by Mitch Kessler - aka SirAdam
"There is a good deal more to caning than one person simply hitting someone else with a stick."
A cane can be used mildly, even sensually, by a reasonably skilled and self-controlled Caner. But the mystique and the appeal of The Cane, as opposed to any number of other long thin things you can hit with, is that it is used for intense, deliberate and severe corporal correction of miscreants. Psychologically, it can be highly fetishized and formal. Physically, it places great demands on the Canee’s resolution and fortitude. For the caner it is almost an equally challenging exercise in concentration, technical skill, and psychological dominance.
It is fairly traditional for formal caning scenes to be conducted without a safeword. Once the canee has agreed to a certain number of strokes, that is the number that must be endured ... regardless. As a result, caning is probably one of those practices that benefits from a good deal of discussion (negotiation) beforehand, and the “permission” to discuss it afterwards.
First the issues of “how much pain” and “how much marking” need to be resolved. Equally important is the issue of, “who are we and why are we doing this?” Is this a punishment scenario, an ordeal, or a demonstration of skill for one participant and fortitude on the other? Is caning going to be used to punish actual misdeeds? Are there strong feelings or values concerning a sense of “youthful victim” found in so much of caning literature and fantasy?
It’s also worthwhile to explore what happens after the actual caning. Is the canee to be left in place (enjoying an endorphin euphoria, one hopes) ?... required to dress and depart (as in boarding school scenarios)? ... or when the scene ends, is there to be “aftercare” such as cuddling, nurturing, or sex?
The Sensuous Caning
To use a cane mildly, employ a a tapping technique, powered by the wrist alone. The actual sensation can be described as “sharp,” “stinging” or “focused.” It’s severity will vary based on the strength of the taps, their frequency, and how close together they land. As much as there can be an objective definition of what is “mild” and what is “severe,” the dividing line for canes may be that a love tap is silent, but a stroke you can hear is one you’ll really feel! A mild blow will not bend the cane, either on impact or while travelling to its target. Used full-force, the cane is usually applied only to the buttocks, but these lighter taps may be used on almost any part of the body without too much anxiety about damaging tissues or relationships. Targets that are usually considered “off-limits” for whips and floggers, such as the palms, soles, or calves can be explored. Even the back and chest can be hit, within reason.
The Real Thing
A “Proper Caning” is a completely different matter. One stroke “of the best” feels like a knife edge of fire and lightning that blots out every other thought and sensation. As the initial blaze fades, an aftershock — still sharp, localised, but with a bit of dull achiness — begins to sink in, feeling as if the stripe runs clear to the bone and beyond. Then the stroke fades to an afterglow some may find almost pleasant, others, almost endurable. he second is the same ... only more so. And so on, until the full quantity is completed. Significant marking by each and every stroke is to be expected, and breaking of the skin is not unlikely. The sensation of the cane is such that a single dozen, or even “six of the best,” is usually entirely sufficient in most people’s reckoning. A caning of 24 strokes is sometimes referred to as “the Military Caning” and is a serious ordeal in anyone’s estimation.
This does not mean, however, that a “Proper Caning” scene need be short, either objectively or subjectively. In fact, prolonged anticipation, elaborate preparation, and resolute cooperation by the Canee are important elements in a fully-realised traditional caning. In the Victorian educational setting, boys “sent down” for caning might wait several days before presenting themselves and a memorandum of their wrongdoing to the senior educator who would actually chastise them. When used as authentic behaviour modifying punishment, the anxiety and expectation brought on by the promise of caning for misbehaviour, might be felt almost as keenly as the actual strokes.
In consensual erotic practice, some people will increase pain tolerance with a spanking, flogging or paddling before the caning. It could be purely a matter of mental preparation ... it might be endorphin release ... sexual arousal could be raising the pain threshold ... or the impact and subsequent engorgement may actually desensitise the nerves ... it seems paradoxical but it does work.
A preparation ritual is not uncommon, often utilising aspects of the traditional school canings. Sometimes the offence for which the punishment is being administered is described, the punishee may be required to fetch and present the cane in a particular manner and kiss or otherwise show “it” respect and gratitude before presenting it (again in a prescribed manner) to the caner.
Schoolboys might be caned “trousers up” OR “trousers down, with the tails of their jackets and shirts pinned up and out of the way. This process of securing the excess clothing is what is known as “taking up.” What it provides in convenience and modesty the “trousers up” style of caning has practical and aesthetic drawbacks. Aesthetically it deprives Caner of agreeable sights, first of the bared bottom, and then the development of an even row of neatly spaced cane-strips. Practically, the punishee is less likely to take excessive damage if the Caner can see the effect of each “strike” as it happens. In addition, the formal “taking down” of trousers and/or knickers adds, in this context, at least the potential for feelings of humiliation and powerlessness.
