Physiology of Chokes

by Ron Sanchez (2007-09-28)

We in Kenpo have a plethora of bends and turns that we can take in our art without leaving it vulnerable. This is one of the great beauties of our system and of the things that has kept me so hungry for knowledge all these years. I, and others of my years, have a belief that Martial Artists are some of the greatest thieves in the world. Now I don't mean that we are criminals per se, but we do like to say that our minds, bodies and spirits are blank canvases that we paint the art on throughout time. Once in a while, we look over one of our brothers or sisters shoulders and assimilate their painting of the art. No real harm done; it is the progression of knowledge from some very gifted people.

On occasion, we are gifted with knowledge from a peer or perfect stranger. That is the case with the article following this introduction.

I love the art of constriction. I have experience in my past martial endeavors in using the chokes, cranks, strangles through Judo. For several years I have become very close friends with a great Ju-Jutsu teacher and warrior Tyron Crimi. He, patiently has cleaned up some forgotten essentials on my constriction knowledge and has added some really magnificent ones. This is the first gift I speak of.

The second is an article that I came upon on the internet about a year ago written by another dear friend, Captain Ron Sanchez, who speaks of what exactly happens during this process. My interest in this was piqued as this is part of a Law Enforcement protocol when teaching the rank and file officers or developing Defensive Tactics trainers. Captain Sanchez has been with the Los Angeles Police Department for over thirty years. He is a Black Belt in American Kenpo, a student of Brazilian Ju-Jutsu, and the consummate martial student. He also has a video series out on the "Mind Set" of combat and training for interpersonal battle. I present the article posted on the Internet that refers to the implications to the human body during application of constriction...

"The physiology of how chokes work is different than many common beliefs. When I was working homicide (division), I went to several autopsies of victims who were choked to death. The first thing you look for in a possible strangulation victim is called "petechial hemorrhaging" . This occurs when the pressure in the brain causes the blood vessels in the eyes to burst under pressure. The blood essentially tattoo's the back of the eyelids, so during the actual autopsy, blood is present in the cranium/skull, which would advance that it is not just the lack of oxygen that normally would cause death. It is true then, that it is not the lack of oxygenated blood getting to the brain, though it causes unconsciousness and ultimately death, it is the blood is blocked off by the compression of the carotid arteries which causes the blood vessels in the brain to swell, and subsequently the brain itself. This swelling causes the brains protective tissue, the cranial sack, to be put under tremendous pressure from the swelling. This sack is filled with fluid and protects the brain from shock. Once the increased pressure is put on it, unconsciousness occurs. If the pressure is alleviated, the swelling immediately dissipates and the brain returns to normal function. If you have ever fought out of an attempted choke when beginning to get light headed, then were able to recover to escape or attack, then you released the pressure and alleviated the swelling in time.

"If the pressure is maintained on the carotid arteries with no relief, then the swelling will continue , pressure will increase, and the vessels will rupture, followed with brain damage and then death.

"I am putting this information out to give some insights into prioritization of tactics during chokeholds. The critical factor is once you've established control over the subject, then free up one or both of the carotids to allow the pressure to escape the brain."

--- Ron Sanchez, Post from Kenponet, March 2001 (editorial license taken)

So once again is my plea for all Black Belts to learn, instruct and foster the internal study of such techniques. Human Anatomy, Physiology and the resuscitation techniques developed by the ancient warriors become very important. The requirement of CPR training and first aid should be a mandate of any curriculum.