What is a Rear Naked Choke?

Brad Cole

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.

Combat disciplines that teach versions of the rear naked choke include MMA.
Combat disciplines that teach versions of the rear naked choke include MMA.

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.

A rear naked choke is used to cut off an opponent's blood flow through the carotid artery.
A rear naked choke is used to cut off an opponent's blood flow through the carotid artery.

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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Discussion Comments


When I took some Brazilian jiu jitsu classes a few years ago, the instructor showed us the rear naked choke. I think he actually called it hidaka jime. Anyway, he used me as a "victim" for the demonstration. He got his arm around my neck from behind, but I could still breathe. I felt him tighten up his bicep on one side, and I started to panic a little. I got very dizzy, but I felt like I could still step out of it if I kicked him in the right place.

Then he pressed his fist into the other side of my neck and it was like someone turned out the lights. I was conscious one second and gone the next. I don't know how long I was actually out, but the next thing I remember was my instructor slapping the side of my face and pulling me up to my feet. I was still woozy, but not out of commission.


I saw a wrestler use a rear naked choke, or sleeper hold, on another wrestler when I was a kid. It scared me to death, because the victim just fell over like he was dead. He didn't wake up for a while, and the announcer said the winning wrestler would have to do some kind of move to snap him out of it. I think he rubbed his hands on the victim's sternum or something. Supposedly if he didn't do it, the other wrestler could have died. I'm not sure if that was true or just wrestling hype.

All I know is I would hate to have a choke hold like that done to me. Just the idea of passing out would scare me to death.

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