Once “pinned up” and “taken down” the punishee is “bent over.” The more extreme the bend (grasping the ankles, for example) the more effect the cane cuts will have. Bending also exaggerates the curve of the bottom, for the Caner’s visual pleasure, and limits the the punishee’s ability to minimise the blow by clenching the muscles of the buttocks. The bent-over position also assures that the cane will not land above the tail bone where it might conceivably do some damage. Some caners will insist on nearly impossible perfection in positioning — arched back, buttocks presented, legs straight, head up, shoulders back — both before and during the caning. Lapses of posture may be a cause for increasing the number of strokes, or may form the basis for verbal harassment and humiliation. This, of course, adds to everyone’s enjoyment of the encounter.
Once bent over, the punishee may be required to endure a period of waiting for the first strike. The caner may sweep the cane through the air a few times for the sake of the sound, or so that the punishee can feel its “wind,” and hear its characteristic noise. The punishee very quickly learns the difference between the sound of the cane being merely swished through the air, and the hiss of the final approach.
To increase the anticipation some Caners will require that the punishee request each stroke and count the cane strokes either as they fall, or before each stroke is delivered. At the same time the caner may intensify the anticipation either by holding the cane away from the target entirely, or touching it lightly it to express growing impatience with the “cowardly delay.”
In addition the canee may be required to count each stroke according to a prescribed formula: ONE Sir (or Ma’am, or Miss) Thank you Sir, May I have another, Sir ... losing count or miscounting can be a “reason” to start over, or “earn” the subject another caning at another time.
It is worth remembering that these tricks, formal counting, posture correction, lecturing, etc., not only add to the ritual and psychology of the caning ... they also can be used to control the pace of the caning. The caner wants to allow enough time between strokes to let the canee enjoy the full benefit of each stroke while at the same time recovering enough to be able to accept another. This is necessary for the same reason that a blow from a cane is called a “strike” or a “cut” — the sensation has a certain amount in common with the effects associated with lightning and swords.
A Proper Caning is an ordeal, an exercise in significant pain. A skilled practitioner with quality materials can soon have a canee cherishing every stripe on their body — and coming back for more.
Acquiring the necessary skill for this is not really difficult, but it does call for the investment of some time and effort. The novice caner will want to develop accuracy first. This is not a skill to develop by practicing on your Significant Other. A dusty blanket or quilt, folded over the back of a high backed chair is a much better choice. You might want to dust a palm sized circle with carpenter’s chalk, to give you a better idea of where your strokes are landing. The target area is roughly 7” high, 9” wide , 30 - 35” from the floor. (You might also have your S.O. sit in some non-toxic paint, bend over, back up to the blanket and thereby mark the exact target you’ll be trying for.)
Once you are certain of hitting your mark each and every time you are ready to work on gaining control of speed and impact. A partner with a high pain threshold and a forgiving nature is of inestimable value here, as is your willingness to increase the the impact from taps to strikes in very small increments. At this stage of development, you may want to consider taking a few stripes, and even a full dozen or two (at different times) to develop understanding of what you propose to be administering. A skilled and sensitive caner will be able to show you style, pacing, and form, while a willing, enthusiastic, and unskilled partner will quickly teach you all the faults you need to eliminate in your own technique. While you don’t really need to feel the cane in order to cane well ... there’s no teacher like experience.
Strikes must not “scissor” thin flesh between cane and bone, or land on joints. The backs of the thighs are a problematic target, especially in “adipose-tissue-deprived” persons. Hits to the thighs are astonishingly painful and there are large blood vessels, tendons and nerve bundles under the fat and muscle. While some tough and athletically gifted persons can take a cane strike to the pectoral region or abdomen (crotch and throat protection are such a good idea, for this trick) in nearly all cases canes should never land where there are nerves close to the surface, or soft organs directly below.
In caning the goal is to hit with a section of cane starting at the tip and extending perhaps six to eight inches toward the handle. The idea is to avoid hitting with the tip either by “leading with the point” (usually the result of using too much wrist action) or by bending the cane around the body (“throwing wraps”), which is usually caused by standing too close . Strikes with the tip leave short dot-like marks that can take an astonishingly long time to heal, whether they break skin or not.
