By BEN R. WILLIAMS
Bulletin Staff Writer
At a “Cane Fu” program Thursday, about 30 area residents learned the value of speaking softly and carrying a big stick.
The program was sponsored by the Martinsville/Henry County TRIAD S.A.L.T. Council, Southern Area Agency on Aging and the Virginia Attorney General’s Office and took place at Wesley Memorial United Methodist Church on Starling Avenue.
During the program, Tom and Betty Ashmore of Powhatan guided the class through Cane Fu, an American martial art designed to give an advantage to those who must carry a cane due to age or disability.
Tom Ashmore is a disabled Vietnam veteran with more than 40 years of experience in various martial arts, and also is a professional tactical instructor and certified Cane Fu instructor. Betty, his wife of 48 years, is a certified massage therapist with a vast knowledge of body mechanics.
Cane Fu is about more than self-defense, Tom Ashmore explained: It is about building situational awareness, strength training, stretching and regaining lost balance.
The Ashmores led the group through several different stretching and strength training exercises that can be performed with a cane. With the combination of a cane, a resistance band and ingenuity, Tom Ashmore said, anyone can have a complete gym that can be carried and used anywhere.
One of the advantages of the cane for self-defense, he said, is that it is always close at hand, unlike a can of pepper spray or a concealed pistol.
Ashmore cited the “21-foot rule,” which states that a healthy attacker can cross 21 feet in just one and a half seconds, which is too fast for the average person to draw a concealed weapon.
A cane, however, is right in a person’s hand and can be quickly drawn up to provide a defense.
Unlike traditional weapons, he said, the cane is a medical support device, and because of the Americans with Disabilities Act, can be carried anywhere.
Ashmore stressed the importance of defense, rather than offense.
“The best block in any fight is not to be there,” he said, adding that it’s up to the individual whether to decide to defend themselves or not.
“But if you have to fight, fight to win,” he added.
At the end of the program, Ashmore demonstrated several different strikes on a dummy, showing the attendees different places to hit an attacker in order to incapacitate them as quickly as possible.
Many view their canes as a sign of weakness, Ashmore said, but with Cane Fu, a cane can be transformed into a badge of courage.