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Headlock of Dominance

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A schoolyard staple, the headlock is a fighting move where victim's head is pinned between the assaulter's arm and body. When someone is put (and held) in a headlock, it's usually a sign that the fight is being completely dominated. The holder can punch the person you've got in a headlock for added dominance, or capitalize that his mouth is near the victim's ear to speak to him.

This is Truth in Television: a chokehold performed from the victim's back is probably the most dominant submission move in martial arts, as it allows the user to apply a large amount of pressure on the opponent's neck while reducing greatly the latter's capability to fend it off, and an expert grappler can leave his victim unconscious mere seconds after locking the technique. It is often subverted in fiction, because most examples don't actively try to choke the victim and are content with just squeezing them a bit, but it is still a good way to represent physical superiority in a few moves.


The move is commonly associated with The Bully, both in real life and in fiction. It's also often a sign of a Curb-Stomp Battle.

Compare Spinning Piledriver and Suplex Finisher.

See also Possessive Wrist Grab where a character grabs anothers wrist in which it displays dominance.


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     Anime And Manga  

  • In Street Fighter II: The Animated Movie, Ken saves Ryu by tackling Bison. Unfortunately, Bison barely budges and immediately grips Ken's neck in a headlock, punching him three times in the face before tossing him into Ryu.
  • A minor example in Yu-Gi-Oh!, where minor character Mako Tsunami is seen with his arm wrapped around another guy's neck (though it's more of a Boisterous Bruiser male-dominance thing rather than intent to cause harm). Though The Abridged Series had him say "Does Mako Tsunami have to choke a bitch?"
  • In Gundam Build Fighters, Reiji puts a deserving Chairmain Mashita into an embarrassing headlock in the finale. Only Miss Baker seems particularly worried on the Chairman's behalf, but given his Dirty Coward tendencies, this is to be expected.

     Film - Animated  

  • At the beginning of Sinbad: Legend of the Seven Seas, Kale, Sinbad's second-in-command, punches one of Proteus' soldiers after Sinbad and his men attack the ship in an attempt to steal the Book of Peace.
  • Marty does this to one of the fossa in Madagascar, after Alex shows up to join his friends in fighting the fossa.
  • Tarzan has two examples. The first is while Tarzan is in his growing up montage. Terk easily headlocks him and otherwise displays dominance. Once Tarzan has reached manhood, though, he puts Terk in one, then forgets to let go when the evidence of humans reaches his attention.
    • Later on in the film, Tarzan is fighting Kerchak and he ends up putting the ape in a headlock. He has a My God, What Have I Done? moment after that.
  • Penny does this to Sherman in Mr. Peabody & Sherman during their fight in school.


     Film - Live-Action  

  • In Pacific Rim, during the Hong Kong battle Cherno Alpha does this a couple times to Otachi.
  • In the first movie of The Matrix franchise, Agent Smith puts Neo in a headlock while awaiting an oncoming train to hit them both. Since Smith can Body Surf when his current avatar is killed, this would only permanently kill Neo. Neo escapes, however, by jumping to the ceiling and smashing Smith into it, and then flipping out of the way just in time to avoid the train.
  • In Man of Steel, the climactic fight ends with Superman placing Zod in a headlock. Apparently unable to escape it, Zod responds by turning his Eye Beams on a helpless human family, in order to force Superman to perform a Neck Snap.
  • In Man of Tai Chi, during the (completely one-sided) first part of the final battle, Big Bad Donaka gets the hero Tiger in a headlock and orders him to "show me," in an attempt to get Tiger fired up enough to actually put up a decent fight.
  • Blackhawk Down: After catching SGT Pilla doing a comical immitation of him in front of the other Rangers, Captain Steele asks if he can have a word with him, immediately before putting him into a headlock and walking away with him in tow as he gives him a brief counseling on the importance of respecting the Chain of Command.


  • Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets: At the dueling club, Hermione gets paired with Slytheryn Millicent Bulstrode, a much larger and stronger girl. After the chaos of the duels settles down, Bulstrode is found to have forgone wands and grabbed Hermione in a headlock that she couldn't get out of.