There is a legitimate difference of opinion concerning “crossing” cane stripes. One school of thought holds that crossed stripes are the sign of a careless, skilless, caner. Their ideal is a number of perfectly spaced and distinct marks to look at and admire. A practical objection to crossed stripes is that skin damage at the point of crossing is, if anything, more severe than is caused by a strike with the tip. Another school of thought likes to cross their cuts for that very reason taking care to make the “crosses” uniform and deliberate looking.
Cane strokes often break skin, intentionally or not. This has lead to some practitioners to add a very modern innovation to the preparation ritual. Before the actual caning begins, the canee’s bottom is anointed with a petroleum-jelly based antibiotic ointment such as “Bacitracin™.” This has three advantages. The first is psychological effect of the touching itself, whether it is kindly, threatening, matter of fact, or salacious. Secondly, the lubricating property of the oil base, softens the skin and helps minimise actual damage. Lastly, if the skin is broken by cane strokes, the cut receives immediate infection preventing first aid, as the active antibiotic is driven into the wound.
Concern about disease transmission via “bloodied” S/M toys is probably more a question of social norms and personal comfort levels then of medical imperatives. It is the potential for HIV transmission that is most compelling — though the epidemiological evidence should reassure rather than alarm. On the other hand, both the cane and the skin are far more likely to be exposed to other pathogens including from the common cold to hepatitis, diphtheria, the dysentaries - all the diseases associated with blood, sweat, and raw sewage. This could be considered a reason to reserving one cane for use on one person only. It might also be an incentive for more dedicated or extreme devotees to invest in the vaccinations advised for health and rescue workers — although rabies and tetanus shots are probably very optional.
As to the strike itself, the force of the impact depends on the speed with which the cane is accelerated rather than the strength or “muscle” the caner can put behind the blow. During its forward motion, the cane bends, storing the energy of its travel, which it then releases when it hits. The more extreme the bend and the more abrupt the stop, the more impact will be produced. (And the greater the likelihood the cane will break in mid-air, too.) After the strike, the caner should allow a few seconds at least for the punishee to appreciate the full artistic effect.
There are three basic styles of swinging a cane. In the Traditional style, a portion of the cane is held braced against the inside of the forearm. The arm is kept very straight both on the back swing and in the forward “cut.” This is probably the most lenient or “lower form” way of using the cane, producing the least effect. By some accounts (probably more imaginative than actual) while Schoolmasters were to required to keep a stiff arm — some of them offset this limitation with a running start. From a schoolboy’s point of view, this technique at least offers the possibility that the caner rather than the punishee will suffer pain and humiliation.
Supposedly banned in the schoolroom, was a variation called the “Cavalry Cut.” The stroke begins with the cane held over the caner’s head, roughly parallel to the ground — as if parrying a sabre cut to the caner’s head. The cane is then brought downward and around in a circular motion, like a riposte to the flank — only lower. Perfectly executed, this will lay a stripe on the underside of the curve of the buttocks, an area not easily reached by other means. Less than perfectly done, this stroke can land somewhere on the back of the thighs. This can lead to intense ill-feeling in a consensual relationship especially during the swimsuit season.
Mistress Nan B. of California has been the most outstanding practitioner and teacher of the Modern Style, which is probably the most devastating. She advocates a very supple wrist action, with the time taken to draw the cane back exactly equal to the time required for the forward motion of the blow. This introduces the most extreme bend in the cane, to the extent that its tip may actually strike the caner’s back. The Caner stands with weight centred over well-planted feet, with the extended cane hand even with, or slightly back of the presented buttocks. The blow completes even with or just behind the plane of the presented buttocks. A skilled practitioner may introduce a bit of hip rotation to increase the distance of travel, and may cock the cane-wrist backward a bit as the back swing reaches its most extreme point.
Cane strikes of that severity should absolutely be restricted to areas of deep fat and muscle. Its probably worth remembering that a Proper Caning perfectly done will leave a set of parallel stripes exactly one cane-diameter apart, with no stripe at or above the level of tailbone, nor below the point where the buttocks join the thighs.
Choosing a Cane
A good cane is one that will land where it is aimed, and have the effect that is intended. That leaves a lot of leeway for personal choice and preference. Most canes on the market today are between 3/16 and 3/8” in diameter. Any smaller is too whippy and flexible to be really accurate, much larger too heavy and club-like to be really recreational. Thin canes cut and sting more than thick ones. They leave red welts that fade more quickly, but are more likely to break skin. Thicker canes not only have more mass, but are stiffer and can be made longer than thin ones and as a result are, all things being equal, more severe and more damaging.
