There are two kinds of chokes. Blood and air.
The air choke is when someone is choked unconscious by cutting off his air supply. The air to the lungs is suspended. In fiction the person chokes and flails in silence, and after maybe thirty seconds he is rendered unconscious. In reality, cutting off someone's air supply would take several minutes and he'd be at full strength the whole time. Do not choke someone this way.
The blood choke is when someone is choked unconscious by cutting off his blood. The supply of blood to the brain is suspended. In fiction the person goes cross-eyed and immediately succumbs to unconsciousness. In reality the, process takes a few seconds and the victim understands what's happening and can protest, in the brief window available. Do choke someone this way, if you know what you're doing
. If you don't, you can kill someone. Sometimes a blood choke causes the collapse of the arteries carrying blood to the brain and, inevitably, death. This is why cops no longer employ "The Sleeper Hold". It kills.
Compare Tap on the Head
where unconsciousness is rendered with a blow. Also, the Vorpal Pillow
, where a choke hold causes instant death.
This is a choking trope.
Chokes in life and in fiction
- Guy Ritchie's Sherlock Holmes features both chokes at the same time. A thug sneaking up on Holmes is put in a blood choke by Watson. To prevent the Mook from screaming, Holmes immediately pinches off his nose and mouth. They chat for a bit and, once the thug has passed out, move on. At the end of the film, a big mook has to be slowly air choked because he's just too darn big for anything else.
- Darth Vader's Force Choke appears to be a long distance mystical air choke. Slow, unpleasant, unstoppable. Very dark-sidey.
- Two chokes appear in Never Say Never Again. James uses a sleeper hold on a Mook guard during Unwinnable Training Simulation opening and an assassin uses a sleeper hold on one of the attendants at Shrublands.
- In The Princess Bride, The Man in Black knocks out Fezzik with a blood choke. It takes several minutes and they have a rather cordial conversation all the while.
- In Sneakers Dick Gordon knocks out Bishop with a sleeper hold. In contrast to the repeated Tap on the Head he's been given up to this point, it's an act of mercy.
Live Action TV
- In The Bishop's Heir, Dhugal (who doesn't then know he's Deryni, never mind controlling his shields) reacts badly to the psychic energies unleashed at Duncan's consecration as bishop. Morgan uses a choke hold on Dhugal to get him away from the cathedral via Transfer Portal and avoid unwanted attention from potentially hostile clerics when Dhugal's shields prove impossible for Morgan to breach.
- A form of the "sleeper hold" variant comes up in Yoda: Dark Rendezvous. Weak, but Skilled Padawan Scout has a particular move where she can grab someone's throat, cut off the blood flow, and render them unconscious in seconds without permanently damaging them. She uses it in Padawan tournaments to great effect.
- Burn Notice's Michael Westen is adept at the blood choke. His victims rarely cry out, but they rarely have time.
- Law & Order features a victim of a fatal blood choke. A military man upset at a Jerk Pacifist mocking his dead son employs a sleeper hold blood choke. It leaves telltale bruises over the victim's carotid arteries.
- Subverted by Angel. Someone tries to air choke the titular character only to learn, to his dismay, that that doesn't work on vampires.
- While Dexter prefers to sedate his targets, he's been known to strangle them into unconsciousness. Acceptable, considering what he plans to do with them doesn't really require them to be in the best health anyway. His brother was considerably more fond of the sleeper hold, although his goals were basically the same.
- In an episode of NCIS, a sleeper hold accidentally kills someone.
- This is a standard (if illegal) move.
- Deus Ex: Human Revolution - one of the non-lethal takedowns.
- Metal Gear Solid. Snake can sneak up on guards, grab them by the neck, and throttle them unconscious. When they wake up, they're perfectly fine. Handled slightly realistically in that Snake can kill a guard by throttling him until his neck breaks. In MGS3, if guards are hungry and weak, Snake can instantly knock them out with an Unnecessary Combat Roll.
- After beating Sniper Wolf for the first time, Snake himself got knocked out this way though.
- Jonny Quest TOS episodes, "The Quetong Missile Mystery", Race Bannon uses a sleeper hold on a Mook guard.
- Blood chokes are part and parcel of martial arts and MMA. If an MMA fighter taps out half a second after an arm goes 'round his neck, it's because he's about to pass out.