Aging Martial Artists

When older martial arts are practice many tend to think, Tai Chi Chuan. Where older practitoners are seen in parks, etc. making slow movements that are graceful, rhythmic and peaceful. Aging martial artists have to deal with those aging issues just like people who are not martial artist but one of the great things about martial arts is that one can practice the arts regardless of their age.

Tai Chi Chuan is a wonderful and beneficial system for any age but is especially beneficial, in my view, to those who have reached the, “Winter Years” of life. It is a wonderful time of life, the age beyond the first sixty years. The changes nature inflicts on us can be mitigated by certain mental and physical efforts and this blog is about how the effort of martial arts practice can and does mitigate and alleviate the aging processes.

So, this blog will be about that aging process and how the practice of martial arts can help. The first article that will follow will simply list those aging issues that directly relate to the practice of martial arts such as balance as it relates to falling. As with any effort such as this it warrants the readers effort in understanding that this effort is from a non-professional view and with that stated I encourage each reader review the caveat provided here and at the start of each article. I also encourage each and every person who is taking up this practice to make sure it meets approval by your personal medical professional. Get that before you try to participate in martial arts or any program that would benefit you as you age.

Blog Article/Post Caveat (Read First Please: Click the Link)

Bibliography (Click the link)

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Wednesday, March 15, 2017

SD: Aging, Disparity of Force

Blog Article/Post Caveat (Read First Please: Click the Link)

(SD: Self-Fense - Self-Offense/Defense)

In self-defense, using this term because it is the legal term used in such cases and situations, a person must know beforehand what it is and how they will articulate it if or when they are forced by circumstances to use self-defense, as a legal defense. It should be noted that I am not an attorney nor one who specialized in SD, find one and put them on retainer or at least on speed dial. 

One aspect of SD is disparity of force. It is stated by one as, “A standard for self-defense that allows one to use force proportional to that being used by the attacker.” Simplistic and warrants a lot more investigation, study and understanding but for the purposes of this article it is a good general concept to know. 

As we age we naturally may become targets for some make their analysis as to targets, who is the weakest and easiest. This is a set of excerpts from an article that spoke on disparity of force for the elderly.

  • We lose more flexibility as we age.
  • Joints are less limber; we lose muscle mass; we have decreased responsibleness in our heart and lungs.
  • Adrenaline, the go to chemical dump for flight or fight survival responses and reflexes, reactions go way down. 
  • At 60 vs. a 30 year old attacker:
    • This is even without a heart conditions or lung condition or preexisting medical problem.
    • Physiologically the older has disadvantages in relation to that of a thirty year old attacker. 
    • Physiologic changes of the aging in aggregate produce a greater risk of grave bodily harm, injury. 
    • Psychological components also drive disparity issues. 
  • Vision and especially peripheral vision are further hindered in effectiveness before that of the adrenaline chemical dump effects of tunnel vision, etc.
  • Reactions are much slower.
  • Natural body defenses are effected by strength reduction, muscle ability to stabilize, and fast twitch capabilities are greatly reduced in comparison. 
  • Mentally our actions, reactions and reflexes are significantly slowed, i.e., our ability to process the situation through the OODA loop is slowed as well.
  • Due to reduced physical health, fitness and other reactive traits the older person is more likely to suffer crippling or lethal outcomes when a predator applies blunt force in even a physical attack using only the hands and feet, etc.
  • Many legally questionable deaths are a result of blunt force trauma to one’s head due to being hit with a closed fist. As we age, the state of fitness and health such as the head is more likely to occur simply because the head, bones, and other parts are more sensitive to trauma allowing a greater probability of grave bodily harm with death as a result. 
  • As we age, our brains tend to shrink while the skull remains the same so the brain and associated stuff move so when hit the skull moves while the brain movement has to catch up so the bone of the skull hits the brain add in secondary acceleration and the brain moves away and now strikes the other side of the skull causing brain injuries. 
  • The window of survival in the aged is also reduced greatly in relation to the injuries because older people are more fragile, the actual repercussions of such an attack reduce the time between injury and treatment considerably, i.e., the brain without oxygen for instance means you can have about twenty-seconds before debilitating damage is done or even brain death. 
  • As we age we develop conditions that make the body weaker and more vulnerable  and those conditions also feed us information we can present that further justifies our use of greater force because, even if the attacker doesn’t know while you are very aware, that knowledge articulated further supports your legal increased levels of force to protect and survive. 
  • Physically: Older folks lose flexibility in bones and in our chest walls; cartilage becomes calcified, ribs more rigid, things break easily, and the sternum loses some of its flexibility at its joints (a proper blow to the sternum can shatter it and lacerate the heart). 
  • Aging reduces reaction time and perceptions especially as they apply to the proper application of defenses at appropriate levels of force meaning that what one may have understood and controlled in their prime suffers greatly from changes due to the aging processes where such expertise and application of methodologies becomes less exacting. 

Dr. Margulies states, “A blow produces an acceleration force and so if you’re struck–let’s just pick a spot–in the forehead, the skull begins to move backwards while the brain lags. It sits there and first, the forehead bone actually strikes the brain, then, in many cases, there is the secondary acceleration and the brain moves away and now strikes the back of the skull and there’s additional injury at the other end. The technical term is contra-coup. It is the secondary injury due to the brain’s movement within the skull.”

