Chokes: How to Use Strangling Techniques in Real Combat

by William Durbin, Soke of Kiyojute Ryu

Due to certain individuals there has been an increased interest in Jujutsu. When it comes to close quarter combat and holding techniques Jujutsu has been considered unparalleled. Yet what most people do not realize is that original combat systems were always comprehensive, containing both grappling and striking aspects of the martial arts. Kempo, as it was developed by the warrior monks of the Orient, contained both Juho, the yielding principle, and Goho, the strength principle.

          Many people think of these as two separate concepts, but the actual idea is for Juho to provide the principle of initial engagement, while Goho provides the most efficient use of a persons strength, whether large or small, strong or weak. However, as the arts began to develop into modern times, certain arts began to specialize in only certain techniques. This was primarily due to the rules that developed for sports. Since sport Karate is a striking game, many Karate styles emphsize only striking techniques. And since Judo and Aikido sports are grappling games, most styles sometimes forget to teach striking skills.


          Thankfully what is happening now in the martial arts, excluding the nonsense that is happening in the mixed martial arts arena, is a renaissance in which Karate practitioners are seeking their original roots which include grappling skills, while Judo and Aikido practitioners are once again looking back at their Jujutsu roots finding the true meaning of Atemi Waza, striking techniques. Many practitioners of Kempo styles have always practiced both aspects of the martial arts. Styles such as Nippon Shorinji Kempo, Koga Ha Kosho Shorei Ryu Kempo, and Kiyojute Ryu Kempo Bugei, to name a few, use the original blend of Juho and Goho.

          Those who are working to understand grappling, but have never trained in either Kempo or Jujutsu, sometimes find themselves with a lack of understanding in regard to the essential principles necessary to use chokes effectively. Even some who have trained in sport styles of grappling do not understand why there are differences in certain chokes. To some a forearm choke is a forearm choke and no thought is given as to why there are differences between chokes such as Hadaka jime, Okuri eri jime, and Kataha jime.

Basic Chokes

          First we need to understand the 'form' and meaning of the basic chokes of Shime Waza, the choking techniques of the martial arts. The primary chokes are as follows. Nami juji jime, translates normal cross choke, and refers to a choke that is performed by crossing the arms, palms down, and applying pressure through the scissor action. Next is Hadaka jime, which means naked strangle, and refers to the fact that no clothng is used to choke the opponent with the forearm.

          The third choke is Kata juji jime, which means single cross choke, which uses one hand up at the trapezius gripping the collar with the palm down, while the other hand is palm out with the fingers in, lower on the lapel. Next is the rear choke known as Okuri eri jime, the sliding lapel choke. This uses the forearm around the neck gripping the lapel above the trapezius, while the other hand goes under the opponents arm and grips the other side of the opponents lapel, the lower hand pulls down while the upper hand's wrist constricts the neck.

          Gyaku juji jime is the fifth basic choke and means reverse cross choke, this choke is just like Nami juji jime except that the hands are turned palms up. Once again the choke is applied with a pulling scissor action. The final basic choke is known as the Kataha jime, which means the single edge choke. In this choke the single edge of the forearm wrap around the persons throat, while the other arm circles the opponents arm and the palm presses against the back of the persons neck.

Situations and Applications

          With these basic chokes a person is ready to deal with many different types of situations, once the principles upon which the applications of the chokes are understood. Too many times students of the martial arts will learn the basic form of a technique and think that they understand how to use it in actual combat, but in reality they need to understand the principle of the technique and the situation in which the principle works.

          For instance, many people think of just reaching up and grabbing someone by the collar and trying to apply a Nami juji jime. But obviously this would leave the person open to strikes from the opponents hands, and if standing, kicks to the lower part of the body. In reality the use of Nami juji jime was created for those instances when someone is on top of you trying to force himself upon you, as in a rape situation. The idea is for the victim to reach up acting like they are resisting, or in some cases using the ploy of acting like they are responding, then get the hand into position. The harder the attacker forces himself down on the victim the more pressure is put upon his throat, and the less freedom he has with his hands. Properly applied the choke can render an assailant unconscious in around five seconds.

          Another choke which can be used effectively when a man is attacking a woman, or smaller person, is Gyaku juji jime. If a man is gropping a woman, she can act like she is responding in order to get her hands up near his throat. Then she can slip her hands into his collar, once again acting like she is cooperating by getting next to his skin. Then she can pull hard forward, allowing the arms to pull and separate creating the choke, while smashing her forehead into the assailants nose, causing damage and weakening his resistance to the choke. Once again if the blood is cut off, it only takes five seconds for the person to be rendered unconscious.

