The Judo Choke
By Neil Ohlenkamp
techniques are some of the most universally taught
techniques in the martial arts and are found in jujutsu,
aikido, Brazilian jujutsu, karate and in many Chinese,
Philippine and other arts. Of all the arts, Judo is
perhaps best known for the variety and sophistication
of its many chokes.
When you are against a very strong or determined
opponent and everything else seems to fail, the choke
has proven over time to be one of the most dependable
techniques. If done properly, it acts quickly and
causes no physical damage and minimal pain. But if
incorrectly applied, chokes can be dangerous, even
potentially fatal. In fact deaths attributable to
incorrect applications have led to choking techniques
being banned in some law enforcement jurisdictions.
(1) If chokes are taught
safely, as in Judo, as a temporary incapacitating
technique of short duration done with proper execution,
they should be quite harmless.
The practitioner must be careful, however. The practice
of choking techniques is a subtle art that requires
attention to detail. Yet most texts on Judo do little
to enlighten the conscientious student on the finer
points of the technique. Most texts in imply that
any pressure on the neck that makes the opponent give
up is a good choke. (2)
In fact, there are three basic ways of choking an
opponent, as well as some combinations of the three.
In Judo, while all three are sometimes used, emphasis
is always on the safest methods.
This scissor motion is
shown in the illustration.
Compression of the carotid arteries
on one or both sides of the neck restricting
the flow of blood and oxygen to the brain.
This is the preferable and safest method.
Notice how in the accompanying illustration
the person executing the choke has his arm
positioned around the neck (elbow in front)
so to squeeze the sides of the neck but avoid
pressure on the windpipe in front.
Notice how the forearm
is positioned directly across the windpipe
so pressure will cut of air flow into the
Compression of the windpipe (trachea)
stopping or reducing the flow of air to the
lungs. While sometimes effective this method
can be potentially dangerous and should be
practiced with care. Notice how in the accompanying
illustration the forearm is positioned directly
across the windpipe so pressure will cut of
air flow into the lungs. While a lapel of
a uniform pulled across the windpipe to restrict
air flow does not have a hard surface, a hard
bony forearm, or a policeman's night stick
(law enforcement situations) can potentially
cause damage and should be avoided.
Compression of the chest and lungs preventing
the opponent from inhaling (often used during pinning
techniques). This is a totally safe method often used
in conjunction with either of the above methods. If
you have ever had a heavy opponent pressing down his
weight on your chest you would understand how effective
this method is in curtailing your ability to breath.
These methods are sometimes distinguished by different
terms and may be referred to as choking, strangling,
wringing, or necklocks. However they are usually grouped
together as a class of grappling techniques called
chokes, or shime waza.
The first choking method, compression of the carotid
arteries, is stressed in Judo and is the most commonly
taught in Judo classes around the world. This method
is desirable because it requires the least force,
is the quickest acting of the choking techniques,
is the most universally effective against all opponents,
and it is most in keeping with the efficiency principle
of Judo, "maximum effect with minimum effort."
These photos illustrate a simple rear naked (meaning
use of just the arms) choke (hadaka jime). As it is
applied the forearms are squeezed together (the wrist
of the right hand also bent inward) to press against
the sides of the neck, thus restricting blood flow
through the carotid arteries. If done correctly the
windpipe is not effected.
This type choke is also often taught in karate,
kung fu, law enforcement and self-defense classes
since it is a useful standing technique. A defender
can, for example, block an attacker's roundhouse
(hook) punch (aimed at the head) with a simple
vertical arm (to the inside) and then sweep
the attacking arm to the inside thereby spinning
the attacker's body so his back is turned towards
the defender. The attacker is pulled backward
and down as the choke is activated. If done
properly the person will be incapacitated within
Medical tests have established that the amount of
pressure needed to occlude the arteries is six times
less than the pressure needed to collapse the airway.
Directly stopping the blood supply to the brain also
results in loss of consciousness about six times faster
than indirectly reducing oxygen in the brain through
restricting breathing or the flow of air to the lungs.
Excess pressure directly against the larynx can also
be dangerous since the applied pressure in some extreme
cases can collapse this structure and permanently
cut off the practitioner's air supply.
Another effective rear choke (kataha jime)
uses the lapel of the uniform to exert pressure
on the carotid arteries (minimal pressure also
being applied to the windpipe). The opponent's
left arm (lifted to his back) and controlled
as part of the technique.
Carotid chokes are also safer and involve less pain
than the other choking methods, making them easier
to practice and to acquire sufficient skill to be
confident in their use. Besides making them more effective,
this makes them more compatible with another principle
of Judo, "mutual welfare and benefit." A
skillfully executed technique will give the Judo student
the ability to produce unconsciousness or submission
with little pain or forewarning to the person receiving
illustration at right shows a simple front choke (kata
juji jime). The hands (palm up) are positioned as
far up along side the neck, thumbs to the outside,
fingers inside the lapel of the uniform. Once a solid
grip is established the arms scissor open (elbows
going outward) as the opponent is pulled forward to
create a powerful carotid choke.
A good choke hold should render the opponent unconsciousness
without injury or significant pain in a matter of
seconds regardless of who the opponent is. The most
basic requirements for applying such an effective
Make sure your own body
always has complete freedom of action so that you
are in the best position for the technique you intend
to use and you are flexible enough to be able to respond
to your opponent's attempts to escape. Your position
should be stable so that in applying the technique
you can use your entire body.
Lead your opponent into
a position in which it is most difficult to put up
resistance, but in which you can control all of his
or her actions. Your opponent must be unstable and
under your control as much as possible. Very often
this means stretching out your opponent's body backwards.
