fig.153 - A choke is the perfect technique if you want
to rescue someone being attacked.
This choke is
known as HADAKA JIME (naked lock).
Note how your head should be in relation to his.
Let me be absolutely crystal clear here: a choke or strangulation, if correctly executed, will, let me repeat it louder; WILL kill someone in fifteen seconds after he loses consciousness
Now fifteen seconds is a very short period of time, especially when there is a lot of adrenaline flowing, It takes just past three seconds for someone to pass out if strangled, and about fifteen to die. I stress this fact because of all the techniques that we explore in this website, some lethal, the choke is the one that can be easily overlooked or misunderstood and the results, either in practice or training or in a real life scenario are irreversible.
I hope I made this absolutely clear, and don't be surprised if I will mention this again further on. Many martial arts have encompassed strangulation techniques in their practice and many if not all of the Special Forces manuals and training worldwide teach this important skill, this alone should make chokes an important chapter learning self defence.
A choke can be carried out from several different angles, standing or lying on the ground, from the front
or from behind, using just arms and hands or with the aid of batons or other objects, including belts. You can even choke someone using the lapel of his own jacket.
It is important to remember though that strangulations are by definition carried out at close range, and therefore are very effective when you are either grabbed or onto the ground with your attacker on top of you. We'll see how that works shortly; lets see first what makes a choke effective.
fig.154 -Different types of chokes
Of all martial arts it is in Jujitsu and obviously Judo that strangulation techniques achieve greatest effect, concentrating in accuracy and not strength. This has made the majority of choking techniques (shime=constriction - waza=technique) in Judo) highly accessible in their simplicity and effectiveness.
Fundamentally we can distinguish two basic ways of strangling someone: stopping the flow of blood to the brain putting pressure on the carotid or impeding the flow of air to the lungs blocking the trachea, (larynx or windpipe) Small variations are irrelevant, such as blocking the mouth and nose, and we will concentrate on the simplest and easiest to perform.
fig.155 - Anatomy of the neck, front view.
Unconsciousness can also be achieved applying compression to the nerves near the carotid, a known pressure point amongst martial artists.
The majority of effective strangulations concentrate in compressing the carotid artery, that requires little pressure to stop the flow of blood and the fact that is quite exposed on the neck and also adds simplicity to the application of the technique, as well as the fact that stopping the flood of blood to the brain provokes loss of consciousness much faster than trying to restrict breathing applying pressure to the windpipe (trachea), as well as allowing more control.
All this sounds very exciting but there is one huge problem affecting the teaching of strangulations or neck holding techniques: safety.
In practice within the gym or dojo environment there are trained professionals that will
supervise your techniques and there are measures agreed and put in place to guarantee everyone's safety. When a choke is starting to take effect the person on the receiving end will signal with a tap (to the mat or onto the opponent) when it's time to stop, and as soon as the tap is heard or felt the choke is stopped. (see here what happens when you don't tap).
Feeling the choke or strangulation being applied to you is an important part of the training especially to learn when to submit during a competition. An added danger is that if a choke is improperly applied or too much force is used, the windpipe can collapse, with almost irreversible consequences.
fig.155A - Anatomy of the neck, lateral view.
Therefore the first and foremost rule when commencing the strangulation and choke techniques is to keep control of what you are doing and be aware at all time of the status of the other person. How? Well if you are standing and the person goes limp and stops trying to get out of the choke you know that he has probably passed out (probably though, he might be faking it).
If on the floor you'll know either because you can see his face going red (the onset of face flushing is caused by the change in pressure in the carotid arteries and jugular veins), or because he stops struggling, obviously because he has lost consciousness.
This has made chokes very popular with Police forces worldwide as an effective way of tackling violent subjects who refuse to submit, without the use of weapons. Unfortunately on the contrary to Judo where there have been no deaths during practice or tournaments since Jigoro Kano founded judo in 1882, there have been an increasing number of deaths caused by Law Enforcement Personnel in some countries subduing violent persons using choking holds or other controlling and restraining techniques including a choke.
fig.156 - A "bar arm" choke can be
applied with a baton.
Examining the majority of these cases there is one factor that seems immediately evident, all these fatalities allegedly caused by "bar-arm" and carotid artery control hold techniques seem caused by poor control of the technique or the fact that the person being choked was often under the influence of drugs.
This should make us think twice before applying a choke to someone, as it is evident that things can get out of hand pretty quickly if the person cannot comply. The advantage of a chokehold is also psychological, very few people have experienced been choked and it can be an extremely frightening experience for anyone at the receiving end.
A woman of averagely strong build can quite easily subdue a man twice her size if she can apply a choke with good technique. What makes a good technique then? There are a few general things to remember and then we'll see individual techniques.
First of all make sure that you can put your entire body's power behind the choke, meaning having a good position in relation to your opponent, in a way that you use more than just the strength of your hands. If on the ground you should arch backwards, away from your opponent, and straighten your body to maximise the choking action. Once you have committed yourself to perform a choke or strangulation make sure you go all the way, without releasing your hold or slackening, quite the opposite, apply increasing constant pressure on the neck until your opponent looses consciousness.
