Chokeholds: Street v. Sport (and how to escape a chokehold)

Chokeholds: Street v. Sport (and how to escape a chokehold)

Millions of UFC 196 viewers watched Holly Holm and Conor McGregor get choked out and became more curious than ever about chokeholds. Before we jump into street fighting chokes v. combat sports chokes and how to effectively escape a chokehold in a self-defense scenario, it’s important to cover some chokehold basics and controversies. Putting someone in a chokehold is a serious thing, there’s a reason why those types of submissions can end a fight so quickly. Chokeholds can result in death and there are plenty of other ways to defend yourself. With that being said, you should also be aware of how chokeholds are performed and how to escape a chokehold.

Two basic chokehold types:

  1. Air Choke: When an aggressor’s goal is to cut off air by literally smashing in the trachea and cutting off air supply to the lungs. This move is commonly seen in movies and often leads to murder. In reality, this move can take 2-3 minutes for unconsciousness to occur and has far more fatal consequences than a blood choke.
  2. Blood Choke: This is what you will see in MMA fights, military and law enforcement are also taught this tactic in order to quickly immobilize an aggressor. This type of hold applies pressure to the carotid artery (located on both sides of neck) and restricts blood flow/oxygen to the brain. Unconsciousness can occur in less than 13-seconds. 

What are common combat sport chokes?

– In Judo, the rear naked choke reigns supreme. A fighter will dig their wrist into the carotid artery, requiring less strength to be effective. This chokehold cost Holly Holm her belt and won Diaz the fight against McGregor in UFC 196.

– The Von Flue choke is applied with the opponent in a supine position, the person applying this choke will wrap their closest arm around the back of the head and use their entire body weight to apply pressure to the neck, causing an air and blood choke.

Which martial art forms are best to learn effective chokeholds?

Brazilian Jiu-jitsu and Judo are famous for their effective chokeholds. Muay Thai has an effective hold called the clinch which is not used to choke at all, but instead used to gain control during a fight – setting the stage for devastating strikes. [Related: Using Muay Thai for Self-Defense]

Escape a chokehold – rear choke:

  • When you sense someone coming from behind, if possible, duck to lower your base and use your elbow to swing back into the torso and make a run for it.
  • If you find yourself in a rear choke with someone’s arms closing in on your neck, your first step is to immediately tuck your chin into the crease of the attacker’s arm as opposed to where their hand is located.
  • Remain calm and use your head to strategize your way out.
  • Your next step will be to relieve pressure on your neck. Swift action is required, this is when you will want to strike vital areas: eye gouges, groin strikes and if your mouth is on their arm – bite down hard.
  • Avoid stomping on the aggressor’s feet as this can cause you to lose your base and end up on the ground.
  • Get away.

Escape a chokehold – frontal strangulation:

  • If someone in front of you is reaching for your neck and you are unable to get away, strike the forearm where it connects to the elbow and then attempt to get away.
  • If they land a grip onto your neck, tuck your chin into the crease of the arm.
  • Use your hands to grab the arms and pull straight down in order to relieve pressure.
  • If your opponent is larger and stronger and has a grip on your neck – strike vital areas. If you can grab the hand, apply pressure to the LI-4 point (on the backside of the hand where the highest point of the thumb muscle is) and pull down. These actions are intended to loosen the grip on your neck so that you can break free.
  • Get away.

Fighting is serious. Street fights are scary, you never know what the aggressor will use to gain an advantage and there are no rules or referees. The smartest thing to do in a real life scenario is to remain aware of your surroundings at all times and scream/make noise at the first sign of an attack.

If you’d like to sharpen your self-defense skills and live in Northern Virginia, stop by T.A.G. Muay Thai for a FREE 14-day trial.

Kru Chris

Head Instructor, federal law enforcement officer.