip, and striking your attacker in a debilitating location. To successfully achieve this type of movement, you would instantaneously take the cane in two handed format, one holding the handle, the other grasping midway down the shaft and rapidly move into your opponent, striking him before he has an opportunity to react.
Range two extends from one to two feet around your body. This is a close proximity range, but it is defined as the range before your attacker has actually taken a hold of you. In range two, you cannot successfully bring the cane up to prone striking positioning and you must powerfully travel to your opponent. Defensive strikes at range two should be limited to upward driven handle strikes under the jaw or nose of your opponent, side strikes with the handle to his temple region, lower shaft strikes to his groin, and powerful downward motion tip strikes to the top of his foot.
Before any defensive action is taken, it is an ideal technique to first powerfully strike your opponent to a debilitating location. With this, he is temporarily stunned and, thus, additional self defense techniques may ensue with less resistance. Range two is the ideal distance for this type of preemptive strike to be made.
In terms of defensive punch blocking at range two, the cane is very effective at punch blocks and deflections. To successfully achieve a block, hold the cane mid shaft and strike the upper shaft into the forearm region of your punching opponent. Once a punch has been successfully blocked, the hooking handle of the cane can then be used to joint lock or throw your attacker.
Range one is defined as the close contact in-fighting range. This is the range where your opponent has taken a hold of a part of your body and your self defense is an absolute necessity.
At range one the defensive strikes are the same as in range two, due to the fact that your ability to successfully move the cane is hampered by your proximity to your attacker. At range one, however, your self defense is paramount, as your opponent has taken a powerful hold on you. Thus, all strikes must be made to the most debilitating locations possible: under the nose, the temple, or the groin.
During close contact in-fighting, it is common for an opponent to use the uppercut punch. This punch can be very devastating, thus if it is unleashed it must be halted immediately. To this end, the hooking handle of the cane can be powerfully brought down into the elbow joint region of your attacker, thus, halting the progress of his uppercut punch. Once this has been accomplished, you can effectively low side kick him to his knee, knee him to his groin, or continue forward with additional cane orientated joint locking techniques as necessary.
Joint Locking with the Cane
First and foremost in joint locking with the cane, you should never reach out to grab at your opponent. By doing this you have extended the length of the cane in a non-forceful manner and, therefore, you do not have full control over your weapon. By overtly extending the cane, it can be taken away from you. For this reason, joint locking techniques with the cane should be restricted to range one and range two.
When you are planning to instigate a joint lock with the cane, wait until you are in close proximity to your attacker then, study which element of his body is most exposed and will be the easiest to control. For example, if he is punching at you, his elbow is exposed — if he grabs a hold of your clothing, his wrist, elbow, and neck are open and available to viable joint locking techniques with the cane.
It is important to note, whenever you use the cane as a defensive weapon, by allowing your attacker to make the first move, you will instantly know which body part of your opponent you should direct your first line of defense at and, additionally, you will understand if and to what body part any cane joint locking applications should be directed. By defending yourself with the cane in this fashion, you will not only initially intercept any type of attack which is unleashed towards you but your adversary will be momentarily stunned, as well, due to the fact that his first assault was not successful. At the moment your attacker's initial assault has been nullified, this is the time to act and follow up with additional cane delivered self defense as necessary.
Once an initial attack has been intercepted, and prior to locking any element of your opponent's body, you should initially strike your opponent with the cane. As discussed, a focused hit to a vital point will cause your opponent to be momentarily knocked off balance and his defenses will be vastly opened up. This will allow you to more easily continue forward with effective joint locking or throwing techniques.
Hapkido teaches the theory of continuous motion in all of its self-defense applications. This is particularly the case with the cane. The theory of continuous motion teaches that you should continue forward, non-stop, from one technique immediately onto the next and the next, as necessary. By defending yourself in this fashion, your opponent does not possess the ability to successfully regroup after a block or a strike and relaunch a secondary attack upon you. In the case of continuous motion in regard to the cane, once you deliver an initial strike, you do not wait to study the results you have inflicted, but instead, immediately continue forward with your joint locking defense.
In all defensive applications utilizing the cane, you must continue forward until your opponent is subdued. With this style of defense, you assure your victory in any street assault.
While joint locking with the cane you should also never struggle to gain control over your opponent's body. As detailed in Hapkido's theory of continuous motion, if a struggle ensues, it is far better to rapidly deliver a secondary debilitating strike with a free part of the cane — this will either halt your attacker's muscle to muscle struggle or give you the opportunity to redeploy your cane to another one of his exposed bodily joints — lock, and then send him to the ground.
In times of close contact in-fighting with the cane, there is the occasion when an attacker may take a hold of the cane. The removal of his grasp from your cane is quite easily accomplished. By spinning the cane circularly outward, thereby putting all of the cane's momentum driven power against the grasping thumb of your opponent, his hold will be instantly broken and you can then immediately strike him to the temple region with the cane and continue forward with your cane orientated self defense.
Defending yourself with a cane is not about strength — it is not about power. Defending yourself with the cane is about finding a rhythm within your movements and then encountering your attacking opponent's advances with the most appropriate technique necessary.
Copyright © 1993 — All Rights Reserved
No part of this article may be used without the expressed permission of Scott Shaw or his Representatives.