What is a Rear Naked Choke?

Combat disciplines that teach versions of the rear naked choke include MMA.
A rear naked choke is used to cut off an opponent's blood flow through the carotid artery.
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  • Written By: Brad Cole
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 28 September 2014
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A rear naked choke is a type of attack found in many martial arts disciplines. It is executed from behind, where the attacker uses his arms to cut off the blood flowing through an opponent’s carotid artery. Combat disciplines that teach versions of the rear naked choke include Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, Judo, MMA, professional wrestling, and U.S. Army Combatives. Other names for the technique include hadaka jime, lateral vascular neck restraint, mata leao, and sleeper hold.

There are two ways to execute a rear naked choke. In both, the attacker is positioned behind the opponent. In the first method, the attacking arm is placed around an opponent’s neck so that the bicep pushes against one artery and the forearm pushes against the other. The hand of the attacking arm is then placed against the bicep of the non-attacking arm. The non-attacking arm’s hand is then placed behind the opponent’s head or neck. To complete the choke, the elbows are pressed together and the opponent’s head or neck is pushed forward.

The second method of executing a rear naked choke has many similarities to the first. The attacking arm is placed around the opponent’s neck with the bicep against one artery. The attacking arm’s radius bone or wrist bones are then pressed against the artery on the other side. The non-attacking arm then clasps the attacking arm’s hand. The choke is completed when the attacker simultaneously pulls his attacking arm together and also pushes and twists with the non-attacking arm.


The rear naked choke is a type of blood choke. Blood chokes work by cutting off the blood flow to the brain. When the brain in deprived of oxygen-rich blood by such a technique, a person quickly passes out. This occurs in roughly eight seconds when the blood choke is properly applied, but can be faster or slower depending on the individual.

The rear naked choke is generally considered safe when applied in controlled settings and for extremely short amounts of time; the technique, however, can still be lethal. If applied for too long, the recipient will die due to lack of blood flow to the brain. If applied improperly, the blood choke can become an airway choke, possibly resulting in a crushed trachea. Still, the rear naked choke is used daily in martial arts schools around the world; serious injuries caused by it are rare.

The rear naked choke came to mainstream notice from three primary sources. The sleeper hold became a staple of professional wrestling early in its televised history, and was easily noticed by fans of the sport. IN addition, police officers are often trained in the use of the lateral vascular neck restraint. Finally, Royce Gracie used the rear naked choke in the first UFC, and it has been known to MMA fighters and fans of the sport ever since.


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