Thursday, October 7, 2010

Knuckle Choke

Sometimes I feel like I have nothing to write about and sometimes I can think of so many things to write about that it's just not funny. Right now is definitely one of those times; so many things happened today that I could probably write three or four entries and still not be finished! I love it when that happens. It makes me feel like I'm really studying martial arts; not just the techniques but also the stuff that reaches a deeper level.

We did more BJJ today with the knuckle choke. In the knuckle choke, you straddle your opponent while pushing your fist (which is generally a hammer-fist) into their carotid artery. At the same time, your other arm goes around their neck from the underside while you grab your occupied arm (the one pushing on the carotid) with your free hand. Then you squeeze both your arm and your fist together until they tap out...or pass out, depending on whether you're doing it in practice or in a real life situation.

I don't like choke holds. Not at all. I'm an asthmatic, so I naturally fear not being able to breathe. Also, when I was young, somebody who should never have choked me, did. It's pretty difficult for me to not panic when I'm in a choke hold because of that. I don't generally like to admit it because I love pretty much everything about martial arts and I realize that my attitude is absolutely crucial to my learning, but honestly, choke holds scare the hell out of me. All of them...especially the knuckle choke, because it's a hold that's applied when you're on your back, which just so happens to be the position that my real-life assailant choked me in.

The first time Sensei showed us the knuckle choke was last week. I wasn't expecting it to be so alike my experience; nothing else had been, up to that point. I tapped before I ran out of air because it scared me so much. It's different now, though. Earlier today when we were first working on the hold, it really freaked me out. But by the end of class, Sensei had taught me the counter to it and had given me time to practice it.

It still scared me. I was still kind of freaked out. But now that I understand the choke a little better, I don't feel as scared as I did when it was unknown. Also, I don't feel as scared about what happened in real life. It was terrifying then, since I was just a kid, but now I know that if someone tries to do that to me any time in the near future, I'll be at least moderately prepared for it. I'll probably also have somewhat of an advantage over them, provided they aren't carrying a weapon...which may well be a possibility in a real situation.

So this entry is about fear, I guess. I am really afraid of choke holds, but not for the same reasons that I'm afraid of other things in martial arts. It's a real and tangible fear that isn't caused by my ever-present habit of over-thinking things. This really happened to me and it was terrifying. But even though practicing choke holds scares me and makes me remember what happened, I realize that someday I'll have to face that fear and be able to put it aside so that I can move on with my training...and life, as well. Fear can be crippling. It can hold us back and keep us from trusting and learning. In some cases, if fear is great enough, it can destroy inner-peace and keep us from feeling happiness.

I'm starting to realize that. The defense against the guillotine choke from the side is to find a way to get flat on your back and stare your opponent in the face, so that he can't choke you out anymore. At that point, you can gain the upper-hand by thrusting your hips to off-balance him and flipping over him so that you're the one on top. Perhaps to really conquer my fear of choke holds, I have to find a way to stare them in the face and decide that they're not going to bother me anymore.

It's never fun to get choked, granted, but it doesn't have to work me up as much as it does. Because of my traumatic experience, when we work choke holds I am always reminded of what it's like to be helpless at the hands of someone that's trying to hurt me. But I've been working on various choke defenses for a year. I am no longer helpless...and I suppose I should really think about that next time I'm in a hold.

They never tell you how difficult it is to conquer fear. But they also don't mention that it's having the courage to TRY doing what seems difficult that really makes the spirit indomitable.

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