“If that initial blow to the forehead drives the head back into a wall or the head restraint of the car seat, the skull stops and the brain continues now to bang into the back of the skull, we have two points of injury.”

“If you fall and you have the gravity effect in addition to the impact effect, and the head now hits a hard surface–and by the way, that could be a grassy field–that secondary impact brings the skull to a sudden stop. There’s been the additional time and energy developed by the movement of the skull and brain between the initial impact and now when it hits the ground, the concrete, the post or the fence, that exacerbates the secondary injury.”

Because of our age and those physical and mental changes we older folks tend to need greater force just to achieve some semblance of survivability while more often the attacker succeeds while the older person suffers grave harm and even more likely - death. 

We as a society conditioned by social media and especially that of the entertainment media tend to perceive and believe that one can take a huge amount of hits from empty hands and bare feet so that when presented with a disparity of force issue the prosecutor is using to convict a party for using a firearm to stop an attacker who is not armed, using their empty hands and feet, as an inappropriate and illegal use of force when in reality better understanding how deadly the assailant’s fists, feet, knees and elbows actually are would prove using a firearm against empty handed attacks is actually justified. 

Blunt Force Trauma Injuries from fists, feet, knees and elbows, etc.:

  • Blow to the nose: produces tearing; disables the sense of sight; can’t see what is coming.
  • Blow to the temple area can cause a fracture tearing an underlying artery. 
  • Blow to the back of the neck: dislocate spin casing paralysis or death, 
  • Blow to head and face: bleeding and swelling can block the airways, bleeding in mouth can cause vomiting if swallowed and can lead to a chance of aspiration, sucking it down into the lungs. 
  • Blow to the ribs: can injure the liver or spleen. We don’t survive well without a liver and the spleen can result in grave repercussions when injured. 

Dr. Margulies, in the referenced article, stated, “Most people are mis-educated by what we see in the movies and on television. Just as a bullet from a handgun does not pick people up and throw them against the wall, in the real world, one does not sustain a blow to the head, the kick to the chest, and then stand up and produce his magic fight-ender. That’s fantasy! That’s not the real world. It doesn’t happen that way. You get hit in the head, you go to the ground, and you are badly hurt.”

When you are hit, the hit itself may not be the danger but when you lose balance and structure inevitably you end up succumbing to, ‘gravity’ that will often result in death because the head strikes with force some hard object on the ground like a cement curb. This fact tends to become muddy in court because they perceive the hands as less force while gravity is not there concern as to the end result, your actions taken make it your responsibility, etc.

All of this and more lead to the understanding is that such blows tend to, “Render an individual disabled in terms of mounting a reasonable defense.” This is exacerbated in older folks because of the changes like brain shrinkage as we age. More room for physics in a fight to bounce the brain all around disrupting signals in the brain and interpretation of signals coming into the brain from our senses. 

Add in the good Doctor feels, “The point that has been all too long ignored in the justice and legal system is the unprovoked attack puts one in a very dangerous situation. In a dark alleyway, or a subway station after the train has pulled out and very few people are there, that initial impact can produce injuries that without immediate care can be fatal.” 

Add in the physical and mental changes of aging and that chance of grave harm toward possible fatality increase proportionally to the age of the victim starting as early as age forty years. When one passes into the winter years, i.e., sixty or older, the disparities of physical and mental abilities assuming all other factors equal are against the older person allowing one to take measures greater than would be reasonable if both were equals. Add in that more often it is reported that seldom do criminals target anyone of equal perceived status and ability, they always, always, seek out the weaker and the vulnerable and the easiest targets to put the favor on their side for success. 

In short, in an attack where both parties are about the same in age range, “The bare hand or the foot or a knee or an elbow, can produce that disability that leads to an inability to defend yourself. And it only takes one blow!” 

If body language and the situation indicates that a real danger of attack is on then we have to strike first because waiting for them to hit you first could result, especially as an elder person, in grave harm resulting in the inability to defend or death. Even an open hand attack is dangerous, often more dangerous then the fist. There are a plethora of strikes from the fingertips to open hand to edged hand to forearm, to elbow, to shoulder, to knees to feet that are extremely dangerous and deadly. 

Now, with all that, there is a conundrum for even the older guys and gals, if you trained, studied and practiced karate and martial arts for self-fense those very traits used to justify the levels of force may also work against you. Yes, that type of knowledge and understanding help support and solidify your reasons for the levels of force used but they also can lead to excessive levels of force accusations because if you are that kind of professional then why didn’t you use those skills, etc. vs. what application and force level you did use such as a gun vs. empty hands? 

If the courts, the law and the legal system actually accept the facts that blunt force of the empty hands are now lethal deadly force levels that changes the whole dynamic of perceived levels of force. The whole point of this article and exercise is to achieve a balanced understanding of how one will articulate and justify one’s use of force regardless. There are always two sides to any story and it may end up that, “The rest of the story,” could result in conviction instead of freedom. 

Add in civil actions and how much easier it is for one to get a conviction or judgement vs. conviction in criminal court is astounding and surprising so do the work, do the studies, ask professionals, have a professional available in case of trouble and understand all the aspects. Aging provides us more leeway to achieve legally acceptable defenses and force levels but that two edged sword does cut both ways. 

Bibliography (Click the link)
Hayes, Gila. “Understanding Blunt Force Trauma Lethality” by Dr. Robert Margulies. Armed Citizens Legal Defense Network, inc. An Interview with Dr. Robert Margulies dtd 2016