Air Chokes

For the last two weeks we have primarily been discussing strangles that cut off the supply of blood to the brain – this week I’d like to move on to ‘chokes’. A choke is a submission which primarily cuts off the flow of air through the windpipe, as opposed to a strangle which primarily cuts off the flow of blood to the brain.

Chokes are typically applied to the front of the throat, usually with the forearm (although hands, knees, shins, and other body parts can also be used). This action pushes on the Adam’s apple and compresses the windpipe which prevents air from moving down to the lungs. Since it blocks airflow, rather than blood flow, chokes usually take longer than chokes to render someone unconscious.

The paradox is that people usually tap out QUICKER from a choke than from a strangle. This is because chokes are very painful, whereas many strangles are not painful. Chokes work just fine on the mat, where most people will tap out when caught in a painful technique, but they may not be the technique of choice in a self-defense situation. If your opponent has a very high pain tolerance however, or is on a lot of drugs, then strangling would be the technique of choice, not choking.

One other thing to keep in mind is that choking is probably more dangerous than strangling. There have been several deaths recorded where police officers and sheriffs applied chokes and managed to kill the person by accident. The intent of those officers was almost certainly to put the resisting person to sleep, but they applied a choke rather than a strangle. The choke then damaged the person’s windpipe, compromising their breathing even after it was released, and the person died.

There are several morals to these stories. The first is that you should really know the difference between a choke and a strangle, and have the presence of mind to choose the appropriate technique for the appropriate situation. The other take-home point is that it is VERY important to monitor your opponent during the choke/strangle, and after you have released it. These are powerful techniques, and like we all learned in the Spiderman movie, “with great power comes great responsibility”.

Along those lines, here is an article that takes you through what to expect, and what to do, if you do actually choke somebody unconscious.

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