i think it's always a good idea to expect any initial strike to serve more as a means to an end, even if it could be a devastating impact by itself. think of lead-in strikes as serving to off-balance the attacker and interrupt their inertia, weakening their position and structure, creating advantageous openings to line up a more powerful strike or take-down. to go straight for the finishing blow while they are still at full strength is riskier, but this is a matter of skill and training, and could be said represents a higher level of mastery. understandable that you may have cause to be hesitant to strike the head, the potential injury could prove to be excessive force, i like a straight thrust to the solar plexus, groin or throat* (imo) a safer bet than a head or knee shot, unless the opportunity is made or presented.Let's get back to my cane, it all started because I said I don't want to strike on the head as my first strike. With a 20oz heavy cane swing with both hands, it is much higher possibility to kill someone with the first strike. I don't want that. I want to neutralize the person, not kill the person. So I practice striking on the knee as the first strike knowing it's not going to KO the guy, but I am sure it will slow down the guy from the injury of the leg. That's neutralizing. If not, at least I tried, then the head is fair game.
But I still going to try to strike the mid section. Not because of worrying about killing the guy. It's much harder for the opponent to try to grab the cane when I strike the leg and mid section. Striking the head is a double edge sword, it's much easier to grab the cane if you go high. It's much harder to grab the cane if I strike the mid section, that still will cause a lot of pain striking the arm, hand or ribs.
*also potentially deadly, but not really any more likely than a headshot to the temple. thrusting strikes are easy to control, and can even be more of a sharply focused shove than a strike, and come from inches away from their target with force if the body is behind it. pushed into soft targets like these they will force a body to move, usually in a way that can be used to your advantage, without worrying about crushing a trachea. reaching the throat unchecked is sometimes easier than the head if you come up from inside, up the center, 'fly in' under the radar so to speak. as opposed to swinging from outside.
another painful but less damaging way to force someone off balance with a 'shove' from the end of your cane is to push into the sternum or ribs and keep pushing in as you draw the blunt end down the ribcage. this could begin with -or flow from- a thrusting strike. this also works with the shaft of a cane or bo, and is very painful, but just bruises result.