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  • Writer's pictureBJJ Report | Matthew Tropp

Risking the Blackout: BJJ Chokes!

Updated: Apr 13

MEDICAL DISCLAIMER: The content of this article, including any reference to choking techniques in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu (BJJ), is provided for general educational purposes only and should not be taken as professional medical advice. If you wish to learn or implement any practices mentioned, it is crucial that you consult a qualified healthcare provider beforehand, particularly if you suffer from any known medical conditions or have concerns about the risk of injury.

Please be acutely aware that this article is not and should not be interpreted as a substitute for professional diagnosis or treatment. To ensure your safety and well-being, only practice BJJ under the careful guidance of a trained and qualified instructor.

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I’m scared to ask but I keep hearing it from more people every day! Should I get choked out and be put to sleep just to see what it’s like? I hear that there is a sense of accomplishment when this happens. A rite of passage per se’. I hear stories of that time when a student thought they were ok and the next thing you know they wake up. Oddly enough I hear it’s a euphoric experience.. I am not sure if at all this is a good idea. In fact it seems to be a horrible idea.

OK!!! FIRST AND FOREMOST. Lets make sure we understand a few things...

Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu (BJJ) is a grappling-based martial art renowned for its effective ground fighting techniques and submission holds, including various chokes. Amongst the most common chokes are the rear-naked choke and the triangle choke. By design, these techniques can be immensely powerful; however, they also carry inherent risks that practitioners should be aware of.

Chokes in BJJ are categorized into two main types: blood chokes and air chokes. Blood chokes apply pressure to the sides of the neck, squeezing the carotid arteries, and thereby reducing or cutting off blood flow to the brain. On the other hand, air chokes impact the windpipe, obstructing breathing. Both types of chokes, if applied with precision, can lead to rapid unconsciousness. While the prospect of rendering someone unconscious may sound alarming, in the controlled environment of a BJJ academy, this risk is usually well-managed. However, it's crucial to recognize the potential hazards.


The primary risk of being choked unconscious is brain damage, caused by an insufficient supply of oxygen to the brain. The brain is highly sensitive to oxygen deprivation, and even a brief lack of supply can result in injury. This is why the culture of "tapping out," or submitting when in a compromising position, is so deeply encouraged. It's a safety valve designed to prevent serious harm.

Understanding and recognizing the signs of unconsciousness from a choke is vital. These include the practitioner going limp, ceasing to struggle, or not responding to verbal cues. If someone is choked unconscious, it's important to release the choke immediately and assess their condition. Returning them gently to a supine position and ensuring they have a clear airway are the first steps I have seen happen from time to time (this is not medical advice). Typically, consciousness returns within a few seconds, but if there is any doubt about their condition, medical help should be sought without delay (highly recommended).

There is always a person that I imagine in every academy that has to push the limits and see how far they can take it. We all want to see how far we can last before we have to tap. Is this a good or bad idea? At what point do we cross the blurred lines of practicing safe? That being said, there’s value in learning how to swim in deep waters.

Training safely in BJJ involves several key factors. Practitioners should learn and master proper choking techniques under the guidance of qualified instructors to ensure they're applying them correctly. Effective communication with training partners is also essential; there should be mutual trust and an understanding that either person will tap out when necessary, and their partner will respect the submission immediately. Furthermore, familiarity with one's own limits—and respecting those—can help mitigate the risk of accidents on the mats.

Here is a scenario: you take your opponents back; he is a higher rank than you. He doesn't want to tap for whatever reason (ego, self confidence or stupidity). The class is rather large (and your professor happens to be coaching another set of students) and you put him to sleep. You're not sure however that he is asleep and squeezed tighter, he goes limp. Let's take it further…. He doesn't respond right away to being revived…

BJJ Report Learn to tap
How should we properly learn to tap while being choked?

Maybe some students don’t know or haven't been instructed when to tap. Maybe they think they can hold the line a bit more than they are truly able to and in fact this could be why people get injured more than not. Should there be a mandatory class that literally has the professor choke each student out or at least to a critical point where they must

tap or fall asleep. YES/NO?

Being told how to tap is pretty casual “hey white belt” if you feel your in danger, just tap or say tap”

Getting choked to unconsciousness is never fun, or is it? Oh, and don't forget that crazy noise you hear when the last second of the choke happens...similar to when neo is released from the matrix… “ZZzzZZzzZZZzooooUUuUuHHHhHhhhh”

BJJ Report Choking can get us arrested
Can we go to jail for choking someone in a fight?

Choking is simulating murder, correct? If a police officer sees you doing this to another person could you be charged with attempted murder? I am not an attorney and I don't know the legal answer but I imagine I would be arrested (or praised if I were on Instagram holding a person who just tried to rob someone) just saying...

Does your Jiu Jitsu professor go over this in class while teaching this to you? I feel like it could be important.

Becoming accustomed to stressful situations is the key to success in Jiu Jitsu across all arenas whether it be on IBJJF approved mats, or the mean streets of whatever dive bar you picked a fight in. Being able to identify when a strangle will put you out, and staying calm as your air supply is dwindling or when the blood stops feeding your Jiu Jitsu addicted brain is the key to turning a shit situation into a win.

What is the best way to approach this? Within reason, I think it’s important to discover your limits. Having an instinctual reference will help you make better tactical decisions in the heat of the moment when someone has a deep rear naked strangle or Bow & Arrow slapped on is standard. Being able to know how many seconds you have before lights out can help you to create the fastest way to get out or make the decision to submit. The other side of the coin is when you don't know how deep the choke is and all of the sudden its tunnel vision time.

In summary, while the risk of getting choked unconscious in BJJ is present, it can be managed through educated practice, respect for partners, and adherence to the ethos of tapping out. The priority in training should always be the safety and health of all participants, maintaining BJJ as an enriching and sustainable combat sport.

Tap Often and Tap Early (always be safe),

Matthew Tropp | BJJ Report

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