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Self-Defense for Seniors - The Complete Guide

by Jessica Hegg June 14, 2017 0 Comments

Self defense foe senior

Everybody wants to feel safe, and self defense for seniors is a concern for older adults, both men and women, and for their loved ones. We should all be free to live life without worrying about threats. But getting older means becoming a potential target for muggers, and fear can get in the way of leading your best life. The good news is that it's never too late to learn to defend yourself!

Self-defense for older adults goes well beyond pepper spray in the glovebox—from martial arts to cane fu to simple practices that make you less susceptible to crime. You don't need any prior training or experience to learn basic self-defense moves, and taking local classes can be fun. Are you ready to start learning how to defend yourself so you can stop worrying and live life on your terms?

Types of Self-Defense for Older Adults

When we’re talking about self-defense for seniors, ranking alongside education is training. Simply knowing you can defend yourself impacts the way you carry yourself and could potentially prevent an attack before it even happens. Regardless, there’s no downside to self-defense training, and with so many different disciplines available, you’re sure to find the perfect style of self-defense for your abilities and lifestyle.

Cane Fu for Seniors

Let’s not beat around the bush: Cane Fu is awesome. The discipline takes a walking cane, which is typically seen as a symbol of weakness, and turns it into a weapon. That’s right, walking sticks are not just for walking. Cane defense for seniors teaches how to block punches and take down attackers using a tool they have on them at all times—a cane. You can find weaponized self-defense walking canes with sharpened points for cutting and tearing, but the best self-defense cane is a simple, high-quality walking stick. A few features to look for:

  • A wide curve on a crook cane. A cane with too tight a curve will not be useful for hooking and pulling.
  • A large knob or metal piece on a straight stick cane. These types of canes take diligent practice to learn to wield effectively, but if you choose this path, a large grip piece will do the most damage.
  • Optimal weight for your strength level. You’ll want a high-quality cane, for sure, but consider exactly how heavy you need it to be. A heavier cane means a more durable weapon, but it also means you’ll need to be stronger to wield it. Buy the heaviest cane you can wield comfortably.
  • String or rubber wrap grips. These can help you hold on to the cane, but be sure they don’t stand out or look suspicious. You don’t want to give an attacker any indication that your cane may be a potential weapon.

Cane defense for seniors is a fantastic form of self-defense and exercise. Learning the discipline will improve your ability to defend yourself, while also increasing strength, health, and confidence!

Martial Arts for Seniors

Senior doing martial arts Types of martial arts like aikido or kung fu use your attackers' strength against them, making martial arts perfect for seniors learning to defend themselves. ( Image Reference)

When you think “martial arts,” you probably think about Karate or Taekwondo. But there are other forms of martial arts that are perfect for seniors’ self-defense. Aikido is a form of marital arts that focuses on balancing spirit, body, and mind. The movements are smooth. There are no all-out kicks or punches. Aikido movements are natural and enhance mobility and flexibility. The practice promotes overall health and will improve your strength and balance. Kung fu is another excellent form of martial arts for seniors. Most of the striking is done open-handed, and it focuses on speed, rather than power. When you focus on disciplines that emphasize speed over power and implement mental practice alongside the physical, martial arts for seniors becomes a useful tool health and safety.

Mental Defense

In a dangerous situation, the first thing that happens is an adrenaline spike. When your body goes into fight-or-flight mode, it can be difficult to think clearly and to analyze the situation. This can lead to an inability to defend yourself (even if you’re trained) and potentially to escalation of the situation. That’s why mental self-defense cannot be overvalued. Sharpening your psychological self-defense skills can be the difference between fending off an attacker and being injured. Practice putting yourself in mentally strenuous situations to mimic the adrenaline rush you would feel during a mugging. Build your confidence, and learn how to handle your body’s natural reactions to stress.

Verbal Judo

Verbal judo, also known as verbal self-defense or Verbal Aikido, is the art of deescalating a situation with words. This skill can be used in your personal life, to manage conflict with friends and loved ones, but it can also be used in a potentially dangerous situation. The U.S. Department of Justice study found that about half of violent crimes against the elderly are perpetrated by someone the victim knows. This means verbal judo can be a major tool in preventing a violent conflict. Knowing what to say—or what not to say—can be the best means of self-defense.

