The older you get, the more plaque that can build up in your arteries, especially for martial artists over 40 years old. That's just part of the aging process. For those of you who are under 40 years old this warning applies to you also, but in a different way. You may end up getting partnered up with someone that is over 40 years old during chokehold training, and as such you don't want to be the one responsible for the accidental death of the older student. Nobody should ever die in training. It is completely unacceptable. Therefore, all martial artists need to take heed to the warning that I am about to give you.

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.

Chokehold practice

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.

Self defense with protective gear

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.


That a director of my city's opera company would call me seemed a little odd. There are probably some monkeys who know more about opera than I do. But the director was inviting me to lunch, so of course I went.

It turned out the company was producing a performance of Madame Butterfly, the Puccini opera that tells the story of a doomed love between a French military officer and a geisha in early 19th-century Japan. The opera has come under fire for its stereotyped, utterly fanciful depictions of Japanese culture. The local company was trying to anticipate such criticism, and the director asked me, since I serve on the board of some organizations related to Japanese culture, what I thought.
Keep Reading Show less
Apologies in advance for the title if it gives impressions that this is going to be all that poetic. It's not this presentation that is all that literary, but something else. Haikus and pentameter aside, MMA has moments that are nothing less than poetic on a pretty astral level. Not long ago, irony at the nauseating level (unless you are a psychopath) happened when former UFC Middleweight Champion Chris Weidman broke his leg on Uriah Hall's leg in an eerily similar way as the other former champ Anderson Silva did on Chris's in their title rematch. If you know anything at all about MMA and did not know this story, you have to have been living under a rock. Save your energy and do not go look at pictures of either event as it is nightmare material.
Keep Reading Show less

Dr. Craig's Martial Arts Movie Lounge

Have you ever watched a film that was just so amazing that when the sequel came out, your mind started developing great expectations and that it would be a pip, which has nothing to do with a Charles Dicken's novel, yet a movie that could be a real humdinger?

In 2017, one of the most engaging and exciting elements of the Sammo Hung and Vincent Zhao starring God of War is that it was a remake of Jimmy Wang Yu's classic kung fu flick Beach of the War Gods (BWG; 1973). This gave me the perfect opportunity to see how a film on the same subject was handled by two Chinese filmmaking eras 44 years apart and how the fight choreography was used to tell the hero's story.

Keep Reading Show less