San Diego recruits learn choking techniques
By Cpl. Jess Levens
| | April 15, 2005
MARINE CORPS RECRUIT DEPOT SAN DIEGO, Calif. --
Recruit Wayne Robinson, Platoon 3073, M Company, cringed when Sgt. Oliver Schiess wrapped him in a python-like blood choke.
"When he squeezed, I felt tingling around my brain," said Robinson, red in the face. "I got really light headed."
Fortunately, this was only training. There are two chokes that recruits must learn - the rear choke and the figure-4 variation - in the Marine Corps Martial Arts Program beginner syllabus, according to Staff Sgt. Roger A. Taylor, close-combat instructor, Instructional Training Company.
"They're basically the same chokes," said Taylor. "The difference between the two is the placement of the hands."
To perform a rear choke, the choker wraps his bicep and forearm around the opponent's neck, clasps his hands together and squeezes. The figure-4 variation is a similar move, except the hand on the choking arm is placed on the opposite bicep, and the other hand goes behind the opponent's head.
These two chokes are in a category called blood chokes, which means pressure on the carotid artery stops blood from flowing to the brain. Air chokes, which block breathing, are another story.
"We teach blood chokes because they incapacitate the enemy faster," said Taylor. "A blood choke usually takes eight to 13 seconds to work, but an air choke takes between 30 seconds and one minute usually."
A blood choke's speediness becomes viable in any combat situation, said Taylor, but especially when fighting multiple opponents.
"It's much better to incapacitate someone in eight seconds than to fight another attacker off for a minute while you wait for the air choke to work," said Taylor.
These techniques are dangerous, but recruits must apply them in training to confirm mastery. To counter any accidents, ITC experts and the drill instructors make sure safety is paramount, according to Taylor.
Before the recruits take on the chokes, instructors give a safety brief and demonstration, and the recruits must slowly practice "by the numbers." Once off the number system, recruits go live with the choking. For training purposes, they apply slow, steady pressure to their opponents' necks. This would not be the case in actual combat.
We apply slow pressure in training because a jolting, crushing squeeze could collapse the trachea," said Taylor. "But in combat, a jolting squeeze is ideal."
If a recruit feels endangered by a constricting arm around his neck, he can safeguard himself with a tap.
"When we teach any chokes or holds, the tap-out rule always applies," said Taylor.
In accordance with this rule, the choke victim can yell "Tap tap tap!" when the pressure sets in, or he can tap his body or the choker's body with his hand, like in professional wrestling. Another precaution ITC experts take is that recruits aren't allowed to hold the choke for more than five seconds.
Drill instructors keep close eyes on the training and walk through the ranks to ensure recruits are following the safety rules.
"The drill instructors all know these techniques already," said Taylor. "So they are constantly fault-checking the recruits."
Recruits earn their beginner tan belts when they graduate boot camp, but they are far from choke masters. To advance in Marine Corps martial arts, one can learn about seven more choking techniques, from ground front chokes to using a choking wire. But for the basically trained Marine, the rear choke and the figure-4 variation do the trick.