FOREST, Va. (WFXR) – Senior citizens and people who walk with a cane might be seen as vulnerable by would-be attackers, but a self-defense class in Forest is turning a perceived weakness into a strength.

The five-week course began on Tuesday and is designed to help develop strength, balance, and awareness and teach defensive skills based around the use of a cane.

“Well I just don’t like the idea of being vulnerable, and the older we get, the more vulnerable I’ve felt,” said Jim Akenhead.

He uses a cane, and he and his wife Charlene wanted to learn to use it for more than walking.

“To me, that’s the key here,” he said, “is to have something that doesn’t look foreign. You’re not carrying a big machine gun. You don’t have a big lump under your coat or your shirt, and yet you have something that can definitely be called to order if you need it.”

Instructor Sidney Burns wants to give his students more confidence in using their medical device.

“The cane is not something that you feel that you’re weak with, but it empowers you,” he said.

He says older people can be targets for attackers, but a few quick hits with a wooden or metal cane can often be enough.

“That hurts, and so it will make someone think twice about trying to grab you again.”

After one class, Jim recommends it.

“If people have access to this and they don’t take advantage of it, they’re foolish,” he said. “It’s very practical.”

A study by the Centers for Disease Control shows a big increase in the number of non-fatal attacks against people over 60. Over a 15 year period, attacks against men over the age of 60 increased by 75.4 percent.

Those interested in more information on the class, visit Cobra Self-Defense’s website.