By Yossi Sheriff

Chokes (חניקות), or strangling are martial arts techniques that deploy pressure on the neck or block the air passage at the nose and mouth thus blocking either the air flow to the lungs, the blood flow to the brain, or both.

The speed with which chokes can cause loss of consciousness differs by the choke applied. A strangulation blocking the blood flow at the neck will lead to a rapid unconsciousness, while a choke blocking the air will lead to a loss of consciousness after more then a minute.

The pressure mechanism in a choke involves at least one of these three mechanisms and anatomical structures:

  1. Carotid arteries — leading to cerebral ischemia. In which case it is known as "Blood choke"
  2. The Pharynx at all levels — Laryngopharynx, larynx, or trachea — causing asphyxia. In which case it is known as "Air choke"
  3. Activation of the carotid sinus reflex— Leading to bradycardia, hypotension, or both.

Air choke

Air Choke in martial arts usually consists of a compression of the neck but can happen by simultaneous blocking of upper pharynx, the nostrils and mouth. The compression of the neck, or obstruction of the upper air passages, leads to the mechanical obstruction of the flow of air into the lungs. This can happen simultaneously with lessening or obstructing the flow of arterial blood to the brain.

Partial air choking allows partial and inadequate flow of air into the lungs. Prolonged or complete air choking results in asphyxiation which leads to hypoxia and is potentially fatal.

Blood choke

Compression of the arteries on the neck stops or lessens the flow of blood into the brain. The spinal arteries, located deep inside the spinal column are usually not affected, but they do not supply enough blood. Blood choke, or strangulation may lead to rapid unconsciousness in less then 9 seconds. Continued blood choke after the ten seconds point leads to a permanent brain damage and death.

Warning, dangerous technique

Choking is an extremely dangerous technique not only because it might lead to the opponent's death or lifetime brain damage but because of the relative ease of applying the technique and the misleading missing danger signs. It is of utmost importance that is practiced in a controlled learning or competition environment with either a certified instructor or a referee that can stop any action if the opponent seems to be in a choke hold.

Video list of Ninjutsu chokes

List of chokes

Video of crossed hand BJJ and Judo choke, done from guard