The concepts shown here are for illustrative purposes only. Chokeholds are inherently dangerous and can potentially be fatal. Seek a reputable instructor before attempting any techniques discussed or shown here.

Any true Rowdy Roddy Piper fan knows that the sleeper hold — aka a chokehold — can put people to sleep. And fans of mixed martial arts and action movies are keenly aware that it can possibly even kill them. But is it really that easy to apply? And how can it help you when SHTF?

Well, for starters, we need not wait for an EMP attack, nuclear fallout, or a zombie apocalypse to experience fecal matter going for a whirl. The following three scenarios illustrate that danger could happen at any time in our everyday lives — and why learning to apply a choke is no joke.

August 21, 2015: A terrorist — armed with at least an AK-47, nine magazines, and a box cutter — on a high-speed train from Amsterdam to Paris could have meant only one thing: carnage. Lucky for the passengers, Spencer Stone and his two buddies were onboard. Stone, a U.S. airman, tackled the terrorist and put him in a chokehold while his two friends and a British passenger disarmed and pummeled the bad guy unconscious. Loss of life that day? Zero.

April 13, 2011: After teaching a class, martial arts instructor Pedro Arrigoni witnessed a police officer getting punched in the face and then mounted on the ground, right outside his San Francisco school. Arrigoni quickly went outside and jumped into the fray, sinking in a chokehold on the thug. Within seconds, the attacker yelled, “I give up! I give up!” before being taken into custody by the officer.

December 30, 2009: Drew Heredia, a 9-year-old boy from Bakersfield, California, witnessed a dog attacking his friend and came to the rescue. The dog, a mix of pit bull, Shar Pei, and Rottweiler, was restrained by … wait for it … a chokehold. Drew reportedly held the dog at bay for 20 minutes until an animal control officer arrived on the scene to take over.

Three hazardous scenarios. Three different individuals. All survived. What they had in common was training in Brazilian jiu-jitsu and knowledge of the chokehold. “Training and knowledge saves the day,” is the mantra for the serious student of the survival game. Therefore, we're delving into the topic of chokes and submissions to give you a fighting chance when SHTF. Whether you're a martial artist interested in a review of fundamentals or a prepper looking to add to your empty-hand arsenal, you'll no doubt find some valuable — perhaps life-saving — information in these pages.

The Advantages

Using a chokehold has many advantages. Take note of the following benefits when using this effective technique.

Out Cold: Chokes are a high-percentage way to put people to sleep. Once the hold is in place, siesta for the bad guy is only moments away.

Damage Free: By using a chokehold, you may subdue and incapacitate an attacker with no damage to your hands. Punching someone in an altercation may lead to fractures of the carpal bones. Broken bones in the hand is a major setback, especially if you need to operate a weapon or build a fire, or if you find yourself in a situation where medical attention is scarce.

Restrain and Control: Controlling the neck leads to control of the body. This essentially makes the chokehold a leash on steroids.

Shielding: Once behind your attacker with a choke locked on, the attacker can now shield you from other threats. The choke acts as your virtual joystick to ragdoll your attacker into positions that protect you. Although the human body may not be bulletproof, it makes a great shield against punches, kicks, blunt, and bladed weapons.

Confined Areas: Fighting inside a car, a closet, or any confined space makes throwing a strike difficult. Chokeholds require zero space.

On Lockdown: Escaping Alcatraz was no easy task; same goes with escaping a good chokehold. Escape is difficult because few people practice escaping from chokeholds on a regular bases.

The Disadvantages

Strangling is a great way to end a fight, but it does have limitations. Beware of the following shortcomings when applying a choke.

Look, Ma, No Hands: Most chokes require two hands to be effective (there is a “one arm” choke, but leave that to the professionals). Because both hands are occupied, other options needing the use of your hands become limited. For example, aforementioned train hero Stone was cut and stabbed by the terrorist's box cutter while applying the chokehold. If you need to access a weapon or push a loved one out of harm's way, you'll have to give up the choke (but not necessarily the control of the opponent).

Too Close for Comfort: If distance is your friend, you just lost a buddy. Acting like an anaconda on someone's back creates instant intimacy. Therefore, use chokes when escape is not an option.

Armed and Dangerous: There may be fatal consequences if your opponent pulls out a knife or a gun during your chokehold. You may need to abandon the choke, and deal with the weapon threat first.

Coming Back: To secure a choke, you must be behind your intended victim. You can either sneak up on them or move to that position. During a fight, it may be difficult to get behind someone. But, once you're glued to your opponent's back, you will have the upper hand.