Rattan is sold in two forms. “Kooboo” is the natural unprocessed form. It ranges in colour from pale yellow to a mottled brown. Each stick tapers slightly, with visible segments along its length. “Polished reed” is the processed form, favoured by furniture makers. The outer skin, colouring and joints have been sanded off and the stick is of a uniform diameter. Kooboo needs no additional finishing for use as a cane. Polished reed is somewhat porous, and lacks stiffness. On the other hand, polished reed is available in precise sizes and is very uniform. It is very attractive when finished with varnish or epoxy resin, which also helps correct the lack of stiffness. Some people prefer the slower action of the polished reed cane, which enables them to use a longer and thicker stick than their partner(s) could tolerate in the stiffer natural finish.
How much damage a cane will do depends as much on the speed with which it travels as with its mass and diameter. A long stiff cane can achieve greater tip velocity than a shorter or thinner one. For a thin-ish cane 24 to 30 inches will be about right; for a thick one, 36 to 40 inches. If there is an “average” or “normal cane” it is about 5/16” in diameter and 32-35” long.
The combination of length, thickness, and composition produces a balance of stiffness and flexibility called “bone.” How much bone you want is a matter of taste and experience as much as anything else. Natural rattan has more bone than the same species sanded to “polished reed.” Polished reed is a bit porous and needs to be sealed with a varnish, and this restores some of the stiffness. Natural rattan canes are often varnished because the resulting appearance is so attractive, though it adds little to the cane’s bone or durability.
The infamous Singapore cane is roughly 1/2” in diameter and 48 inches long. The first 8-10” are soaked in water, overnight, before use. In the hands of fit and skilled police officials, this instrument is so savage that 12 blows are considered adequate corporal punishment (imposed in addition to fines and prison time) for felony crimes such as rape and robbery. (For more about the Singapore cane and the caning, see Issue #)
The Circle-Test Myth and Mystique
There is a common belief that a “good” cane can be bent into a true circle, with the tip touching the handle. The problem is, this a test that can be performed about once!. If the cane passes the test, it was a good cane before testing! Only the longest canes can be treated this way without damage. The circle test is actually used by cane makers to evaluate uncut eight-foot lengths of cane.
Other Cane Materials
Canes, or things serving the purpose of canes can be made of materials other than rattan. Nylon rod is denser than cane, and has less "bone." This promotes a slower motion that bruises more and cuts less. It is also nearly unbreakable. Fiberglass is very stiff and hard, which promotes extreme accuracy, and is very prone to cut skin. Acrylic Rod ( Lucite™ or Plexiglas™) is extremely stiff and dense. In the thicknesses that can be used without undue breakage, it is extremely heavy and punishing.
There are a number of choices in handle designs for canes. The oldest design, actually ties a circle into one end of the cane. The more modern style is a simple wrapping of ribbon or leather on a straight piece of cane, or a built-up handle made of several layers of leather or ribbon.
The traditional Schoolmaster’s Cane has a crook handle, like a common walking cane. In practice, the Modern style is more suited to supple wrist work, the Schoolmaster’s design, more suited to straight-arm work.
(Adam and Gillian's carry a variety of canes in rattan and other materials.
We buy rattan by the bale, and do the steaming and straightening in our workshop.
You can select your own length and diameter as well as style.)
The Linseed Oil Myth and Mystique
A common belief about the care of canes is that putting the cane tip-down into a bottle of linseed oil for a week at a time every month will cause the oil to migrate up the fibres of the cane, keeping it flexible. The fact is that linseed oil is essentially colourless oil paint, and not a lubricant at all. Fortunately, it does not migrate up the tip either, since with time, it becomes quite hard and dense — like old paint. What the linseed oil treatment does do is seal the tip of the cane, and glue small cracks together. Repeated wiping off of the excess “oil” give the cane a deep multi-coat varnish-like finish. It is probably better simply to wipe the cane with linseed oil, hang it vertically, and then wet the tip with the oil and allow to dry. Letting the cane rest on its tip for a week at a time can put permanent warp into the cane.
Care of Canes
Canes Break! There’s no escaping that. Sooner or later your favourite will divide itself into a number of pieces. If you are lucky it will be at the very tip, or close to the grip. Then the broken part can be cut off, the tip rounded with a file or a sharp knife, and additional use gotten from the smaller cane. There are a number of ways, however, to help prevent premature failure. Canes should be stored absolutely flat, or hanging vertically. They should also be used only for their intended purpose, hitting soft things. (Not edges of tables, counters or wood chairs!) Whipping a cane back and forth in mid-air, or too much bending between the hands will greatly reduce its useful life. Varnished canes may benefit from having their tips sealed, while unvarnished ones can be kept flexible longer by exposing them to very high humidity once in a while. Hanging the cane behind a bathroom door while taking a hot shower does the job nicely.