Today, at the end of my grappling class, I had the privilege of experiencing just how effective a straight up, cross handed choke can be. I was properly hot, sweaty, disheveled and stretched from a goodly amount of class time “rolling” with my class partner, a woman who is a white belt in jiu-jitsu but also a black belt in judo.
We had been “posturing”, escaping from “closed guard” position and doing a series of arm holds that immobilize the wrist, elbow and shoulder. This involved a lot of chest and rib squishing of the down partner and moving from a side control position to a posture that means “fifty pounds” in spanish, to a body pinning position called “north-south”. While playing the underdog, I learned to turn my head a little, or be suffocated by the gi of my powerful partner while I focused on not being limp but not resisting.
My partner and I, well done at this point with the moves we’d been taught and worked on, asked me to be on my knees in front of her. She went down on her knees in front of me, and with stunning ease, did 4 versions of efficient cross handed chokes on me. I was tapping out within seconds. She let me try, saying “Knuckles up” for the first one. Most of the front ones were about reaching deep inside the collar of the gi, around the neck. Our teacher came over and added “Reach for the tags”. The last of this lethal series was from the back, using a seat belt hold and locking the head and neck in the enclosed arm hold while cutting off oxygen and blood.
This phrase “Reach for the tags’ reminds me of “surrender the pinks” and is something I WILL REMEMBER. There is nothing like the feeling of being so soundly choked, without a chance of escape, within seconds, so much so that you want to make loud GACKING sounds and plead for your life. I’m thanking my lucky stars that sister dearest didn’t choose to clamp down on me that day she put her hands around my throat in my parent’s basement. I would not have had a chance and she could have easily made me pass out or killed me.
What I am experiencing lately on the mat is fear I will do things wrong in grappling class and harm myself or my partner. I remember the slogan “Technique Conquers All” in San Jose at the Institute for Martial Arts where Caio Terra, a champion from Brazil teaches. I am going to remember that that fear will only stop when I practice mindfully for however long it takes. Training is more often about the mind and emotions and it’s integration into the physical. I can learn to dissolve that fear and be fully present while grappling. I can learn to choke, as devastatingly effective as my partner. And I can know that someday I may have need of making someone pass out or be immobilized. Thus I am committed to making it so.