The Basic Submission Arts

Strangulation techniques are an integral part of judo and jujitsu training. The objective of shime waza (constriction technique) is to effect a comatose state upon one’s opponent. Technically it is to apply gentle pressure to an opponent’s neck in order to impede and/or prevent the flow of blood to the brain, through direct pressure by squeezing the throat, trachea, or chest in order to subdue normal breathing, or through stimulation of the vagus nerve which causes a marked decrease in heart rate resulting in lower blood pressure. The former, if applied correctly, takes effect within a few seconds, usually without discomfort to the opponent; the latter, a few minutes with much discomfort to the opponent. It is to be stressed that the shime no kata should only be applied with proper care and with an understanding of the basic physiological principles, dangers, and precautions.

Application of the strangulation techniques places direct pressure on the jugular veins as well as both the carotid and vertebral arteries. Compression on the ligature around the neck blocks the jugular veins resulting in stagnant cerebral hypoxia (see: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cerebral_hypoxia). Additionally, the carotid sinus is a pressure receptor that takes part in the control of blood pressure and pulse rate. When blood pressure rises in the sinus, vagal reflexes lower both systemic blood pressure and pulse rate. When blood pressure falls in the sinus, systemic blood pressure and pulse rate rise. If external pressure is applied, thus decreasing pressure in the sinus and suddenly released, the surge of pressure will cause reflexive changes resulting in a marked systemic blood pressure drop, faintness, weakness, or unconscious and lowered pulse rate or even heart arrest.

Shutting off respiration may also bring about changes of a reflex nature that may cause serious heart and respiratory reactions. Shutting off the air intake may cause an inadvertent valsalva maneuver (forced expiration with a closed glottis see: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Valsalva_maneuver) resulting in dangerous and even irreversible physiological changes. The methods by which to apply shime no kata are numerous and varied, but all are based on the following:

  1. Shime waza may be applied standing, sitting, squatting, or lying on the ground, but in all cases, in order to reduce the muscular resistance of one’s opponent, he must be in an unbalanced state with his spine stretched.
  2. To prevent blood circulation to the brain, pressure should be applied at the base of the opponent’s neck where there is the least muscular resistance.
  3. One’s wrists should be flexible so that the outlines of one’s forearms conform to that of the neck or throat. If the wrists are stiff, like rods, the effect will be more painful and less efficient.
  4. The operations should NOT be in jerks and as soon as one’s opponent shows any sign of limpness or undue physical discomfort the lock should be released IMMEDIATELY to prevent damage to your opponent.

Medical Aspects

The carotid restraint is the physical restriction of the jugular veins and carotid arteries leading to cerebral hypoxia. When the carotid restraint is applied, the jugular veins and carotid arteries are compressed on either side of the neck. The carotid sinus is also affected stimulating the vagus nerve, part of the parasympathetic nervous system, and causing a slowing of the heart rate. Compression of the veins and arteries combined with a slowing heart leads to the brain being deprived of oxygenated blood. The ensuing result is loss of consciousness or fainting. This unconsciousness is in concert with the slowing heartbeat and falling blood pressure caused by the stimulation of the carotid sinus and vagus nerves. Signs of unconsciousness can occur in as little as three to twelve seconds after application if done correctly.

Breathing abnormalities may also occur as a result of acute or delayed airway obstruction (glottis edema) or autonomic reflex activity.

Circulatory collapse then results from the mechanical stimulation of the carotid sinus slowing the heart due to sympathetic stimulation or reflex cardiac arrest. Blood flow to the brain is diminished. Tension on a ligature around the neck from arm compression during the application of the carotid restraint blocks the jugular veins resulting in stagnant cerebral hypoxia. With loss of consciousness, decreased muscle tone facilitates arterial obstruction and intimal tears (inner lining tears).

The subject’s response to the effects of a carotid restraint may include any of the following:

  • Narrowing of vision
  • Drooling or salivating
  • Body going limp
  • Vomiting
  • Convulsions
  • Involuntary urination or defecation

Safety During Training

A cautious approach must be taken when learning and practicing the carotid restraint techniques. The risk of injury can be reduced to a minimum by observing the following rules.

  1. Proper warm-up and stretching, particularly in the neck area.
  2. Release signal. The individual being “worked on” should indicate excessive pressure, pain, or the slightest feeling of faintness with a “slap” release signal, which indicates when the person applying the technique should stop.
  3. Slow application. The person performing the technique should apply pressure slowly and carefully, being specifically careful of not applying pressure to the trachea (windpipe).
  4. Passive resistance. The person worked on should offer only passive resistance to avoid neck injury.
  5. A thorough briefing of the dangers, as well as safety precautions should be given to all students.

Note: Chokeholds must only be taught by trained and certified instructors!

  1. Practitioners must be familiar with the anatomical structures of the neck and where proper pressure is to be applied.
  2. Students need to know the physiology of choking, that only a small amount of pressure is needed to cause unconsciousness.
  3. Recognize immediately the state of unconsciousness and to release the pressure immediately.
  4. Learn proper resuscitation methods if unconsciousness is prolonged.
  5. Prevent the aspiration of vomitus on an unconscious victim and to keep the victim under constant observation.

Submitted by Bob Reish

Sankaku Jime

“San-kaku-jime” by michael.hultstrom is licensed with CC BY-SA 2.0. To view a copy of this license, visit https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/