Jūji-jime literally translates as “Figure-10 strangle.” The Japanese character for the number ten (jū) looks like a plus sign; so in Japanese, cross-shapes are “Figure-10s”. Keeping with the spirit of the name, we will call jūji-jime the cross strangle, for obvious reasons. In general, strangles make triangles. A cross strangle constricts the opponent’s carotid arteries with your ridgehands or shutō, using the back of their collar as an anchor point.
While “choke” and “strangle” are often used interchangeably, these terms have specific meanings which should be understood. An “air choke” constricts an opponent’s trachea, restricting their air supply. A strangulation, or “blood choke” constricts the carotid arteries, restricting blood flow to the brain. In general, strangulation is preferred because:
- Improperly applied air chokes can be unintentionally fatal, if the opponent’s trachea is accidentally crushed.
- Strangulation is fast-acting. When blood flow is cut off to the brain, unconsciousness occurs within ~10-15 seconds. Like holding your breath underwater, air chokes can take 1-2 minutes to result in unconsciousness.
- Strangulation is deceptive. The opponent may not realize a stranglehold has been applied, since they are not gasping for air.
- Strangulation is synergistic. The more the opponent resists, they faster they consume their remaining oxygen, and the faster the technique works.
- Strangulation does not require physical strength. Children and the elderly can use these techniques unimpeded.
There are three ways to perform a cross strangle, but since they operate in the same way, they are considered variations and not different moves, per se. You can grab the opponent’s collar palms-up, palms-down, or with a combination. A palms-down grip may be easier in the heat of the moment, but a palms-up grip offers a deeper, fuller grasp. If you are using a combination grip, the palms-down hand should be on top. All three versions are “correct,” though one might be more appropriate than the other in a given situation; this is why fighting systems are considered to be arts, and not sciences.
To ensure the safety of your training partners, it is imperative that you release this technique as soon as your training partner “taps out” and signals that you were successful in applying the technique. This is done by gently slapping against you, themselves, the mat, or by saying “tap”.
To perform a cross strangle:
- Opposite-side grab the opponent’s collar, as high as possible. Ideally, grab behind their neck; if the technique fails, then you will still maintain control of the opponent’s head, and this grip can be used to off-balance the opponent into create new opportunities.
- Repeat Step 1 with your other hand. Be sure that the opponent does not sick their arm between your crossed arms; this is a common defense which weakens the technique.
- Curl your wrists towards you, as though you were performing wrist curls with dumbbells. Tighten slowly when practicing with your partner; this technique works extremely fast. Even a subtle curling motion will produce results.
[viedo of cross chokes, fast and slow, from the front, side, and above.]
A common mistake is trying to tighten the strangle by pulling your elbows out and away, like Clark Kent tearing his shirt off to become Superman. This is inefficient, and the opponent can push and pull on your elbows to break your grip and/or off-balance you. Again, tighten the strangle with a wrist curl motion.