Self defense for the elderly

Self defense for the elderly

This is a discussion on Self defense for the elderly within the Related Gear & Equipment forums, part of the Defensive Carry Discussions category; Self-defense class helps those vulnerable to attacksBY DANA KLOSNER-WEHNER | Special to Newsday 9:33 PM EDT, June 23, 2009 Phil Messina demonstrates a self-defense move ...

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Thread: Self defense for the elderly

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    Self defense for the elderly

    Self-defense class helps those vulnerable to attacksBY DANA KLOSNER-WEHNER | Special to Newsday
    9:33 PM EDT, June 23, 2009

    Phil Messina demonstrates a self-defense move on instructor Vince Spakowski for students Joe Vigliotti and his wife, Christine, of Copiague. Messina is presidet of the Modern Warrior Defensive Tactics. The Vigliotti's are in a class for older students.
    (Photo by Jori Klein for Newsday / June 26, 2009)

    The attacker reached across the coffee table with a knife in his hand, ready to stab Christine Vigliotti. Determined not to let this happen, she deflected the weapon, pulled the attacker by his elbow and pushed him onto the couch. Maneuvering for control, she then elbowed him in the neck until he dropped the knife.

    Vigliotti, 49, of Copiague, was not in any real danger. The attacker was played by martial arts instructor Phil Messina and the struggle was part of a self-defense training class called Silverbacks, designed for people 55 and older and those with permanent disabilities who are often more physically vulnerable to attacks.

    "People commit predatory crimes on people they perceive to be weaker than themselves," said Messina, a retired New York City police officer who is the owner-instructor at Modern Warrior in Lindenhurst, where classes are held. "People don't have to be in good physical condition to do these moves," Messina said. "It depends on tricks and deceiving the other person. You can use an attach√¬© case or a water bottle. You have to learn how to use these things as a distraction." he said.

    Silverbacks students wear street clothes and practice in a simulated living room and bedroom, complete with rubber furniture. Messina doesn't always recommend fighting back. It depends on the circumstances, he said.

    "If it's a robbery and the person takes the precaution to wear a disguise like a ski mask, he probably intends to let you go," he said. "If a person stops you and asks you for your wallet, you give it to him. If he asks you to get in the trunk of your car, that's a different story."

    While in some situations, Messina's approach is more aggressive, the Nassau and Suffolk County police departments advise against fighting back.

    "Look around," said Nassau police spokesman Det. Lt. Kevin Smith. "If you see a dark corner with people that look threatening, leave and call the police."

    A Suffolk police spokeswoman, who wouldn't give her name, offered this: "The elderly need to take greater control of their own personal security. They should walk or shop in busy areas, during busy times of the day. They should walk down busy, well-lit streets and avoid shortcuts. They [women] should carry handbags close to the body and not carry unnecessary cash."

    If you are attacked, she said, "Be alert. Look for distinguishing characteristics . . . such as scars, tattoos, accents or a limp. Compare the robber's height to your own."

    While Messina doesn't disagree with the police departments' advice, he believes one of the best ways to reduce crime is to toughen the targets of crime.

    In the Silverbacks class, students learn what they can do if an intruder breaks into their home. But clearly, these actions are not for the fainthearted. For example, Messina demonstrates how students could defend themselves if someone was coming at them with a knife. He grabs a nearby chair - one hand holding the seat and the other holding the back of the chair. With a firm grip, pick up the chair with the legs facing the intruder. Charge the intruder while twisting the chair to better deflect the knife and get the attacker off balance, Messina said. Put the chair across his body and kick him.

    Even a book can be used as a deflector, Messina said. Hold it closed with the pages facing your palm., then use the spine of the book to hit the intruder's eye, chest or the bridge of the nose. A strike in the right place can affect vision and leave the attacker winded.

    "With an older person, running away is not an option," Messina said. Messina, who has been doing martial arts for 50 years, teaches the class three times a week to students who pay $59 a month.

    Christine Vigliotti takes the class with her husband, Joe. "They really teach you how to use your surroundings," Vigliotti said. "As a woman you're always taught to back off. This teaches you to be more assertive. It's easy to learn and it becomes common sense."

    Joe Vigliotti, 53, said, "I always wanted to take a self-defense class . . . This gives you a little more self-confidence in different situations. It makes you more aware."

    There also are other martial arts that can be used in self-defense, such as Tai Chi Chuan. Bob Klein, owner-instructor at the Tai Chi Chuan School in Sound Beach, teaches traditional forms of the art along with a "Push Hands" technique. Klein's theory is similar to Messina's. Keep your center of gravity low and throw your attacker off balance. Klein's class is open to all ages, but he also teaches older adults in senior centers in Setauket and St. James.

    At Klein's school, soft music plays while students go through the forms that look like dancing. But the students are learning to use the attacker's force to make him lose balance.

    "You use every part of your body," Klein said. "If somebody stronger is attacking you, you can stop them by weaving around and throwing them off balance." His classes are $75 per month for one class per week and $125 per month for two classes per week.

    For retired dietitian Janni Van Steenbergen, 79, who has been taking Tai Chi Chuan for 13 years, the lessons had a practical application.

    "It's very good for balance," Van Steenbergen said. "I don't think anybody easily gets me off center." She used what she learned while taking care of her late husband, who had Parkinson's disease, helping him in and out of bed and lifting him out of chairs.

