Teaching the Cane

by Old Tom, of old-tom.com

Canes have a very different effect from anything else wooden. Rattan canes are far different from bamboo.

I order mine six or ten at a time from Hanson (hansonpaddle.com). They need to then be soaked, and if you like a more "normal" finished look, sand and stain or varnish them.

If anyone's seriously intending to experiment with canes, send me a note. I can give specific advice for avoiding the horror stories. I myself practiced an hour a day, five days a week, for three months, to become proficient.

In the hands of an expert, the cane is unlike *any* other instrument. There is nothing to compare it to.

Okay, so you're curious about the cane. Now what?

I've been thinking about this all day. In person, the answer's easy. But how much can I cover, posting on a forum? That's what I have been thinking about.

I had a nice 45-minute chat with the folks at Hanson Percussion Instruments this afternoon, and took another close look at their web site, http://www.hansonpaddle.com/. Except for gifts and antique-store finds, *all* my canes come from them.

I suggest getting a *set* of canes for a start. Get two each of the thinner ones, because they *will* break. Plan on it. They won't break because they're inferior. Rather, they'll break as you're learning to use them correctly. (Pay attention to why it broke, and you'll know what *not* to do. No sarcasm here; I'm serious. Breaking them is part of learning to use them.)

Early on, by the way, I *never* broke a cane on somebody's back side. They broke in screwing around, or swishing it around, or in practice with a pillow. Later on, as the rattan fibers break down from resoaking and from use, they can crack and break. So... plan on it!

Here are rattan canes in the Hanson online catalog:

20 inches by 5/16 inch, $1.20 (buy two!)
20 inches by 3/8 inch, $1.55 (possibly buy two)
20 inches by 1/2 inch, $2.15

So, that's a set of four canes for six dollars plus shipping.

When - and only when - you're ready, you can purchase the same thicknesses in a 30-inch length. They sell a five-cane package (two each of 5/16 and 3/8, and one 1/2) for $12.80.

What you get is peeled, sanded, but otherwise unfinished rattan. No paint or varnish, no handle. You'll be very unimpressed when they arrive. But those are precisely what I order, and I assure you they work! I also special order 36-inch lengths. I generally use all of those lengths and thicknesses in *every* caning session, plus the 36 by 3/4 inch "broom handle" which is pure thud.

You might check my "favorite vendors" and "caning info" sections of my BDSM resources page, http://www.old-tom.com/stories/otlinks.html.

Come to think of it, please do browse my "caning info" section at the above link. There are a number of informative essays bookmarked there. Also, check the Hanson articles at http://www.hansonpaddle.com/SpankingSafetyandTechnique.htm.

I personally soak the rattan canes in warm water every 2-4 months. As the Hanson article notes, this does cause the rattan fibers to break down, and your cane becomes more and more likely to break during use. But my canes generally last a year or more, and at a dollar or two each, who cares. :-) The things are extremely lightweight, like balsa, so I partially fill a 5 gallon bucket with a flat bottom, and use it to hold the canes submerged in the bathtub. You'll know from their feel when they're fully soaked - plan on 4-6 hours.

Let them dry naturally - no heat sources or direct sunlight. Using a wet cane has a *very* special effect. Well, two effects. First, it's denser and more flexible, so has a different impact. But, as you swing it, a jet of water will spray out the end, to shoot across the room in an arc. It has an interesting effect on the audience.... :-)

Okay, so now you have a set of canes.

And yes I strongly recommend a *set* of canes. Why is this? Because you might like thin, or you might like thick. If you got the *wrong* one to begin with, you'll start out on the wrong foot so to speak, and miss out on the good stuff. With the different thicknesses, you can experiment and find out what's right for you. Chances are, it will be the *combination* that works rather than holding yourself to one single implement.

The short 20-inch length is easily controlled, and quite suitable for over-the-knee use. Thus, I suggest beginning with *only* the short canes available.

Some people like bamboo... I only use it for variety's sake. If you *do* use bamboo, carefully inspect the cane before every use. When it cracks or splits, that split can be razor sharp, pinching or slicing the skin. Bamboo is much stiffer. Wrapping is much less of an issue - but you must still take care to ensure it does *not* dangerously wrap. (I'll explain below.)

