The Judo Choke: Safety Rules
Choking techniques must be taught and supervised
by a qualified instructor. Since the Judo syllabus
has always contained more well-developed choking techniques
than any other martial art and they are practiced
in real contest situations, Judo instructors usually
have extensive experience in the proper application
of chokes. Judo is well known for the "Judo choke",
but many other martial arts are now teaching choke
holds without the wealth of background and experience
most Judo experts have. Chokes are potentially fatal
and should be treated seriously. As taught in Judo
though they are a temporary incapacitating technique
of short duration whose proper execution should be
quite harmless. Judo choking techniques have been
used in Judo classes and at thousands of Judo tournaments
all over the world for more than 100 years without
one reported fatality. It is only with the appropriate
emphasis on safety and supervision that this record
can be maintained.
Care should be taken when teaching chokes to children
whose physiology is different and naturally less developed
than adults. In most Judo tournaments in the U.S.
chokes are not permitted for children under 13 years
old. Children approaching this age may be prepared
by learning basic chokes with escapes and defenses,
always under strict supervision. Feeling different
chokes being applied in practice to you and learning
when to submit is an important form of preparation
for tournament and for learning how to choke others.
At this very young age, and in fact for beginners
of all ages, the emphasis should be on recognizing
the effect of chokes and protecting yourself while
always avoiding extreme pressure and unconsciousness
Chokes 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
tournament and practice the person being choked should
always be immediately taken to the ground for better
control and to prevent an accidental fall which could
injure the athlete as they go unconscious.
Learning when to give up is an important part of
training to avoid the risk of unnecessary periods
of unconsciousness. While judoka should not give up
any opportunity to escape from a choke, they must
also be trained to surrender in a timely fashion when
necessary by recognizing when defeat is inevitable
and when further resistance will result in unconsciousness.
Once you allow yourself to be choked unconscious your
life is literally in your opponent's hands, and the
practice of any martial art requires that the student
learn ways of avoiding this condition of ultimate
helplessness. Since it is virtually impossible to
speak while being choked, the universal signal for
submission is tapping of the opponent or mat repeatedly.
The most important safety rule when applying a choking
technique is to release pressure immediately when
the opponent submits. When applying a choke one should
be sensitive enough, and have sufficient control over
the opponent, to recognize when he or she loses consciousness
so that you can immediately release pressure. 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. Sometimes if the choke is held too
long convulsions may begin, but the effects of the
choke should generally be recognized earlier with
proper training and supervision.
to first page
second article in this series on Judo Chokes
will examine resuscitation techniques (Kappo) used
to revive practitioners who have been rendered unconscious
by Judo chokes.
Canon of Judo. Mifune, Kyuzo. Tokyo:
Seibundo-Shinkosha Publishing Co., LTD., 1956
Kodokan Judo. Kano, Jigoro. Tokyo:
Kodansha International, 1986
Judo in Action. Kudo, Kazuzo. Tokyo:
Japan Publications Trading Co., 1967
Judo. Tomiki, Kenji. Tokyo: Japan
Travel Bureau, 1956
The Overlook Martial Arts Reader.
Nelson, Randy. Woodstock: The Overlook Press, 1989
Emergency Care for Choke Holds. Boulay,
John. Ottawa: "Coaching Review"
Deaths Allegedly Caused by the Use
of "Choke Holds". Koiwai M.D., E. Karl.
This page 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."
About The Author:
Ohlenkamp is a martial arts writer and founder
He is a certified United States Judo Association
instructor, referee, master rank examiner, and master
coach (the highest level of certification), and
he was awarded United States Judo Coach of the Year
for 1999. He holds a fifth degree black belt in
Judo and a sixth degree black belt in jujitsu and
has over 31 years of training and experience in
various martial arts as a competitor, instructor,
team coach, and tournament official.
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