Self-Defense for Seniors - Keeping Safe

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Donna Mae Scheib

Self-Defense for Seniors - Keeping Safe

Posted by Donna Mae Scheib on June 05, 2019

Self-Defense for Seniors – Keeping Safe

Most people would agree that everyone, including the senior population, should learn to protect themselves. In fact, individuals over the age of 65 are prime targets for being attacked by criminals with the majority of crimes being theft and burglary. But rest assured, there are some simple tactics that older adults can learn to help keep them safe.

The Focus of Self-Defense Training

Self-defense training focuses on safety and teaches you to stay aware of your immediate surroundings and to prepare for the unexpected. As a result, you will be more apt to recognize where potential attackers could be and figure out exactly where to go if you need to escape from your present surroundings. In addition, the training will help you develop skills to disable or distract the assailant if the attacker becomes assertive and aggressive toward you.

Physical Benefits of Self-Defense Training

There are many physical benefits of self-defense. These include improving your level of coordination and flexibility; it helps to increase your stamina and overall strength. You will also gain more self-confidence in knowing that you can protect yourself should the situation arise. All of these benefits have a positive impact on your health and well-being.

Tip #1: Prevention Is the Name of the Game

Recent studies determined that a person’s body language and mannerisms are two important considerations for signaling if you are a target for criminals. These were even more significant than age, gender, or body build. Furthermore, those individuals who appeared to be easily overpowered were more prone to be attacked. These are individuals who drag their feet when they walk, those who look down or who are slumped over, and those who move awkwardly. Often if you are alone, you are an easier target as well.

However, if you exhibit a sense of self-assurance and confidence, you will not look as vulnerable. You will most likely stand taller, walk more fluently, and be amongst others.

What else can you do to ward off potential attackers? You can try to…
  • Be alert and aware of what is around you (e.g., scan the area around you and if you see anything/anyone suspicious, walk away/avoid)
  • Don’t draw unnecessary attention to yourself (e.g., hide your purse under your coat or sweater and be mindful of expensive jewelry, clothing, cell phone, etc.)
  • Make brief eye contact with those you are with or those passing by
  • Stand up as straight with good posture; put your shoulders back
  • Stay in well-lit, populated areas especially at nighttime (also, carry a small flashlight, whistle, pepper spray, or personal alarm that can be easily reached)
  • Walk more smoothly and at a similar pace as those nearby you

Tip #2 If Attacked, Now What?

The first few seconds after an attack or confrontation are the most critical. Try to scream or make a loud noise, blow a whistle, use pepper spray, or activate a personal alarm that you may be carrying. Consider throwing something at the perpetrator that you might have with you (e.g., a bag of groceries, a book or magazine) or swing a cane or jacket at them, etc. If you are tossing something that they have requested from you, it is best to try to throw it a little distance from yourself so you can get away more readily. If you have any physical contact with them, try to aim for the most vulnerable areas like their eyes, nose, neck, groin, and knees. Use your knuckles or a sharp object (e.g., a pen), if available.

Tip #3 It’s Never Too Late to Learn − Study Martial Arts

There are many different types of martial arts. You can explore the options offered at a local senior center, YMCA, public library, or through the police department. Many of these classes are free or they are offered for a nominal fee. You can also find private martial arts schools in your area by looking in the phone book or online.

Regardless of where the classes are offered, you should ask ahead of time if there is a class specially designed for seniors or if the class offered can be tailored to your specific needs. You might even be able to observe a class in session or try a sample class before formally registering.

5 Types of Martial Arts Worth Looking Into

1. Aikido

Aikido, a traditional Japanese martial art, is based on using an assailant’s momentum to your advantage. You use locks, throws, weight manipulation, and other maneuvers (but usually not punches or kicks) designed to neutralize an attack and also to subdue the assailant. The phrase “do not fight force with force” is a fundamental principle of Aikido and relies on the concentration that invokes the “ki” spirit and higher spiritual energy. Thus, it blends both the body and the mind. Aikido also teaches you how to fall properly without injury.

2. Jiu-Jitsu, BJJ

Jiu-Jitsu, a Brazilian martial art, is also based on defending yourself. It uses balance and manipulation rather than counterforce. Most of its movements use joint locks and throws. You will learn how to escape from holds and dodge attacks as well as the skill of controlling your opponent through techniques that force them to submit. It is considered “the gentle art” so a weaker person can use leverage and skills successfully against a potentially larger, stronger opponent.

3. Judo

Judo is a reliable system of self-defense. In Japanese, the word “judo” means “the way of gentleness.”  Learning judo helps you disable an opponent by throwing them to the ground and then holding them through locks, holds, and pins if the situation/perpetrator cannot be avoided. Judo does not involve kicking, hitting, or the use of weapons. To do judo, you need some dexterity, but the class can be adapted so it is not uncomfortable or too strenuous for the individual participants.

4. Krav Maga

Krav Maga is derived from a combination of techniques (e.g., boxing, wrestling, Aikido, judo, and karate) and was developed for the Israeli Defense Forces.  It focuses on avoiding confrontation unless absolutely necessary and gaining situational awareness (i.e., identifying potential threats before the attack happens). If a confrontation cannot be avoided, then the training concentrates on surviving an attack. You use simple, natural movements that include groin kicks and eye poking. The attacks are aimed at the most vulnerable parts of the body and students learn to defend themselves in a variety of attacks as well as in the quickest, most efficient way.   

5. Wing Chun

Wing Chun, a traditional Southern Chinese Kung Fu, uses low kicks and open-handed strikes. It focuses on precision and posture and is considered a low-impact activity which is easier on the joints opposed to some of the other forms of martial arts. Wing Chun requires quick arm movements and strong legs to defeat the opponent. You perform the techniques in a relaxed manner like “the flexible nature of bamboo.”

In Summary

Everyone needs to feel safe. Preventing potential attacks and assailants, knowing how to react if you are attacked or confronted, and learning martial arts are all important skills to help you stay safe. Maybe you have never considered the possibility of studying martial arts or you might think that you are too old to learn. Now is the time to check-out available classes and give it a try.

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