Bamboo is much like a riding crop. That is, you grab the implement and start whacking. The energy tends to be concentrated in the tip, because it's moving faster during the swing. But, there's no slapper to spread out the impact energy... thus the tip can leave some very nasty circular bruises. Those are the bruises that begin to get bigger and bigger a couple of days later.

Generally, then, I'll just use a riding crop. I pick them up for three or six dollars at the Farm and Fleet. I *only* use bamboo for variety's sake during a scene. I have yet to find anyone who actually *likes* bamboo. People do... I just have not met any such yet. :-)

Okay, so now you have a set of canes.

You have a set of three different thicknesses, all 20 inches in length. You've thoroughly confused yourself, by reading all the different essays I mention above. Different people have different methods and techniques. Bill has an excellent essay earlier in this forum thread, don't forget.

Where to begin?

That's easy. We begin with what *not* to do. Or, more precisely, let's use the cane in such a way that we're assured of using it safely. Try my suggestions with each of the thicknesses. Use a pillow for practice. Pillows don't scream.

Can you picture a seamed stocking? That is, the seam running up the back of her leg? Picture that line, then, running up the center of the back of her leg. Continue the line across the center of the buttock, to the lower back.

That line is where you place the *tip* of the cane. Let me explain.

Your target area is her bottom, and upper legs. (There are plenty of other valid target areas, but we'll stick with her bottom for now.)

Can you picture uniform pants with a stripe going up the outside of the leg? Picture a two-inch-wide stripe going up the outside of the leg, from ankle to waist. That stripe is the off-limits territory. Your cane WILL wrap to the outside. If it wraps such that the tip lands on that imaginary stripe area, you'll have serious damage - damage which can take months to heal.

The answer is that you must be able to strike ACCURATELY. If you can't guarantee where the cane will land, don't strike. Period.

So. How do we guarantee a safe stroke? Aim so that the tip reaches that stocking line going up the middle of the buttock (or middle of the back of the leg). Suppose you are standing to her left, and you're swinging right handed. Thus her right buttock and right leg are to the outside, furthest away from you. Can you picture that?

First, pantomime the stroke several times, to practice your aim. That's literally what you need to do - practice your aim. With rattan, it's *different*. Aim so that the tip goes no further to the outside of her bottom/leg than that imaginary stocking line. That is, the tip goes no further to the outside than the *center* of the target. If you can do this, the cane cannot possibly wrap around to her hip, causing damage. It's impossible - if and only if you aim for that imaginary stocking seam.

What if your aim is off by an inch or so? No problem... it's okay to strike an inch or perhaps even two, to the outside. But think about this a moment... think seriously. If your aim is so wild that the tip can strike as much as two inches to the outside, you have insufficient control. Take a pillow, and practice, and practice, and practice. For me, at least, this was NOT an easy thing to learn. However, it's possibly the most important thing TO learn.

With a cane, you *must* be able to play safely. That means you *must* be able to control the strokes. Wild strokes are flat not acceptable. If you screw up *just once*, she'll be able to show you the result for weeks to come. Her moral superiority will be insufferable, and you really just don't want to go there.

As you learn to use the cane, learn to use it both forehand and backhand. The cane's energy tends to be concentrated in the tip. If you work entirely from the left side, the damage will tend to be concentrated on the right. So, learn to work from both sides, so that the damage can be relatively even. (An expert can place the cane's energy along any portion of the cane. But at the start, the energy will be at the tip.)

Bruising tends to be worse when caning over clothing. Even though it's scarier, bare skin is best. He can see the marks as they raise, and better guage how he's doing. The cane *will* bruise and welt... plan on it. However, at first, you'll be wanting to use strokes that just barely bring out the color. You'll see the characteristic "tram lines" - the two parallel lines marking the width of the cane. It's the cane's tip which will cause the bruise.

Be careful about crossing strokes. Placing one welt on top of the other can break the skin. The skin at the base of the bottom is the most likely to break. That's particularly true with a thin cane.

An expert will place horizontal lines, parallel to but not touching each other. There's a reason for that. So, do try to gain enough control that you can consistently place parallel lines. This is most easily done with her laying flat on a bed, so that you can work from both sides. I personally prefer to have her standing and bent over, but it's far more difficult to deliver level strokes that way.

