Chokes for Self Defense – The Self Defense Company

Chokes for Self Defense

Chokes for Self Defense

I will make this clear – Chokes are NOT essential for self defense. They require skill, strength and endurance. They also demand that you are grappling – where size and strength of your attacker are factors.

I get it. Submissions are great. They are one of the few things you can do in practice and know that IT WILL WORK. If your partner taps – it worked.

However…if want to use chokes for self defense then this is something you MUST understand.

Don’t bet your life on the “tap”or it will be “taps”.

Getting your partner to tap is training is EASY, but effectively choking someone who thinks you’re trying to KILL THEM is not only incredibly hard – it’s almost completely different.

Training Partners generally tap because they’re uncomfortable. Yes, the choke hurts, but it’s a far cry from being knocked unconscious or asphyxiated by someone who has no intention of stopping.

When you actually apply a choke on the enemy he will PANIC and become extremely violent. This will require you to adjust your technique and use a lot more strength and stamina than you can imagine. Remember, you’re experiencing SNS activation which will cause your adrenaline to kick in…that will give you a boost, but won’t last forever. So you must prepare for this fact.

So here are some tips on getting your chokes self defense ready…

  1. Hide your pretty face. 
    One of the first things the enemy will do is try to grab your face. So you need to bury your face (where varies on the type of choke). You don’t need to see him, you know exactly where he is. Now if you’e training the chokes from SDTS Module 3 you’ll already know how to use the top of your head to apply more pressure to the choke – so you’re good.
  2. “Base” yourself. 
    The enemy is going to thrash around…a lot. Having a good base and balance in any position (standing or ground) is essential to riding out his resistance.
  3. Use bodyweight.
    Depending on the type of strangle, you should always use your legs, bodyweight and even his bodyweight to increase the force of the choke. 90% of people who learn strangles use mostly arm strength and that’s because you can get away with it with a training partner who taps when their neck gets sore. This is why we use the training dummy in SDTS Modules 3 and 12. The training dummy allows you to put full weight and power into your choke.
  4. Train BEYOND the TAP.
    This is MANDATORY for using a choke for self defense. You need to dig deep and train 5X the normal amount of time you would normally need. Do not be shy…grab it and grind it.
  5. Shake, Rattle and Roll. 
    Violently shaking the enemy while you’re applying the technique will enable you to keep him off balance, disorient him and cause additional trauma to the brain.
  6. Tenderize him.
    Never apply a choke on a “fresh” target. Whenever possible try to strike first, or use a concussive entry technique to take a little fight out of him and disorient him in order to create an opening for your choke. The problem with sport is that you can’t do this…even in MMA, attacking the back of the neck is prohibited (as it should be) but that’s one of the first places we target!

Using chokes for self defense requires a different set of skills in addition to the “normal” techniques. Keep in mind that if your strangle is “off” a degree or two in the street, it will make your life exponentially HARDER. This is why we don’t advocate using strangles as a primary means of self defense.

The hierarchy of self defense is:

  1. Escape
  2. Weapons
  3. Striking
  4. Gouging, ripping and biting
  5. Grappling

Grappling is the lowest rung on the ladder because it requires the most skill, size, power and fitness. It will take you weeks to learn a choke – but literally minutes to learn a strike and less than that to use some pepper spray.

Until next time…

Train Honestly,


Please post your comments below…

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Published by Damian (Instructor)

Founder, The Self Defense Company

Join the Conversation


  1. We train chokes from an escalation (or building block) approach. Staring with co-operation from a “Waza” position to learn the principal (technique) and then escalating to include strikes, flanking and then a choke .

  2. I need a refresher in best choke holds or sleepers. My goal is to not leave a mark on the individuals body. I work in Entertainment Industry and this is key to keeping my account with the Event I’m working.

    1. Please message me. You have to remember where chokes belong my friend. From a combatives standpoint they really do not belong dealing with low level threats. The reality today is everyone has a fucking phone and wants to make you the next YouTube or social media star. Add to this living in a litigious society you can see why focusing on chokes nay not be ideal. What you need to focus on is more low profile combatives. What are you trying to achieve by learning chokes? Are you looking for a simple and effective way to simply restrain an individual? There are ways to achieve this which look a lot less “violent” but are equally as effective.

  3. Ive used chokes & strangles many times on the “pavement tatami” both standing and on the ground, most people are used to being punched or kicked but apply a choke or strangle and they subdue almost immediately, that’s what I found anyway…….my preference was always the naked choke as opposed to a strangle, this is because its painful for the person, the cannot call their friends to help out so its a silent technique, they are unconscious in about 10-15 seconds, its the best “Fight equaliser” that I know.
    Thanks for all your posts Damien,
    Best regards,
    Stefano (Italy)

  4. Great article and material as usual. What are you speaking of when you talk about using the top of your head to make the choke tighter?
    I know Carl taught using 3 points of contact ?
    Just trying to get a better visual
    Thank you

    1. Hey Joe – Thanks for posting. It’s important to “bury your head” on chokes in the street since your target will try to attack your face, gouge your eyes, etc. So your face needs to be out of the way and where ever you put your head, that point will apply pressure.

      In module 3 and module 12, combat jutjutsu ad old school series ground fighting we cover this in depth. In short, ANY part of your body that comes into contact should be applying some type of pressure.

      I learned this from Carl, Yonezuka, Dave Ellis…and every other judoka, BJJ practitioner I ever trained with.

      A bit off topic.

      But it just doesn’t stop there. Any time you’re in contact you want to GRIND them. Which means applying constant pressure (along with the force of gravity) from any top position. I used this in wrestling as well. The trick is, in order to provide that “extra” pressure, you need to be in shape too. Rhadi Ferguson was big on this.

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