This week, we take a question from SOS Subscriber William Anderson (Massillon, OH), who asked the following question:
Q: “As a senior-aged man, what realistically am I able to do for elderly self defense for myself & my wife? I see a lot of videos about fighting techniques, etc. but wonder if I could do most of them with a bad knee. I am in otherwise good health.”
We contacted experts in the field and included their responses to William’s question below:
Name: William Stedman
Bio: William is a Certified Partner with Safe International Milwaukee Self Defense, and is also a firefighter for the Lisbon (seven years) and Waukesha (19 years) Fire Departments. He has also been a Tacfit Instructor for Milwaukee Defense and an EMS Instructor at Waukesha County Technical College.
Response: First, I would start with being well-rounded with awareness and avoidance of your surroundings. If you look like a victim, you’re more likely to be a victim. I would practice verbal defusing skills to help defuse the situation and use a passive stance as strategy, knowing that an attacker’s ego will usually go up and as your guard goes down. If at any time you can run away, take the opportunity and run away. This may not always be possible if you have physical limitations, regardless of age, such as a bad knee.
Self defense also comes down to proper mindset – start with the question, what do you have to fight for ? Your wife, for sure! Could you imagine putting your fingers 2 inches into someone’s eye socket? If not, how about when the attacker is going for your body or life, or assaulting your child or wife? By now, you should be saying h*ll yes I could! Going straight for their eyes if their head and face is revealed is a good first move, as it may delay their ability to fight and give you and your wife a chance to escape.
I would also concentrate on scenario training. I highly recommend Richard Dimitri’s material; he also helps teach for Safe International Self defense with CEO Christopher Roberts.
Name: Ed Kress
Bio: Ed Kress is an instructor, coach, trainer, writer and public speaker in the areas of personal safety and self-defense. He has over 30 years of experience teaching personal and situational awareness and a wide variety of self-defense techniques to people of all ages in private, semi-private, large group classes and corporate settings. He is also the author of over 150 articles on Personal Safety and Self Defense.
Response: The question from the subscriber raises many others in my mind. What does senior aged mean? I am 63 and just 1 month after having a full hip replacement in early May, I was back teaching martial arts and self-defense. When the subscriber says self-defense, he appears to be referring to physically fighting someone, but why is he fighting? Does he want to be able to fight off a strong arm robbery attempt? If the robber is armed with a gun or knife, he should throw the first thing that an attacker asks for in one direction and move as quickly as possible in the other, while yelling the word “fire.” Better yet, he should increase his personal and situational awareness in ways that will allow him to identify and avoid potentially dangerous people, places and situations.
I publish content on how to recognize pre-attack indicators on my blog, ACT in Self Defense. The main take away is, if you can’t fight physically due to your age or physical infirmity, then try to avoid putting yourself in situations where you need to fight, or be willing to give up your valuables and hope that the attacker doesn’t hurt you just because they can. I would also consider purchasing a firearm. I personally do not carry one, though that may change as my physicality diminishes. If you do decide to go this route, spend time training with the weapon. You will still need to work on paying attention to what is going on around you, including noticing who is nearby.
There are plenty of examples of people with guns becoming crime victims because they felt so secure carrying a gun that they put themselves in risky situations. It’s often the case that where you are most comfortable is where you are most vulnerable.
Name: Joe Rosner
Bio: Joe has been a speaker and self-defense teacher with Best Defense USA in the Greater Chicago area for over 15 years. His background in military, law enforcement, bodyguard background and sales training skills help Joe reach his diverse range of audiences. He is the author of “Street Smarts & Self-Defense for Children” and a speaker and writer on crime prevention and self-defense, with articles featured in the Chicago Tribune, Realtor Magazine, and other industry publications. He has also appeared on numerous radio and TV programs.
Response: As we age, we all lose muscle mass and strength; plus, our speed and agility are reduced. But that doesn’t mean we are helpless. Anyone who can stand on their own two feet (even with a cane, if needed) can defend themselves with a stomp kick. A stomp kick is the most powerful kick a person can do, regardless of age or athleticism, since it uses your largest, strongest muscle – the quadriceps – in combination with your body weight. Stomp kicks are very easy to do and require little training or practice.
Step One: Bring the knee of your kicking leg up high, but be careful to keep your balance.
Step Two: Slam your kicking foot down on top of your attacker, crossing their foot at a 90-degree angle and as near to their ankle as you possible.
Step Three: Run to a safe place and call 911.
To make your stomp kick even more devastating, envision your foot going all the way through the attacker’s foot and shoe and yell as loud as you can as you kick. A stomp kick will usually leave your assailant in a lot of pain and hopefully immobilized.
Analyzing the Experts:
- Takeaway 1: The experts seem to agree across the board: the best and first line of self defense is to keep yourself out of dangerous situations/environments and avoid taking unnecessary risks if possible. Maintaining awareness of your surroundings and an eye on those around you is also an essential element of proactive self defense.
- Takeaway 2: Just because you’re aging or not as strong as you once were, doesn’t mean you’re helpless – either physically or mentally. Encountering danger will automatically trigger an adrenaline rush and “fight-or-flight” response; one proactive initial approach, as shared by William Stedman, is to use verbal defusing skills (something in which you can train) and keeping a passive rather than confrontational response. Rest assured that if the attacker means to harm you or your wife, you’ll be surprised at how quickly you’ll physically react to fighting for your or your loved one’s life. If you see an opportunity to escape, take it; if an attacker demands an object, such as money or your wallet, give it to them and move as quickly as possible away from your attacker. Ed Kress also advises yelling “Fire” to draw attention to your situation; this is often recognized as a better exclamation than “Help”, as bystanders may be hesitant to put themselves in the way of danger. We at Science of Skill suggest considering an even more proactive self-defense response – yelling more specific demands for help at bystanders, such as “YOU! Call 911!” or “Go get help”! Bystanders often want to help but aren’t sure what to do, or too often wait to see if someone else is helping; giving specific commands may help trigger a more proactive response from witnesses.
- Takeaway 3: Get some training in some basic defense moves (and consider having your wife train as well) that are meant to provide enough temporary pain, damage or shock to allow a window for escape. Joe Rosner suggests the stomp kick (combined with some mental visualization to help cause the attacker real pain). Going for the eyes or another vulnerable spot is another relatively simple and instinctual move, as suggested by Stedman. If you have the motivation, you can also train (regardless of age) in self combat and/or martial arts defense approaches that focus on self defense – Senshido (the approach taken by Richard Dimitri, as suggested by Stedman) and Krav Maga are just two examples. If you feel your physical ailments or disabilities prevent you from adequately defending yourself or your wife, then you might consider purchasing a firearm, as suggested by Kress; however, this is an option that requires research of your state and federal gun laws, as well as training in how to handle, secure, and fire a gun in the event of an emergency. Keep in mind that almost anything can be used as a weapon (i.e. a cane, keys, an umbrella, etc.).