The Next Karate Cane

Marine Colonel Ray Saft's class teaches a fighting style for self-defense centered around the use of a walking stick. File photo, Alaska Superstation ABC®.

by Jamey Kirk

As the baby boomers age, walking sticks are becoming a must have accessory, helping with balance, mobility and even self-defense. For 16 years Marine Colonel Ray Saft has been teaching Hapkido, a traditional martial arts made up of joint locks, kicks, throws and Safts own addition of the cane.

"We learn self-defense to defend ourselves and to defend those that are around us, but the most important thing that we learn that I teach my students is spirituality," said Saft, a holder of six black belts.

To complete the moves taught by Saft, the entire body is used for self-defense, as ABC's own Chelsea Lynn discovered, "Although this sport looks like a lot of fun, it requires a lot of hand-eye coordination." The fighting style consists of "fancy footwork", high kicks and a proper fighting stance.

The major concept is to think fast and be quick on one's feet.

First impressions may suggest that Hapkido is strictly for men, however a large number of women are attracted to this fighting style. Long time student Julia Williamson said, although she's no athlete, her physical skills have seen dramatic improvement. Now Williamson instructs her own women's self-defense classes. "Sometimes I feel like I might never be afraid again, just because of all the things I've learned here, which has much to do with the mental skills as the physical," said Williamson.

Along with self-defense, the class also provides a social atmosphere.

11-year-old Max Van-Hipple, a student and instructor, has been practicing Hapkido since he was 5-years-old. This class, he said, doesn't teach you how to attack, but rather how to defend, "I only use the minor moves on the playground because ones that won't particularly hurt but will get them off of me."

Van-Hipple proves that it's never too soon to speak softly and carry a big stick, because for many that stick will be apart of their daily lives some day.