School Caning, Running up Adding Force

A quick question. Did any of your teachers or masters ‘run up’ from a short distance to add more force to the strokes of the cane?
Does it actually hurt much more overall, I’m guessing it would matter how padded the backside would be also.
When I had a caning, I could only wear thin trousers. I certainly felt the cane as if I didn’t have any trousers on!

Im guessing it depends on how whippy the cane is also,the length of the cane, and thickness too?


My teachers did not use a runup. There was no space even if they were so inclined. It is possible some stepped forward as they swung the cane. Being a well behaved and studious boy my personal experience is limited. I recall no reports on the matter but details of standard practice would likely not be commented upon and you were not allowed to look. This was in a day coed school with about 400 boys in the 1950s/60s

Teachers varied in their effectiveness, that is the painfulness and accuracy of their canings, and in how they were respected. Consistent, predictable, strict effective caners rated high but so did some non-caners. There was wide understanding, confirmed by an upper sixth form teacher and diverse other sources, that if the cane was used it needed to be used well.

“If you cane a boy you do him no favours if you do not lay it on hard”.

“Cane hard if you do not want to cane often.”

“If you have to cane a boy do a job on him”.

One trick was to tell a boy his very first stroke was just a “tap” and then to lay it one very hard leaving him with the impression next time would be much worse. Properly done it might be many months for him to discover the cane always hurt that much.

The required severity can be achieved without a runup if a cane of suitable size, weight and “temper” is used.  Quality rattan is now hard to come by due to the destruction of habitat and the depletion of wild rattan in the jungles of SE Asia. Cultivated rattan species lack the density and strength in canes of old.

Runups might make good theatre might be useful for making it clear the caner was trying to cause maximum pain. Accuracy is likely to be poor if not practiced.


I seem to recall that our physicists here have argued very convincingly in the past that given the speed attained by the business end of a good quality and properly wielded cane in the instant before it strikes its target, any additional speed derived from a run up would be insignificant, giving the speed likely to be attained by a human in any conceivable caning situation.

The psychological effects though are something else.  Although I have never been caned I have read a vast amount of stuff by those who have, and it is very difficult to imagine what it would be like to be bent over awaiting the first stroke of the cane with no prior knowledge of the effects.  I am pretty sure though that evidence that a run-up by the caner was going to be involved would significantly dampen my spirits, and I think that was probably the main benefit of a run-up.  To significantly disturb and demoralize the recipient, with the inevitable result that the punishment would be perceived as more painful and more memorable.

It is I think in the same category as the techniques reported to be used by some female caners and strappers when punishing on the hands.  These include leaping up in the air and, incredibly, mounting a chair and jumping off it, in each case delivering the stroke in the course of the descent.  Very intimidating, even a little frightening, but unlikely to add appreciably to the velocity of the implement, given the length of descent involved.


Not seen Tales of the Unexpected before. I do notice upon research that the episode is based on Roald Dahl’s own experiences at school.


At my school, caning was done within the confines of the Head’s office, which wasn’t large enough to facilitate flamboyant run-ups or leaping about without risking damaging the furniture, so I wouldn’t know if those techniques would make caning hurt more.  I do remember reading in a paper about a headmaster of another school (I think this was a private school) who was in trouble for ‘excessive caning’.  That article did mention he took a run-up, so it has happened outside the world of film.

I thought when I saw ‘If’ that the run-up was mainly to scare the other (younger) students who were listening to the punishment from their study rooms.  In fact, I thought that the perfect administering the caning didn’t really follow through from the run any more than he could have done from standing.  I don’t know whether the sounds would have unnerved the boys being caned, as the plot implied that they were used to being in trouble and had had the cane before.