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Self-Defense with Arthritis or Disability – by Ashley Boynes-Shuck


Everyone is vulnerable to unexpected attacks or assault. Random acts of violence are committed all the time in our world, unfortunately, and so are home invasions and physical altercations.

If we’re lucky, we’ll avoid these kinds of situations.

However, it helps to be prepared in case of emergency.

Are you a woman? Are you elderly? Do you have a disability? Do you live alone? All of these things could potentially make you more vulnerable — but fear not! I’m going to give you some tips on protecting yourself and being safe both at home and in public!

* Don’t open your door to a stranger. Sure, it sounds like advice to give a child, but, in this world, it’s “better safe than sorry.” If you do open the door, step outside to greet them where neighbors could potentially see the interaction. Never let the person inside of your home.

* Invest in a home security system. Having that little sign in your yard or that sticker on your door indicating that you have an alarm may deter potential burglars. The best kinds will stay on even if the power to your home is cut off.

* When you answer the door, have a phone or cell phone in your hand. It would indicate to the potential would-be robber or attacker that you could dial 9-1-1 at any given second.

* If it is legal in your state, arm yourself with pepper spray, mace, or bear spray. You could even carry a bottle of hairspray with you if it came down to it. Of course, there are other options for personal protection – guns, knives – but those are items that are solely up to the individual to consider. If you do consider carrying one of these items, make sure that you are well-educated on how to use it properly — and be careful!  Also if legal in your area, you can look into stun guns or tasers. (If it is a gun, make sure it was legally purchased, that you are trained on it, and that you have a permit!)

* Be aware of your surroundings. Don’t be distracted when walking to your car in a parking lot. It could make you out to be a potential target.

* Carry a cane? This could actually be a great “weapon” for self-defense if need be. Use your cane as a “bat,” to hit the kneecaps, abdomen, shin, ankles, chin, or pelvic region. In fact, they even sell “combat canes” and “self-defense canes” that may be worth looking into! There are also classes called “Cane-Fu!”

* If you have to be in an area of town that has crime problems or you find yourself in unfamiliar territory late at night, you might ask one or more friends or co-workers to accompany you.

* According to an article on “Self Defense for People with Disabilities” on, use your voice!  “Do not underestimate the power of our voice. Even with moderate to extreme limitations in mobility, our voice is our first weapon of choice.”  Here is their advice: “If the person doesn’t back off, we need to raise our tone of voice and forcefully say, ‘Back Away!’ If he still doesn’t listen, make a bigger scene and yell, ‘BACK AWAY!’  The second ‘Back Away’ should be done with a ‘Bad Dog’ voice we would use to scold a pet. The third ‘BACK AWAY,’ if needed, should be done with a voice that will make everyone within shouting distance take notice. If we are still feeling threatened, we need to keep stating our boundaries and verbally backing the predator away. This continues even when we get to a level of physical conflict. The voice will allow us to use our full power. By yelling, we are actually breathing. When we stop breathing, we freeze; we can no longer respond assertively and at worst we become the proverbial ‘deer in headlights.’ Predators are also aware of the societal rules and are relying on us to play by them and be a victim. We may hear from them, ‘Be quiet and I won’t hurt you.’ They are depending on our silence and cooperation with their game. Be aware of this. Out of the 60,000 + students in Model Mugging’s 37-year history, around 800 who faced attacks after their training were able to dissuade their predators with verbal defense alone.”

* In a wheelchair or power chair? It may sound silly, but use your chair to fend off your would-be attacker! Roll over their ankle or foot if possible; run over them in any way you can.

* “Man’s Best Friend!” Trained properly, dogs can be a very good self-defense option, especially for those with mobility impairment.

* Take an adaptive self-defense class. According to, “Everyone can improve their skills and expand their options in case of an attack. This is not martial arts, and you don’t have to be fit to use the techniques we teach. They are skills that everyone can use every day to keep themselves safer. Defend Yourself teachers have extensive experience teaching people from all walks of life, including those with physical limitations. They will work with you to adapt the techniques to something that works for you.” The difference between self-defense and martial arts? Anyone can learn basic self-defense skills, even somebody small, elderly, with physical disabilities, overweight, or out of shape. It is not really a form of exercise, per se.

* Look into resources such as, the International Disabled Self-Defense Association.

* According to the Tin Mom Blog, “If you are physically attacked, how confident are you in your ability to fight back? Do you feel arthritis puts you at a disadvantage because you’re not as strong as you want to be or you have limited range of motion? Have you ever felt more empowered as a result of your disability? A knee to the groin is always a good move unless you have wobbly legs or are in a wheelchair. In which case, an open palm punch or a reverse elbow would be better.”

* Try a “Tai-Chi for Arthritis Self Defense” class or DVD such as the one seen, here. (Ask your doctor first!)

* Keep your car doors and house doors locked. Don’t leave a garage door opening in plain sight in your car, and change your garage or alarm code every 6 months or so.

* Lock windows, especially those that are on ground-level. Also close curtains or blinds. All it takes is a potential robber to look in and see a huge big-screen TV or a seemingly defenseless person home alone all the time.

* Make note of suspicious activity. As they say regarding terrorism, “if you see something, say something!” So, if it looks like someone is casing your neighborhood, you feel like you’re being followed, or that someone is showing up at your door who is a scammer or impostor, it’s better safe than sorry — call the police.

* Consider security lights, or, if you can afford it, surveillance cameras outside your home.

* For other kinds of emergency situations, here are 7 iPhone apps that can save lives. There are similar options for other smart phones, too, and many websites with useful tools and information.

* Get to know your neighbors. That way, if they see anything suspicious or vice versa, you can “have each other’s backs.”

* Don’t be afraid! Tell yourself, “I’m not a victim,” and, if you are in a scary situation or being abused or attacked, fight back with everything you have! Your body can do amazing things when under duress — and you may be surprised.

So, stay safe, folks — whether or not you have arthritis!

Thanks for reading, and, as always, you are welcome to leave a comment!

Stay Well,

Ashley Boynes-Shuck

What’s YOUR weapon against arthritis?

Follow the Arthritis Foundation, Mid Atlantic Region on Twitter @MidAtlanticAF!

Follow me on Twitter  @ArthritisAshley!

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Arthritis is Unacceptable.

One thought on “Self-Defense with Arthritis or Disability – by Ashley Boynes-Shuck

  1. Wonderful tips on safety. I don’t think this one is on the list (unless I missed it) but if your car has an alarm on it, you can sleep with your keys on your night stand or even carry them with you to your front door. Press your car keys to set off the alarm if you need to as this loud noise will most likely scare off an attacker. Will also work if you are walking to your car and have a problem. Now if only my 2002 had an alarm on it 😦

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