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brians's picture
Training Self-Defense Combat in a Car, Train or Airplane

Some ideas on how to develop physical self-defense skills in highly restrictive circustances, such as when you are seated in a car, train or airplane.

The video demonstrates the ideas with combatants seated next to each other. It is important to train other positions as well, e.g., one person standing, while you are seated (in the car, or in a subway), being attached by people seated in a row behind you (e.g., in a train, airplane, or car), etc.

For those who practice the kata Naihanchi, you will recognize some bunkai straight out of the kata. (Of course, you can apply other kata in this situation as well.)

For a deeper explanations of the physical self-defense fighting concepts in the video, see http://www.fullpotentialma.com/self-defense-combat-inside-a-car-bus-train-or-airplane/

Les Bubka
Les Bubka's picture

Hi brians very nice concept I like the use of Kata. Very nice to watch Kind regards Les

brians's picture

Thanks Les. Naihanshi is definately one of my favorite kata. I like its simlicity and versatility. It is easily adaptable to many situations including, as I show in the video, to fighting in confined quarters.


Iain Abernethy
Iain Abernethy's picture

Important to practise this kind of stuff. It’s essentially “modern iai”. As a westerner in 2017, there is little point practising defending when in seiza when the enemy also attacks from seiza. Getting attacked from a seated position is a lot more likely and should be part of restricted punching practise.

Getting in an actual vehicle is most realistic, but it may not be practical to send the entire class in to the car park on a dark and rainy night. It’s certainly not possible to supervise everyone that way. You also can’t practise on buses, planes and trains without getting arrested for causing a public disturbance ;-) You can certainly recreate it in the dojo though.

Restricted punching generally is also a very important form of practise.

All the best,


Spike's picture

Hi what are the legal implications of using incidental weapons i.e. Keys or in car fire extinguisher 

As a former taxi driver and now a driving instructor I've often thought of self protection scenarios especially when taxi driving not so much in my current job but in both circumstances you are in an enclosed space and tend to have cash in the vehicle 

(Ps it was mandatory to have a in car extinguisher when driving a taxi)

Small accessible and vey hard 

Thanks spike

Iain Abernethy
Iain Abernethy's picture

The law will vary depending upon which part of the world you are based in? For England and Wales, if the force used was both necessary (legitimate self-defence / prevention of crime based on the situation as you honestly believed it to be) and reasonable (as defined in section 76 of the Criminal Justice and Immigration Act 2008 i.e. honest and instinctive action that does not need to be “judged to a nicety”) then you’ve acted legally. You can legitimately use improvised weapons for self-defence, but the force used still needs to have been both necessary and reasonable.

If a criminal locked the doors, pulled a knife and tried to stab you, then you’d almost certainly be totally OK reaching for the fire extinguisher and using it. If they tried to get away without paying for the taxi ride (still a crime) and you caved their head in stop them from doing so, you’d almost certainly be headed for a long time in jail. All situations are judged on their own merits.

One thing to keep in mind is that Section 1 of the Prevention of Crime Act 1953 and section 139 of the Criminal Justice Act 1988 make it illegal to have an offensive weapon in a public place without lawful authority (i.e. police can carry weapons) or reasonable excuse. An “offensive weapon” is defined as:

"any article made or adapted for use to causing injury to the person, or intended by the person having it with him for such use".

So if you carried something specifically for the purpose of using it as a weapon (irrespective of whether it’s an un-adapted everyday item) then you are committing an offence. The burden is also on you to prove you had a “reasonable excuse” (use in self-defence is not accepted as a reasonable excuse). If the “weapon” was used that could go against your self-defence claim because the other side (criminals tend to lie) will say you were the violent party and that is evidenced by the fact you were armed with what the law defines as an offensive weapon.

The use of items that one would legitimately have to hand in the car is unlikely to be problematic in this way i.e. keys, small fire extinguisher, thermos flask, pen, mobile phone etc. However, things like knives (which could be legitimate in other circumstances i.e. when fishing), kubotans, tools, etc. could easily be shown to be an offensive weapon.

It’s a good exercise to see what we have to hand that could be used to protect ourselves in the need arose. UK law makes it a very bad idea to carry anything specifically for that purpose though.

All the best,


dhogsette's picture

Great videos! It is important to remind students that practical self-defense responses generally will not happen on level floors and controlled environments, like the dojo. Occasionally, I will have students lie on their backs and punch, as Iain demonstrates, or pinned on the ground, or pinned against the wall. We train in a YMCA, and there are chairs in the room for observers. I'll set the chairs up like a car or bus scenario to practice punching from disadvantaged positions. Very instructive and eye opening!