Seniors, even those who depend on canes, walkers or wheelchairs, can learn to defend themselves at classes in the District this week.

Marty Langelan, a self-defense expert and president of Langelan and Associates in Bethesda, says of the techniques she teaches, "There are things that work and at the very least, you don't have to be an easy target"

Langelan first stresses prevention by teaching seniors to be aware of anyone who comes within 10 feet of them. Often, she says, attackers pass seniors on the street, then attack them from behind, something they are less likely to do if they lose the element of surprise.

For attacks that can't be prevented, she teaches how to break free of assailants and how to use whatever is available in self-defense. For seniors using canes, she teaches them to swing the cane low and hit the attacker in the ankle because an attacker can grab the cane if it's swung too high. For those in wheelchairs, she teaches how to back up rapidly into the attacker and knock him down. And, for seniors who feel unstable on their feet, she teaches them how to drop to the ground and kick from a sitting position.

Langelan, former director of the D.C. Rape Crisis Center, also stresses community safety. She teaches seniors how to yell for help, respond to calls for help from others, and how to best report incidents to the police and neighbors.

Self-Defense for Seniors, March 18, 9:30 a.m. at IONA Senior Services, 4125 Albermarle St. NW (call 202-966-1055), and March 19, 1 p.m. at Senior Citizens Counseling and Delivery Service, 2451 Good Hope Rd. SE (call 202-678-2800).

-- Diane Knich

Even seniors who use canes or walkers can learn to fend off attacks.