The attack will come suddenly. With your attention distracted forward, only now would a victim realize that a potentially deadly arm is snaking around their neck from behind.
The victim instantly buries her chin deeply in the crook inside the attacker’s bent elbow. Her lower jaw now shields the throat, the carotid arteries and the jugular veins.
Come up with both hands and press on the joint of attacker’s elbow and exert force straight inward against your own body. Maintain this pressure! Taking an instant to assess that his right arm is around her neck, she knows she must move to her and his right, so…
…she turns the toe of her right foot outward, preparing to spin on the ball of that foot, as her left knee flexes slightly to coil for the “kickoff”…
…and now she pivots at the hips, swinging her left leg sharply to her right in a half-circle (see arrow). Inward pressure on the elbow is maintained. She has already broken the attacker’s hold.
Watch her feet carefully. She has finished in a Weaver stance facing behind her, a 220-degree pivot that gives her leverage as she puts her whole body against her attacker’s arm. She has now completely escaped the hold. She can run or take other options at this point.
But in this example she chooses to finish the fight with a takedown. Her right hand already in position on the attacker’s elbow, she slides her left hand up to his wrist, pulling his wrist down as her palm pushes his elbow up. Notice how violently her move has taken the attacker backward off balance.
She turns her hip and straightens her leg, and pivots her right hand for more strength against his elbow as she continues to bring his wrist down and his elbow up. He’s going down because, if he doesn’t, she’ll tear out the rotator cuff and rip his arm out of the socket.
A rear choke that begins with an arm around your neck can take many forms. It might be an arm-bar strangle, in which the assailant’s forearm crushes your larynx and trachea. If you have a skilled opponent, it might be the move judo practitioners call shime-waza and fans of WWE wrestling know as “the sleeper hold.” This means that the bicep on one side and the forearm on the other will crush in a “V” pattern into your neck, blocking the carotid arteries that bring oxygenated blood to your brain and simultaneously occlude the jugular veins that carry depleted blood back down to the heart. Unconsciousness will occur within 14 seconds or so, and the sudden blood pressure change can result in convulsions or even experiencing a stroke. Either attack can be deadly.
This is an extremely common street attack. New York City thugs used to call it “fiending.” In other areas it’s known as “the mugger’s lock” or “the mugger’s yoke.” Male bullies use it instinctively it seems against smaller men, while rapists often use it against females. It’s critical to know what to do instantly if you ever encounter the attack because it can be applied too fast for you to be able to figure it out when the moment comes.
Priorities & Technique
As the arm snakes around your neck by surprise, bury your chin deep in the crook of the attacker’s elbow. This will protect the throat, and it will drive your lower mandible down low enough so that the crushing pressure that might have occluded the great vessels in your neck will now squeeze harmlessly against hard bone. This will hurt, but it will not injure.
Your priority isn’t putting the bad guy on the ground but staying alive; that’s why burying your chin deep down in the crook of his elbow has to be first and foremost. It also buys you time to finish the fight, and if needed, your teeth are right next to a major vein.
As soon as your chin is safely buried to guard your throat and your great vessels, take both hands and press them on his elbow, where it’s bent. Don’t put one hand on one side of his elbow and one on the other side—that distributes the pressure and robs you of focused force. Put one hand where you see in the pictures, and the other right on top of it. That will give you more leverage.
Don’t try to pull down. Instead, press his elbow straight in toward yourself, thus creating a pressure point for leverage. Now, swing your whole body forward in the direction of the offender’s trapping arm. If he’s choking you with his right arm, spin to your right; if he’s choking you from behind with his left arm, pivot to your left.
Maintain the inward pressure on his elbow joint as you turn with your whole body. You want to swing your outside leg (your left leg if he has grabbed you with his right arm) all the way out to your right. You want a good, solid 180-degree turn, and 220 degrees is even better. This movement puts your whole body against just his arm, particularly the trapped elbow joint. His elbow becomes the hinge of a gate that is his arm, and that gate swings wide open to allow you to escape. Now you’re free of the choke, and you have multiple options.
If you are not a fighter by nature, simply run. The 180-degree pivot of your rear leg will already have literally given you a running start. As you turn, his vulnerable kidney area will be exposed. A hammer fist to the kidney, or a strike there with whatever object you may have, might be appropriate.
If you have other force options, you now can disengage and draw your pepper spray, your gun or whatever defense tool may be appropriate and legal under the circumstances. Or, if you’re trained in grappling, you can use your skills to take advantage of his already bent arm and put him on the ground, as shown, in this case with a shoulder lock.
You won’t learn this or any other hand-to-hand self-defense technique without practice. Use the photos and captions here as guidelines and pay attention to the details. Do it carefully and start in slow motion. Practice with a partner but not to hurt each other; you’re here to learn how to not get hurt.
Good luck, stay safe and be proud of yourself for taking the time to invest in the your safety and that of your loved ones.
This article was originally published in the SURVIVOR’S EDGE TM Fall 2014 issue. Subscription is available in print and digital editions here.
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