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In martial arts which permit submissions, a distinction is sometimes made between "chokes" and "strangles", however in my experience these terms are not used consistently.

What is the difference between these?

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The three main mechanisms of choking technique are:

Choke Mechanism Synonyms
"blood" choke compresses the sides of the neck, restricting blood flow to head sleeper hold, carotid restraint, vascular neck restraint
"air" choke compresses the throat (trachea), restricting breathing tracheal choke, throttle
body constriction compresses the chest and/or abdomen, restricting breathing body crush, body compression, body scissors, positional asphyxiation

However the terminology for the first two mechanisms is inconsistent and often ambiguous, differing between dialects (e.g. British vs American English) and contexts (different martial arts, forensics, law enforcement etc). As such, various terms refer to techniques using either or both mechanism:

  • e.g. choke, choke hold, strangle, strangle hold, strangulation, neck hold

This ambiguity is perhaps due to the nature of strangulation techniques - given resistance from the defender, different angles of application, and the variant sizes of people's forearms and necks, any particular technique may constrict either or both the carotids and trachea.

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    I remember this one confusing me very much as a child, as "strangle" always sounded more like cutting off air supply, although it made more sense if you imagine someone choking on their food, which would cut off their air, but not compress the bloodflow. – Macaco Branco Sep 24 '19 at 11:04
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    I agree there are distinct blood and air mechanisms for chokes/strangles. I disagree that the terms choke and strangle are used in any consistent or systematic way to distinguish between the blood and air mechanisms. – mattm Sep 24 '19 at 15:27
  • @mattm ah, I didn't intend to imply the terminology was consistent, will reword it to make it clearer. – brazofuerte Sep 24 '19 at 15:30

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