Noted firearms trainer and writer Clint Smith once astutely opined that “if you look like food, you will be eaten.” His statement is a foundational element of self-defense—regardless of whether you are referencing empty-hand defense, less-lethal self-defense, or self-defense with a firearm. The statement is analogous to how predatory animals select their prey, which is a concept I’ve used ever since I started training cops and civilians in self-defense.
I have personally tried to not “look like food” for many years, whether I am working the streets as a uniformed cop, or while off-duty dressed in civvies. Not looking like food has three basic elements: first, being situationally aware of one’s surroundings (ready); second, looking more than inclined to defend oneself (willing); and third, maintaining physical fitness (able).
The week before last, I had some overdue surgery on my left foot. After a week of being homebound with an elevated foot, I graduated to a walking boot and was able to drive once again and return to work.
I soon realized that I was experiencing—albeit on a temporary basis—something which some of you experience on a daily and long-term basis. I had joined the ranks of those with limited mobility.
This did two things for me:
First and foremost, I appreciated even more the plight of those with limited mobility.
Second, I now “looked” more like food, because I appeared to be less able to defend myself. I was issued crutches after surgery, but crutches tie up both hands and are next to useless for self-defense. In order to lessen the appearance of vulnerability, I needed a walking stick or cane that would allow me to be mobile and which could also be used as a self-defense tool to fend off an attacker or to buy me time to at least get away from an attacker or get me to my off-duty handgun.
I already had the ideal device on hand. Last year my wife and I took a trip to the Smoky Mountains. While en route, I realized that I had forgotten my hiking staff. (Of all things to forget on a hiking trip!) We stopped at the Smoky Mountain Knife Works to find a replacement. It was there that I discovered the “BubbaStik.”
The BubbaStik is one of a number of different “hame” handle canes and walking sticks available from StepinStik (www.stepinstik.com). A hame is a metal part found on horse collars that is used to hold the harness traces. It just so happens that a metal hame also makes a perfectly shaped handle for a cane or a hiking or walking stick. The shape of the hame—and the large angled bulbous end—resembles an Indian war club as used by the Mandan and other North American tribes. Although not marketed as a self-defense tool, it was the self-defense potential of the BubbaStik, plus its comfort as a walking/hiking tool, that caused me to immediately purchase it.
All StepinStik products are made in the USA, and the company was started in 2003 by a Vietnam Combat Veteran who goes by the name of “Bubba Sam.” Bubba Sam (and maybe a crew of one) builds BubbaStiks in a small backyard barn. Solid brass polished bright is used for the hame handle, but copper and black chrome finishes are also available. Different stick lengths as well as different types of wood are available as options. The original BubbaStik is fashioned from poplar wood and has a black rubber tip. Mine has a polyurethane ebony-stained finish and a copper-finished hame. The combination is striking (pun intended!).
The BubbaStik worked great on the trail (even though at 39 inches it was not as long as a true hiking staff). After getting it home, I decided to test its defensive capabilities on my heavy bag. Using a two-handed hold on the stick with the round portion of the hame leading, I was able to deliver VERY solid strikes on the bag due to the weight of the hame. The length of the Bubba Stik allowed me to maintain an increased stand-off distance, which is critical for users with decreased mobility.
I have been using my BubbaStik instead of crutches to get around for over a week now. It has drawn the desired attention. Several folks noted that it “looks like you could hit someone with it!” Bingo! That was the effect I had been hoping for—to look less like food. Of course, the BubbaStik has been an excellent tool for getting around as well. The angle of the hame and the length of the stick allow me to put weight directly over the top of the cane, taking pressure off my foot.
All StepinStik products are highly customizable with a wide range of accessories available. The price of a basic BubbaStik is $ 58 with free shipping in the U.S. If you need a cane, walking stick, or hiking staff for short or long-term use, don’t buy cheap imitations. Instead go direct to the source at StepinStik.
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