The naked choke

Documenting a lifelong love affair with extended bouts of unconsciousness
By EUGENE S. ROBINSON  |  August 29, 2010


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It was love. At first sighting. It was like a love that lovers might have for each other across the spread of a crowded room, and it occurred in a place no less auspicious than the front row of a matinee showing of Mel Gibson's 1987 flick, Lethal Weapon.

Toward the end of this fairly standard buddy-cop potboiler, the suicidal cop played by Gibson has a front-lawn dance of death with toothy bad guy Gary Busey. Sprinklers, haymakers, shirtless grunting — and at the fight's apex, Gibson thrusts his crotch under the attacking Busey's chin and wraps his right leg over the back of his neck while draping the left one over the right to cinch it down. Tight. And while this ultimately, in filmic terms, failed to dispatch the villain, in practical terms a nation of those familiar with the foot-fist way sat up straight and wondered: what the hell was that?

The choke is what it was.

It was brought to us, the uninitiated, by none other than Rorion Gracie. Who? Rorion Gracie: fight choreographer for the aforementioned motion picture and oldest son of the father of Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, Helio Gracie: issuer of the Gracie Jiu Jitsu challenge. (Back in the day? You walk into any Gracie academy and beat a Gracie? You walk out with $65,000. And no one ever did — either walk out a winner or get a Gracie check.) The main brain behind the founding of the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC). That Gracie, and we noted that while there was something happening here, what it was wasn't exactly clear, and wouldn't really be until Denver in 1993, when the part of the world that pays attention to such things was paying attention to the first of the Ultimate Fighting Championships. A clearinghouse where extended barroom bets about which fight style was better could be settled once and for all. And they were. Choke after choke after choke after choke until Royce Gracie (Rorion's brother), a not-so-big 170-pounder walked away with the win — trailing behind him our assumptions about the neck and how best it could be used against its owner.

Ah, the neck. The highway to the head and, in general, the weakest link on a human architecture composed of nothing but weak links. Carrying both blood and oxygen to the brain, the neck also houses the organs that make speech possible. Speech like "no," "stop," "please God I have had enough and am surrendering now," things like that. The neck is also a shock absorber for the brain and, while a thick one can protect the brain from unexpected blows, a thick one is also easier to choke.

The ways of the choke are myriad. Brabo. Anaconda. Guillotine. Rear naked. Triangle. Peruvian necktie. Loop. And the names run trippingly along all describing the same thing: the application of pressure to the neck in such a way to preclude the healthy and normal flow of oxygen to the lungs or blood to the brain until, and this is the important part here, unconsciousness is achieved. Sometimes with the collar, sometimes with the legs, sometimes with the arms, and on odd occasions, sometimes with all of the above.

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  Topics: Sports , Sports, Ultimate Fighting Championship, fighting,  More more >
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