Using excessive strength is a bad technique; very little pressure is required to achieve a perfect result in all chokes, especially if directed at the carotid. Let's examine some of the most popular chokes and strangulations that can be used in a self-defence situation. As we have discussed we can apply a choke from a variety of different positions, using one hand, two hands, your legs or part of our attacker's clothes or using objects such as batons or other similar tools.
The most basic choking technique is called HADAKA JIME (naked lock) in Judo, and takes its name from the fact that it does not require using anything but your arms. As we can see in fig.153 your arm should be positioned across his throat from behind, applying direct pressure with your forearm onto his trachea, and because of the pressure applied to a frontal wide area, it is very painful, adding the shock of sharp pain to the choking action.
fig.157 - Going to someone's rescue you can use a belt to
apply a choke and control the attacker. Note the rescuer's
Clasp your hand at the same time (if it is the right arm across his neck use your left to do that) and now pull backwards using both hands. Now keep pulling backwards, and even if you fall on your back keep pulling until your attacker loses consciousness It is important that the area of the forearm used to apply pressure on the neck is the hard "bony" part, not the soft one.
To make sure that the right part of the forearm is used make sure your palm is facing down, also be careful that his neck does not slide towards your elbow, allowing a gap to be formed where the elbow bends. To avoid this from happening make sure that you position your shoulder behind your attacker's head and move your head to the side of his head to keep his head in position. (fig.157)
There are few variations of this choke (see fig.158 and fig.159) changing hand position or using part of your opponent's clothing to secure a better hold and all these variations can be applied if clasping your other hand is not practical or not feasible, for instance your opponent has grabbed part of your arm or your other hand is slippery with sweat.
fig.158 - HADAKA JIME: variation with hand
This choke is effective also coming to someone's rescue, because it is most effective from behind: it can be performed standing, kneeling or while on the ground. To escape from this particular hold, in case you find yourself being subjected to it, turn your head towards the elbow of your opponent to free the airway and at the same time insert your hand between his arm and your neck, pushing hard up and if he moves to adjust his position, head butt him.
The majority of defence techniques against chokes must be conducted quickly and swiftly, you only have a couple of seconds before loosing consciousness and your response must be explosive. If strangled from behind sometimes is best to spin around towards his elbow and hit him on the ribs with your elbow (see fig.160).
fig.159 - HADAKA JIME: variation with hand
holding back of opponent 's head.
Strangulations are very effective even when standing and when your attacker tries to grab you by the waist, the guillotine choke hold (called Mae Hadaka Jime in JUDO is quite effective in this case and you can even drag your attacker to the floor, or in any case if he pushes you to the ground, with the impetus of his attack, you know that you can choke him with this technique. (fig.162)
fig.160 - Spin
around towards his
elbow and hit your attacker hard
with your elbow anywhere
As we have mentioned you can also use his clothing to perform a choke, for instance the lapel of his jacket, using the lapel like a cord wrapped around his neck or to get a more effective grip. There are several chokes using lapels, the most useful is known in Judo as Kataha Jime if from behind, while if you need to apply it frontally, even with your attacker on top of you, you should perform any of the so called cross locks (Juji Jime).
There is Nami Juji JIme (palms down) , Gyaku Juji Jime (two palms facing up) or Kata Juji Jime (one thumb in and
one thumb out), all very similar except that the exact position of the hands varies. The easiest and most natural to execute is Nami-juji-jime (fig.161) where both hands are in the normal position, palm downwards, that you would have going for his neck, thumbs in the jacket, fingers out. Your left hand grabs his right collar pulling slightly to your left, to get a deep grip with your right hand, using full thumb inside, on his right collar as close to his neck as possible. Then the left hand goes underneath your right hand and gets a deep grip on the opposite collar, again with your thumb inside. Positioning your head beside his head so he won't be able to escape as you spread your elbows sideways and choke him.
fig.161 - Nami Juji Jime. Notice the way
the elbows are positioned.
Pulling him towards you (to the ground) will bring his centre of weight to your chest, preventing him from creating distance. His reaction would be to pull himself up, away from you so your entire weight is now applying a choke. Continue until he passes out, this is important to achieve an effective strangulation. Gyaku-juji-jime has the hands in the reverse position, palms upwards and both hands have fingers in the jacket and the thumbs outside .
All three strangulations use the elbows spread outwards to apply pressure to the carotid, and all cross chokes are very effective even when you are pinned to the ground with your opponent on top of you. The reason why I prefer carotid chokes to windpipe chokes is because it takes less strength to put pressure on the carotid and lost of consciousness is achieved much earlier. Also, pressure to the carotid can be applied from different angles, while a choke to the larynx is more effectively controlled when applied from behind. Knowing that both type of choke can work effectively even against a far superior opponent should give you an advantage in case your life is threatened and you want to survive.
Fig.162 - Guillotine choke ending on the ground. In Judo this choke is known as
MAE HADAKA JIME. You can drag your attacker to the ground and wrapping your legs around
his torso get him in a scissor lock at the same time.
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