THE REAR NAKED CHOKE – Is it martial arts’ deadliest technique?

1 Posted by - July 16, 2013 - Photography, Wisdom

Many things have been written about techniques that are unbeatable. It seems to be an obsession with martial artists to claim that they have the technique that allows no defense against it.

I remember seeing the film The Karate Kid when it came out in 1984. My friends and I saw it and then stayed in the theater and saw it again back to back. I can still hear Mr. Miyagi’s words when he talks about the crane technique: “When done right, no can defense.”

You may remember the technique from when Lyoto Machida used it in the UFC to defeat Randy Couture.

Machida front kick

But the question remains: Is that even possible? Is there a technique that you can’t defend against?

I really don’t think there is. The statement itself is misleading.

“When done right…” What does that mean? When done right, ALL techniques are 100% effective.

However, if there’s anything that comes close, it would have to be the “rear naked choke” or “the lion kill.”

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The rear naked choke is a technique that comes to us from traditional jiu-jitsu but that was made famous by Brazilian jiu-jitsu practitioners and their triumphs in the octagon.

The rear naked choke applies pressure to the carotid artery, denying oxygen to the brain and making the person fall asleep. If applied for too long it can result in serious brain damage.

But when used correctly and released at the appropriate moment it can be one of the most humane techniques in martial arts. Because you can disable an opponent without hurting them.

Also, when the technique is done right and you got your hooks in and the arm is deep in the neck, there’s nothing you can do about it. It’s almost impossible to get out of. You’ll be asleep in about three seconds.

UFC Fight Night: Oliveira vs. Escudero

There are many misconceptions about the rear naked choke and I want to talk about some of them today. I’m going to go through the steps as they were taught to me.

You might have learned it a different way in your class and that’s fine. I’m not saying your way is wrong. I’m just showing another way of doing it.

The first step is getting behind the opponent. This is called taking the back. Now this is easier said than done, and there lies the great difficulty of the move. But let’s not get into maneuvering at the moment. Let’s just talk about how the technique works and how it applies force.

First you loop your arm around the opponent’s neck. You want to try and get the elbow lined up with the chin. If you don’t do that, you’ll probably end up crushing their windpipe and that’s definitely no good.

You want your arm to act like a pair of scissors around the neck, applying pressure to the sides.


Then you grab the bicep of your free arm with the hand of the arm that’s around the opponent’s neck. This should create a figure four with your arms.


Next you slip your free hand behind the opponent’s head. And here comes one of the most misunderstood portions of the technique. That palm SHOULD BE FACING YOU.

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A lot of people apply the technique with that palm pressing against the back of the opponents head. This is not necessarily wrong. But what happens is that you’re using mostly arm strength to press the opponent’s head forward and choking him.

If you turn that hand around to face you then that elbow is down and it creates a tighter system and a stronger hold.

Now to finish the choke, all you have to do is put air into your chest, constricting the neck.


Wrap your arms around a rolled up towel and try it. Do it with the hand that goes behind the back of the head facing you. The amount of pressure you can create is astounding.

For the technique to achieve its full potential your “hooks” have to be in. That means that your legs are wrapped around the opponent’s body. Either around their waist or legs.

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If you’re able to wrap your legs around the waist and lock them, like the picture on the left, then you’re also squeezing the abdomen.

Your head should be tucked in to protect you face and eyes and your body should be tight against the opponent’s back. It’s like you’re a boa constrictor.

As far as technique design goes, this has to be one of the most efficient applications ever conceived. And though it seems like a hard positional advantage to achieve, the technique is constantly being used in grappling competitions and professional fighting.

You really can’t argue with success.

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