Essential Self-Defense Techniques for Summer Road Trips

There are no rules in self-defense, but it’s good to be trained for any situation


Almost 80 percent of families traveling this summer plan to take a road trip; a 10 percent increase over last year, according to AAA. Hitting the road allows you to completely control your trip by stopping anytime and anywhere you would like, which gives you the ability to see scenic areas that you would have missed if you were flying.

The downside would be the fact that you are traveling through various cities and towns you are unfamiliar with and the risk of your car breaking down. Bringing along self-defense skills is just as important as making sure you have enough snacks and water for the trip.

While you can see more and have more flexibility in your schedule than you would if you simply flew to a destination, road trips can also be more complicated to plan. One of the top concerns is safety. You should know how to physically defend yourself and your family should you wind up lost in a bad part of town. 

Attacks happen so quickly that it’s often difficult to predict which self-defense technique is needed before it actually occurs.

The following techniques are universal and they were regardless of a person’s weight, size or height, Ross Cascio, an instructor at Krav Maga Worldwide training center, says.

Straight Punch

You use this punch anytime you want to cause damage and if the attacker is within range, Cascio says.

The basic movement behind a straight punch is to push off from your legs, rotate your hips and shoulders, and extend your arm out toward your target as explosively as possible. Clench your fist tightly and aim to make contact with the two knuckles at the base of your pointer and middle fingers against your attacker’s chin, mouth, or nose.

Front Kick to the Groin

This is the next best move, after a straight punch, if the person attacking you is not within arm’s reach, Cascio says. This hit is one of the most effective because it targets an area that cannot be made stronger or tougher with any amount of exercise, he adds. “Always aim to hit in the breeding or breathing area.”

When you need to make the most damage, aim also for the eyes, nose, face, and throat, Casio says. This kind of move is especially effective if the attacker is physically much bigger than the defender, he adds. “You don’t want to fight strength on strength.”

The front kick to the groin travels on a vertical plane up the “A frame” form of an attacker’s legs and lower body. To deliver the kick drive your hips forward with your knee bent so your heel is back. Let your knee and leg extend and with your foot flat (shoelaces up and toes forward gives the most striking surface), kick up and through the attacker’s groin. Imagine that your kick will travel through the attacker’s groin and out the top of the head, as if you were going to split them in two from the groin up. Recoil your leg back to its original position.


Knee strikes are very useful for creating damage at close range. If the attacker is close enough to grab you, that means you can grab that attacker and start making damage using your knees.

Grab as much skin, muscle (and whatever fabric the attacker is wearing) at the attacker’s trapezius (that’s the spot between the neck and shoulder) as possible. Keep the elbow of the arm grabbing the trap pointed down so you can brace yourself if the attacker comes forward.

Use your other hand to wrap behind the elbow on the same side of the body you are already grabbing. This grip on the trap and elbow will help you maintain a position from which to knee.

Drive your hips forward with your heel back (so your leg makes a triangle in profile view) and imagine that you are going to punch your knee straight through the attacker in front of you.

Recoil your knee by bringing your foot back to the ground, and continue to deliver knees until you can get away safe.

Bear Hug Defense

The bear hug is used when someone actually grabs you, Cascio says. “You may have to continue fighting by kicking and punching, he adds. “You always want to be able to move so they can’t restrain you and you can fight back.”

If you are grabbed in a bear hug, from the front or from behind, the key to getting out is to start fighting back right away. It’s hard to start fighting back unless you establish two things; base and space. Lower your center of gravity and “base out” by bending your legs and widening your feet.

You will immediately become more difficult to lift off of your feet and more difficult to move in general. As soon as you’ve established a solid base, immediately begin striking at any open and vulnerable areas that the attacker presents.

Continue to strike (head butt, knee strikes, kicks, punches, bites) until there is sufficient space for you to turn in (if attacked from behind) and continue with more strikes, or to simply separate and run away.

Choke Defense

If a choke comes on from the front, back, or side and that choke happens “in place” – which is to say that you are being attacked but generally standing in the same place, not being moved or pushed while the choked – Krav Maga Worldwide students are taught to “pluck” the choker’s hands away and immediately strike back.

Your body (meaning your hands) will want to immediately go toward your neck if a choke is put on you and will most likely end up on top of the attacker’s hands as they are already on the neck.

Instead of trying to pull the attacker’s hands off of the neck, which could be impossible if the defender is a much smaller person than the attacker, use your hands like hooks (thumbs against pointer fingers, hands in a “C” shape) and explosively pluck at the attackers thumbs.

The attacker cannot maintain a choke using their hands (it’s a different defense if the attacker is choking with their arm like a “rear naked choke” or similar) if their thumbs are plucked off of the defender’s neck. Immediately begin to strike vulnerable areas on the attacker’s body.

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