The Cane as a Weapon (1912)

In 1912, A.C. Cunningham published The Cane as a Weapon, which even today remains the best book I have ever seen on fighting with a cane. It is amazingly succinct and conveys what is as nearly a complete system of cane fighting as a reader could desire, all within 25 pages.

The Bare Essentials

For those that want to jump right in, here is The Cane as a Weapon. This is a cleaner version than the PDF that is floating around online. For future reference, you can also find it under the reprints tab at top right.

The original version contained only 12 photographs of Cunningham showing his method, yet included numerous drill sequences for practice. I therefore highly recommend that you also purchase Tony Wolf’s expanded version of The Cane as a Weapon which includes more than 170 photos to clarify Cunningham’s system. No, I don’t get a cut if you buy this book, I’m recommending it because Tony consistently puts out quality work. Click on the cover to check it out.

Cunningham Expanded

One more resource you will want to keep an eye on if you decide to study the Cunningham system is Chris Amendola’s blog entitled, appropriately enough, “AC Cunningham’s ‘The Cane as A Weapon.’” Chris is blogging his thoughts, notes, and discoveries as he proceeds to work his own way through the Cunningham cane system, as well as drawing out parallels from Cunningham’s other manual, Sabre and Bayonet.

Why I think The Cane as a Weapon is so Good

There are any number of reasons why I think this manual is so good. First is that Cunningham has an exquisite sense of what will work and what will not work from different postures and positions. He logically breaks down blows and parries, and places great emphasis on which of the three simple guards is best for any particular situation (eg., by not adopting a hostile en guarde position if not necessary).

His experience with the bayonet gives his work the versatility of using short, strong strokes with a double handed grip for close encounters and multiple attackers as well as movement, movement, movement. He does not show any grappling with the cane, which I believe is very sensible.

The footwork is clearly explained and has all the bases covered. He discusses the importance of targeting, and is cognizant that some strikes with a cane are less powerful than others.

More than any other single reason I could name, I liked this book because I found myself nodding at pretty everything Cunningham wrote. Quite simply, my experience tells me that Cunningham got it right. I may be wrong, but I would be surprised if anyone with much cane or stick fighting experience read this and viewed it in an overall negative light.

One note for the user, if Cunningham describes a “right cut,” he is referring to a strike that proceeds from the left to the right. So for example, a high right cut will go from your left towards your right and strike the assailant on the right side of his head.

Cunningham’s History

You cannot really see much in this newspaper clipping, but I was impressed that the newspapers a century ago would not only print something useful, but do it with such a great layout:


Andrew Chase Cunningham was born into upper class New York society in 1858; his middle name Chase was the family name on his mother’s side. He entered the U.S. Naval Academy in 1874 and graduated in 1879. Like many midshipmen, Cunningham married immediately upon graduation. He then went active duty until 1883 when he resigned to go to Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute. After graduating Rensselaer, he worked as a civil engineer for various companies and had a child at some point along the way. The trail stumbles after 1887 because that’s when Rensselaer’s alumni entry for Cunningham was published.

It is known that he later went to work for the U.S. Navy for a number of years, either located in Annapolis, Washington D.C., or somewhere in between. He must have went back active duty rather than as a civilian, because four years was too brief a period to be promoted to Lieutenant Commander. By 1912 he was a Naval Inspector of Public Works and had worked as a civil engineer for the Navy for some years.

In the early 1900s he was active in fencing and in 1904 helped guide the Naval Academy fencing team along with longtime Academy Fencing Master Prof. A. J. (Antoine Joseph) Corbesier. Corbesier deserves study in his own right, a Belgian that ran the physical drills and the fencing and bayonet programs at the Naval Academy for more than forty years. Corbesier published a couple of his own sword manuals: Theory of Fencing, with the Small-Sword Exercise, and Principles of Squad Instruction for the Broadsword. Cunningham, who possessed a reputation as a fencer even as a midshipman, would have trained under Corbesier in fencing when he was a student thirty years prior.

In 1906 Cunningham published his first manual, Sabre and Bayonet, but I know nothing about it.

