Sleeper Hold Directions

Written by james wiley
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A sleeper hold is a technique for disabling an attacker that is used in self-defence, martial arts, combat sports and law enforcement. The hold--also known as a carotid restraint--is easy to apply and can disable a larger, stronger opponent. The hold applies pressure to the carotid artery--which supplies oxygenated blood to the head--causing the opponent to grow dizzy and disoriented almost immediately. When properly applied, a sleeper hold can cause unconsciousness in seconds and can lead to death if not loosened. If you practice sleeper holds with a friend or in a self-defence class, have your partner tap your arm when he wants you to loosen your grip.

Skill level:


  1. 1

    Get behind your attacker, and within range to put your arm around their neck. Sleeper holds are easier to apply from the rear.

  2. 2

    Wrap your arm around the throat of your attacker, positioning your biceps on side of the neck and your forearm on the other.

  3. 3

    Clutch your left biceps with your right hand and press your right arm against the attacker's throat with your left hand, if you're right-handed (if you're left-handed, apply in reverse). This will create the pressure necessary to restrict blood flow to the carotid artery (see Resources). Keep your head tucked down so that the attacker cannot reach your face.

  4. 4

    Compress the carotid artery using this sleeper hold until the attacker loses their strength, which should happen in a matter of seconds once they become disoriented and dizzy. Relax pressure once they calm down, but maintain the hold so that you are ready to apply more pressure if they try to fight again. For a very dangerous attacker, compress the artery until they are unconscious, then immediately let go.

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