Principles of Judo Choking Techniques
"Different Chokes for Different Folks"
by Neil Ohlenkamp
The practice of choking techniques is a subtle art that requires more
attention to detail than many other skills in Judo. Yet most texts on Judo
do little to enlighten the conscientious student on the finer points of
choking. Most in fact imply that any pressure on the neck that makes the
opponent give up is a good choke.
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.
In Judo practice there are three
basic ways of choking an opponent, as well as some combinations of the
- Compression of the carotid arteries on one or both sides of the neck
restricting the flow of blood and oxygen to the brain.
- Compression of the windpipe (trachea) stopping or reducing the flow
of air to the lungs.
- Compression of the chest and lungs preventing the opponent from
inhaling (often used during pinning techniques).
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.
All of these methods should be practiced and are useful for various
situations. However the first choking method is stressed in Judo and is
the most commonly taught in Judo classes around the world. Compression of
the carotid arteries 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."
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.
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 the technique.
A good choke hold should render the opponent unconsciousness without
injury or significant pain in a matter of seconds regardless of whom 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, and 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
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:
- Nami juji
jime or normal cross lock from the front with arms crossed
grasping the collars with the thumb inside.
juji jime or reverse cross lock from the front with the
juji jime or half cross lock with one hand fingers-in and
one hand thumb-in.
jime or naked lock applied from the rear with the forearm
across the throat.
- Mae hadaka jime or front naked lock (sometimes
called the guillotine).
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.
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 the
- Katate jime or one hand choke from the front or
side reach across the throat to the collar.
jime or two hand choke from the front grabbing the collars
with the thumbs inside and turning your fists into the sides of the
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.
jime or thrust choke from the front grasping a lapel and
pushing the fist directly into the side of the neck.
jime (hell strangle) from the rear with one leg and one
hand across the throat while the other leg and hand controls the
jime or triangle choke from the front using the legs in a
figure-four position around the neck and arm.
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 in practice.
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.
Resuscitation Techniques (Kappo)
Immediately release the victim and lay him or her flat so that blood
may flow naturally back to the brain. Placing the victim on his or her
side, with the head resting on the arm, will prevent vomit aspiration and
facilitate breathing if necessary. Monitor the victim closely to make sure
the airway is open and the victim is breathing. The opponent will
generally regain consciousness spontaneously and be unharmed. If the
athlete does not regain consciousness in 20 to 30 seconds and remains
unresponsive to your efforts to revive him or her, medical assistance
should be sought immediately.
Judo instructors should obtain CPR training and certification for use
in case of a breathing or other emergency. Even without chokes Judo is a
strenuous physical activity that carries some risks for which the
instructor should be prepared. Try to awaken the patient with vocal or
physical stimuli such as tapping or shouting. Check for breathing by
putting your face close to the patient's mouth and looking at the chest,
listening for air exchange, and feeling for a breath. Keep the airway open
and initiate rescue breathing if there is no breathing. If a pulse is
absent, commence chest compressions.
There are many old methods of traditional resuscitation that can also
assist the victim in recovery. If the outcome is less than desirable these
interventions may not be defensible in U.S. courts. They have generally
been replaced by CPR which is based on more modern medical knowledge.
Among sports coaches and medical professionals in the U.S., CPR is
commonly recognized as the appropriate response to a medical emergency.
Nevertheless the traditional forms of resuscitation are considered
advanced techniques of Judo and instructors may wish to study them to
complete their training for historical purposes or for use in special
Traditional resuscitation techniques include:
Kodokan teaches Sasoi Katsu with the patient sitting before you. From
behind, bend your right knee and place the kneecap against the patient's
spine. Spread your fingers and place your hands on his or her lower chest,
hooking your fingers under the lower ribs. Pull back as if opening the
ribs to either side, put your weight on the shoulders to bend the body
back, and press with your right knee. This will draw air into the lungs.
When the ribs have opened as far as they will go, release them. Air will
be exhaled from the lungs. Repeat the process slowly and regularly.
- The direct massage of the carotid triangle on the neck to open up a
collapsed artery or to manually stimulate the carotid sinus.
- Methods of assisting the victim in waking up and focussing attention
such as slapping the victim, striking the sole of the foot, or yelling.
- Methods of inducing or simulating breathing through massage of the
chest or diaphragm, expanding and contracting the lungs. Three such
methods of Kodokan Judo are Sasoi Katsu, the inductive method, Eri
Katsu, the lapel method, and So Katsu, the composite method.
For traditional Eri Katsu kneel to the right of the victim and support
his or her upper body with your left arm around the shoulder. Put the palm
of your right hand on the abdomen, just above the navel, and press up
against the solar plexus or pit of the stomach. This will cause the
diaphragm to rise, expelling air from the lungs. Reinforce the action by
bending the upper body forward with your left arm. Gently release your
pressure to allow air to enter the lungs. Repeat this procedure until
respiration is restored.
For So Katsu lay the victim on his or her back and kneel astride the
hips. Place your hands, fingers spread apart and pointing toward his or
her head, on the bottom of the rib cage. Lean forward and press against
the ribs to make him or her exhale, then relax the pressure. Repeat this
procedure, rocking forward and back, until the victim can breathe without
assistance. Similarly this can be done with the victim on his stomach.
As with other martial arts and most aggressive competitive
sports, Judo practice includes the risk of serious injury. Of all the
types of techniques practiced in Judo however, choking techniques have
proven to be among the safest resulting in relatively few injuries.
ReferencesCanon of Judo by Mifune, Kyuzo.
Tokyo: Seibundo-Shinkosha Publishing Co., LTD., 1956
Judo by Kano, Jigoro. Tokyo: Kodansha International, 1986
Judo in Action by Kudo, Kazuzo. Tokyo: Japan Publications
Trading Co., 1967
Judo by Tomiki, Kenji. Tokyo: Japan Travel Bureau, 1956
The Overlook Martial Arts Reader: Classic Writings on
Philosophy and Technique by Randy F. Nelson (Editor). Woodstock: The
Overlook Press, 1989
Emergency Care for Choke Holds by Boulay, John. Ottawa:
Deaths Allegedly Caused
by the Use of "Choke Holds" and How Safe is Choking in
Judo? by Koiwai M.D., E. Karl.
The Complete Kano
Jiu-Jitsu by H. Irving Hancock and Katsukuma Higashi. G. P. Putnam
& Sons, 1905
This article was originally published in the January 1996 edition of
"Judo Trends Magazine", and was also featured in Fighting
Arts Magazine with additional illustrations and text. This page is
copyright © 1995/2003 by Neil Ohlenkamp, JudoInfo.com, USA. All
rights reserved. Last modified July 9, 2003.