Senior citizens learn ‘Cane-Fu’

Posted at 10:29 AM, Sep 07, 2015
and last updated 2015-09-07 10:33:29-04

It was president Theodore Roosevelt who said of foreign policy, "speak softly, and carry a big stick." You might not, however, expect that axiom to be adopted by a cane-toting 83-year-old grandmother.

"You learn how to use it, not just for walking," says Alice Hays.

Hays started in kickboxing at revolutionary martial arts in Venice, Florida, and has since graduated to what they call extreme cane defense. Or, if you will, cane-fu.

"Every time I come out of the grocery store I use my peripheral vision. You never know who's going to be there."

Hays says she's ready to defend herself.

When we watched her take on 68-year-old Alfonzo Mitchell, we were shocked to see how serious both of them were.

"I'm going to try to the best of my ability to put them down, 10 seconds or less, that's going to be in my mind," says Mitchell.

"I thought I'm using it because I can't move around, and now I see it as a weapon," says classmate Kerry Henze.

To understand the importance of this class, you have to talk to the instructor, Buck Buckmaster. For him, it's personal.

"My mom was attacked here in Venice. She was working at a convenience store. She was 69. She was beaten and robbed."

Buckmaster teaches his students how to use their cane to defend and when necessary, attack. Mitchell defended himself against five others by swinging his cane about above his head. While they're all very serious, the group has formed a tight bond and enjoy ribbing each other.

For instance, a great laugh was had when Mitchell accidentally knocked himself about the head.

"Martial Arts is about not fighting. It's about getting out of the way and not getting yourself in that situation. But once you do knowing you have the confidence to protect yourself," says Buckmaster.

"I love life and I want to be around a while," says Hays.