In the 1900s, Cunningham was a member of the prestigious Washington Fencing Club (WFC). The WFC was upper crust, on the New York Athletic Club level, and did not allow women as members. If you were not an illustrious, or at least well-connected military officers or diplomat, there was little need to apply. Cunningham eventually became a member of the governing board.

In 1912, even though part of Navy, his expertise as a swordsman was so great that he was consulted by the army when evaluating a new cavalry saber design that Cunningham looked favorably upon. The submitter was a young Second Lieutenant who later became known as General George S. Patton.

Sources Consulted

Amendola, Chris. AC Cunningham’s “The Cane as A Weapon” Blog (2008)
Cunningham, A. C. The Cane as a Weapon. (1912)
Nason, Henry (ed.). Biographical Record of the Officers and Graduates of the Renssaeler Polytechnic Institute (1887)
New York Times, various issues
Wolf, Tony. The Cane as a Weapon by A.C. Cunningham. (2006)

“Physical Culture and Self Defense” by Fitzsimmons (1901)

Our indefatigable friend Kirk Lawson recently finished transcribing another martial classic. This one was on my list, but he saved me the trouble with this faithful reproduction. Here’s his description:


As with all other retranscribed antique manuals that I republish, the text is available for free. You can download it at no charge. The treeware version is at “cost.”

Born June 4, 1862, Robert Fitzsimmons began boxing first as an amateur n Australia, defeating four men in his debut. He quickly transitioned to professional, and in the late 19th Century met and defeated numerous well known champions of the day including Dempsey, Maher, Hall, Creedon, Corbett, Ruhlin, Sharkey, ‘and others of like note.’ retaining and defending the Heavy-Weight title until June 9, 1899.

In retired life, Fitzsimmons taught Boxing, Self-Defense, and Physical Fitness, then known as “Physical Culture.” In 1901, he published his Fitness and Boxing manual titled “Physical Culture and Self Defense” which included material from earlier articles he had written.

This book is a faithful transcription by Kirk Lawson of the original text. Special attention has been given to recreating the look and feel of the original document, including similar fonts, the preservation of spelling, hyphenation, and intentionally blank pages.

You can get the book at:

While you’re there, check out Kirk’s other offerings:

Len Lanius: American JJ Pioneer

Len Lanius

Longtime Cincinnati resident Leonard (“Len”) Lanius, born around 1865, claims he was the lightweight champion wrestler of the world at one point.

That would have been around 1890 and I have verified that he did at least referee a match in 1894. In fact, the loser of the bout gave Lanius some lip, whereupon Lanius promptly removed his coat to take care of business. Police interference prevented it from going any farther.

Once, while speaking about the Gotch-Hackenschmidt bouts, Lanius noted that “it was the invasion of the Jap wrestlers around that time that put me to work on perfecting a style of defense to check their attack. Their methods were quite baffling.” That, of course, led to his publication of American Jiu Jitsu: The New Art of Self Defense in 1922.

His career is quite varied. As a boy, he went to Cincinnati and shined shoes and and sold papers for a living, his father having died of consumption before Len was born. He took up wrestling at around 12-13 or so as a sickly lad who had been told he might not reach twenty (didn’t they all start sickly when they’re sell books?), but the wrestling cured him and he became a champ, boasting he once went seventy matches without a fall.

He traveled with the circus and on the vaudeville circuit, then later retired from wrestling and joined the sports staff at the Cincinnati Post. He also coached for several years at the Ohio Military Institute in Cincinnati. He occasionally spoke on the radio about wrestling for WLW. By 1921 Lanius had entered the field of optometry and was still going strong, visiting out of state optometric conventions in 1933. (He was president of a Cleveland optical factory in ’33). But his early passion was chickens (so to speak).

According to census data, he was the proprietor of an optical store by January 1920 and had a wife, looks like her name was Minnie, some 9 years younger than he. He wasliving in Cincinnati, and he had a 23 year-old married son, Ralph D. Lanius, who managed his optical store.

