Tuesday, 28 April 2009

Escape from Front Strangulation

In last nights class one of the things we looked at was escape from a front strangulation. I don't know about you but I think that apart from being attacked with a knife or shot at, strangulation is the scariest way of being attacked. I think it's that feeling of imminent death. You know you have only got a few seconds before you become unconscious and so you have to be able to react immediately - no leeway for freezing or panicking.

In fact for a manual strangulation where the attacker just uses their own hands you have between 7 and 14 seconds, depending on how hard the attacker can compress your trachea. With a blood choke hold in which the emphasis is on compressing the carotid arteries that run up the side of the neck, you only have 3 to 5 seconds! This is scary stuff. Since the majority of strangulations are performed on women by men (it's extremely unlikely that a woman can manually strangle a man) it's important that us women know how to respond quickly and effectively.

So what should we do? One of the things that Sensei has taught us is to turn the head to the side and put the chin down. The effect of this is to move your trachea from under this thumbs to the palm of his hand and thus release some of the pressure - this may buy you a few more seconds. You can actually demonstrate this on yourself: if you put the fingers of your right hand around the back of your neck with the palm on the left side of your neck so that your right thumb is over your trachea and press slightly, then turn your head to the left, you will feel your trachea move from under your thumb. Now, how easy it would be to move your head if someone is squeezing your neck very tightly I don't know but it's got to be worth a try.

Having bought yourself a few extra seconds, I would argue that you now need to apply the K.I.S.S. No I don't mean kiss him, I mean Keep It Simple Stupid! I do not think this is the time to try applying fancy, fiddly locks or doing other overcomplicated moves - especially not at my stage of training. I would favour moves that cause him to loosen his grip and unbalance him. Lifting your arm up and smashing your elbow down on his arm works quite well for loosening a stranglehold as does stepping backwards and downwards with one leg and turning sideways - this will unbalance him at the same time. If you still can't run away at this point then I would choose techniques that are powerful and quick to execute like elbow strikes to the head, palm heel strikes to the jaw, kicks to the groin or pushing thumbs into the eyes. Make a lot of noise while you are doing this - this is not the time to be shy about kiaiing - you may attract attention, startle him a little, protect yourself from further blows from him and increase the power in your own strikes.

here are some videos of women's self defense against strangles:

I think the important thing is to discover what is effective against the attacker and is easy and memorable for you to execute, we're all different, find what works for you, you've only got seconds.....

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Michele said...

Gotta love elbows and knees! You make an important point at the end of your post..."find what works for you".

Informative post...thanks.

Sue C said...

Michele - thanks for your comment. We just have to keep practising these things until they are second nature - I just hope I never need it in real life!

Anonymous said...

I agree any form of choking or strangulation is a dangerous attack (given the possibly dire outcome) and not that unlikely, especially for women because it is a technique that is usually applied by the strong on the weak. That being said it’s also one of the easiest attacks to defend against (if you know what you’re doing), especially a two-handed front-choke. From a tactical perspective it’s a pretty clumsy/idiotic attack because a) you usually see it coming and b) he uses his two hands while leaving yours completely free (he’s basically giving you his weapons), combined with the proximity of vital-targets on his body it’s a quite dangerous thing to do (for him) and usually an indication your attacker is an amateur. As you can see there’s cause for optimism here but since most people never had any training and no experiencing with this it can be a very potent and potentially deadly form of attack. Most people in that situation panic and expend a lot of energy on completely ineffective countermeasures like grasping his hands and trying to pry them off of you, if he’s stronger (which he will be) this won’t work and you’ll lose valuable seconds.

What we teach is to always look out for what is called the primary danger: what does he want to achieve with his attack and what is the first thing you need to counter, that is what the most dangerous aspect of this particular situation? In a standing choke it’s two things: obviously you need to break the choke since it can bring on unconsciousness very quickly and leaves you to the mercy of your attacker. The second danger, which is usually overlooked, is loss of balance and the continuation of the fight on the ground with him in a vastly superior position. In a real situation attacks are always dynamic: an attacker will not just put his hands around your throat and stay stationary, he’ll most likely push you back while choking or pull you towards him. Either way you’ll have to restore your balance or you will end up on the ground (I consider a choke on the ground much more dangerous than one done standing since your mobility is severely curtailed and he can use his bodyweight more effectively).

The single most effective way of countering both threats is to fall back in kiba-dachi or the horse-stance: this will turn your head reducing the pressure on your throat (your sensei was correct in his suggestion). The horse-stance is very powerful sideways: he can push all he wants or be as strong as he wants, he’ll never be able to move you or throw you off balance. From that stabilized position there are quite a lot of counterattacks you can launch. I like the second option in the first video (also shown in the first): raising the arm and turning your whole body is an excellent way of removing his hand from your throat (it relies solely on body-mechanics on not on strength) and it traps his other hand, leaving you free to dish out damage with your elbows. From there you can choose according to your experience, training and fancy: you can follow-up with punches, kicks, locks, throws… Your first reaction is the single most important stage in the defense and it usually determines the outcome of the fight: perform with speed and aggressiveness and you’ll have won half the battle, muck it up and you’re basically done for.

Anonymous said...

I don’t like the first option: this krav-maga technique relies on plucking his hands away from your throat and kicking. While this may be a viable option when pushed up against a wall in other circumstances it’s a serious liability: if he comes at you with speed and power and his goal is to push you off balance you’ll actually be doing him a favor by leaning back and raising your leg to kick. The most likely outcome of this action is you ending up on your back with him on top of you choking you out, that is if he didn’t smash your head on the ground in the process. To each his own of course but I’m not a big fan of kicking while he controls your body (grabbing, choking…): kicking takes time and if he happens to pull or push you while you’re preparing to kick (standing on one leg) your balance will be taken and he’s in control of the fight. When training always make sure your partner attacks you properly (unrealistic attacks lead to unrealistic defenses which’ll make for a nasty surprise if you ever have to use this for real) and vice-versa: as I’ve said before you won’t be doing your partner a favour by going easy on him or her.

Good exposition on the dangers of the choke and the need to take decisive action.


Sue C said...

Hi Zara,
I agree with you that the victim shouldn't do anything that would put themselves off balance, like trying to kick whilst being pushed backwards. This is a situation where I can see the value of using some strong, lowish stances to make it harder for the attacker to get you to ground.
Thanks for commenting.


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