    "I knew how to use my body," she said. "I used my lower body and legs. Tai Chi prepared me for that."


    As we know as a group a water bottle and chair anything can be used as a weapon.


  2. #2
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    Self defense classes like this are perhaps of SOME use, but I think that they give people a false sense security.

    Lots of in that article...
    ...If it's a robbery and the person takes the precaution to wear a disguise like a ski mask, he probably intends to let you go...
    ...police departments advise against fighting back...
    ...A strike in the right place can affect vision and leave the attacker winded... (a crack head?)
    ...soft music plays while students go through the forms that look like dancing...great, be sure to have your radio with you!
    ...the students are learning to use the attacker's force to make him lose balance...for $59 a month?
    ...If somebody stronger is attacking you, you can stop them by weaving around and throwing them off balance... yeah right
    ...As we know as a group a water bottle and chair anything can be used as a weapon...Yep, leave the gun at home and just take your radio, chair, and water bottle.

    Like any other activity, actions taken must be repeated thousands of time to become 'muscle memory' or when the adrenaline hits, it all goes out the window.

    Multiple attackers, different scenarios from those presented in class, and little practice are not what the elderly need...they need a good ole' equalizer and training in how to use it.

    I'd recommend spending $59 dollars a month on ammo.
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    Every skill and tool counts. None are infallible. Martial arts moves have their place, pepper spray has its place, and so does a gun. None guarantee anything.

    Good locks, good situational awareness, staying away from known dangerous places and situations, owning dog(s), all help.

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    Hopyard, you pretty much covered it.

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    This old guy likes his own method of defense much better although not knocking anything mentioned above. Like Hopyard says, none are infallible but we keep a high SA and a couple friends close by all the time. If home, big black dog will tell us we have company and Mr. Winchester will be called upon. The wife and Mr. Smith W. are good friends and spend a lot of time together. When I am away from home, Mr. KT would speak for me.
    oldogy, who realizes all situations are different and require split second decisions. We all hope we make the right ones.
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    Ex Member Array United93's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by retsupt99 View Post
    ...A strike in the right place can affect vision and leave the attacker winded... (a crack head?)
    With all due respect, you are underestimating the effect certain blows can have on certain parts of the human anatomy.

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    Quote Originally Posted by United93 View Post
    With all due respect, you are underestimating the effect certain blows can have on certain parts of the human anatomy.
    My point is not whether or not someone of small or weaker size can effectively injure the anatomy of an attacker...that CAN easily be done.

    My point is that unless one practices that 'art' of self-defense until it can be done almost 'automatically' without thinking about it...it isn't of much use, and may actually anger the enemy to the point of your own destruction.

    If that were not the case, let's just buy everyone a soft cover book of how to destroy one's enemies in 10 easy chapters. One quick read and we're all set to defend.

    Stay armed...everything takes practice...stay safe!

    (An amateur practices until he can do it correctly, a professional practices it until he can't do it wrong.)
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    Ex Member Array United93's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by retsupt99 View Post
    My point is not whether or not someone of small or weaker size can effectively injure the anatomy of an attacker...that CAN easily be done.

    My point is that unless one practices that 'art' of self-defense until it can be done almost 'automatically' without thinking about it...it isn't of much use, and may actually anger the enemy to the point of your own destruction.

    If that were not the case, let's just buy everyone a soft cover book of how to destroy one's enemies in 10 easy chapters. One quick read and we're all set to defend.

    Stay armed...everything takes practice...stay safe!

    (An amateur practices until he can do it correctly, a professional practices it until he can't do it wrong.)
    Very good, I agree with all of the above.

    One small point though. A 'professional' is one who does something for a living (his profession). One need not be a professional fighter to know how to employ effective unarmed combat against an attacker.

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    Distinguished Member Array TerriLi's Avatar
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    Sorry but most self defense classes are very watered down to something that is almost useless against a real threat. When you life is on the line defense isnt taught anymore. Heck even the militarys hand to hand training has been watered down too much. My dads training when he was drafted taught him how to kill, my sister when she went in barely learned a single lethal move. Self Defense is defending yourself, with equal force.
    Also martial arts is war arts. So why am I being nice and not crippling or killing my opponent? Because martial arts has also lost its meaning.
    I know not what this "overkill" means.

    Honing the knives, Cleaning the longguns, Stocking up ammo.

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    Ex Member Array United93's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by TerriLi View Post
    Sorry but most self defense classes are very watered down to something that is almost useless against a real threat.

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    Member Array Manan's Avatar
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    I think that the main thing is the thought process. At least considering and pre-thinking things through is 90 percent of the game.
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    Quote Originally Posted by United93 View Post
    Hopyard, you pretty much covered it.
    I agree.

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    As an old, disabled person myself, I would use only one finger to thwart most attacks. My right index finger softly placed on the area that would cause the most damage to my assailant, the smooth trigger of my XD45.

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    Sorry but most self defense classes are very watered down to something that is almost useless against a real threat.
    Most are. Phil Messina's are not. He's the real deal.

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    Hmmmm, encourage elderly folks who don't have the physical strength to run away to engage in h2h with minimal training with someone bigger, stronger, faster. Sounds like the "gun control is telling a 110 # woman to fight a 240 # man with her fists". Yeah, a few can, majority can't.

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