Teaching the Cane

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 (now Pad­dlew­erks). 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://​pad​dlew​erks​.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 re-​​soaking and from use, they can crack and break. So… plan on it!

Here are rat­tan canes in the Han­son online cat­a­log (check their site for cur­rent offerings):

  • 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 curated BDSM resources page.

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​.han​son​pad​dle​.com/​S​p​a​n​k​i​n​g​S​a​f​e​t​y​a​n​d​T​e​c​h​n​i​q​u​e​.​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.

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://​kell​fire​.home​stead​.com/. 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.


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