Self Defense For Seniors

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Self-defense for seniors does not necessarily require intense training like martial arts or Taekwondo, though, learning them to defend yourself could help. After all, everyone deserves to feel safe and secure whenever they leave their home or just walking down the street. For seniors that live alone, being aware of their surroundings and knowing how to protect themselves is essential in today’s society. This is especially helpful as seniors age. As older adults get older, their response time may not be as sharp. Unfortunately, some seniors do fall prey to acts of crimes. Many seniors tend to walk slower and can be vulnerable to attacks by criminals. In fact, a report from the CDC states that the rate of nonfatal assaults to both men and women over 60 continues to rise each year, with burglary and theft as the highest crimes against seniors.  Seniors are not as susceptible to actual violent crimes, however, elder abuse from either a family member or even a caregiver does happen. It is also estimated that 1 in 10 older adults have experienced some form of elder abuse. And the biggest targets are those who have degenerative diseases or cognitive disabilities.

Basic Techniques to Protect Yourself

1. Avoid Escalation

If someone is really determined to take your possessions, just let them. It is better to not escalate a situation, causing you to possibly get hurt, than to just throw down your purse or wallet and run. Especially if they are holding a knife. It would be better to lose some cash and freeze your accounts than end up in an ambulance. Resisting can cause an unnecessary fight, and more danger to you. 

2. Be aware of your Surroundings

Some older adults are not as alert to people or objects in their way or around them when they leave their home. As seniors age, their reaction time may be slower; they may also experience changes in the vision or hearing. Seniors who do run errands or shop by themselves should always watch who is near or behind them as they are coming out of stores or approaching their car after shopping. The best thing to do is scan your surroundings. This can help avoid getting in trouble while also keeping you safe. 

3. Leave and Get Help

The goal here is to get away, fast. Teaching an attacker who’s boss doesn’t solve anything and may make things worse. Self-preservation is the key. Find an opportunity to get away as quick as possible; such as distracting him by pointing in one direction, then running (if you can) the other way. Once safe and out of harm’s way, track down or call the police. 

4. Use a Weapon

Never forget, almost anything can be used as a weapon. For seniors this is important to know. You can conflict pain to an attacker, leaving you enough time to get away. Even if it is just a small jab in the stomach, seniors will leave the person on the ground and in pain. Or throwing ars keys into their eyes, causing them to become unfocused on you and more on themselves. Seniors could also carry around some mace or pepper spray in their purse to be used in case of an unexpected attack.

Here is a small list of possible items to use as weapons:

  • Cane/walking stick (see above for more information)
  • Car keys
  • Groceries
  • Handbag
  • Newspaper
  • Pen
  • Pepper spray
  • Scarf
  • Umbrella

5. Aim for the most vulnerable areas

There is always a possibility that the attacker is going to be bigger, taller, and stronger than you. However, there are still ways to defend yourself. Hitting them in very sensitive or vulnerable areas are a good choice. These include the eyes, nose, neck, groin, and knees. Depending on the position of where they are from you, and how agile you may be, depends on where will be the best place to do damage. For example, if the person is about a few feet from you, it may be good to kick them in the side or on the knee, giving you time to escape. 

6. Make noise

If you still got a voice, this is the time to use it! However you can; shout, yell, use a whistle, send off an alarm using your phone. Whatever it takes. Some alarms can be on a keychain and fit in your pocket or purse. And many can be heard from over 300 feet away. When seniors do use an alarm, it can let bystanders near by hear it. This is an effective way in having a criminal run from you. 

7. Practice the Art of Deception

For women, leaving the house without a purse is nearly unheard of. However, there are ways to get things done around town without looking like you are even carrying anything with you. For one, having a small travel wallet instead of a bulky purse can prevent any criminals from bothering you in the first place. Seniors can find some these other tips very helpful through the art of deceiving attackers from grabbing your personal possessions. 

  1. Carry a small purse around your neck and tucked under a jacket. This way a criminal may not even perceive you are carrying anything on your person. Or, if you have deep pockets on the jacket, slip the wallet inside, instead of having them visible to those around you. 
  2. For men, sometimes carrying a dummy wallet in their pockets while having their actual money placed elsewhere can deter criminal also. 
  3. Seniors should also keep their keys in their hand or in a pocket of your clothing, instead of in your purse. This way, when you do escape, you can still get in your car and drive away. 
  4. Seniors should always avoid getting pushed into a corner of a room. You never want an assailant to have the upper hand. Stay in an open area as much as possible and always look for the exits when in unfamiliar places. 
  5. Try to avoid places that are not well lit or dim, such as back alleys or parking lots with no lighting. Though some seniors do live alone, they should make a priority to shop with close friends, family members, or a caregiver whenever possible. 
  6. If for any reason you do find yourself grabbed from behind, try not to struggle. Instead push yourself against the person while throwing your head back, this will make the attacker lose his or her balance and possibly fall, and giving you time to run. 

