Strangling Techniques of Judo


Some of the most effective techniques in judo are strangling techniques, or shimewaza. In shiai (competition) or randori (free practice, sparring) these techniques are often used to obtain a victory via submission, while in mixed martial arts and self defence situations, strangle holds can quickly and relatively safely render the opponent unconscious.

This suited the philosophy of Jigoro Kano, the founder of judo. His aim was to create an effective martial art which allowed practitioners to defend themselves while preventing death or serious injury to the attacker.


The various governening bodies of judo around the world impose limitations on who can practice shimewaza. The most common method of restriction is based on age. Under the rules of the Scottish Judo Federation, which governs judo in my country, nobody under the age of 15 may use shimewaza, and nobody may use shimewaza against an opponent under the age of 15.

At club level, many instructors will not begin teaching shimewaza until a student demonstrates the appropriate level of skill and respect for the safety of their opponent.

Most judoka (judo practitioners) will, at some point, be taught kappo (resuscitation techniques)*. This ensures that immediate help is available should an opponent not regain consciousness upon the release of the hold. These include massaging the carotid triangle in order to stimulate the flow of blood to the brain, light slaps and shouting in order to assist the opponent in regaining mental focus when recovering from unconsciousness and massaging the chest and throat in order to assist the breathing of an opponent.

In addition to this, all martial arts instructors should have first aid training including CPR. If you are in any doubt about an instructor's knowledge of first aid then it is advisable to look for another dojo (school).

*I will not provide detailed guides to kappo. You cannot learn safely methods of resuscitation from text. Consult your sensei (instructor) if you wish to learn these techniques.

Principles of Shimewaza

In order for shimewaza to be effective, they must be performed in a way which causes suffient discomfort to make the opponent submit, or with enough pressure to cause ochiru (unconsciousness - this is a colloquial term used in judo and is not generally used in Japanese). The key to this is not strength - relying on physical power is not a good idea in judo. Instead, effective shimewaza are obtained through good technique.

In terms of application, shimewaza can generally be divided into two categories, those which are applied using your bare hands and those which are applied using the gi (suit).

With bare handed shimewaza it is important that you use the correct part of the forearm to choke the opponent. Hold your arm straight out in front of you, with the palm of your hand facing down. The top and bottom sides of the forearm are quite fleshy, while the left and right sides are hard, exposed bone under only a thin layer of skin. When applying a bare handed choke you should use a side of the arm with a hard bone. Pressing the top or bottom of the forearm into the opponent's neck will cause minimal discomfort and is not likely to affect his breathing or the blood flow to his brain. You must bear this in mind in order for your shimewaza to become effective.

With gi chokes you must carefully judge how much of the opponent's gi you need to use in order to apply the strangle. If, for example, you were applying a choke which required the use of the lapel, taking a grip too close to the opponent's neck would prevent you from drawing the gi across his throat. On the other hand, taking a grip too low on the opponent's lapel would leave you with an excessive amount of fabric, meaning that it would be difficult to create pressure on the opponent's throat.

Another way in which shimewaza may be categorised is in the nature of the attack. Some shimewaza will target the diapragm in order to impede the opponent's breathing, while others target the carotid artery at the side of the neck, which supplies blood to the brain. In general terms, diaphragm chokes are likely to result in a submission, as they can cause major discomfort, whereas carotid artery strangles are more likely to result in unconsciousness due to the fact that they do not cause similar discomfort, meaning that the opponent may not realise the effect that the technique is having.

It is important that you realise the intended target of individual shimewaza, as inappropriate application of a technique will severely limit its effect.

Commonly Used Shimewaza

I will not provide detailed guides to the applications of shimewaza, because I don't want to be responsible for some kid dangerously choking out their little brother after reading this. Below is a list of shimewaza with a brief description of each technique. It should be used as a grading reference in order to demonstrate your knowledge.

Okuri Eri Jime - Sliding Lapel Choke - Pulling the opponent's lapel tightly across his throat while pulling down on the opposite lapel to create tension against the diaphragm.

Kata Ha Jime - Wing Strangle - Applied from behind. One hand reaches across the opponent's throat, taking a grip on the collar of the gi. The other hand comes under the opponent's armpit, lifting his arm up, and pushes forward on the back of his head.

Hadaka Jime - Bare Hand Strangle - Applied from behind. One forearm is placed against the opponent's throat while the other hand comes over his opposite shoulder and clasps the choking arm for extra pressure.

Koshi Jime - Hip Strangle - Normally used when your opponent adopts a defensive "turtle" position on the mat. Okuri Eri Jime is applied from the side, then the attacker uses his hip to push down on the opponent's shoulder in order to provide extra pressure and prevent the opponent from standing up.

Sode Jime - Sleeve Strangle - Useful in newaza (groundwork) where the opponent breaks your hold-down by wrapping around your leg. One arm comes around behind the opponent's head. The hand takes a hold of the opposite sleeve, and your free arm comes across the opponent's throat for the choke.

I find that these are the shimewaza used most frequently in randori. Further information can be found online or in various books. I recommend "Shimewaza" from the Judo Masterclass series or "Best Judo," which every judoka should have anyway.

Final Words

Some judoka believe that it is not acceptable to submit from shimewaza. They seem to be of the opinion that you should resist until you lose consciousness. They seem to be ignorant of the fact that occasionally one will be caught with a flawlessly applied choke which cannot be resisted. There is no shame in submitting to shimewaza, despite what you may be told by certain individuals. Don't try to play "hero," you will regret it in the long run.

Shimewaza, as I have already stated, are some of the most effective techniques in judo. They can also be some of the most difficult to master. Learning strangles can be a time consuming process, and can test your patience, but don't be discouraged by this. All the practice will prove worthwhile when you go to a tournament and see the opponent's throat exposed for that brief, fateful moment.

DISCLAIMER: The author accepts no responsibility for other people's stupidity or irresponsible use of this information. Martial arts techniques should only be used in appropriate situations - in the dojo, at a tournament or in self defence.

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