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Really Wondering Is It Dangerous To Choke Someone Unconscious

Wonerding is it dangerous to choke someone out.

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Whether in combat sports, a security capacity or in the police services. Being able to control a person by using a chokehold in its many forms is part and parcel of the role. So this has led to the question of whether it is dangerous to choke someone out of not.

There have been multiple tests done in controlled environments showing us how safe or unsafe it is to choke someone out. The general consensus is that it is safe to a degree when done on healthy people. The test subjects were only being choked until they passed out, then quickly released.

But there are a few caveats as to whether or not applying a choke is completely safe. And one of the main reasons for this is that a choke can be applied incorrectly or for too long.

We have seen quite recently several unfortunate situations when chokes or choking methods are applied incorrectly. They have in some high-profile instances resulted in death.

Whether this was a result of the actual airway and the carotid artery being blocked. Leading to a lack of oxygen reaching the lungs. Or the person involved being under the influence of a narcotic or having an underlying health issue. Leading to complications when the choke was applied.

Being Choked Out Feels Weird

So I can speak from personal experience in terms of what it’s like to be choked out. And the far more fun act of choking someone else out. Because I am sure there are some people out there who think that it is perhaps quite a difficult thing to do?

But let me tell you that if done correctly, being choked out can take just a matter of seconds. And what is scarier is you sometimes don’t even realise when it is happening.

And what I mean by that is when someone who is well-trained catches you in a hold. They know exactly where and how to apply pressure. So as an example, I passed out one time when my black belt master was showing someone I was rolling with a Gi choke.

A Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu player uses a submission hold to try and submit his opponent.
BJJ player using submission choke on his opponent.

He applied some simple, not even hard pressure, but in the exact right spot. And while he was explaining to my opponent I had passed out, all be it very briefly. I think he was even a little shocked, but it just goes to show it does not take much.

I have also choked out some people who were unwilling to tap. As when you train yourself to go for the choke, but not be overly aggressive. And when it gets to a certain point your opponent should simply tap out.

But pride or stubbornness can often get in the way and so they prolong the situation. This can and does result in them then going limp and sometimes having a good snore.

And when you finally come around, for an instant you have a feeling of how did I get here, where is here and who are you? It’s that look of disbelief you see on the faces of BJJ players and MMA fighters when they get stopped. It’s only temporary but for a moment at least, very confusing.

Studies Of People Being Choked Out

Now as I mentioned previously there have been a number of academic studies. What happens to the human body and brain when a test subject is choked out?

A study was conducted by the US military back in 1943. In which their scientists examined the effect of being choked out, or in scientific terms acute cerebral anoxia. Testing one hundred and thirty-seven people using an inflatable ruling around the neck to stop the flow of blood.

Their findings showed that the average time it took for the test subject to go unconscious was six to eight seconds. With no lasting negative effects on their test subjects, who were young healthy males.

“It takes several minutes of lack of blood flow to the brain (somewhere in the range of four-to-six minutes) before permanent damage to the brain is likely to occur.”

Dr. Johnny Benjamin – MMAjunkie interview

Testing Judo Chokes

The Kodokan who runs the sport of Judo sought to find out what happens to the human body during the Shimewaza choke, along with two others. Partly out of curiosity and also to dispel the worries that martial art was dangerous to students.

With one black belt, Judoka applies the three different chokes over a period of time. The data from the attached monitors collected and analysed showed how the body reacted. Both before during and after the choking process.

The average time for the test subject to pass out was ten seconds. As soon as they were deemed to be unconscious, the chokehold was immediately released. With the test subject remaining unconscious for an average of 10 – 12 seconds.

A Judo fighter attempts a submission choke in their sparring.
Sinking in a chokehold in Judo.

The test ascertained that the lack of oxygen from blood not reaching the brain resulted in them passing out. However, once they regained consciousness, the data showed no lasting damage from the chokeholds.

They did, however, warn that the choke until unconsciousness should not be performed on people with heart conditions or hypertension, due to an increase in blood pressure. Or younger people whose heart or nervous system has not reached its full development.

Side Effects Of Getting Choked Out

  • A loss of consciousness
  • Reflex dilation, commonly referred to as a widening or dilation of the pupils
  • Fluttering or jerking motions in the body, similar in some ways to a small epileptic seizure
  • A tingling sensation in the body.

How To Recover From Being Choked Out

If you do watch combat sports that involve the use of chokes. Then you will have seen opponents who have been choked out. Being laid on their back and their legs elevated is known as the Trendelenburg position. The reason for this is to speed up the flow of blood to the brain, which had been temporarily obstructed.

Simply put it’s all about making sure that the person comes around as quickly as possible. Not that they are in any grave danger, but more so to make sure they are comfortable and get their senses back as quickly as possible.

In Conclusion

In closing, I would like to think you now feel confident in your knowledge surrounding how if done correctly. Applying a chokehold is not dangerous when done to someone for a few seconds.

People who train regularly in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu or Judo know all about applying chokes correctly. As do those who are trained in police or security services, or so we would hope.

But if done correctly there is no real evidence to prove that choking someone out leaves any long-term damage. It’s a temporary paralysis that renders the person unconscious without the use of extreme force or impact.

Much safer than someone being knocked unconscious from a blow to the head. And it is for this reason that chokes are widely used both in sports. When restraining someone in the form of self-protection.

And so you should learn how to choke someone out properly and safely. As someday when you least expect it, it may come in very useful indeed.