Self Defense at Any Age

Updated: April 1, 2015

2015-04-20 07.04.02I have known James “Smokey” West for over three years.  I am young at heart but not in my 30’s anymore.  Jim has trained me to be prepared for basic self defense that anyone can learn.  To be prepared you don’t need to know how to fight like a professional fighter but if you get the basics; repeat them over and over again because repetition creates muscle memory and psychological memory you will have enough skills to survive.   Anyone and yes, even me, in my 50’s can be prepared.  I want to tell you a story about when I was in my 20’s and defensively unprepared and naive. I would never want this to happen to me again.

When I was in my 20’s I was carjacked.  It was 1981.  Carjacking was not the rage at the time and became a buz word over time.  All my instincts were there.  It did not feel right and I was watching the man walking ahead of me.  I crossed the street and watched him but in the time it took for me to put the keys in the door lock, looking down and just getting in I was now in trouble.  I let my guard down and in that instant, he was standing next to my open door with a knife at my side.  You see, I felt something was wrong and thought I was alert enough to pay attention, but the truth is, I should have gone back into my office and had someone walk me out to the car.  IF IT FEELS WRONG, IT IS WRONG!!!!  Follow your instincts and don’t feel you are over-reacting if you think you may be in danger.

What is the worst that can happen if you change your course, if only to take an extra minute and get someplace safe rather than to walk right into a situation you “think” may potentially be dangerous.  Truthfully, I remember being in a fog at in that moment and not really comprehending what exactly was happening to me.  I remember saying something to him.  The man moved his body where I finally looked down at my side.  Keep in mind this all happened in less than a minute, but I could not wrap my mind around what was actually taking place.  He was aiming a knife at my side and told me to get out of my car. Stupidly and I really mean stupidly, I was more concerned for my handbag and the new shoes I just bought with my very first paycheck at the Bank where I had only started with 2 weeks before and  I still was trying to understand what was happening in this moment (it was clearly a woman thing).   When the knife got closer as he said get out of the car, I realized in that second that I had to get out.  Thank God he did not want me and he only wanted my car, the money in my bag and my belongings and yes, my new shoes. Fortunately that day I was not hurt.    I am alive, but in that moment I felt helpless.  I have relived that time over and over again and thought about what I could have done differently.  Sure I was not trained in any way to protect myself, but I could have turned around and gone back to work since I felt something was “off”.   Remember if it in the moment feels wrong, go with those instincts.

Ever since that day I have been continuously aware of my surroundings.  Working in New York for many years, walking late at night to get to the train, being with others so as not to be alone, and never letting my guard down.  But that is all I was armed with for all of those years working in the city.  Just instincts and nothing else to protect myself.  Thank God, nothing happened to me in NYC for the 15 years I worked there.  But it does not have to happen in a big city.  Anything can happen to you wherever you are.  Over this last year, in a mall parking lot in Short Hills, New Jersey, a man was gunned down.  Being alert is only part of survival.  Being prepared is how to survive.

Now that I am older and even more vulnerable as well as being a woman (and this is not to infer that all women are defenseless because I know many who are trained and capable); it is even more important to have more than just instincts.  YES, if it feels wrong, it IS WRONG.  Turn around and find a safe place immediately.  But if you are caught in a situation that comes quickly, it is more important to learn how to get out of it.

Jim has provided me with several very basic moves that can help any woman, man, old or young.  It has given me confidence that if something happens I can fight back with a chance to survive and get away.  It is not to necessarily beat the other person up, but it is enough to cause harm and disarm them by the unexpected so you have a chance to get out of the situation.  It is movement, awareness, changing your level and being aware.

I see news reports all the time about women and older people who are being attacked.  I am so impressed by the women that fight back; even if they get hurt, they survived.  Jim’s self-defense strategies will work for anyone.  It takes as I said earlier; repetition and focus so if something were to happen, you instinctively react and put it into high gear.

If anyone ever wants Jim to teach them; individually, in a group; school, university; retirement community, he analyses your strengths and weakness and finds compensating moves to make you strong and capable.  Jim “Smokey” West’s words:

 “Men and women, no matter age and size, will both learn to walk with confidence and survive the most brutal attacks from the person who coerces you through threat of killing you to crooks and criminals.  Don’t be bullied anymore! “


Jim has given me some very basic tools in self-defense that I hope I will never have to use, but am confident that if in a situation, I will never feel defenseless again. I know that I will be able to fight for my life or the life of those I want to protect.