How To Do A Sleeper Hold

The sleeper choke hold is one of the most effective submission moves in the world. If it’s not performed correctly, though, it can be incredibly dangerous for your opponent.

How To Do A Sleeper Hold

Want to learn how to do it correctly? Keep reading to learn how to perform an effective (and safe) sleeper hold. 

What Is A Sleeper Hold?

A sleeper hold, or a sleeper choke hold, is a type of chokehold performed from behind an opponent. This move restricts blood flow in the opponent’s brain, which can cause them to become unconscious.

The sleeper hold compresses either one or both of the carotid arteries and/or the jugular veins, but never the airway. This invokes a temporary hypoxic condition in the brain. 

The sleeper hold is usually used in martial combat sports, martial arts, law enforcement, self-defense, and military hand combat. The sleeper choke hold is an incredibly effective submission technique, and it’s usually taught in self-defense.

If you ever need to subdue an attacker, using the sleeper hold is a great way to do it.  

How To Perform A Sleeper Choke Hold

Now, let’s take a look at the steps you need to follow to execute a sleeper hold successfully. 

Grab Your Opponent And Get Behind Them 

If your opponent is trying to fight you, you’ll need to get a firm grip on them before you perform your sleeper choke hold. If they’re trying to fight you with their hands, grab their wrist with your non-dominant hand and use your dominant hand to grab their upper shoulder. 

Once your opponent is in this position, you can now pull them while rotating their shoulders to get behind them. If you’ve had your hands on your opponent’s shoulders, you can now push them with your dominant hand.

While you’re doing this, pull them with your non-dominant hand. As you do this, your opponent should start to spin around, and they’ll begin to face away from you. This is how you get behind your opponent. 

If you need to use extra force, you can use your leg by placing it behind them and pivoting it, so you move behind them.

If you find yourself being actively attacked and you’ve got hold of their wrist, you can twist your opponent’s wrist inwards as you pull at them to disarm them. 

Wrap Your Dominant Arm Around Their Neck

Now you’re behind your opponent, you can begin putting your arm around their neck. Start by wrapping your dominant arm around their chest, and pull them closer to you so you can establish a firmer grip.

Adjust the position of your dominant forearm, so it sits closely around their neck.

When you do this, your opponent will start raising their arms and hands to protect their neck. However, this gives you a perfect opportunity to place your non-dominant hand behind their head. 

If you’re being attacked when you’re trying to establish this position, start swaying your opponent from side to side. This will disorient them and make it harder for them to adjust their arms or overpower you.

If they wrap their hands around your forearm to try and break your grip, start to grip their shoulder and hold on tightly to stop them from injuring you. 

Apply Pressure

Now you can start to apply pressure. To do this, move your dominant forearm beneath their chin, and wrap yourself around their neck. You may need to adjust the positioning of your arm by raising it up until it sits firmly between their chin and their chest. 

Once you’re in position, you can wrap your arm tightly around their neck to keep them in position. Now, grab your shoulder with the dominant hand to stabilize your grip. 

You’ll now need to move your nondominant hand behind their hand. Run this hand behind the back of their head, right between the neck and middle of their head. Now, raise your left thumb toward your right ear. 

Lock Your Grip 

To stabilize your grip and lock it in place, move your dominant hand inside the fold of your non-dominant elbow. Then, start to wrap your fingers around your elbow – this will keep your dominant arm held firmly in place.

Now, if your opponent attempts to escape your grip, you can use this tension to apply more pressure to their neck. 

Increase Pressure On The Sides Of The Neck 

Start bending your elbow and flex your dominant arm so that your forearm is maintaining pressure on one side of the neck. Your bicep should simultaneously be putting pressure on the opposite side. 

Now, push your nondominant arm slightly forwards – this will move their neck towards their chest. As you do this, their chin will press into your forearm and add extra pressure you can start to restrict blood flow to the brain. 

To prepare for the resistance, you should lean back and spread your feet far apart. Remember: the goal of the sleeper hold is not to restrict air. However, if you’re applying pressure to the opponent’s throat, you’re not performing this move correctly. 

Rotate Your Hips 

Now your grip is established, start rotating your hips so that they’re pressing into your opponent’s back. This will ensure they’re facing away from you, and as a result, it will become harder for them to resist the move or escape the choke hold. 

Sleeper Choke Hold Tips

  • If you’re not in immediate danger, or you’re simply practicing this move with an opponent, make sure you release your hold after seconds. If you maintain pressure on the neck for more than 15 seconds, you risk causing permanent damage. 
  • If you’ve performed the move correctly, you would have successfully applied pressure to the major arteries in the neck. This will cause your opponent to go limp somewhere between the 5-9 second point. 
  • Only use force on the side of your opponent’s neck. Your goal is to restrict blood flow, not air. 
  • If you’re using this move in martial combat, stop the move if the opponent performs a light double-tap on your skin. 

The Bottom Line 

While the sleeper hold is an effective submission technique, it should always be practiced safely and under close supervision. 

Christopher Anderson