Walking canes become life-savers

Camas instructor introduces new form of self-defense

These canes aren’t just made for walking. They can also save your life.

Sigung John Paul Jones, a tai chi practitioner for more than 40 years, teaches people how to defend themselves with walking canes at the Lacamas Lake Lodge. Some of the techniques include blocking, a counter blow to the stomach, hooking an adversary by the neck, and throwing him or her to the ground.

“We live in a time where you just never know,” Jones said. “If they know how to defend themselves with a cane, they can do the same with a hiking stick. The ability to defend themselves, that’s what I want them to get out of this.”

Advanced Tai-Chi and Organized Cane Defense courses are available on Tuesdays and Thursdays from 1 to 2:15 p.m. Jones said students must complete the Basic Tai-Chi class before moving to the advanced level. Basic classes are Mondays from 7 to 8:30 p.m., and Tuesdays and Thursdays from noon to 1 p.m.

“That is the heart of the arts,” Jones said. “It takes about three months of basic training in order to get through.”

Jones came up with the concept of a walking cane defense course when he had to use one to get around after having surgery on his back.

“I thought, this applies to everything that I do and know. I want to teach cane defense because it’s important,” he said. “Tai chi is all about health and balance. Balance is like a muscle. If you don’t work it, you lose it.”

East Vancouver resident Karen Himsworth is hooked on cane defense. She has attended these courses at the lodge since November.

“It’s something I’ve been interested in for a while. I couldn’t resist,” she said. “I’ll be 55 in February. You can’t help but look down the road.”

Himsworth cracked a smile after hooking her partner by the neck and taking him down to the mat.

“It’s empowering. What else can I say? That’s the one word,” Himsworth said. “To be able to defend yourself in a practical way is a wonderful feeling. I guess that came out in my smile. Especially when it all comes together.”

Himsworth has studied tai chi for about a year. She said the movements and self-defense techniques go hand-in-hand.

“You learn the basics in both classes, and you go back and forth. You’re building the foundation,” she said. “It’s mind and body. I love that connection and that challenge.”

Jones encourages new people to give tai chi a try. For a limited time, he is offering first-timers a free trial. After that, it’s $45 a month for basic training and $65 a month for advanced. Sign-up online at www.register.cityofcamas.us, or call 834-5307.

“It’s such a magical setting. I look forward to seeing the seasonal changes here,” Himsworth said. “The people are great, and the instructors are incredible. Besides that, it’s just darn old fun.”