How to Do a Sleeper Choke Hold in Martial Arts

Written by kent ninomiya
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The sleeper choke hold is commonly used in martial arts as a way to render an opponent unconscious in a relatively safe way. It is also used by police officers to disable unruly people. The sleeper choke hold is controversial and should not be used unless absolutely necessary. Some believe that it is responsible for several deaths. It should only be practised under the supervision of a qualified martial arts professional.

Skill level:


  1. 1

    Wrap your arm around your opponent's neck from behind. Bend your arm so that your elbow is pointed down. Your hand should be up by his ear.

  2. 2

    Grab the biceps of your other arm with the hand of the choking arm. Wrap your fingers and thumb around your upper arm.

  3. 3

    Place the hand of your other arm on the back of your opponent's neck. You should now have a tight grip around his throat. The choking arm should be in a "V" under your opponent's chin.

  4. 4

    Squeeze your choking arm together as if you are flexing your biceps. You are trying to put pressure on the sides of your opponent's throat. Blood flows to and from the brain in arteries and veins on the sides of the neck. You are cutting off the blood flow with your arm. Do NOT press directly on your opponent's Adam's apple. This will cut off their air and may kill him.

  5. 5

    Press forward with the hand on the back of your opponent's neck as you squeeze your choking arm together. At the same time lean slightly forward with your body. This will tighten the grip around your opponent's neck and prevent him from getting away.

  6. 6

    Immediately let go of the sleeper choke hold when you feel your opponent's body go limp. This will only take a few seconds. Once the blood flow to the brain is cut off, a person falls unconscious. Continuing to cut off the blood to the brain can cause permanent brain damage, so don't do it. It will take several seconds for your opponent to regain consciousness. When he does, he will be very disoriented but should have no permanent injury.

Tips and warnings

  • The sleeper choke hold can be very dangerous if not done correctly. Do not actually choke people into unconsciousness for practice--it is unnecessary. When you do the sleeper choke hold, your opponent will feel themselves blacking out in less than a second. That is enough. Stop when they tap out.
  • Be very careful not to press directly on an opponent's Adam's apple. In real life self defence situations, be sure to release the sleeper choke hold as soon as you render someone unconscious.

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