Self-Defense For The Older Man

“Mind must be the stronger, heart the bolder, courage must be the greater, as our might lessens”

— Otho (Marcus Salvius Otho Caesar Augustus) Roman Emperor – 15 January to 16 April 69 (three months)



SO . . . what’s “older”?

Knowing the phenomenon of close combat as we do, and being familiar with physical training, muscular strength, conditioning, and the human body’s process of development and decline, I’d say that older, speaking of personal capacity for optimum performance in hand-to-hand and close-in personal defensive combat, can reasonably be said to begin to apply to individuals  roughly between the ages of 40 and 60. Perhaps younger. It certainly appears to me obvious that anyone 70 or older qualifies as an “older” man, speaking strictly of his physical capacity to engage in violent personal combat, with or without weapons.

“Forty?” some may be saying (or thinking) with raised eyebrows. “Who the hell is ‘old’ at forty?”

I am not saying that any individual is necessarily “old” at any particular chronological age, in all respects. One’s mind may be sharper than the statistically average teenager’s when one is 90 (not all that much to say today, when you think about what teenagers are like), and one may indeed be healthier, fitter, and muscularly stronger at 80 than most others half or one third his age. But middle age, believe it or not, begins in one’s mid-to-late 20’s, and there is no question that one’s physical resilience, energy, capacity to recover from injuries and trauma, and agility/athleticism definitely are at their peak between the ages of about 18 and 29 or 30. (Yes, I know that one may be actually able to lift more weight in one’s late 30’s to late 40’s than one had been able to lift in one’s 20’s — assuming he is a regular weight trainee — but that indicates only one of the many attributes that contribute to what may be regarded as the indicators of a person’s being in his, let us call it, physical combative prime.

Like to hear it or not, you are not going to retain or remain in your “peak” condition physically for battle, forever. Age creeps up on us all, and when the halcyon years for your physical capacity to engage in single combat decline, you will (unless you are that sad sort of character known as a dilettante) want to be able to defend yourself just as well as you did when, as a teenager or fellow in his early 20’s, you first took up martial skills.

Can you do it? And if so, how do you go about insuring that you actually do do it?

The first  question is easily answered in the affirmative. Men like Charles Nelson, Gene Le Bell, Jim Harrison, and Jack Dempsey, as well as many others, have proven that. In Sword & Pen, our Newsletter, we referred to the “elderly” retired British SAS trooper who dispatched a few young scumbags when they attempted to mug him. The ex-SAS man was nearing 80. So there is no question or doubt that it is easily possible for any serious student of practical close combat to retain a most viable and superior capacity for hand-to-hand combat. And this capacity will be formidable against considerably younger, stronger men. But this must be clear: Just as is the case with any other attribute or capacity, if or when all other things are equal, the younger combatant will win. Derive cosiderable encouragement from, and take great heart in knowing that rarely if ever in any form of combat are “all other things equal”. If you’re solidly schooled in authentic close combat and self-defense skills, you can be ready at any age to handle a dangerous opponent. And I quite honestly have no knowledge of any person of any age who had been well-trained in close combat, ever starting trouble with anyone. The “younger assailant” will either be a bully, street punk, impulse-dominated troublemaker, or other disgraceful criminal life form.

Well then, since it is quite possible for even a considerably senior individual to defend himself well, and to retain that ability for his entire lifetime, the next question is: “How can you now, whether you are in your teens or in your fifth, sixth, or seventh decade, insure that you are cultivating that ability?”

First and foremost you must, must, must, be ever mindful to cultivate proper mindset. Mental conditioning is vital . . . and you can verify through your own research if you wish, that whenever a senior gent made quick work of some young lout who attacked him, that senior was really ready mentally — he was set, prepared, and conditioned, and no nonsense about it! The transition to a war footing took place in a flash, and the younger punk or punks who thought they’d have an easy time rolling the “old man”, realized that they had stumbled upon an old tiger, instead. And they realized it too late.

Second, train in viable skills. These are not classical/traditional “art” forms. Nor are they competition methods. People retire from competition. There is no “retirement” from self-defense, or from being vulnerable to attack. You can be mugged when you’re 95. The techniques you spend time learning and practicing should be simple, direct, extremely damaging, retainable, adaptable, and war-proven. By “war proven” I simply mean techniques that have been employed in actual combat; not merely skills that look beautiful, are a challenge to practice and master, and that win contests. We teach these skills in American Combato, and a select few other teachers also offer similar methods. But such techniques do not constitute the fare imparted to students of karate, ju-jutsu, hapkido, kenpo-karate, or other “martial arts”, per se. And they certainly are irrelevant in any sporting approach to close combat (i.e. wrestling, boxing, judo, or what we regard as the less-desirable sports of UFC, MMA, and cage fighting). Worthy as any of these activities may be, they do not address real combat and survival. What you want to learn, study, practice, and internalize is the real kill or get killed stuff; the skills that know no rules and that you can rely upon to cripple or do worse in a dangerous confrontation.

Third, practice regularly. This need not be excessive. Devoting 20 to 30 minutes a day to training is plenty. You certainly can do more if you are interested in and enjoy the subject, but approximately a half hour a day (every day) will do. It also provides some healthful exercise, however exercise must be placed on a back burner when you train. Imagine your life is at stake. Make your sessions of practice really count. Obtain a heavy bag, post, or dummy, and get used to smashing full force blows into a target.

Fourth, follow an exercise program. Keeping in as good shape as you are able makes good sense for a multitude of reasons — and of course one of them is that it keeps you ever-ready to do your best work in applying the self-defense skills you’ve acquired. It also enables you to maintain strength. Workout with weights. There is no better physical training method in existence.

Fifth, cultivate your natural advantages. With age comes wisdom, guile, and a somewhat sophisticated understanding of human nature. Develop your ability to be sneaky, underhanded, and above-all willing to use the foulest, most ruthlessly brutal and savage gutter tactics imaginable if you are attacked. Cultivate hatred for human predators. Realize and appreciate that the more senior you become the more legally justifiable savagery becomes when you defend yourself! Capitalize upon that knowledge and make up your mind that anyone who attacks you is going to pay a terrible price, because you will exercise no restraint, apply no mercy, and feel no reluctance to destroy your tormentor.

Sixth, use common sense and weapons. Obviously, you want to avoid violence and trouble if at all possible. However, you want no disadvantage save the unavoidable fact of your age, to hinder your capacity to deal with whatever you must. If you can do so legally, learn how to use firearms properly in close combat, and avail yourself of a powerful, reliable handgun as close to 24 hours a day as possible and permissable under the law. Learn how to use a knife in combat. Master the stick (a weapon that, in some form, is nearly always available). Learn how to use improvised objects-at-hand in self-defense. Approach personal defense comprehensively.

If you follow the six-point approach that we have suggested, then, God willing, you should remain well able to deal with any human garbage that attacks you or that endangers those you love, regardless of your age.

Self-defense is for everybody of any age.

***** ***** ***** *****