In March of 1921 Lanius demonstrated to the members of the Rotary club his “Yankee Jiu Jitsu” at the Park Hotel. The Rotarians particularly enjoyed when he boosted his demonstration partner (Dr. Otis G. Morse) over his head. You know those crazy Rotarians.

On June 9, 1921, Lanius gave an exhibition of his version of jujutsu at the Busy Bee cafeteria during the Kiwanis club program. He was one of the principal features! This was the opening of the Christen Kenton club and there were over 100 attendees. That’s a lot of Kiwanis.

But it was during his early circus/vaudeville traveling days that a bachelor friend gave Lanius two hens and told him to fatten them up and then invite him to dinner. That was the beginning of a beautiful man-poultry partnership, and by 1917 Lanius was known all over Ohio for his poultry passions. In fact, he was the president of the Ohio branch of the American Poultry Association for three years, as well as a licensed poultry judge. The papers would even run his photograph whenever his fairground lectures were advertised.

By 1912 he owned the College Hill Poultry farm in Cincinnati and by 1917 he also owned the G.E. Conkey Co. of Cleveland. It appears that there wasn’t hardly a single fair or poultry meeting at which Lanius failed to lecture, although the 1917 lectures were mainly ominous warnings of the grave shortage of either poultry or eggs that loomed on the horizon due to the cold season causing a grain shortage. Luckily the country appeared to survive the hen/egg catastrophe. In case anyone is wondering, he sold layers, including White Leghorns, Buff Leghorns, White Wyandottes, D.C. Rhode Island Reds, and Buff Orpingtons.

All facetiousness aside, I bet the guy could spin some tales or he wouldn’t have been invited to speak at all those events. Too bad nothing really survives but his book. Speaking of which, I scanned a copy almost exactly three years ago and passed it around. I see there is now a version floating around on the web. I don’t know if it’s the one I set free, but if you do a little Googling, you should be able to find a place to download it.

Yep, that’s the one I scanned a few years ago, same signed dedication as my book. I can’t believe no one ever bothered cleaning it up, especially since I provided it in MS Word. Anyway, you can download a copy here, but be warned, I never intended for it to be released to the public in that state, I was just doing a quick scan for friends.

If you have any further information on old Len, please shoot me an email.

Some of the references used:

Charleston Daily Mail 5-23-1933
Coshocton Tribune 3-15-1921
Indianapolis Star 2-9-1912, 9-1-1917, 10-5-1918.
Lanius, Len. American Jiu Jitsu: The New Art of Self Defense (1920)
Lincoln Daily Eagle 4-26-1917
Marion Daily Star 4-5-1921, 4-5-1921, 6-9-1941
U.S. Census, Cincinnati, OH, Ward 26, Hamilton County (1-20-1920)

Free (and legal!) Classic Martial Arts Movies Online

They are free and they are online, but I can’t recommend the site without caveat. LikeTelevision (“only better,” they say) is an online site that offers, among other films, such classics as Yojimbo, Rashomon, the Miyamoto Musashi trilogy, and Street Fighter.

Unfortunately, LikeTelevision is seeking subscribers for its full size high quality versions of films, i.e., those of a size you can actually watch on a TV. So while the free offerings are decent enough resolution, they are only of a size you can enjoy on a laptop or smaller screen. For example, no matter which computer I streamed Yojimbo or Street Fighter on, I couldn’t figure out a way to get the widescreen/letterbox aspect films (16:9) to appear any larger than about 4 inches by 2 inches. Full screen aspect films (4:3), such as Orson Welles’ The Third Man, appeared to be around 4 inches by 3 inches on my computers.

There were also advertisements displayed in the sidebar for the free versions, but a little manipulation with the Real Player display settings got rid of them easily. I would recommend using Real Player, because I did have problems trying to use alternatives. Lastly, the subscription model LikeTelevision uses is ridiculous, at those prices a viewer would be better off subscribing to Netflix or a similar service with better variety for less cost.

So, while the site definitely has its drawbacks, there is some classic free content that streams well on broadband connections and might pass the time if you’re on a laptop. Savvy viewers could probably even figure out a way to capture the content and convert it to enable viewing on a portable device as well.