There are certainly a multitude of devices out there that claim to scare away, disable, or otherwise neutralize an attacker in his or her tracks when you need to the most. Everything from extremely loud flash-bang noisemakers to tear/pepper sprays to electric stun devices to getting a license to carry for a hand gun can be had to “defend yourself”, but most have one or more severe drawbacks. Cost, complexity, possibility of accidental misuse, and being just plain to deadly to use in most situations are just are a few of the drawbacks that come to mind. I'm not going to go into the politics or moral implications involved with some of these choices and devices other than to observe that there is lots of debate going on about defending yourself and how to do it and it has unfortunately spilled over into some overly politically correct laws that complicate the issue. But being a DIY and KISS kind of guy I came to the realization I might have the answer (literally) in the palm of my hand on a daily basis.
The goal of any good defense device is to be there when you need it and be easy and intuitive to use, and canes have been use in that manner since humans started to walk upright. So it is natural that so called “fighting canes” appeared in virtually every human culture to help defend individuals. But the problem now is that there are many local and state laws involving canes that are poorly written (with lot of police “interpretation” sometime involved) that what defines what is legal or not gets very murky. Sword canes, canes with large heavy heads, or canes with any kind of projections that could be considered spikes or blades can get you into trouble very fast. And what may be perfectly legal where you live may send you straight to jail in the next county or state. But there IS one kind of cane that is out there by the millions and that no one will blink an eye at: the lowly orthopedic walking cane. It can attend any church or political function, be brought on most public transports*, and attend any family or professional function with no problems. Grandma has one, I have one. And maybe you have one, too.
The average stock orthopedic cane can be found in any large drug or second hand thrift store worldwide and is cheap ($3 to $24 dollars US). It's actually somewhat of a marvel in design. The one I have is made out of tough lightweight aircraft aluminum tubing and has a good tough epoxy paint job. It's served me very well daily for 3 years before I “upgraded it” without major signs of ware or failures.
So, how should you modify your orthopedic cane for possible combat? That depends on what style of “combat” you plan on doing. Generally speaking there are two schools of thought for using a cane for defense. One is learning a group of “moves” that involve human physiology so you can take advantage of weak points, leverage, and balance to naturalize your opponent. For this type of defense there are many “Cane Fu” type of schools that would be happy to teach you these moves ether by having you attend a local class or by providing you with a DVD to instruct you, and they can even provide you with “special” combat canes. The major problem with these classes is you must commit to practicing the moves until they become sub-conscious if you actually have any hope to remember then in a stressful confrontation and they cost you money. If you can commit to and afford that level of involvement then this is probably a better way to go, but I don't have that kind of money or motivation myself.
The second school of cane defense is what I call the “bang on them 'till they drop or run” approach. This appeals to my KISS nature in that all you really need to remember is what parts of the human body hurt the most when hit so you can either disable or dissuade an attacker in the quickest manner. It may not be as effective or as sexy as method one but I'm realistic enough to realize I'm not going to turn into Chuck Norris at this point in my life so I'll have to make do. There are websites (and even classes) out there that describe this method and how to train yourself, but the commitment level and cost is much lower than the fist choice and more doable by most people.
This then answers my cane modification question – I want my orthopedic cane to be a good club without making it look like one.
Contrary to popular belief a good club is a lot more than just a long stout piece of wood or metal you hit someone with. There are handle/grip and balance issues as well as how easy it will be to lug around all day. Some of these issues are quite the opposite of what a good cane is. In a club you want the far “hitting end” to be heavy, for a cane it's just the opposite, the far end should be made to be as light as possible so you can swing it around all day with the least amount of effort. A club handle should allow two handed power swinging for aiming at an intended target, a cane handle should allow one handed fine point placement with continual repeating downward pressure to the hand for weight bearing and balance without long term hand or arm discomfort. The simple answer to this dilemma is to put some extra weight in the cane handle and turn the cane around when you want to make it into a club. It would also be good to wrap the far end of the cane in some kind of gripping material to make the handling surer in it's “club mode”. That's pretty much what I hope to outline in the next few steps.
That said, I will also make the following disclaimer: no matter what cane defense method you choose, you should always seek to resolve a potentially violent situation without actually letting it turn violent with the possible escalation, legal, and moral issues involved. Use your head before resorting to using your cane.
* Note that the modifications to this cane will show up if it ever gets scanned by TSA at an airport, so if you don't want to try explaining to a irate public servant what you are doing with it (and risk getting you cane confiscated and missing your flight) you might want to invest in a non-modified cane for traveling.