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Techniques to escape the sleeper hold

By John Perkins, Al Ridenhour, and Matt Kovsky

Avoiding the Sleeper Hold

The sleeper hold, also known as the mugger’s yoke or carotid choke, has been outlawed by most police departments because, although intended only to induce unconsciousness, the carotid arteries of some people will not reopen once the hold is released. We advise extreme caution when practicing this hold and its counters.

The sleeper hold is performed by placing one arm around a person’s throat from behind, using the biceps area and the inner forearm of that arm against the carotid arteries on either side of the neck. The hand of that choking arm hooks into the inside elbow of the other arm (figure 10.2a), which goes behind the neck, locking it in. The assailant presses the hand of the locking arm forward against the back of the victim’s head to cinch it tighter. If you are aware of your surroundings and know the principles in this book, however, you are unlikely to succumb to this deadly hold.

There are a number of escapes to combat this technique before the attacker can fully apply it (not all of them may be available in a particular circumstance):

1. Stick your arm in front of your neck and tuck your chin as someone attempts to apply the lock. Your arm will prevent a solid lockdown as well as elbow strike the attacker (figure 10.2b). This is what the fright reaction is for. You can now use your free hand to reach back and gouge out his eyes, which usually causes a release.

2. Slam the assailant’s groin with a chop or hammer fist.

If you find yourself fully in the grip of this hold because of various factors, such as being attacked by multiple assailants or being stunned by a blow to the head, you could attempt one or more of the following releases. (When practicing them, have your partner hold with full power without pressing on your arteries.) You must perform the releases in under three seconds.

1. Turn your chin into the crook of the choking arm. Simultaneously, raise your shoulders and bear down with your chin to relieve some of the choking pressure. Try to bite the attacker’s forearm.

2. While holding the fingers of the attacker’s front hand, practice reaching backward and peeling the fingers off the arm that is behind your head. This will make the choke weaker if you are standing or being pulled off your feet.

3. When an attacker feels you releasing his grip, he may try to change tactics. You must seize the opportunity and instantly twist out of the choke.

Remember, you can easily be killed with this choke. It’s you or him. Eye-gouge to maximum effect. If necessary, push your fingers into his eye to hit the brain.

Most people will release their grip once their fingers or thumb are pulled or twisted. There are, however, some rare individuals who possess prodigious strength and will not release. Here is where you need a sharp weapon or a handgun. Even a ballpoint pen will do. If the pen is held in the ice-pick grip, gouge it deep into the soft area of the arm above the elbow. If it’s in the forehand grip, drive it into his eyes or arm. It could save your life to shop for and always carry a stout metal pen with a large, flat top and a rubber grip. Do not carry it in the V or crook of the neckline of a polo shirt because you may not have access if you’re strangled. Keep it clipped in a front pant’s pocket, not loose inside or you may never get to it. If you are someone who carries a knife or gun, practice getting these weapons into play in three seconds or less, or they’ll be taken from you. An assailant can’t squeeze you if you cut through the muscles and tendons of the choking arm. He won’t hold on long if shot in the head either.

Getting your weapon into play, whether it be pen, knife, or gun should be practiced diligently. There are rubber and toy guns that shoot rubber darts that can be used; foam or paper sticks are great for hard, high-speed pen and knife training.

This is an excerpt from Attack Proof, Second Edition.


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