Techniques>Chokes and strangles>Choke/strangle safety

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Choke/strangle safety


Choking and strangling techniques must be taught and supervised by a qualified instructor. Since judo has always taught these techniques and they are used in tournaments, judo instructors have lots of experience in the proper application of them; however, other martial arts also teach chokes and strangles without the wealth of background and experience most judo experts have. As taught in judo, chokes and strangles are considered temporary incapacitating techniques of short duration whose proper execution should be harmless; however, without proper instruction chokes can be potentially fatal and should be treated seriously.


Instructor should:
  • Be familiar with the anatomical structures of the neck and where the pressure is to be applied, the carotid triangle.
  • Know the physiology of choking and that only a small amount of pressure is needed to cause unconsciousness.
  • Be able to recognize immediately the state of unconsciousness and immediately cause the release of the pressure.
  • Know proper resuscitation methods if unconsciousness is prolonged.
Use care with children. Care should be taken when teaching chokes and strangles to children whose physiology is different and less developed than that of adults. In judo tournaments in the United States, chokes and strangles are not permitted for children under 13 years old although children approaching this age may be prepared for chokes by teaching them basic chokes with escapes and defenses. The emphasis should be on recognizing the effect of chokes and protecting yourself while always avoiding extreme pressure and unconsciousness in practice.

Application from the ground is safer. Chokes and strangles may be practiced from either a standing position or on the ground but the ground is inherently safer. When applying a standing choke with the intention of gaining the full effect you should recognize that the victim will not be able to remain standing. In competition and practice, the person being choked or strangled should always be immediately taken to the ground for better control and to prevent an accidental fall which could injure the athlete if they become unconscious.

Know when to surrender. Learning when to give up is an important part of training to avoid the risk of unnecessary periods of unconsciousness. While training to escape from a choke or strangle, students must also be trained to surrender when necessary by recognizing when defeat is inevitable or when further resistance will result in unconsciousness. Since it is virtually impossible to speak while being choked or strangled, the universal signal for submission is tapping repeatedly of yourself, the opponent, or the mat, whichever is most readily available, preferably also visible to the referee.

Know when to release. The most important safety rule when applying a choking or strangling technique is to release pressure immediately when the opponent submits or passes out. Loss of consciousness can be detected easily by the sudden lack of resistance and generally limp feeling of the opponent's body as well as the color of the face and the eyes closing.

  • Koiwai, E. K. (1999). How Safe is Choking in Judo?
  • Ohlenkamp, Neil. (1995). Principles of Judo Choking Techniques. [Online]. Available: [2004, December 31]. Used with permission.

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