Benefits of Self-Defense Training

Although some physical limitations can hinder seniors from doing certain activities, this does not mean it will prevent them from learning how to protect themselves. Studying basic self-defense techniques will give seniors the capabilities to defend themselves against attackers or criminals. It can also boost their confidence and self-esteem. It can also help with stamina, coordination, range of motion, and mental acuity. Many seniors also pursue simple martial arts training to help them become stronger and able to properly defend themselves. Studying these moves can also empower seniors to help others in need as well Martial arts training is available to all ages and ability levels. Below are just some of the most common martial arts techniques for seniors to learn. 

Types of Self-defense Martial Arts for Seniors

Krav Maga

Our first on the list is Krav Maga. Developed by the Israeli Military, it focuses on the willingness to survive an attack by using street fighting techniques, rather than martial arts itself. However, it is one of the best types of martial arts for self-defense purposes. In this form of martial arts, seniors will learn to quickly neutralize an assailant by the use of simple and natural movements. Example of Krav Maga is kicking an attacker in the groin or poking them in the eye in order to get away quickly. This type of technique is highly useful for all ages, even seniors since you do not need much strength or speed. 

For this reason, it is never too late to learn some self-dense techniques. All it takes is really learning some simple moves to protect yourself from a dangerous situation. Below are some basic self-defense moves or techniques that any senior can learn in order to protect themselves.


Our next technique is called Judu. Judo will help seniors to take action against an opponent by throwing them down or lodging after them their strength. In order to do this correctly, seniors will need to build up enough dexterity to be able to hold or pin down an adversary or assailant. Those that teach this method of martial arts can offer classes geared to specifically seniors, making sure each person feels comfortable in each lesson learned.

Wing Chun

Wing Chun is a type of Kung fu, which uses open-handed strikes and low kicks to the opponent. For this reason, it is a great form of defense that seniors should use. The form teaches seniors how to defend themselves by focusing on precision and posture. It is also a low-impact activity that can be easy for seniors to do, since it requires not much movements or jumping around.


The next one to share is the art of Aikido, which is a great option for people who have disabilities. Since some seniors do have physical impairments, learning Aikido can help them redirect damage back onto the assailant instead of the senior citizen; similar to Judo. However, Aikido doesn’t involve kicks or big punches, compared to the other martial art trainings mentioned. This type of self-defense training can also teach seniors how to avoid injuries, especially to their knees.  

Jiu Jitsu

The last one is the Jiu Jitsu technique. This form of martial arts derives from the Japanese word “Jū”, which means “gentle”, and “Jutsu”, meaning “art”. So therefore, a “gentle art”. This type of martial arts uses the principles of pressure, angles, leverage, and timing, in order to subdue an opponent. Sometimes knowledge of the human anatomy is also taught, so the person can take down the assailant quickly and with more force. However, this is not done by use of kicks or strikes, but rather it focuses on close contact holds, and techniques. This is a great form of martial arts that would definitely be great for seniors. Giving them an adequate time to do damage while getting away quickly. 

Being Confident in Your Abilities

As we see, self-defense can provide many benefits to seniors through many forms of martial arts training that is available. Seniors who participate in self-defense training will be better equipped to handle almost any type of situation. Whether it be an intense class of Judo or a learning street combat course like Krav Maga, seniors will be able to protect themselves from an assailant and get away safely as quick as they can.

There are other types of martial arts available. Seniors should find the best one that will work them and their personal capabilities. They should train hard in becoming well acquainted with it. Talk to the instructor that knows what you are comfortable with and understands your physical abilities, as well as your limitations. Tip to all seniors: Always take it slow whenever you are learning a new technique. The worst thing to do is hurt yourself before truly learning something completely. 

Locate Senior Self-defense Classes in your Area

The purpose of self-defense classes is not to exercise or receive some high-intense physical workout or training. It is to educate people on how to better protect themselves, both physically and mentally. Many towns and cities who have a high population of elderly will have several places to learn self-defense training. For those who come from smaller towns, or rural areas may still have one or two places to choose from. For those who are more tech savvy, you will find some courses available on the internet, such as YouTube. 

Here are some common places to find martial arts training or self-defense courses:

  • Local martial arts studios
  • Free online instructional videos (like on YouTube)
  • Community senior centers
  •  Police stations
  • R.A.D. for Seniors program
  • YMCA
  • Public Library


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