Deadly Outcome: Chokes can have fatal consequences if done incorrectly, or applied for too long. Because of a chokehold's lethality, it's important to treat any chokehold as a deadly weapon. Certain police departments frown on the use of chokes (what they label the carotid restraint or arm-bar) because of rare, fatal results and bad press. Like any other lethal weapon, chokes are dangerous tools and should be trained under the guidance of a qualified instructor — and used only during life-and-death situations.


Administering the Sleeper

There are many ways to put a person to sleep. Below are the most common, street-effective chokeholds that can put down just about anyone.

Fantastic Figure Four: The figure-four, rear naked choke (RNC) is arguably the most common method used in martial arts and military combatives. This type of choke has been used effectively for centuries. Because this sleeper hold does not use the collar of a jacket for strangulation (commonly seen in judo or jiu-jitsu matches), it is called a rear “naked” choke.

The most common way to apply the RNC is the figure-four grip. To apply the figure-four RNC, position yourself behind your opponent, reach across their throat with an arm. You want the crook of your elbow right in front of the opponent's trachea. Keep your forearm off the trachea unless you want to do permanent damage. Your bicep and forearm will be on the sides of the opponent's neck. Place the palm of the initial arm into the elbow fold of your free arm. Finally, place the hand of your second arm behind your opponent's neck. The move is now complete, and you can squeeze your opponent into dreamland. Think of this move like a nutcracker with your elbow as the hinge. You are looking to reduce the space between your forearm and bicep.

Get a Grip: Another variation of the figure-four choke is the palm-to-palm or Gable Grip, named after legendary grappler Dan Gable. The application of the palm-to-palm choke is the same as above, but, instead of making a figure-four with your arm, you simply grip palm to palm. Resort to this grip when your opponent does not allow you to set in the full figure-four grip.

The figure-four and Gable Grip chokes are commonly used as a blood choke or carotid restraint. This means the pressure is applied to the sides of the neck to cut off blood flow to the brain.

Crushing It: The third method uses the same two grips described above with one minor, but important, difference. Normally, contact is made with your bicep and forearm on the sides of your opponent's throat. This time, the forearm that is around your opponent's neck, is touching the opponent's windpipe. Contacting your forearm (what the police departments call an “arm bar control”) on the opponent's windpipe (larynx and trachea) can leave permanent damage, including death. Use with caution!

Anatomy of the Choke

So how does a chokehold put someone to sleep? Time to channel your inner Bill Nye the Science Guy, because we're going to describe three mechanisms that bring on the Sandman.

Blood Choke Mechanism: With the proper grip, the jugular veins are compressed initially. The jugulars are more superficial, which makes them “vain.” Venous flow from the brain to the body is the first to be stopped. This accounts for the initial flushing of the face in someone being choked. Further pressure, compresses the carotid arteries. The carotid arteries are more internal than the jugular veins and, therefore, require more pressure. One German study reported that, correct pressure from a chokehold can completely compress and occlude the carotid arteries of the neck. Unconsciousness results in about 10 seconds. No blood to the brain is like having the electricity turned off to your home — lights out.

Carotid Sinus Mechanism: The second mechanism toward unconsciousness is stimulation of the carotid sinus. The carotid sinus on the sides of the neck monitors blood pressure to the brain. When too much pressure is sensed by the carotid sinus, a message is sent to balance out the increased spike in pressure. The result is a drop in blood pressure and bradycardia (a slowing of the heart rate). Less blood to the brain, equals less consciousness — or nighty, night.

Collapsing the Airway Mechanism: Collapsing the airway by placement of your forearm on the opponent's windpipe is the third way to induce unconsciousness. Force directly applied on the thyroid cartilage (a part of the larynx, aka the Adam's apple) as well as the trachea (just below the larynx) can result in a collapse or fracture of the cartilage(s). Roughly 66 pounds of rope tension is required to collapse the trachea. Because of the extra strength required (66 pounds to collapse the airway versus 11 pounds to seal off the arteries), collapsing the airway is more difficult to do, especially for small or arthritic folks. Still, the possibility of fracture makes this a stone-cold chokehold with potentially fatal outcomes. Use with extreme caution.

All Choked Up

Knowledge to protect yourself and your loved ones without any weapons is just as important as the knowledge to survive in the wilderness without any tools. During a confrontation, you may not have much on you other than your clothes, and what you were born with. Even if you're lucky enough to be armed during a critical incident, accessing your weapons system in certain situations may take too long. You might just have to go at it empty-handed.

