Rear naked strangle

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Hadaka-jime, the rear naked strangle, is the most reliable way for an unarmed person to render their attacker unconscious; this is the “sleeper hold” made famous by professional wrestlers. Rear naked strangles are a part of most martial arts, where they are alternately known as a rear naked choke, RNC, neck choke, lock choke, or chancery. In general, strangles make triangles. A rear naked strangle will constrict one of the opponent’s carotid arteries with your forearm, and constrict their other carotid artery with your upper arm. Your other hand will press down on the back of the opponent’s head, to push them into the technique, and to prevent them from pulling back to escape the strangle. Unlike most strangleholds, this is a “naked technique” which does not require grabbing the opponent’s collar.

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 two ways to perform a rear naked strangle, but since they operate in the same way, they are considered variations and not different moves, per se. The Figure-4 version is preferred, because it is a tighter technique, which works faster and is more difficult to escape. The Gable-Grip version is faster and easier to apply. Both 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”.

Figure-4 Rear Naked Strangle

  1. Wrap your arm around the opponent’s neck from behind (e.g., use the “rear mug” that appears in waza). Be sure to wrap your arm completely around the opponent’s neck, so that your elbow is under their chin. Otherwise, you will perform an air choke instead of a blood choke.
  2. Secure your arm by grabbing your opposite-side collar, lapel, triceps, or shoulder. The higher you reach, the tighter and more-effective your strangle will become.
  3. Use your opposite-side forearm or shutō to press the back of your opponent’s head down into the crook of your elbow.
  4. Tense your arms, and attempt to touch your elbows together for maximum tightness.

[Figure-4 RNC, fast and slow, from the front, side, and above. ]

Gable-Grip Rear Naked Strangle

  1. Wrap your arm around the opponent’s neck from behind (e.g., use the “rear mug” that appears in waza). Be sure to wrap your arm completely around the opponent’s neck, so that your elbow is under their chin. Otherwise, you will perform an air choke instead of a blood choke.
  2. Secure your arm by clasping your hands palm-to-palm, with each hand grabbing the side of the other hand, in a “Gable-grip or “Greco-grip.”
  3. Use your head and shoulder to press the back of your opponent’s head down into the crook of your elbow.
  4. Tense your arms, and pull your hands back for maximum tightness.

[Photo of a Gable grip] [Gable-grip RNC, fast and slow, from the front, side, and above. ]