Personal Alarms

Personal Alarm Alert others in the area that you're in danger and frighten off assailants with a personal alarm. ( Image reference)

We have alarms on our cars and on our homes. Some of us even have alarms on our briefcases. Why wouldn’t we protect ourselves the same way? Personal alarms can be worn around your neck or carried in your pocket. One touch sounds a loud alarm to ward off attackers and let others in the vicinity know you need help. Many alarms even have flashing lights to help people find you in the dark. When it comes to self-defense, a personal alarm is probably the easiest thing you can do to stay safe.

Getting Started with Self-Defense Classes for Seniors

Cane fu Self-defense is easier to learn in a group setting, where one person can act as the "attacker." ( Image Reference)

Whether you’re interested in Cane Fu, martial arts, or becoming the next Ninja Warrior, the best way to get started with self-defense for seniors is to enroll in a class. You’ll learn your chosen discipline, stay healthy with regular exercise, and get to practice alongside other students of self-defense. A major benefit of self-defense classes for seniors is the group environment. Here are a few things you’re bound to get out of the experience.

  • Motivation! Learning and practicing with others can keep you motivated when the work gets tough. The competition can encourage you to work harder, and there’s no better inspiration to get yourself to class than knowing your peers are holding you accountable.
  • Practicality. When it comes to self-defense, some things are tough to practice alone. You may need someone to hold a dummy or practice your moves on.
  • Helping hands. If you don’t pick up on something right away, having someone to help explain it in a different way can help you grasp that difficult move or concept. You can never have too many friends!

R.A.D. for Seniors

R.A.D. Is an international network of self-defense classes run by certified instructors. R.A.D. has trained over eleven thousand instructors, who teach at universities, law enforcement agencies, and community organizations. R.A.D. offers a class specifically for seniors, which focuses on awareness and defense strategies in a relaxed environment. The fifteen-hour program is typically offered in ten sessions. Use their class locator to find a program in your area.

Local Martial Arts Classes for Seniors

Advance Martial Arts Connect is an online resources to help you find martial arts classes in your area. Simply input your zip code, age, and preferred style of martial arts, and you’ll be given a list of matching programs.

Self-Defense Classes In Your Community

Don’t forget to ask around your community! Self-defense classes are often sponsored by local police departments and senior centers. And if you’re community hasn’t yet recognized the need for senior self-defense classes, bring it to their attention. You could be responsible for improving the safety of your community.

    Learning Self-Defense for Seniors At Home

    If you're more comfortable beginning your self-defense journey from the privacy of your home, there are plenty of options to get you moving in the right direction. Self-defense moves are much easier to understand if you actually see them performed, rather than just reading about them. Short of attending an actual class, videos are the best way to learn self-defense. Finding instructional videos is easier than ever before. Here are a few sources to check out.


    Visit and search for “self-defense for seniors.” You’ll find a plethora of instructional videos and safety advice. Click on a video that looks interesting, and YouTube will suggest similar videos in the right sidebar. This is a great way to discover different moves and disciplines.


    Self-defense training by way of DVDs is easy to come by and can be extremely helpful for learning at your own pace. Check your local Walmart, or browse for self-defense DVDs. As you improve, you’ll either need to purchase a more advanced program or find a class. But a DVD is a great starting place, and it gives you consistent access to self-defense training. Remember, the best self-defense system for seniors is one that teaches valuable skills while also emphasizing safe practice.


    If your cable service offers on-demand programs, they can be an excellent resource for self-defense training. Look for self-defense videos in the “Fitness” section. Pay special attention to the targeted age category and skill level for each video.

    Basic Self-Defense Moves for Seniors

    Getting started with self-defense is as simple as learning a few basic moves. Before you begin, remember to assess your mobility and fitness levels to prevent injury. Don’t attempt any moves that feel like they’re outside of what you can comfortably perform. Consider your balance, strength, flexibility, and range of motion. Implement a consistent exercise regiment to improve these aspects of your health. (You can’t go wrong with daily walks!) Once you’re comfortable that you can begin learning self-defense safely, here are a few moves to get you started.

    Wrist Release

    One of the most common moves an attacker will make is to grab hold of your wrist. The assailant may grab one wrist or both wrists and try to drag you. A wrist hold is difficult to break out of. If you jerk your arm against the grip, they move with you. If you try to hit or strike the assailant, you lose your base and become easier to drag. Instead of fighting the grip, you can break away from the hold in one simple movement: Tuck your elbow under, and touch it to the assailant’s forearm. This angle prevents the attacker from maintaining their grip on your wrist. The movement requires no power on your part. You don’t have to be stronger than your attacker. Practice with a partner to become comfortable with the arm angle required to release an attacker’s grip on your wrist.