Train your hands to
get an accurate hold the minute you begin a technique,
make your choke work in a very brief time, and once
you begin the pressure, refrain from continually releasing
to adjust your position. Your techniques will have
much greater effect if you are firmly resolved not
to let your opponent get away but to continue until
the end without slackening. Constancy of pressure,
rather than extreme force, is what is called for.
Excessive reliance on strength would indicate a defect
in the technique since very little pressure is needed
to compress an artery and render a person unconscious.
Entire books can be written on the key points and
details of choke holds. Students of Judo around the
world have been modifying and refining these techniques
for a century, testing them in contests as hard fought
and serious as Olympic competition. They have developed
many variations in the details of how best to utilize
the legs, hips, chest, head, arms and hands to maximize
the effect of the choke. In some chokes the hands
and arms may use the lapel as if it were a thin cord
to encircle the throat; in others they may twist or
rotate powerfully into the neck; and in yet others
they may pull or push to apply pressure directly to
the carotid triangle or trachea. Even the same basic
choke can be applied effectively in multiple ways
depending on the position, relative size and movement
of the opponent as well as the training, strengths
and preferences of the individual. (3)
In whatever choke you apply, however, you should
always have the safety of your partner in mind. There
is no substitute for good technique. If you want to
learn how to choke effectively and safely seek out
a qualified Judo instructor.
Another effective and widely taught standing choke
taught in aikido, jujutsu, karate, kung fu and in
many other arts is a defense against a straight punch
is shown here. The defender deflects a straight punch
to the inside (or dodges it to the outside) with one
hand while bringing the other arm under the punch
(across the attacker's body), as if reaching for the
attacker's ear (opposite the striking arm), the wrist
ending on the opponent's shoulder. The deflecting
arm goes behind the attackers head, the two hands
gripping and pulling the attacker in (the actual grip
and elbow position differ depending on the art). The
punching arm and shoulder and the side of the neck
are then pressed together to create the choke which
often ends in a take down.
Page: Safety Rules
(1) In an article, "DEATHS
ALLEGEDLY CAUSED BY THE USE OF "CHOKE HOLDS"
(SHIME-WAZA) by E. Karl Koiwai, M.D. the author examined
deaths allegedly caused by "choke holds",
13 by law enforcement officers, and 1 by a student
learning Vo et Vat, a Vietnamese version of judo.
He noted that the victims were not cooperative and
often under the influence of drugs and were thus difficult
to restrain (often a hard object such as a night stick
was employed). He concluded that "All these findings
indicate that tremendous force was exerted on the
necks of the suspects" while "the police
department training manuals emphasize that control
hold should be used only when necessary to stop a
suspect's resistance and not necessarily to cause
The author also concluded: "In
judo, the participants are taught to "choke"
properly and in turn have been "choked"
and have the ability to realize its effects before
unconsciousness ensues. The officials, referee, judges,
and coaches can recognize the player when he is "choked
out" (becomes unconscious). If enforcement officers
are to use the choke holds to subdue violent suspects
as a last resort, they should be properly trained
and supervised by trained certified judo instructors."
(2) For example the general
description of choking techniques in Kodokan Judo
by Jigoro Kano is "you use your hands, arms,
or legs on the opponent's collar or lapels to apply
pressure to his neck or throat." This excellent
comprehensive manual of Judo does not identify where
on the neck the pressure is to be applied or the most
important objective of choking, which is to subdue
violent opponents with temporary unconsciousness.
(3) Explaining the techniques
in detail is beyond the scope of this article but
as a brief reference, some of the basic chokes of
Kodokan Judo are:
o Nami juji jime or normal cross
lock from the front with arms crossed grasping the
collars with the thumb inside.
Gyaku juji jime or reverse
cross lock from the front with the fingers inside.
Kata juji jime or half cross
lock with one hand fingers-in and one hand thumb-in.
Hadaka jime or naked lock
applied from the rear with the forearm across the
Mae hadaka jime or front naked
lock (sometimes called the guillotine).
Okuri eri jime or sliding
collar lock applied from the rear with one hand reaching
around the neck grasping the collar with the other
hand reaching under the arm to the opposite collar.
Kataha jime or single wing
lock from the rear with one hand around the neck to
the collar but the other hand under the arm and behind
Katate jime or one hand choke
from the front or side reach across the throat to
Ryote jime or two hand choke
from the front grabbing the collars with the thumbs
inside and turning your fists into the sides of the
Sode guruma jime or sleeve
wheel choke from the front reaching around the back
of the neck with one hand and across the front with
the other and grabbing your own sleeves.
Tsukkomi jime or thrust choke
from the front grasping a lapel and pushing the fist
directly into the side of the neck.
Sankaku jime or triangle choke
from the front using the legs in a figure-four position
around the neck and arm.
Jigoku jime (hell strangle)
from the rear with one leg and one hand across the
throat while the other leg and hand controls the opponent's
Editor's note: This article was
adopted from an article by Neil Ohlenkamp entitled
"Principles of Judo Choking Techniques - Different
Chokes for Different Folks" appearing on his
and is copyright © 1995/96/97/98 by Neil Ohlenkamp,
Encino Judo Club, California, USA. This article was
originally published in the January 1996 edition of
"Judo Trends Magazine." It is posted with
the author's permission.
FightingArts.com also wants to
thank Sensei Mike Hawley (a teacher of aikido and
a black belt in judo) and his assistant Paul Britzzalaro
of the Kintora
Martial Arts Center in Buffalo, NY for their
demonstration of several Judo chokes used in this
us | magazine