Let us assume a very common choking technique (for example hadaka jime) performed on an average adult. If I understand correctly what I could gather from other questions, the main mechanism involved is compression of the carotid arteries. What I couldn’t find at all in answers to other questions is: what happens to the person?

During how many seconds would you say he can realistically fight back, as opposed to only witnessing himself losing consciousness? Does his face become blue (cyanosis), or another colour? Does he sweat? Does he shake? Does he make uncontrolled movements? Does he lose control over body functions? Does anything else happen? Do several things happen in succession; if so, in which order?

  • Anecdotal evidence - I was listening to an instructor in a classroom setting recently, and I leaned my neck on the heel of my hand. Evidently I occluded the carotid artery, and within about 6 seconds I saw spots, blurred vision, and lost all focus. No LOC, but I didn't occlude both sides. Very weird experience.
    – JohnP
    Mar 8, 2019 at 14:20

4 Answers 4


Philip Klöcking has done a good job covering what the person being choked experiences. I will try to cover other considerations.

In my experience, feeling pain is largely separated from whether a choke successfully cuts off blood flow. Pain will usually cause people to tap even when the blood choke is not that effective. You can also choke such that the choke is not painful and does not impair breathing but is very effective in cutting off blood.

Resistance time varies widely. This depends on the person doing the choking, the person being choked, and more.

  • If a choke is not tight and continuous, it's often possible to resist for > 30 seconds. Any time the person being choked can temporarily relieve pressure increases resistance time. In competitive judo, the match will be stopped and the referee will stand the competitors back up fairly quickly. For poor referees, this can be before the choke has sufficient time to work.

  • When a choke is done very skillfully, you may not even have a chance to recognize the danger and tap before you pass out. This can be true both of rolling chokes where the pressure increases suddenly, and of the painless variety of choke.

  • I think time to pass out also depends on the physical state of the person being choked. I would hypothesize that competitors in match conditions with high heart and breathing rates pass out faster than people at rest.

While someone is being choked effectively, I usually see the following, in order:

  • blood vessels in the head begin to bulge
  • face color begins to darken
  • eyes become glassy

After someone passes out, they may shake, sputter, urinate, or simply go limp. In the dozen or so cases I have seen, I would not say there is a normal set of things that happen or order that they occur in. This makes it difficult to tell when someone has passed out. When practicing chokes, I highly recommend having a third party present because they can often recognize someone has passed out before the choker.

  • 1
    The things you describe as "may happen after someone passes out" is more due to panicking than the actual choke, I'd presume. The effect of the choke is inconciousness and probably some circuit problems. I have never faced anything other than the total loss of tension. Feb 24, 2016 at 20:30

Subjective experience report incoming:

  1. It very much depends on the quality of the application and the strength ratios. The better the technique is applied and the stronger my opponent in relation to my choke resistance training is, the faster it will end. I can have students choking me at full strength without fading out just by resisting through neck muscles. But with an opponent of comparable strength and/or perfect technique, I will have to use my hands, elbows and whatever it takes.

  2. Your face becomes red.

  3. Normally, there is a sort of paralysis, the body concentrates on taking countermeasures against the actual choke and it takes some will-strength to move apart from that, e.g. to stand up.

  4. You have 3-8 seconds to fight back before fading as soon as the application is effective.

  5. Your field of vision blacks out "from the outside in", i.e. the field of your vision becomes smaller until there is only a small circle in the middle of what you normally see surrounded by blackness moments before you become unconscious (think of the iris of a camera or like in Stargate, closing slowly). If the choke ends then, this black "iris" opens again from the inside out. Exactly the same effect as a "black-out" experience by combat pilots at high g pressures "downwards", i.e. into the seat.

  6. The world goes slow motion. Seriously. It feels like much more time.

  7. If you have no effective counter within the first seconds, your strength begins to fade gradually. But you can perfectly act at will all the time as long as you do not panic.

  8. After some seconds, movements are becoming more rare, slower, less effective from an outside view. But they are definitely controllable from an inside perspective all the time. Tapping out would be quite pointless otherwise.

  9. After-effects are disorientation, lack of balance, and weakness. That is why being choked is dangerous even if you do not get unconscious. It is the same as bathing too hot and then standing up rapidly: Your body has to regulate your blood circulation and pressure, which is highly out of balance.

  • I accepted mattm’s answer since I was more specifically interested in visible changes, but your answer is very interesting too. I can only accept one, unfortunately.
    – Zoyd
    Feb 24, 2016 at 12:50
  • Great answer! #5 is confusing. Can you rephrase please?
    – Evorlor
    Feb 25, 2016 at 5:02
  • 2
    @Evorlor - Make your fingers into a circle like a little kid imitating a telescope. Put it up to your eye. Slowly close it into a fist. Your vision becomes a tunnel that closes down. Same type of effect, your "outside" vision (Peripheral) starts to blur, and your focus field (That which is still sharp) narrows and closes down.
    – JohnP
    Dec 3, 2018 at 18:33

I took the question "What happens to a person being choked" a bit more physiologically. From what I understand (from a 'straight dope' posting almost 20 years ago), a properly applied "blood choke" (as opposed to an "air choke), fools the body's defense mechanism into thinking that the brain is suddenly receiving a spike in blood pressure - which can be damaging. Along the arteries in the sides of the neck, there are these sensors called baroreceptors which sense pressure via deformation/bulging of the arteries. Normally, these provide feedback to modulate the heartrate in small steps, but if the baroreceptor suddenly detects an apparent spike in blood pressure, it signals the heart to quickly 'slow down', while trying to regulate the amount of blood in the head by diverting blood to other areas. This sudden lack of blood to the brain usually causes you to 'lie down' by passing out. Supposedly, based on personal experience leading up to (but not past the point) of passing out, the literature, videos, interviews, talks, lectures, etc., a properly applied blood choke will lead to unconciousness in 5 seconds or less.


The following study by the American Neurological Association observed the effects of cerebral hypoxia on 42/59 test subjects who completely lost consciousness:

Complete syncope with falling and loss of consciousness was observed in 42 subjects, lasting 12.1 ± 4.4 seconds. Myoclonic activity occurred in 38 of these 42 episodes (90%). The predominant movement pattern consisted of multifocal arrhythmic jerks both in proximal and distal muscles. Superposition of generalized myoclonus was common. Additional movements such as head turns, oral automatisms, and righting movements occurred in 79%. Eyes remained open throughout syncope in most subjects and initial upward deviation was common. Sixty percent reported visual and auditory hallucinations. Thirteen subjects had incomplete syncope with falls but partially preserved consciousness. These episodes were shorter and usually not accompanied by myoclonus and hallucinations. Transient amnesia and unresponsiveness without falling occurred in 1 subject.

Note the method for inducing cerebral hypoxia was not manual choking, but "a sequence of hyperventilation, orthostasis, and Valsalva maneuver".

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