Any pressure, even slight pressure, on the neck of someone over 40 years old during chokehold training is dangerous, because once the pressure of the hold is released the blood that had been blocked in the carotid artery temporarily has more pressure behind it upon release. To visualize this threat, think of it like a dam blocking a river that suddenly collapses. The additional rush of water going down the riverbed brings with it rocks and debris from the bottom of the reservoir due to the increased pressure pushing on them. The additional pressure caused by the release of the chokehold in training can dislodge some loose plaque, much like the rocks and debris of the riverbed, and go into the brain causing a massive stroke or other life-threatening complications.
In my 8-hour course titled Control & Defense I teach a section titled Chokehold Defense; chokes applied from every possible attack direction, which there are 10, and you can find the diagram in my book Reality-Based Personal Protection published by Black Belt Books. Before I start the chokehold training, I read the warning disclaimer directly from the course outline to my students, which everyone receives a current revised copy for proper training and courtroom documentation. It states:
WARNING: Students over 40 years of age must not have any pressure applied to the neck due to the possibility of dislodging plaque and causing blood clots.
A martial artist over 40 years old (like those in the photo) may seem perfectly healthy, and he or she may have the skills to perform any chokehold escape, but there is a tremendous danger associated with chokehold training. Strick safety protocols must be followed.
Regardless of age, it must me mandatory for self-defense instructors to warn their students of the risks associated with chokehold training concerning other factors: being overweight or previous medical conditions.
I then tell all my students that, "absolutely no pressure is to be applied to any student over 40 years old." Essentially the older students only "go through the motions" to learn the techniques. For those under 40 years old I advise them to use their own discretion as to the amount of pressure they wish for their partner to apply to their neck. For example, an overweight person or a person with known heart disease may want to follow the NO PRESSURE ON THE NECK rule also. Communication between training partners is essential for safe training.
I am over 50 years old, and I follow my own advice. When I need to demonstrate the defense against a particular chokehold I tell the demonstrator, "Absolutely no pressure on my neck," and then I demonstrate the technique to my students.
The warning I have given my students over the years has been confirmed by the many medical professionals who have attended this course for various personal or professional reasons: emergency room doctors, paramedics, and tactical medics (law enforcement and military).
Interesting enough, in all my real-world fights with criminals (for I was a street police patrol officer for many years) I never had a bad guy try to choke me. I've trained to survive the situation thousands of times over the years, but I never had to use these skills in an actual battle. Yet, because a chokehold is always a real possibility in a real conflict, I needed to train to defeat them. However, since I am over 50 years old, I need to train smarter, and with proper safety protocols in place. Yes, I believe in reality-based training, meaning training as realistically as possible, but I don't believe in reality-based injuries or deaths in training.
I can't help but think of all those Brazilian Ju-Jitsu, Greco-Roman wrestling, and MMA practitioners, including many of the instructors teaching these systems, who practice chokeholds but know nothing about this potential chokehold training danger. As such, I cringe at the very thought of a future training death. Therefore, I'd like to try to prevent it, and I hope you will now that you are informed.
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