It’s hard to imagine exactly what Mark Shuey means when he says that a cane is not a crutch. That is, until he (gently) wraps the handle of said implement around your neck.
A Southern Californian by birth, general contractor by trade and world-class martial artist by hobby, Shuey moved to Incline Village in 1977. He earned his first black belt in 1979 and began competing in tournaments, eventually working his way to the top of the North American Sport Karate Association martial arts masters division. In 1995, after teaching martial arts and yoga classes on the side for years, he came to a realization.
“I kind of had an epiphany one night,” says Shuey. “I was standing outside and got this overwhelming feeling that I’m here to make canes and help people. So I shut down my contracting business, got all my employees new jobs and I started playing with a cane.”
In 1999, he launched his Cane Masters complete self-defense system and, in 2001, his exercise system which, with a cane and tension band, essentially gives the user an entire gym at his or her fingertips. Shuey now travels the world teaching people how to use those for self defense, exercise and rehabilitation. He estimates that his classes, seminars and canes have benefitted at least 100,000 people in Asia, Europe, Australia, Canada and the United States.
Shuey’s students have ranged from age nine to 92. One young pupil was even able to overcome the limitations of cerebral palsy using the cane system for rehabilitation, and is now able to walk.
“People don’t even want to be seen with a cane until they find out what it can do for them,” Shuey says. “They come to class and it changes their whole attitude, makes them feel strong and empowers anyone who uses it. Before they thought of it as a crutch; now they find that it’s a tool that could save their life and make them stronger.”
Shuey’s business has burgeoned on the heels of the aging baby boomers. He has filmed numerous DVDs on martial arts, cane use, Cane Fu and yoga, and has been featured on the Early Show and in AARP Magazine, on the front page of the Wall Street Journal and in the Huffington Post, and has been honored as instructor of the year in 2003 in Black Belt Magazine’s Hall of Fame. He’s even been poked in the ribs himself, as the sub- ject of Comedy Central’s political satire shtick, The Colbert Report. Shuey is cur- rently working on creating a nonprofit that will help senior citizens, specifically disabled veterans.
“I never even thought I’d be a black belt,” says Shuey, now sixth degree black belt in tang soodoo, eighth degree in tai kwon do, seventh degree in hapkido and tenth degree (the highest designation) in the American Cane System. “It’s an amazing journey. I never thought I’d be playing with canes; I thought I’d be building custom homes all my life.”
When he’s not traveling, Shuey teaches yoga and martial arts classes, small groups and private, in his studio in Incline Village. “It’s not really work,” he says. “I’m helping a lot of people and that’s a really great feeling.”
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