Saturday, October 4, 2008


I’m sure it was in 1979 at a Cherry Blossom Karate Tournament in North Eastern Pennsylvania when I went into the locker room to change at the end of the tournament. A senior instructor, Joe Brague, was talking to a number of the competitors and turned to me and said, “Victor, come over here I want to demonstrate something to them…” The next thing I knew was I was on the floor regaining consciousness.

Brague Sensei demonstrated a carotid choke on me and I went down. That’s what happens. The pressure on the carotid sinus causes the heart to stop beating and the loss of blood flow to the brain causes unconsciousness in maybe 5 or 6 seconds.

That’s all you slowly count to 6 and you’re unconscious before you get there.

That was enough to get me looking into how chokes were performed.

In one karate magazines they demonstrated a technique that would set up that choke. I tried it out on a senior student and saw how it was working, so I started working my way through logical means of setting that choke. Eventually I worked out about 5 or 6 choking techniques.

This was one of two different choking sequences, the other being the trachea choke, which takes longer to set (say 20 seconds) and can be far messier to deliver.

A few years later at a summer camp I was asked to give a clinic, so I told them I was going to show how to choke, but when I started showing the techniques the camp director rushed over and asked me to stop, that it was too advanced for the students.

Are such studies too advanced? I teach youth and certainly do not teach them how to choke, but understanding the reason you must instantly break a choke is not beyond youth needs either.

Choking has always been a part of Judo. I remember an Olympic contest where the American judoka was contesting with a Russian judoka. They locked up and shortly it was over, the Russian went for a collar grab-choke and simply choked out his opponent.

But chokes are a layered answer. A while ago Police Science thought that teaching Police chokes would be a humane way to control assailants. You wouldn’t have to strike them, you’d just render them unconscious. Potentially true, but forgetting an important item, a Police officer trying to restrain a subject has likely been bodily threatened by them, and has their adrenalin rushing, in turn in less than in perfect self control. A carotid choke held say 20 or more seconds can be life threatening. A Georgia State Trouper explained at a clinic how frequently good ideas in Police Science end up wrong when the full picture comes into play in practice.

Tactically a choke is one way to finish an response to an attack. Shift, parry, strike, etc. till control is required and a carotid choke is certainly a logical way to finish that control, assuming one is in enough control to only do what they wish.

Chokes to the neck (carotid or trachea) have serious side effects. The neck can be dislocated or broken under some circumstances; the axis might be fractured against the atlas in such circumstances with paralysis a result. (under no circumstances take my medical technical opinions as accurate, they are only intended to generally refer to a complex set of dynamics that one should responsibility reach with a Doctor for accuracy).

Yes under the right circumstances they may be performed to show human frailty, but under no circumstances does ever going beyond a second or two to show the potential, are the potential risks worth going further.

While frequently demonstrated, it is always irresponsible to ‘safely’ put someone out.

This knowledge should not be hidden. The most important value is showing everyone never let anyone touch their neck. In fact if someone must know when it is most important that they react without thinking further, anyone placing their hands on their neck, anyone attempting to place their hands on their neck, or anyone seeing a strike coming towards their neck, gives immediate license to respond and make all of the above not happen.

Perhaps it best stated the neck is the gateway for strongest control of our person.

And of course the study of how chokes can be set has a more important value, how does one counter those attacks.
The paradox of our arts asserts itself. To become most technically efficient at neutralizing an attack, we first have to be able to deliver that attack with force, focus and speed.

So when having turkey and someone asks who wants the neck, it might give you something to think about.

No comments: