“Every woman should learn this choke.”- Well, should they really? – Erik Kondo

“Every woman should learn this choke.”– Well, should they really? The above statement is an opinion about the widely viewed “Gracie Choke” technique video to be used against sexual assault. It seems that a number of people agree with it. On the surface, it sounds reasonable. After all, why not? What harm does knowing something create? (Full video here)

But let’s deconstruct it and see what that statement really means.

“Every woman” really means “most physically fit women”. For example, women with only one functioning hand, or have limited grip strength, or are very young or are old are not the ones being considered here. A “choke” is a technique. “to learn” really means “to be able to learn and execute” “should” really means “because it will work” AND there is a reasonable possibility of needing to use it.

Therefore, we now have the opinion statement expand to say:

“So and So thinks that most physically fit women are able to learn and execute this technique AND there is a reasonable likelihood that they will be in a situation where they need to make it “work” AND it will “work” against most types of male attackers.”

When it comes to a physical self-defense technique, what does it mean to “work”?

In my opinion, the most useful criteria come from Rory Miller’s Golden Move, where the Move has the effect of:

  • Damaging your attacker
  • Weakening his or her position.
  • Strengthening your position.
  • Protects you from damage.

A technique is a sequential set of one or more moves. Therefore, a technique that “works”, has a high probability of meeting ALL of the above criteria.

  1. If it causes your attacker to be unconscious or dead, you have damaged him or her.
  2. If your attacker is unconscious or dead, you have weakened his or her position.
  3. If your attacker is unconscious or dead, you have strengthened your position.
  4. If your attacker is unconscious or dead, you are now protected from damage from him.

At first glance, it seems like the choke, meets all the criteria for “working”. But, not so fast, there is one more element to consider. That element is time.

According to the extended video it takes “6 seconds” for the technique to be effective. Is that an average of 6 seconds, where some people execute it in two or three seconds and others in 10 or 15 seconds against the “average” attacker? Or is that the minimum time it takes for a skilled practitioner to make it “work”?

Given that it is highly unlikely a scientific choke study was done to determine an “average” of 6 seconds. Most likely, it takes a skilled practitioner 6 seconds, and a less skilled practitioner longer. Is that 8, 10, 15 seconds or more? I don’t know, and my guess is that nobody else knows either.

The reason the time lag is important is because of what could be happening while the woman’s hands and legs are occupied with the technique and she is waiting for it to take effect. Assuming that the close body position doesn’t allow the attacker to engage in power full punching, it still does allow for the possibility that the attacker might be able to use his free body parts to:

  • Gouge and claw the woman’s eyes.
  • Crush her wind pipe.
  • Squeeze and choke her along neck with this hand(s).
  • Drive this thumb or fingers into pressure points in her neck.
  • Rip off her ear.
  • Drive his finger into her ear canal.
  • Drive his fingers into her nose.
  • Bite her, rip, and tear her flesh.
  • Dig his knuckles deep into her ribs.
  • Drive his head into her face.
  • Drive his forearm into and across her face and or throat.
  • Utilize short whip-like facial strikes.
  • Reach and deploy a concealed weapon such as a knife or other sharp object.
  • And other types of related of close quarter infighting attacks.

All of this could be done in the time it takes for the technique to take effect. In reality, during this time period, it is probable that

  • The attacker is not damaged.
  • The attacker’s position is not worsened.
  • The woman’s position is not improved.
  • he woman is taking damage.

In this case, the technique meets all the requirements for being the exact opposite of a Golden Technique.

When someone is being choked in a real life confrontation, they have no idea of whether the choker is only trying to knock them unconscious, or is actually trying to kill them. Therefore, someone who is being choked is likely to be “fighting back” for his life and will use any and all means available.

Choking requires taking away excess space which means getting very tight to the person and limiting his movements. The woman must cease her escape response and focus all her efforts on attacking. That requires a mental switch from fear based “get away” actions to anger based “attack the attacker” actions. In the situation envisioned, the attacker now no longer has the option to willingly stop his attack and disengage. He is literally being forced to stay and engage in what could be a life or death struggle.

If the attacker’s actions cause the woman’s choke to fail, she is now positioned very close to him. And she has likely expended a great deal of energy in trying to make it “work”. What is her next option? Instruction of a technique is incomplete without addressing what to do if it fails.

The next question is “How exactly is this technique learned?” This is a physical technique that requires repeated physical practice to learn. The student has to learn proper hand position and wrist extension. She needs to understand the proper angles of to apply force. Some people will take much longer than others. But everyone will need lots of practice time.

Regardless, to become reliably proficient, she would have to practice it against a wide variety of men of different weight, neck sizes, and musculature. Fat necks, thin necks, skinny necks, muscular necks, sweaty necks, heavy shirts, light shirts, tight shirts, loose shirts, sweat shirts, dress shirts are some of the types of men and clothes she needs to practice against and with (and what about a person with no shirt?).

She also needs to be able to execute the technique in the scenario intended for its use. Since the choke is promoted as a defense against a stranger rape attack, for realism, she needs to practice with men who she is not psychologically comfortable training with. Men who can create the real fear and feeling sexually assaulting her. These men would have to violently force themselves on top of her and between her legs in order to create both the physical position and the mental stress required to realistically “practice” execution and condition her emotionally.

They would also have to resist in manner consistent with someone who thinks he is being choked to death. And as with many types of learned physical techniques, she would need to periodically refresh her skills for her entire life in order to not forget how to do it.

The final issue is whether this type of practice will cause her to fixate on a type of attack that is both statistically unlikely to happen and also doesn’t represent the type of sexual assault that usually does happen to women. The vast majority of women are assaulted by men they know or are in some type of a relationship with. They don’t actively resist, and they don’t report the crime. And in many cases alcohol is involved which impairs their ability to execute physical defense.

How will the choke be used in these circumstances? Remember, any choke comes with the possibly of causing death. In order to choke someone, you must be willing to take the chance you will inadvertently kill him or her. That reality requires a certain mindset and emotional state to use it in a conflict.

On the flip side there ARE a number of benefits from learning this choke that do apply to physical self-defense. But that doesn’t mean “every woman should learn this choke”. It means that some women who choose to engaging in this type of training may benefit in the following manner if they train realistically.

  1. They would realize that just like women, men vary greatly in not only in body type, but in willingness to endure pain and willingness to continue to attack when faced with determined resistance. This fact may seem obvious, but how would a woman who never engaged in head to head competition with a variety of men know that? Particularly, a woman who believes (has been repeatedly told) that all men are stronger than all women?
  2. They would realize that the manner in which this choke can be broken provides the key to counter-attacking in a real life sexual assault. All the nasty infighting tactics mentioned previously are effective ones for women to use if they find themselves in this type of situation. By understanding what would cause themselves to disengage their own chokes, they may understand what may cause their attackers to disengage their attacks.
  3. They would realize that what they have been told about learning specific self-defense techniques to deal with specific types of attacks is unlikely to help them. For most people, skilled based physical techniques are likely to fail under stress. But instinctive actions that have been conditioned under stress based scenarios have a higher likelihood of success.
  4. They would benefit from learning physical skills that require a combination of flexibility, strength, coordination, timing, and confidence. Skill building is generally very beneficial even if you never apply the skill in real life.
  5. As long as they know the practical limitations of their techniques, they will benefit from the learning process itself. Specifically, learning when NOT to attempt to use certain techniques is a valuable part of this learning process.
  6. Assuming realistic practice, they will develop the mindset and mental conditioning needed to have a greater chance of successfully resist an assault.
  7. They will be in a supportive environment with other women and men who all have the same goal of improving their ability to successfully defend themselves from a physical attack.

When it comes to whether or not “every woman (or man) should do something”. It is important to recognize who else benefits from what they all “should be doing”. Is it all women as implied, or is it really someone or something else?

There is a big difference between something being beneficial for SOME women and ALL women, because something that may help some women in some situations may also hurt other women in other situations.


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