Don’t Choke Under Pressure

| August 4, 2016 | 3 Comments

I had the extremely good fortune to listen to William Aprill of Aprill Risk Consulting speak at the Hebrew Hogger event last weekend. I was doubly fortunate to train disarms with him immediately afterwards.

Every student in the class paired up, and had a training gun. Students were allowed to use any other practice tools: I had my Clinch Pick trainer and custom KABAR TDI trainer.

My training partner was a lady about The She-Shepherd’s size. I stepped forward, shook her hand, and introduced myself. Her demeanor was confident, she was in shape, and she had bruises on her forearms and biceps that looked familiar after my time in ECQC.

Mr. Aprill coached us to focus on the disarm, and then do whatever came naturally afterwards. If we were grapplers, stick with grappling. If we used tools, use them. If we were strikers, by all means, strike. “[During the disarm] is not the time to learn,” he said.

I could tell after about four repetitions that my partner had been training Krav Maga or something similar. She continually targeted my groin, thighs, and tops of my feet. She also ended most techniques by setting up a leg trip (she was kind enough not to do so, we were practicing in a parking lot).

Every once in awhile she would put me in a standing head-and-arm choke.

The first time she did this, she gave my neck a slight squeeze and immediately let go. “OH!” she exclaimed apologetically, “you don’t know how to tap.”

I thanked her for not choking me, but told her that she could go a little bit harder and longer than that.

A few repetitions later she put me in the standing triangle again. I passed the handgun from my right hand (pinned against the side of my neck and head) to my left, and put the muzzle to her temple.

She laughed, and stated, “I don’t think you could do that if I really choked you.”

I had no idea if she was right. I choked a bully out when I was 15 with a rear naked choke. I was very surprised how quickly it worked.

“Let’s try it,” I said, “I’ll tap if it gets too bad.”

So we tried it again. I let her set the choke, and gave her a 2-count before I started to struggle.

There was a lot more pressure, and could hear my pulse in my ears. Given time, she could have choked me out. I’m sure of it.

However, it was definitely not fast enough to keep me from transitioning hands and “shooting” her.

I thought she was still holding back, out of not wanting to hurt me.

Without stopping our drill, I passed the pistol back to my right hand.

“Go ahead whenever you’re ready. Give it all ya got,” I said.

She let go.

“I was.”

This was a learning moment for both of us.

I do not mean to diminish my partner, who was clearly tough, had put in her time, and was dedicated.

I do not mean to diminish whatever fighting style she has been learning.

I do mean to call out that we should all be cautious about what we learn, and pressure test it against an unwilling training partner.

Wherever she trains, students are tapping early and often, without validating the effectiveness of what they are doing.

Had we been fighting “for real,” I could have passed a brick, club, knife, or gun from one hand to the other and gained the advantage.

Trust, but verify, that the techniques taught to you are effective.

Photo by Eric Langley – Flickr: [1], CC BY 2.0,


About the Author:

Short Barrel Shepherd Short Barrel Shepherd is a regular guy and works to make Web sites and mobile apps easier for people to use. He spends his free time attending fight-focused firearm, knife, and combatives training, motorcycling, writing, and playing games. His daily carry is a Glock 19 pistol and an AR15 .300 Blackout pistol in a backpack.

3 Comments on "Don’t Choke Under Pressure"

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  1. Martin says:

    Your comment about pressure testing is absolutely correct. I had learned a technique to get out of a rear naked choke in a Systema class. So we decided to test it by a scenario where the attacker is applying this choke from the back seat of a car on a person sitting in the front seat. The guy who was to choke me was 5’11” and about 200 lbs and had been training in judo for some time. So when he applied the choke my eyes nearly popped out of my head and my face was red as a tomato in one second. I will have to say I was momentarily stunned by how hard this guy was choking me. Anyway, I used the technique and escaped the choke. I did it several times and the sudden shock of being aggressively choked became more manageable. I am glad the guy really tried to choke me for real because it gave me a realistic confidence that I could manage such a situation in the future. So you are absolutely right that you need to realistically train to see if your techniques actually work.

    • Short Barrel Shepherd Short Barrel Shepherd says:

      Stress inoculation is REAL. I am glad you had this experience — now you know that you can survive long enough to do something.

      Thanks for sharing your experience!

  2. FC says:

    Fond family memories. About 12-15 years ago, we visited my great grandmother and first cousins. One of my cousins was a brown belt at the time, in either Tae Kwan Do or Karate (i can’t remember). Her friend kept talking it up about how great my cousin was in the sport, expecially how to get out of head locks.

    A few minutes go by, and the friend has talked my cousin into a demo. Next thing i know, I’m head locking my cousin. The things she didn’t know about me were 1) i had just been trained to restain people*, 2) i understood the mechanics of a head lock, and 3) i was already aware of all common counter headlocks moves being taught at the time.

    She first tried to dismantle my locking hand, which failed. I had tucked my thumps inside the grip.

    Then she tried to brute fource break my lock by pulling down. She couldn’t break it. She then tried to toss me over her head, which also failled because she couldn’t affect me center of gravity.

    The she moved on to elbo blows. All she got was air. It was scary how easy i could predict the next strike by how her shoulders moved.

    She began to do serious heal strikes on my shins. I didn’t flinch. Side note: my left shin was covered in Adidas impressions for three days.

    Nothing she did worked. My mother was watching this all along and realized I was holding back. I suddenly herd my mother call out “put her in a chicken wing”, so I did. With her in a half chicken wing hold, I heard mother “she panicking, the fights over,” a declaration that surprised me.

    Post fight debrief my mom told us: never let anybody goad you into fight, even your friends. Never show off your skills, even for friends. Never underestimate your opponents. Taurament styles won’t beat street due to rules pepple dont follow.

    A few years later, my mom finally admitted that she used to hang out with a street fighter when she was in high school. She had watched this street fighter push taurament style users just enough to make them come out of denile of reality. Because of how easy it was for the friend to goad the cousin, she told me to do the restaint because she did not see the face she had seen her friend cause on her other friends before. She called the fight at the half restraint because she saw the ackowledgement of reality just before the panic, the panic was the realization that her toolbox was empty.

    *Our state required restaint traing at the for therapeutic fooster care at the time. Now that is a calling.


    P.s. i tried to proof read, but i typed this on my phone.

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