     Live Action TV  

  • Saturday Night Live: In the sketch "Civil War Memories" (the US Civil War as recalled by high school dropouts) the Battle of Charleston is described in part thusly:
    And then this southern plugged this Nazi guy in a headlock! And started pounding him! demonstrates Bam! Bam bam bam bam!!
    • This same "southern" is later attacked by 2000 ninjas.
  • In an episode of Malcolm in the Middle, Reese commonly puts his brothers and kids at school in headlocks. In on episode, when he gave up his bullying ways, during the power vacuum there was a chain of children putting each other in headlocks.
  • An episode of That '70s Show had Eric watching professional wrestling on TV with his friends. Later in the episode he and his dad Red playfully tussle, and he manages to get Red in a headlock. Red pretends that he's been put in submission by that and Eric says "who's the king?" Red suddenly flips around, breaks the headlock, and puts Eric in one, and says "I am".
  • An episode of Parks and Recreation has roommates Andy and Ben in a disagreement. Andy had several brothers, and they always fought until they resolved their issues. Ben's family, however, would never confront anyone. During a Talking Heads segment, Andy addresses the camera and explains this. The camera then zooms out and it turns out that Ben had been in a headlock the whole time.
  • In Brooklyn Nine-Nine, Peralta is recounting the sting operation to Captain Holt. He says that Sergeant Jeffords was calm, and wisely didn't take on more than he could handle. Gilligan Cut to Jeffords (pictured above) with three thugs in headlocks (one under each arm, and a third in his legs) saying "I left one for you!" while several SWAT team members have guns pointed at the sole remaining mook.
  • Often used in Everybody Loves Raymond when the Barone brothers revert to childhood and need a way of resolving differences. Usually Robert to Ray, although it has been the other way around.

  • Fit two of The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy (Primary phase) has Ford and Arthur in headlocks from the Vogon guard, assigned to throw them off the ship. During this, Arthur is panicking (or in his terms, still just the culture shock) while Ford tries to bargain for their freedom.


     Web Animation  

  • In season 8 of Red vs. Blue, the Reds and Blues are united against black armored Tex. When Tucker winds up getting his teal armor covered in soot due to a Teleporter Accident, Sarge of the red team gets him into a headlock and is punching him. When another red points out that it's Tucker, Sarge punches him again anyway.
  • In RWBY, Cardin holds Jaune in a headlock while pretending to be "friendly". He then told his "friend" to help him and his friends in his assignment tomorrow because Cardin knows Jaune's secret (namely, Jaune faked his transcripts to the Beacon Academy).

     Western Animation  

     Real Life  
  • The choke from the back receives the name of "rear naked choke" in Mixed Martial Arts, "hadaka-jime" in Judo (Japanese for "naked strangle") and "sleeper hold" in Professional Wrestling. (The naked part doesn't make reference to anything dirty, but to the fact that the user can apply this technique with his bare arm on a bare neck, unlike other grappling chokes that require a sleeve or a lapel.) As said above, a fighter locking this technique is a sign that the end of the fight is imminent.
  • One of the most famous baseball highlights of all time is the August 4, 1993 brawl between the Texas Rangers and Chicago White Sox, in which Robin Ventura charged the mound after getting hit by a pitch, only to have pitcher Nolan Ryan grab him in a headlock and punch him in the face. What made this even funnier is that Ryan was 46 years old, ancient for a baseball pitcher and 20 years older than Ventura.
  • One Dave Barry column had him attend a sporting event where "a professional football player the size of a gym playfully put his arm around [Dave's] neck for what felt like forty-five minutes".
  • In 2004 during pre-production on David O. Russell’s film I Heart Huckabees, Jude Law dropped out to take a part in The Prestige, which was directed by Christopher Nolan. Law was getting divorced and wanted to take a higher-paying studio project to pay his legal bills and the divorce settlement. This pissed Russell off so much that when he ran into Nolan at a party, he put him in headlock in front of a group of people until he agreed to “give” Law back. Nolan agreed.


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