The sleeper choke hold, also known as the sleeper, sleeper hold, or rear-naked choke, is a submission move used as a submission technique in martial arts. It is also frequently taught as a self-defense manoeuvre for subduing an attacker. A sleeper choke hold reduces blood flow to the brain, causing the person being choked to pass out. It is an extremely dangerous move that should only be performed in extreme circumstances or under the supervision of a martial arts referee or expert. Always release someone when they go limp and seek medical attention if they are unresponsive after you have placed them down.
Part 1 Grabbing and Getting Behind Your Opponent
1. Anchor yourself by grabbing your opponent’s shoulders or arm. Grab your opponent’s wrist with your nondominant hand and their upper shoulder with your dominant hand if they try to fight you. To orient yourself while wrestling, quickly grab your opponent’s shoulders and wrap your fingers around their shoulder blades.
A choke hold can be applied while squared up or standing off-center to your opponent.
After you’ve grabbed them, apply firm pressure with your hands.
You won’t be able to keep them steady for long without resistance. It should take less than two seconds to grab and rotate yourself.
You can either drag your opponent to the ground or perform this hold while both of you are standing.
2. To get behind them, pull them while rotating their shoulders. If you have your opponent’s shoulders grasped, push them with your dominant hand. Pull with your nondominant hand at the same time. This will rotate your opponent so that they are facing away from you. To keep them in place, wrap your dominant arm around their chest or neck. If you have their arm, pull their wrist towards you and shuffle to the side before sliding your dominant arm around their chest and spinning them around.
If you’re smaller or they’re resisting your grip, you can pivot and move behind them with your inside leg.
If you’re being attacked and have their wrist in your grip, twist their wrist inwards as you pull them to disarm them.
3. Pull them in close and wrap your dominant arm around their neck. When you’re behind your opponent, wrap your dominant arm around their chest. Bring your opponent close to you and wrap your dominant forearm around their neck. To protect their neck, your opponent will raise their arms. This will provide you with the opportunity to place your nondominant hand behind their head.
When they reach up to protect their neck, your first instinct may be to swat their hands away. This should not be done. If you don’t put your arm behind their head, you’ll lose your leverage.
If you are actively being attacked, yank them from side to side while setting your grip to disorient them and make it more difficult for them to fight back.
When your opponent raises their arms to protect their neck, they will most likely wrap their hands around your forearm and attempt to pull it off. Grip their shoulder tightly to prevent them from ripping your arm off.
Part 2 Applying Pressure with Your Hold
1. Wrap your dominant forearm around their neck and under their chin. Raise your dominant arm until your forearm is firmly lodged between their chin and chest. Wrap your arm around their neck tightly to keep them in place. To stabilise your grip, grab their shoulder with your dominant hand.
Once your arm is under their neck, do not yank them side to side. You could permanently damage your opponent’s spine.
2. Insert your nondominant hand behind their head. Run your nondominant hand behind your opponent’s back of the head, between the neck and the centre of their head. Bring your opposite-side nondominant thumb up to your ear.
If you are right-handed, lift your left arm behind their head and bring your left thumb up to your right ear.
3. To secure your grip, loop your dominant hand under your arm. Thread your dominant hand inside the fold of your nondominant elbow to stabilise your grip. Wrap your fingers around your dominant arm’s elbow to secure it in place. If your opponent tries to slide out, you can easily increase pressure by using the tension from your grip.
This will provide something for your dominant hand to grip. If you don’t grip your arm, you’re relying solely on your arm’s strength to keep them grappled.
4. Use your dominant arm to apply pressure to the sides of your opponent’s neck. Bend your elbow and flex your dominant arm so that your forearm presses against one side of their neck and your bicep presses against the opposite side. Tilt their neck forward towards their chest by pushing their nondominant arm forward. This will press their chin into your forearm, adding pressure and allowing you to begin restricting blood flow to their brain.
Lean back and spread your feet apart as you apply pressure to brace yourself for resistance.
A sleeper hold’s goal is not to restrict airflow. You’re not doing it right if you’re pushing down on your opponent’s throat.
5. Turn your hips to shove your pelvis into the back of your opponent. Once you have a firm grip on your opponent and are applying pressure, rotate your trunk so that your hip is pressing into the small of his back. This will keep them angled away from you, making it more difficult for them to fight back or break free from the hold.
The hip you use to brace your opponent’s back is determined by the size of your opponent. Do what comes naturally to you. Use your dominant hip if your opponent is larger. Use your nondominant hip if they are smaller.
Hold for 10 seconds, or until your opponent goes limp or taps out.
6. If you can only wrap around one side, use a side-hold. If your opponent misses a punch, you can use a choke hold variation. With their arm extended, slide under their shoulder and wrap your dominant hand around the opposite side of their neck. Lift up to keep their extended arm from lowering, and use your free hand to wrap around and squeeze your dominant hand.
Tilt your body towards them to keep them off balance.
Hold them so that their shoulder is driven into the side of their neck on one side, then apply pressure with your arm on the other side.
This is not the preferred method because it allows your opponent to use their nondominant arm.
Part 3 Performing the Choke Hold Safely
1. Unless you are in immediate danger, release your choke hold after 10 seconds. Release your choke hold after 10 seconds unless you are actively being attacked. The maximum amount of time you can apply pressure to the neck without risking permanent damage is 15 seconds.
If you correctly applied pressure to the major arteries of the neck, your opponent should go limp in 5-9 seconds.
2. Only apply pressure to the arteries and do not restrict your opponent’s airflow. You risk damaging your opponent’s windpipe if you apply too much pressure to their throat. The goal of a sleeper hold is to restrict blood flow rather than air, so only use force on your opponent’s sides of the neck.
3. If your opponent taps your forearm, stop choking them. A light double-tap on an exposed section of your skin is the universal sign of surrender in martial arts. This indicates that your opponent has given up. If your opponent taps your forearm while you’re choking them, release your grip immediately.
This is something you’ll see MMA fighters do when they’re trapped in a submission hold they can’t get out of.
This is where the term “tap out” originates.
4. Avoid using the choke hold on someone who has a heart condition. The choke hold of a sleeper restricts blood flow to the brain. Individuals with heart or blood pressure problems may experience a serious cardiac event if their blood flow is disrupted. Never perform this move on someone who is suffering from cardiovascular issues.
If someone has a heart attack while you’re choking them or if they don’t wake up after 10-15 seconds, call 911 immediately.
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