    Knee Shot

    The most important part of incapacitating an attacker is knowing what regions to aim for. The knees are practically impossible to defend, and a hard shot to either knee will keep any assailant from chasing you down. Thrust the sole of your foot into the attacker’s knee, and run the opposite direction! Practice this move on a dummy so you get comfortable maintaining your balance during the kick and hitting the mark every time.

    Palm Strike

    If you’re stuck in close proximity to your attacker, a palm strike can be your best option for inflicting damage and getting away. Strike the assailant’s nose with the hell of your hand. Aim upward so that you’re striking the bottom of their nose. Breaking the nose in this way will be extremely painful for the attacker and will give you plenty of time to escape. Like with the knee shot, aim is everything. Practice on a dummy or in slow motion with a partner, stopping your hand before touching their nose.

    Self-Defense Weapons for Seniors

    Self-Defense Weapons Clip pepper spray to your keys, backpack, or purse so that it's easily accessible in the case of an emergency. ( Image Reference)

    Many experts recommend against carrying weapons like guns or knives because attackers can use those weapons against you. But a weapon doesn’t necessarily need a sharp edge or a trigger. Here are a few other types of self-defense weapons for seniors.

    • Makeshift weapons. Think of items around you that could be used to fend off an attacker. If you’re walking to your car, your key could be a weapon. During a home invasion, a heavy skillet might do the trick.
    • Pepper spray. Most of us know pepper spray as a go-to self-defense weapon. It’s easy to use and causes immediate damage to the assailant.
    • Your cane. There is an entire brand of self-defense, called “Cane Fu,” built around defending yourself using your cane.

      Crimes Against Seniors

      Getting older means becoming a target. A 2002 study by the U.S. Department of Justice found that seniors experience a higher rate of purse snatching and larceny. About twenty percent of personal crimes against seniors involve theft. Lawmakers, such as New York Senator Andrew J Laza, have pushed for stiffer penalties for those who mug senior citizens. But are stronger deterrents the only course of action? Is there a way for seniors to protect themselves? Of course! The best ways to stay safe are to be educated and prepared. Know what steps you can take to prevent a crime, and know how to handle a dangerous situation once it’s arisen. Nobody wants to be a statistic.

      10 Simple Safety Tips for Seniors

      You don’t need to be a trained warrior to keep yourself safe! Sometimes the best solutions are the simplest. Preparation is key for keeping yourself out of dangerous situations. Here are a few tips to remember.

      1. Stay in well-lit areas. When parking in the daytime, consider what the area will look like when you return at night. Make sure there are lights nearby.
      2. Walk with purpose. Keep your head up and your strides long.
      3. Don’t carry too many packages or bags. If you’re at the grocery store, use a buggy or ask for help out.
      4. Keep your keys in your hand when walking to the car. Make sure you’re not standing by your door, fumbling in your purse.
      5. Keep a whistle on your keychain to frighten potential attackers and get help quickly.
      6. Keep a cell phone on you for emergency calls. Look for a phone made specifically for seniors, with bigger screens and buttons.
      7. See who’s at the door before you open it. Look through a window or a keyhole to make sure it’s safe.
      8. Wear your jacket over your purse so your valuables are less exposed.
      9. If possible, keep your valuables in your pockets, and forego the purse altogether.
      10. Men, consider using a travel wallet, which is worn under clothing, and carrying a dummy wallet to hand over to a mugger.

        Following these simple tips will help you feel safer as you live your life and do the things you love. You have so many new things to try—feeling unsafe should never hold you back. Take your safety into your own hands through self-defense tips and classes, and then click here to discover 110 Activities for Elderly & Seniors so you're never at a loss for fun, exciting things to try!

        Stay Safe with Self-Defense for Seniors

        While getting older may mean becoming a target for purse snatchers, it doesn’t mean becoming helpless! There are tons of options when it comes to self-defense for seniors. Whether you focus on safety tips for prevention, learning basic self-defense moves, or dedicating yourself to a martial arts discipline, you can learn to protect yourself and build your confidence. Plus, consistent practice will improve your overall health and fitness level. Take your safety into your own hands, and know that whatever happens, you can handle it!

        Jessica Hegg
        Jessica Hegg

        Jessica Hegg is the content manager and at With vast product knowledge and understanding of individual needs, she aims to share valuable information on making smart buying choices, overcoming obstacles and overall improving the quality of life for others. Avid gym-rat and nutrition enthusiast, she’s interested in all things related to staying active and living healthy lifestyle.

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