To be a well-rounded prepper, experience in some sort of martial art or combative system is a must. The addition of chokes to your toolbox may be the checkmate move that saves the day on a train, in the streets, or even against a crazed animal.

Fantastic Figure Four





Diego Herzog — a silver medalist at the 2015 Pan-American Jiu-Jitsu Championship — shows how it is done. “Slide your hand behind their neck,” Herzog advises. “This way they cannot arm-bar you.” The victim of the choke shown here, Ricky Hui, adds, “I almost passed out during this shot. I felt a lot of forward pressure on my head and a pulling on my neck, like a scissor.”

Get a Grip



Diego Herzog demonstrates the palm-to-palm or Gable Grip choke. Note how the top hand is palm down and the second hand that is behind the opponent is palm up. Imagine your arm is a nutcracker with your elbow as the hinge and get cracking.

Crushing It


Standing behind his opponent, Herzog jams his forearm under Ricky's chin. Here Diego uses the Gable Grip to collapse the airway. The figure-four grip could have been used just as well.

Knocking Out Chokehold Myths

Chokes Require a Lot of Strength: Blood chokes require skill and knowledge, not strength. When applied correctly, a young teenager can put a grown man to sleep within seconds. One study found that occlusion of the carotid arteries requires only 11 pounds of rope tension. This makes chokes an extremely important self-defense technique, since little force is required.

Escaping a Choke is Easy: That's right, a good old poke to the eye will end the choke fast and make Larry, Curly, and Moe proud. However, a skilled martial artist will simply hide the eyes. What about a bite? Biting is difficult when the arm is already under the jaw and the eyes are fading to black.


Against an eye-jab counterattack, the author simple hides his eyes behind his arm. Now that Conrad Bui is safe and can maintain the choke, his opponent will soon be getting some shut-eye.

Against an eye-jab counterattack, the author simple hides his eyes behind his arm. Now that Conrad Bui is safe and can...

Chokes Work the Same on Everyone: Because of genetics, some people are more susceptible to chokes than others. This author has observed people being put to sleep during a demonstration in class. Some people simply nap faster than others once a chokehold is applied.

Chokes are Safe: Chokes are potentially lethal. People die from chokes. Therefore, treat strangulation techniques with the same respect as you would a knife or a gun. Never play around with chokes or apply a choke unless your life is in danger.

Watching the UFC is the Same as Learning the RNC: Watching someone applying the choke on screen from the comfort of our La-Z-Boy recliner is much different than applying it against a resisting opponent. To use the choke when it counts, get the correct instruction and training from a qualified instructor.

The Choke's on You

The choke is a dangerous, possibly lethal weapon. What do you do if someone slapped one on you? Here are two simple yet effective escapes.




Early Detection: Scott Stroup makes the mistake of telegraphing his attack by extending his right arm instead of snaking it around Conrad Bui's neck. Bui quickly raises his shoulders for protection, reaches up with his hands, and snatches a quick over-the-shoulder arm bar. Be sure to turn your opponent's wrist so his palm faces up. This simple move can dislocate the elbow joint or result in a fracture.





Too Late … Or Is It?: Scott Stroup completes the figure-four grip but has watched too many WWE matches and didn't read this article — he leaves his supporting hand high on the head and doesn't hide it behind Conrad Bui's neck. Conrad simply peels off the attacker's top hand and breaks the arm by using his shoulder as a fulcrum.

Wake Up!



What do you do when you've choked out a training partner or that annoying drunk friend? How do you wake them up safely? Here, Conrad Bui demonstrates the most common way to wake someone up from dreamland. Bring up the legs to get blood back into the brain. Remember proper lifting mechanics and lift with your legs not your back. Hold the victim's feet up until he's regained consciousness.

Be careful when the victim wakes up because he may still be in fighting mode. “I did this for a competitor when I was a referee,” Brazilian jiu-jitsu champion Diego Herzog said with a smile, “and the guy tried to sweep me when he woke up.”








Haymaker Counter: Haymakers pack plenty of power, but control? Not so much. Conrad Bui parries and ducks under an overcommitted right punch then positions himself behind his attacker for a rear naked choke.

About the Author

Dr. Conrad Bui is a San Francisco-based chiropractor and freelance writer with more than 30 years of continuous martial arts experience. A former bouncer, he holds multiple gold medals and a brown belt in Brazilian jiu-jitsu. As an instructor at World Team USA, he enjoys giving and receiving chokes on a regular basis.

Source: Diego Herzog www.worldteamusa.com

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