Later in the session, you can place a stroke *across* those horizontal lines, with dramatic result. I highly recommend one stroke down each of those imaginary stocking seams. I take particular delight in her knowing that that second stroke on the other leg will be just as bad as the first. (Remember, I took care to ensure that the damage is evenly distributed across both legs.)

Like with anything wooden, don't strike too high. Stay away from the tailbone area. Don't allow anything to wrap towards her lower back or the top of her hip bone. One thing I'll often do is place my hand over her tailbone. That way she knows if the stroke goes too high, I'll hit myself rather than her. It's one more way that she can relax, knowing she will be safe within the scene. And yes hitting your hand with a cane hurts a LOT. :-)

You'll notice I haven't described any specific technique for weilding the stick. My aim here is to increase your comfort level, so you can begin. Read the other authors' essays. Experiment, ask questions, and PRACTICE.

You need to develop an awareness of the stick as a whole, and an awareness of the tip. There is a vast difference between the merely very good, and the expert. Find a way to become expert, and you'll be so very glad you did!

Does anyone recall a song from years back, about an old violin being sold at auction? The title was "the master's hand" or somesuch. The violin was bid for one dollar, two dollar, anything more? until an old man walked up and took the violin, adjusted it, and began to play.

The bids resumed at one thousand, two thousand... and what was the difference? The touch of The Master's hand. Can you recall that song?

So it is with The Cane - in the hands of a master of the art, it is exquisite. Don't judge the cane by the sound of a first-year violin student. Accept that it takes practice and training, to learn the master's touch... and be assured that it's worth it. Remember whom you are pleasing. Like I said - it's worth it.

If you have access to expert in-person instruction, you can learn to use the cane *well* in a couple of hours. On your own, it will take longer... but you have her to help in providing feedback, (tip: call her a demonstration model rather than a practice dummy) and you already know how to read her body language.

Once you have it figured out, you can gain considerable expertise with regular practice. However, like with the violin, you *must* be exposed to a master of the craft, so that you can gain a vision of what is possible. You can *then* develop a mastery which is uniquely your own.

To be sure, learning the cane is *nothing* like learning the violin. I observed a master of the art, and practiced an hour a day for three months. But... that was only half of the equation. By working with various people over the next three years, I gained an understanding of how to conduct the scene safely, taking each person where she has never been before. As you can see, it's been worth it. :-)

As it happens, those three months were spent strengthening my finger muscles, and learning some specific motions to the point they have become automatic and instinctive. From my mentor, I learned focus, and the physics involved. My technique is more akin to a baton twirler than to a tennis player.

Please do keep asking questions. If there's more I can do to make it *safe* for you to learn the cane, I'd like to. I see having a greater number of expertly striped bottoms as a good thing.

I finally located KellFire, now known as kelcy... she has a poem and a picture on her web site. The poem comes from a late night caning last spring; the photo is from a little "demo" we did for people the year before.

To take a peek, go to http://kellfire.homestead.com/ and click on "The Cane". I think the poem describes that particular headspace quite well.

In fact the pic doesn't relate to the same session as the poem. The poem's session *would* have looked much worse.

The session that the pic came from, had no warmup and no prior play that weekend (on her part), and was in front of an uncertain audience. That is, the audience was *not* prepared to expect a heavy scene... we went about as far as the *audience* could handle :)

I went back to take a very close look at Kel's pic. The redness there is *only* from cane strokes. You'll note that the edge of the redness pretty closely follows that imaginary stocking seam line I was describing above. Except, of course, for three or four deliberately placed "marking" strokes.

Unlike some pics you may have seen, the objective is not to chew someone into hamburger :-)

The cane has the potential for being dangerous. You *must* know that the person can handle the scene with you. This means (1) can handle the scene with *you*; and (2) remain within their expertise. I can name any number of people who can handle a hairbrush just fine, but decide to pick up a whip, and cause serious unexpected damage.

If he was pressing you to "take it or leave it" as you describe, "leave it" is the right choice.

