Whether you’re talking about a mixed martial arts bout, or vicious street attack, getting “choked” has to be one of the scariest things to happen to you. Your opponent or attacker is threatening the one thing we all need to live: air. By squeezing your neck they are doing much, much more to dominate you. Here is a list of just a couple effects of what else they are doing to you:

  1. Physically controlling you: By putting one or two hands around your neck, they are physically controlling your distance and movement. To lose this control has a direct effect over what we concretely can do to defend ourselves.
  2. Overwhelming you with their size because of proximity: By being and staying in the range necessary to put a hand around your throat, they can much more easily intimidate you with their size, in addition to overwhelming you physically.
  3. Psychological effect: When someone is choking you, they are in essence taking your freedom away, and deciding whether you should live or not. This is horrifying, which can bring on a “freeze” response, and bring you to their complete control.

To combat this we have a three step process in Krav Maga which can counter a choke from any position. The three steps are: Pluck, Bend, Strike. It is important to keep all counters, regardless of which angle they are attacking you from, you would do the same kind of response.

One of the many things I love about Krav Maga, is that is has the fewest answers to the most amount of questions. You can complicate things by having a “new” or different response to each kind of choke. If you have the same defensive counters, your mind can not only remember them better, but your body can react faster given the shorter reaction gap.

When there is a choke from the front, where you do a single hand pluck outward with one arm, while bending down and dipping the shoulder under the other person’s arm. This then allows you to have a straight line attack right to the opponent’s face with a palm strike.

Dealing with a choke from the side, you would again do a single hand pluck with the outside arm. Then bending down, dropping our altitude, gives us a great shot right at the person’s groin area with a hammer fist strike.

What about if someone grabs your neck from behind and tries to choke you? In that instance, we do a double hand pluck by reaching our hands back and ripping them off our neck. Then we step to the side and again deliver a low line hammer strike right to the groin area.

Will the “pluck” always work? No, but that doesn’t mean we fold up, and allow the assault to continue. We continue our own assault. If the pluck only produces a “loosening” of the choke, we’ll take that, and continue on to the next step. However, if the pluck move completely fails, keep going! The second step of each one of these defensive strategies doesn’t necessarily depend on the first one working perfectly.

Therefore, if the pluck fails, keep going! Drop your altitude, reposition yourself, step out of the way, etc. What would you do after that? Strike! The opponent won’t stop unless you give him a shot of pain. Focus on vulnerable areas, hit hard and if needed, hit multiple times. Then what? Run, escape, get the heck out of there! Don’t wait around, don’t continuously strike if they are down for the count… just gain as much distance as possible.