Atama Kansetsu Waza

There are many different ways by which one can use the neck and/or head of an opponent as a way to restrain, control, or manipulate an opponent. We will discuss several common possibilities in the sections below. We will provide examples from a right-side perspective. Simply inverse the arms and relevant angles to practice the skill on the opposite side.

Holds in the neck and head area may be classified as either restraining, choke, or strangulation holds. Restraining holds only have the effect of limiting the movement of the opponent. They do not necessarily fully constrain all movements of the opponent, but rather constrain or restrict one or more aspects of movement.

A choke hold is a hold that restricts blood flow to the brain. This normally constricts the carotid artery limiting the amount of blood that flows into one or both sides of the brain (though it will not stop all blood flow). If applied for more than just a few seconds the opponent will likely lose consciousness. If applied longer the opponent could suffer permanent brain injuries or death. If you are forced to utilize such a hold then you must be prepared to release the hold the moment the opponent is no longer resistant. If the person remains unresponsive you should seek or provide adequate medicate assistance.

A strangulation hold restricts the amount of air entering and exiting the opponent’s lungs. This may limit or completely exclude the respiratory function. As a result a person may lose consciousness fairly quickly and if the hold is applied long enough the person may die. Clearly this is not an outcome we would advocate. Like the choke hold you must be prepared to release the hold as soon as possible and must be prepared to deliver or get adequate medical help if the person does not gain consciousness immediately.

Common Side-Headlock

This headlock is usually initiated when you are standing somewhat to the side of your opponent. For example, you might be standing immediately to the left of your opponent. Raise your right hand so it moves upward along the opponent’s back (don’t touch the opponent’s back or you will give away your intentions) until your elbow is behind the opponent’s neck. Now bend your elbow such that your elbow and forearm are positioned under the opponent’s mandible. Place your left hand around your right wrist and pull inward with your left hand. In most cases the opponent will be forced to bend forward as your arm encircles the person’s neck, entrapping the head.

This is by far the most common type of headlock and you will encounter it often. Often people employing this headlock will release the grasp of the left hand and use this hand to strike repeatedly into the face of the opponent. While this is not usually pleasant for the opponent, it does make it easier for the opponent to escape the now weakened hold.

There are countless martial arts techniques for overcoming and escaping this type of headlock. It is not hard to get out of this lock and to do it in a manner that inflicts great pain and injury on the person applying the lock. So use this lock with caution. It can be an effective first point of encounter, but should be abandoned quickly for more beneficial actions as soon as possible.

Because of the relative positions of the opponent’s torso and neck together with the structure of your locking arm you will find it nearly impossible to apply any meaningful pressure to the opponent’s neck. This makes it difficult to use this lock to perform a viable choke hold or to block the opponent’s airway. Therefore this is generally classified as a restraint hold, though you need to still pay attention to whether or not the person’s vital functions are impaired in any way and must be prepared to give or acquire medical assistance if required.

Front Headlock

A front headlock is a lock applied while you are standing directly in front of the opponent. Using your right hand rotate your center slightly to your left as your right hand raises along your center line. As the arm reaches Jodan level, use your forearm to press into the right side of the opponent’s face. Now rotate your center back toward the right as you allow your right arm to move behind the opponent’s neck, eventually wrapping around and under the opponent’s chin. The opponent’s head will be trapped between your right arm and your right chest wall.

Now raise your left hand and grasp your right wrist. Pull your right wrist upward using your left hand while concurrently rotating your forearm such that your radius bone presses into the front or side of the opponent’s neck.

Depending on where your forearm presses into the opponent’s neck this may be classified as a choke or a strangulation hold. Because you can generate tremendous pressure on the neck with this hold (particularly if you arch your back) this can be a very dangerous hold to apply to another person.

Rear Face Lock

This hold is quite different than earlier locks. To apply this lock you would stand directly behind your opponent and press both forearms into the opponent’s back just inside of his or her shoulder blades. Your open hands then circle in front of the opponent’s face and then overlap over the eyes and nose. The hold is then applied by concurrently pulling back with the hands and pressing forward with the forearms. This can put tremendous strain on the neck and could result in skeletal or other structural injuries to the neck. In general, however, this is considered to be a restraining hold, thought it cannot normally be maintained for a long period of time. It works as an excellent temporary restraint before proceeding to a more vigorous form of control.

Rear Headlock

The rear headlock is applied by standing behind the opponent and then inserting your arm around the opponent’s neck from behind. Typically the inside of your elbow will be positioned near the front of the neck.

If this is all you do then this is what would be considered a simple rear headlock. This could be used to provide some instruction or warning to an opponent or to simply get the person to pay attention. It is, however, not a stable hold and there are countless ways by which someone can escape or counter this hold.

If instead you use your opposite hand to grasp your locking wrist and pull inward then you are applying a bare naked choke. This typically causes your bicep and forearm to press firmly into both carotid arteries severely reducing the amount of blood that flows to the brain. A person may lose consciousness within just a few seconds.

Alternate forms of the rear naked choke hold involve various ways of applying pressure to the opponent’s throat area. This might involve simply pulling back using the other hand (as described above) or pressing the opposite hand into the back of the opponent’s head and then wrapping the hand applying the choke around the forearm of the other (non-choking) arm. This increases the amount of pressure that can be applied by the choking arm tremendously and also makes it much more difficult (but not impossible) to escape the hold. These are very dangerous choke holds that should only be applied in the worst hostile conditions.

Reverse Headlock

There are several different types of reverse headlock, some of which are used rather brutally. We will discuss a somewhat less intense and injurious option.

Begin by facing the opponent who is reaching or striking with his or her left arm. Step toward angle seven as you press the opponent’s arm inward. As the opponent begins to rotate clockwise, use your right forearm to press into the opponent’s face, rotating the opponent further. Once the opponent has rotate sufficiently allow your right arm to encircle the opponent’s neck until your forearm is pressing into the back of the neck. The opponent will now be facing directly upward and will be supported by your right arm and the opponent’s two feet. The opponent will find it very difficult to do anything meaningful from this position and will attempt to struggle to establish a position from which he or she can better move. Normally all you need to do to abort such an attempt is to move the opponent slightly so they must continually reposition his or her feet to remain upright. This is a restraint hold and like most restraint holds it can break down after a short period. However, you will find easy access to the opponent’s abdomen, groin, and legs while the hold remains viable.

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