Tuesday, January 29, 2008

The Parries of AC Cunningham’s “The Cane as a Weapon” (Part II)

The description of the one-handed cane parries presented in CAAW is a typical example of Cunningham's rather terse style belying the value of what he is trying to communicate. In the section titled "Parries," Cunningham concisely writes: From the position of right guard with the point of cane down, two circular parries upward, one to the left, and one to the right may be made to cover the entire person.” He adds to this description that the parries are to be delivered in “the nature of a blow," i.e., not passively presented but to hit into attacking weapon, or weapon-bearing limb. There are no detailed technical or photo sequences describing the application of these parries to individual attacks in order to "cover the entire person," so the reader may be left wondering how to apply what Cunningham presents.

There are some hints to be found in CAAW. Two of the original photos from the book can be juxtaposed to get some sense of “Parry Right:”

While this “series” provides some visual representation of Cunningham's parries, it still leaves much to be desired in terms of specific applications. There is also the brief suggestion of an actual "technique" by Cunningham in the section titled "Defense to the Front:" "The position of right guard invites a down cut at the head; this can be thrown off with a left parry...." Those with a background in the Fillipino martial arts (FMA) might suspect that this technique resembles the “Sweep Block” common to many FMA styles, and nothing in CAAW would contradict this speculation. Neither is there a more detailed description of specific applications or a conceptual framework provided in CAAW to confirm this speculation.

Sunday, January 27, 2008

The Parries of AC Cunningham’s “The Cane as a Weapon”


Five years before the United States entered World War I, AC Cunningham, a Civil engineer for the US Navy and a former Naval Officer, wrote a short book on self-defense, titled “The Cane as a Weapon” (CAAW). Concisely written, the book details a system of personal protection with a cane against single-unarmed, armed, and multiple assailants. Tactics are even included for handling specific situations, such as being attacked by a dog, or improvising “off-hand” protection against a knife attack.

As a publication, CAAW was not particularly impressive; it was only 25 pages in length and contained only 12 pictures. The pictures themselves weren’t all that illustrative either, as they were composed of the model (the author himself) alone, without the benefit of an agent indicating how the pose worked “in action.” The system of defense presented in this book, however, is impressive both for its simplicity and versatility.

The minimal nature of the book can be somewhat of an impediment to understanding the content Cunningham presents. The writing is concise to the extreme, and many of his ideas are presented tersely, without elaborate explanation or detailed description, and, as mentioned above, without any supporting photos or graphics. Many who encounter the book tend to dismiss it outright, or “skim” the work and think it “very simple.”