The Judo Choke: Safety Rules
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
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.
to first page
article in this series on Judo Chokes will examine resuscitation
techniques (Kappo) used to revive practitioners who have been rendered
unconscious by Judo chokes.
Canon of Judo. Mifune, Kyuzo. Tokyo: Seibundo-Shinkosha
Publishing Co., LTD., 1956
Kodokan Judo. Kano, Jigoro. Tokyo: Kodansha International,
Judo in Action. Kudo, Kazuzo. Tokyo: Japan Publications
Trading Co., 1967
Judo. Tomiki, Kenji. Tokyo: Japan Travel Bureau, 1956
The Overlook Martial Arts Reader. Nelson, Randy. Woodstock:
The Overlook Press, 1989
Emergency Care for Choke Holds. Boulay, John. Ottawa:
Deaths Allegedly Caused by the Use of "Choke Holds".
Koiwai M.D., E. Karl.
This page is copyright © 1995/96/97/98 by Neil
Ohlenkamp, Encino Judo Club, California, USA. This article was originally
published in the January 1996 edition of "Judo Trends Magazine."
About The Author:
Ohlenkamp is a martial arts writer and founder of www.judoinfo.com.
He is a certified United States Judo Association instructor, referee,
master rank examiner, and master coach (the highest level of certification),
and he was awarded United States Judo Coach of the Year for 1999. He
holds a fifth degree black belt in Judo and a sixth degree black belt
in jujitsu and has over 31 years of training and experience in various
martial arts as a competitor, instructor, team coach, and tournament