I recommend against canes for someone with arthritis. They are lightweight but require CONTROL, which probably means placing stress on the damaged (arthritic) areas. On the other hand, that would be a valid thing to experiment with. Come to think of it, the short canes (20 inches) might work very well, and they allow OTK.

As for position. A week ago, I was caning someone while she lay on a bed in the hotel room (the party suite). I could *not* deliver full strokes for a couple of reasons. One, the bed was in the way. Certain strokes require that my hand be in front of the person's hip or leg. Picture striking the center of the cane to the outside of the near bottom cheek, with the tip wrapping around to land on the center of the other bottom cheek.

Also, the bed prevents me from doing a "follow through" type of stroke. If I follow through the person, and the bed, I'll break the cane as it jams into the floor, the nightstand, whatever.

The *other* problem is the ceiling. Picture driving a stake with a sledge hammer. You raise the hammer over your head, probably behind your shoulder, and bring it around in a full swing. Same with a cane, except that it hits the ceiling! So that doesn't work.

Likewise on the rebound... I use a very loose hand grip. Certain strokes will strike, but pull the cane back. The cane hits the ceiling on the pullback!

During the course of several prone-on-the-bed canings (several different recipients), I made two errors. Both were due to being in this position. The lesson learned is that I can NOT do a full-horsepower caning in that situation.

The first error was this. The result was that I broke the skin for the first time ever. This was a vertical stroke near the end of the scene. I place my arm across her bottom, and strike the base of the cane - hard - across my forearm. Yes, it hurts my arm! This causes the tip to wrap around, and lay itself along the back of her thigh, vertically, across all the prior cane stripes. It's an excellent wake-up stroke. You repeat the stroke for the other leg, of course, and this presumes that the backs of the legs have been caned.

(Incidentally, stay WELL away from the backs of the knees. Unless you have truly flawless precision control, don't go even halfway down the the thigh towards the knee.)

(Also incidentally, be careful of the skin where the buttock joins the leg. That skin is far more likely to tear - particularly because it's easy for a stroke to slide into that spot over and over. Two strokes crossed over each other *can* mean broken skin. At the base of the bottom it almost certainly *will* mean broken skin. If it's intentional, that's cool, and she'll remember the stroke for a while. If it's not your intent, avoid placing *any* strokes there.)

Okay, back to the first error. Because she was laying in the center of a queen-sized bed, I could not stand directly against her side to deliver the stroke. Rather than landing directly up and down, it skidded slightly sideways, towards the inside of the leg. The tip, in skidding sideways, broke the skin. Picture the gouge you'd make in sliding into home base, and you get the idea. Not a serious problem, but definitely an error. I now better understand the problems related to this caning position!

The second error was this. Since I couldn't do a full vertical stroke with a 36 inch cane - it hits the ceiling - I tried slicing in from an angle. That works fine with moderate strokes. I did the same forehand stroke at full horsepower, and that turned out to be a serious error. The stroke was *too* horizontal. It skidded over her bottom, and continued on to land on her back. As it turned out, she didn't even know an error had happened. She was fine; we continued; but I wound down the scene from that point, and we were quickly finished.

My preferred position is with the person standing bent over. Not jackknifed touching toes. Laying across a table, or hands on seat of chair, or leaning on back of chair or sofa. That sort of thing. Whatever makes her the most comfortable, so that she can sustain the position for quite a while. Quite a while, meaning ten, twenty, forty minutes.


Let me hasten to point out that scenes with a cane do NOT need to be as serious as what I describe above. Far from it! The above scenes were with people that I had worked with before. These scenes were discussed and negotiated beforehand, over a series of months. This type of play is NOT suitable for a casual or first-time encounter. In each case, I had prior experience with that person, and knew how to conduct the scene safely. And, each person had prior experience with *me*, and knew that we were remaining within my expertise.

With *another* person or two, we did some first-time experimental tippy-tapping. But that's not nearly so dramatic as full strokes which literally stop conversations as onlookers jump in fright. It's amazing - and enjoyable - that a woman onlooker who *enjoys* the precise scene being conducted, is continuously frightened by observing another. Swishing the cane at high speed (without hitting anything) tends to frighten the audience. Therefore, naturally, I do a lot of swishing.