Chokes are difficult to get out of once they are applied, so the best defense is to stop them from being applied. If you are aware of the possibility of chokes and know some basic defenses against them, you will be able to defend against them. Most people will tense their neck and shoulder muscles when they feel a choke being attempted, but this makes you even more susceptible to choking. Whereas, if you are relaxed and yielding, you may be able to slide out of the choke.
Front Choke Defense. When choked from the front, you may poke at the eyes, kick the shins, or smash the points of your elbows into the arms and bounce off them into the face, while stepping backward. If it is too late for this, turn sideways and raise one shoulder an swing arm over the choking arms to release some of the pressure, while mounting a fierce counterattack.
Rear Choke Defense. Instantly drop, turn, and attack the face. You only have a split second before you will weaken form the choke so you must react instantly. If attacker is choking with straight arms, punch one arm straight up, rotate body to that side, swing the arm over and under the attackers arms, and lift the arms under the elbows. This will break the choke and permit counterattacks.
Mugger Choke Defense. Two-man attack teams walk up behind a person or a couple. One suddenly grabs a person in a rear naked choke, and quickly start pulling the person backward so the person is leaning backward and off balance. From behind, the other attacker quickly goes though the person’s pockets, taking anything valuable. Then, the first attacker drops the person on his or her butt and runs. It is all done very quickly and smoothly from behind. The victim is not injured and he or she never sees the attacker. Many times the person’s partner or bystanders do not even see it happen, yet alone see the attackers.
Some defenses to use are to turn your head into the crook of the choking arm and pull down on the forearm to release pressure, bite the arm, and stomp the attacker’s toes or kick the shins. A backward head butt is possible, but if the assailant's head is too close, the butt may be ineffective. If you are falling backward, launch yourself backward explosively with your legs to knock the assailant off balance. You may land atop the assailant and injure him or her. If not, you are at least prepared for the fall and the assailant will be caught unprepared. If you are falling forward, pull forward, and tuck and roll, dragging the attacker with you.
Another defense is suddenly drop your body straight downward while thrusting the leg that is opposite to the choking arm straight backward while turning your body forward, downward, toward the opposite direction. The object of the movements is to throw the person over your shoulder opposite to the choking arm and to fall atop the person.
Sleeper Choke Defense, The sleeper hold, also known as the mugger’s yoke, figure four head lock, or carotid choke, has been outlawed by most police departments because, although intended only to induce unconsciousness, the carotid arteries of some people will not reopen once the hold is released. However, the choke has been used in Judo competition for over a hundred years with no problems. Application of the choke is described in the choking techniques section.
To defend against the choke, hold an arm in front of your neck and tuck your chin as someone attempts to apply the lock, then use your free arm to counterattack the assailant. Once the coke has been applied, turn your chin into the crook of the choking arm, while raising your shoulders and pushing down with your chin to relieve some of the choking pressure. Try to bite the arm. Reach backward and try to peel off the fingers of the arm that is behind your head to weaken the choke so you may escape. If you have a pen or some other hard or pointed object, jab into the attacker's hands.
Standing Choke Defense. If you are larger or of equal size with your attacker, or if the attacker is not intent on killing you, many escape techniques may work, such as grabbing thumbs. However, most empty hand attackers are larger and stronger than their victims. Prying up their thumbs so you can grab them is difficult and takes time.
In demonstrations of defenses against choking techniques, the attacker is friendly. Even when told to squeeze hard, the attacker still does not want to hurt you. However, when an attacker is intent on killing you, he will grab your throat and try to pop the top of your head off as if squeezing a pimple. His hands and arms will feel similar to steel. People who are angry enough to kill you are extremely strong, and, if they are on drugs, pain is not a problem for them. You will only have a few seconds to do anything and whatever you do must work the first time, for you will not be conscious for a second attempt.
For a smaller attacker or one not intent on killing you, who is two-hand choking you from the front or back, do a disco dance move as Travolta did in Saturday Night Fever: move one foot back for balance, and shoot the opposite arm straight up. Then swing the arm down and over the attacker’s two wrists, bringing the arm upward under his arms, thus trapping his arms. Then, for a front side choke, continue to spin backward and strike the attacker’s temple or jab hinge with a back elbow. For a back side choke, continue to spin forward and strike with a front elbow. The same technique is used when attacked from the front, back, or sides. There is nothing to grab, very little strength is required, and it easy to remember and perform.
For a larger attacker or one that is intent on killing you, when you have only a split second to react before blacking out, jab both thumbs deep into his eyes. Have the thought, "No SOB is going to try to choke me to death and still be able to see for the rest of his life." If the attacker’s arms are longer than yours or he is behind you, then attack instinctively whatever opening presents itself to make the attacker bend his arms or allow you to spin to face him. Then it is thumbs into the eyes. The eyes are a relatively large target for the thumbs. The thumbs are short and strong so that if you hit anywhere near the eyes, you can still force the thumbs into the eyes. Even if only one thumb is successful, it will usually end the attack.
Koiwai, E. K. (1999). How Safe is Choking in Judo?
Ohlenkamp, Neil. (1995). Principles of Judo Choking Techniques. [Online]. Available: http://Judoinfo.com/chokes.htm [2004, December 31 ]. Used with permission.