When performed in the ring by mixed martial arts fighters, the chokehold rarely results in medical complications. But on the streets, it’s a different story. What’s happening to your body as you’re being strangled or choked?

Are there different types of choke holds? And why can an evil grin help you? Choking shuts down the victim’s ability to get oxygen to their brain by closing their airway or cutting off the blood supply. It also causes a deep sense of panic. So if you want to survive, follow these steps.

Step 1: Protect Your Neck

Being strangled can increase your risk of brain injury, stroke, cardiac arrhythmia, or trauma to your neck. Any of these can reduce your quality of life and lead to death. So protecting your neck is the most critical step, and it should be your immediate focus. You’ll need to keep your airway clear.

If you’re in a blood choke, you must lessen the pressure on your carotid artery, the major blood vessels in your neck that supply blood to your brain. If it’s an air choke, you must gain space around the trachea or windpipe so you can breathe. If you don’t reduce the pressure from your attacker fast enough, you could lose consciousness or die.

To relieve the pressure, put your weight into loosening your attacker’s grip. Don’t just pull on them. Instead, put as much weight as possible against your attacker’s grip. Once their grip is a little looser, oxygen will flow to your brain. And hopefully, your attacker will be tired from resisting your weight and loosen their grip even more.

Another way to protect your airway is by using the Turtle Shell technique. Tuck your chin down and raise your shoulders. This will help support and protect your neck. And you can also buy time is by smiling. That’s right, smiling. Not like you’re posing for a picture, but like the Joker in the Batman movies.

If someone is strangling you from the front, give them your best Joker grin. This move will lower your chin, protecting your airway. It will also make your neck puff up, creating an extra cushion to protect your carotid arteries and trachea.

Step 2: Break Free

Even though you can breathe now, you’re not entirely off the hook. You still need to fight and break free. Survey your surroundings for possible weapons you can use, and stay focused. Loosen your attacker’s chokehold, and make sure your attacker doesn’t get a new grip. They’re your top prioriies.

You could be fighting for your life. So bite your attacker’s fingers, poke their eyes, and try getting them off balance by slamming their body into a wall or onto the ground. And headbutt them with the back of your head.

Try taking a step to the side to create some distance between you and the attacker. In this case, we’ll say “step to the right”. This will also expose the attacker. Now, use your left hand to strike downwards to their groin. Then move your left elbow straight up into their face.

Unfortunately, a move like this may not be second nature to you, especially under the pressure of being attacked. So you might want to practice this in a self-defense class or take up martial arts.

Step 3: Play Dead

Only use this as a last resort. Relax to make the attacker think they have succeeded in choking you. Try being quiet and calm during the choking. Don’t let your attacker know that you’re afraid or that their choking is working. This might give them a boost of confidence. They probably like the power trip of watching you suffer. In the case of domestic abuse, most abusers do not strangle to kill. They strangle to show they can kill you.

And unfortunately, domestic abuse strangulation is very common. One in four women will experience intimate partner violence in their lifetime. And up to 68% of them will suffer near-fatal strangulation at the hands of their partner.

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