Is it solely a matter of duration or not? Why is a pillow deadlier than a simple MMA choke (BJJ, whatever)? How does it work?

  • Side note, for people looking to more efficiently smother someone, pillows are a bad choice overall. It can take over three minutes because pillows are notably porous. – Macaco Branco Feb 25 '20 at 14:42

The two basic mechanisms when choking are blood and air. A skillful blood choke will knock someone out within seconds, say 2-20. A pillow choke blocks air, which takes much longer ~2? minutes. Death basically occurs when the brain has been deprived of oxygen for minutes. With a pillow, the person's brain is already oxygen starved when they pass out. If you hold a blood choke for minutes after the person goes unconscious, the expectation is this will result in death. This is why you let go. The person is still breathing with a heartbeat and will wake up.

As a martial matter, you always want to cut off blood. This will cause the opponent to go unconscious much faster than if you cut off air, when they will fight back with vigor to restore airflow.

  • I didn't understand this sentence: "With a pillow, the person's brain is already oxygen starved when they pass out". Doesn't a pillow kill, not just make someone 'pass out'? – Sergey Zolotarev Feb 25 '20 at 6:37
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    @SergeyZolotarev It makes you pass out before it kills. If you let go the moment the person falls unconscious, there will be like 99.9% of cases where they wake up later. The notable exception being a heart attack due to panic. It takes about 90-120 seconds to kill a person by oxygen deprivation, that's when brain tissue - any tissue, actually - becomes necrotic (dies). People fall unconscious much earlier since the brain is the main consumer of oxygen in our body and does not tolerate low levels of oxygen well. – Philip Klöcking Feb 25 '20 at 10:53
  • Is it possible to make someone pass out in just 2 seconds? – Sergey Zolotarev Feb 25 '20 at 18:30
  • @SergeyZolotarev Yes. I have personally done it once but am not skilled enough to do it on command. – mattm Feb 25 '20 at 18:47
  • @SergeyZolotarev Empirical research is giving varying numbers which suggest between 6 and 14 seconds from application to falling unconscious. Faster effect may happen due to additional factors (heart, panic, hypoxia due to strain, ...), but is unusual and there is no reliable way to do this. Once released, people spontaneously regain consciousness after 10-20 seconds. Movies are notoriously bad at depicting how chokes take effect. – Philip Klöcking Feb 26 '20 at 11:43

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