A couple of days ago I received a message via my contact form from a 75 year old man. Unfortunately he didn’t enter his email address correctly, so I can’t write him back. I’ll post and respond to his message here, as other readers may have similar concerns. Here’s the message:
I am a 75 yr old man and I am fair game for louts who always pick on seniors like me. I have been physically threatened by bigger stronger men. Can I be trained to fight back? At my age it seems ridiculous but it does happen. Not just to me but to other seniors. I am fed up being helpless. I (and others like me) would like to take down the bully. Is it possible?? Can you help? I tried taking martial arts when I was 70. It was of no help at all. Thank you.
As I explain in detail on my prevention page and in my book, prevention should always be the first option. If you’re getting picked on regularly it’s likely that you’re spending time in places that you should avoid. If you avoid places where “bad people” hang out, it’s unlikely you’ll have any problems. If you live in an area with such people, if it’s possible to move to a better place, then I would highly recommend it. Life is too short to deal with such issues. This applies to everyone, not just seniors.
If you haven’t been physically attacked, or a physical attack isn’t imminent, it’s far better not to “fight back”. You wouldn’t be legally justified to use physical self defense. So if you did “take down the bully”, you could be arrested and end up in jail. It may not be fair, and it may not feel good, but walking away is a much better option. Your goal should be to enjoy your life as long as you can, and not to unnecessarily risk your life and your freedom by attacking someone who verbally assaults you.
Beating A Bigger, Stronger, Younger Opponent
If and only if a physical attack is imminent and you’re dealing with a younger/faster/bigger/stronger opponent, then you need every advantage you can get. Is it possible? Yes. I’ve taught a couple of men over 70 who were as tough as guys in their 20’s and 30’s. They were exceptions though. And in any case, we’re talking about self defense here, so there is no reason not to do everything you can to increase your odds. Using a weapon is the best way to do that. Again though, a physical attack would have to have occurred or be imminent, and escape impossible. Otherwise, you’re just setting yourself up for much worse trouble, and misery.
Pepper spray is probably ideal for an elderly person with no prior training. In fact, two days ago I saw a young drunk guy hassling an elderly couple at a streetcar stop. The woman pointed a can of pepper spray at the guy, and he backed off. He did continue to verbally harass them, but from a distance. So I would consider carrying pepper spray, and having it in your hand or easily accessible.
Your first line of defense is to avoid people who might pick on you. If you can’t, then I’d try to walk away or say something like “It doesn’t take much to pick on old men and little girls. If you want to prove how tough you are, why don’t you pick on someone your own age.”. If the guy tries to touch you, or you feel a physical attack is imminent, then I’d soak him with the pepper spray and call the police right away.
There Is No Magic
I say it all the time. It’s unfortunate, but true. There are no magic techniques that work better for an old man or woman than for a younger, stronger, faster man. If you want to learn how to physically defend against an attack, especially unarmed, it requires skill. You’re only going to get those skills through functional training, using functional techniques, and sound strategy. You could get lucky with a simple and effective technique, like this eye strike. But what if it fails? What if your opponent blocks it? What if it lands, but he then attempts to tackle you? What if there are multiple opponents? I’d much prefer a relatively unskilled/untrained person attempt to use a projectile weapon like pepper spray instead of a single physical technique.
If you do want to learn physical self defense, and you’re physically capable of doing so, then my website and book are a great place to start.
Just enter your name and email below: