10 Tips on How to Defend Yourself in a Car

Image via shutterstock, a driver being attacked by a passenger in the front seat.

Uber and Lyft continue to be popular forms of transportation for millions worldwide. However, I see more and more stories about drivers (and sometimes passengers!) who are being assaulted in their cars. Here are ten tips to follow in case you are assaulted by an unarmed attacker in a car (I will address armed attackers in an upcoming article on carjacking):


1. Be aware.

Situational awareness is always key. I can’t stress it enough. If you are a driver, take a good look at the passenger(s) to see if anything appears fishy. Remember, hands can kill, so look at their hands to see if they are carrying (or hiding) anything that may be used against you. If you are a passenger, skip down to #10 in this list for some advice from Renner Gracie and his wife Eve on how to avoid getting into a car with a “fake” Uber or Lyft driver.

2. Don’t be a jerk!

Be friendly and disarming in your approach to strangers. If you are driving, kindly ask them to put on their seat belt. (You want to make sure you are turning around in your seat as much as possible and facing them.) You do not want to initiate or escalate any sort of confrontation.

3. It’s tight!

Remember that you are in a very close environment. You will not be able to kick or use any footwork to get out of the way of an incoming attack. You will have to use very simple, “grunt” techniques to defend yourself.

4. Get your guard up.

The moment you hear him take off his seat belt or begin an attack, immediately bring up your free hand (right hand for most people) into what is called the “helmet guard.” This is a block to protect your head. Essentially, wrap your hand around the back of your head and bring your arm in close to your ear. Hunch your shoulders and lean forward, bringing your chin down (to prevent the attacker from slipping his arm under your chin and choking you out).


For a video on how to do this, look at the “Fight Tips With Shane Fazen” video at the end of point #5.

If you can take the car key out and get out of the car, do so as fast as you can. Call the cops immediately. If you cannot get out, you must find a way to turn around and strike back toward vital targets as hard and as fast as you can. There is no set formula for this. You just have to find a way.

5. Defend against chokes.

If they are trying to choke you, you must get your hands up and on to their arm and pull down to relieve pressure on your throat so you can breathe. If possible, grab one of his fingers or thumb and rip it back, thus breaking his hold temporarily. If you feel you need to bite him, do so. Bite viciously until he releases! (As far as I am concerned, biting is always a last resort, since if you draw blood and ingest it, you may contract some pretty terrible diseases.)

Once you have broken the choke, turn around as fast as possible and stab him in the eyes with your fingers or strike him in the throat with a Y-hand strike (see my article on Body Weapons for instructions on how to do this).

There is nothing easy about this. There aren’t any “simple tricks” that will get you out of this situation. Fight viciously and get out of there as quickly as possible.

If he is choking you with the seatbelt, lower the seat to relieve pressure, then turn around and fight for your life.


6. Use weapons.

Use weapons if possible. I know that Uber drivers are not allowed to carry guns, but a ball point pen or a pencil, a small thin flashlight, or a folding knife can be very useful. Use the flashlight to jam it into the attacker’s throat. Use the pen, pencil, or knife to stab into their hand, arm, or face/eyes/throat.

If you are carrying pepper spray — be careful. Make sure you know how to activate it and spray it in the right direction. In the “heat of battle” you just may get some of it on you, or you might spray it in the wrong direction, and that would be disastrous. The best pepper spray to get is “Sabre.” You can buy a small cannister of it for your keychain for about $10.

7. Use your environment.

Don’t forget to use your environment. You can smash his head or arms or hands into the frame of the car to inflict pain and disorient your attacker.

8. If he’s next to you…

If the attacker is seated next to you, again use the “helmet guard” to protect your head from strikes. Like I always tell my students: “Ya gotta protect your melon! If they get a really good smashing hit into your head, it could be curtains for you.” While you have your “helmet guard” up, simultaneously attack his eyes or throat with savage strikes. You can’t be nice.

9. If attacked from outside the car…

If you are being attacked from outside the car, follow the advice of combatives expert Nick Drossos (warning: his language is pretty vulgar, so if this offends you I suggest you use the mute button):


And here is another good one from Nick:

10. Use an effective choke.

Lastly, while I strongly advocate powerfully striking your attacker, it is also good to know how to put an effective choke on someone. In a fight, you may somehow wind up on the bottom, and you had better know how to choke ’em out from that position. So, here is the famous Brazilian Jiu Jitsu instructor Renner Gracie and his wife Eve giving some tips on how to avoid an attack in a car (this time assuming you are the passenger and the attacker is the driver), and then how to use three effective chokes should the need arise.

The first two chokes are not too difficult to learn, however the last one (the “Triangle Choke) is, in my opinion, quite complicated for the novice and would require quite a bit of practice to perfect. Please watch, learn, and train. You will fight like you train.


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