Protecting the Vulnerable (Part One)

I am very concerned about people being able to defend themselves against a physical attack. That’s why I’ve taught self defense and martial arts for 60 years. I hope you’ve found your classes and articles on this blog site helpful in your training through the years.

What I’d like to do in this new year is to focus on protecting the vulnerable. I’ve had the privilege of teaching self defense to many “vulnerable communities,” including the blind, deaf, elderly, paraplegics, brain damaged, veterans with PTSD, people with medical conditions, and children with learning challenges. Martial arts self defense has something for all of these people.

Protecting the Elderly

The term “elderly” is somewhat subjective. I will be 75 at my next birthday. Some people would call me elderly, but am I? What about someone who is 65? or 70? or 80? Here are some interesting definitions of what it means to be “elderly.”

  • Rather old — Merriam-Webster
  • Being past middle age and approaching old age — The American Heritage Dictionary
  • Of advanced age —

Someone has said that “age is just a number,” but there is something about aging that we need to notice. Some people in their 60s are in great physical condition, but some are not. Some people in their 70s are in great physical condition, but some are not. The same is true for people in their 80s and 90s. My father ran marathons and half-marathons during his 70s and 80s and was planning on finishing a marathon in his mid-90s. Unfortunately, he became ill when he was 95 and couldn’t complete that goal. Until he became ill people knew he was an older man, but not many thought of him as “old” because of his physical strength.

Moses lived to be 120 years old, yet the Bible says that when he died – “His eyes were not dim nor his natural vigor diminished” (Deuteronomy 34:7). Moses lived an unusual life and was physically blessed through his many meetings with God. So, it’s interesting that Moses wrote these words:

The days of our lives are seventy years; And if by reason of strength they are eighty years, Yet their boast is only labor and sorrow; For it is soon cut off, and we fly away. Psalm 90:10

King David died at 70 years of age and the Bible records that he was “old, advanced in years” (1 Kings 1:1). David was not well at the end of his life. He was a vigorous warrior king in his younger life, but fighting and ruling took a toll on him toward the end of his life. He didn’t have the strength to continue after 70.

The Apostle Paul told churches to take care of widows after they turned 60, “if” they didn’t have children and grandchildren to take care of them and if they had led an exemplary life. (1 Timothy 5)

So, who should we consider “elderly” and in need of protection? The Free Medical Dictionary has an interesting definition that may help.

  •  Individuals over 65 years old who have functional impairments.

The aging process affects people differently at different stages in their lives. One of the benefits of martial arts training is that it is a healthy physical system of exercise, in addition to preparing someone to defend themselves in a variety of situations. However, people begin to lose muscle strength as they age. Some also lose flexibility and speed, so running from an attacker may become more difficult. One of the reasons I like teaching Yon Ch’uan Martial Arts and Hwa Yu T’ai Chi Ch’uan self defense to older people is because they learn how to use minimum physical force for maximum efficiency. They may not be able to run from an attacker, but they can redirect an attacker to the ground or into an object that allows them (the older person) to walk away unharmed.

Next Time

In the next part of our series we’ll look what older people can do to assess their ability to defend themselves against personal attacks.

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© Grace Martial Arts 1990 – 2023


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