          In order to understand the differences between several chokes and how they are used to thwart several throw attempts let create the following senario. If a person is preparing to go berserk and attack someone else, several chokes can be used in conjuction to render the person helpless. First of all, as the defender moves in behind his opponent, he attacks first with a Hadaka jime. Assuming the person knows a little Jujutsu and attempts an Ippon seoi nage, shoulder throw, the defender can change his hands to the Okuri eri jime in order to shift pressure onto the hips, forcing them back so that the throw will not work. The berserker then reaches up with his left arm in order to attempt a Jodan kubi nage, upper level neck throw, which the defender counters by shifting to a Kataha jime which immobilizes the arm. By using the proper principles the chokes flow one into the other allowing the defender to maintain control in the fighting situation.

Combat, Not Sport

          One of the many mistakes that seem to be made by people trying to adopt chokes into their martial arts curriculum, is trying to apply them in their training form. For instance in regard to the Kata juji jime, if someone tries to apply it in a combat situation, using the training form, they will be at the mercy of the opponents hands. But when slipped on in the combat form, turning the opponent sideways causing the upper forearm to smash into the opponents throat, it is not only devastating, but renders the person incapable of fighting back.

          At this point it is important to mention the exteme danger of chokes. There have been many situations where chokes have been used by police officers in their own defense, or the defense of others, but due to the severe resistance offered by the suspected criminal, serious injury, and in some cases, death, have resulted. This is the reason chokes are normally practiced in forms that allow for maximum safety, but nothing like their combat applications. Currently there are several extreme sports which are allowing chokes in competition. This is very dangerous in that damage to the larynx, esophagus, and trachea, can result, causing serious permanent injury and possibly death. Extreme caution should be used when practicing chokes of any kind. It is best to learn Shime Waza from someone who has had proper training and experience. Never take a chance on someones safety when it comes to this kind of practice.

Understanding the Truth of Choking

          When considering using chokes for self defense two important points need to be considered. First of all, when the person has on light clothing, or no shirt, naked chokes, once again meaning chokes applied without clothing, are the only effective chokes. There are many types of naked strangles, which are essentially variations of Hadaka jime and the other chokes. When a person has on a heavy coat, as during winter, or strong jackets, especially nylon, then the lapel chokes are very effective.

          And the second consideration, and the most important, is that chokes are potentially lethal. On a real healthy person the risks are less than on someone who has an unhealthy live style. Drinking alcohol, smoking cigarettes, and other types of drugs, can cause the trachea to dry out on the inside. This makes it much more likely that when a choke is applied to the type of individual who lives that type of lifestyle, that serious damage will be done to the person. This could be as severe as the inner walls of the trachea collapsing and not reopening after the choke is removed, causing the person to suffocate. Or the inner walls may crack open causing the person to drown on their own blood. Once again if the person lives a physically, unhealthy lifestyle, once again alcohol and smoking contributing to the loss of elasticity in the blood vessels, or if the person has extremely high cholesterol, the carotid arteries may collaspe and not reopen, causing death.

          Unlike sport chokes, combat chokes are designed to attack the larnyx as well as the trachea.  If the larnyx is damaged it can obstruct the trachea by collasping or by swelling, which will lead to a person death unless they are treated in a medical fashion.  People familiar only with sport chokes have no idea what can really be done with a choke and the deadliness they are playing with.  It is possible to accidentally slip into actual combat areas and cause serious injury or even death to a competitor.  Real martial artists know how dangerous chokes are and can apply them in a combat situation so that maximum damage can be accomplished with very little effort.

          Chokes should never be used in self defense unless it is a life and death situation. They are entirely too dangerous and can cause death too easily. While they are much better than pulling a gun, they must be used judiciously.

          The original martial arts were combat systems. The techniques were designed to be effective in a multitude of situations, with extreme effectiveness, and lethal effect. If a battlefield or clandestine situation warranted a Shime Waza, the end result was generally death. While a person studying self defense needs to know how to use all types of techniques, including chokes, they need to understand the dangers involved in using them and the potential effect on the attacker. No technique, especially chokes, should be used carelessly or needlessly. Care must always be taken in both training and self defense not to do more damage than is necessary to an opponent, and sports which allow chokes need to reconsider the danger of such techniques and possibly eliminate them from competition for the sake of the competitors.

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