February 20

The Sport That Wants Children To Strangle Each Other- Is It Right?


Children as young as 4 are currently being taught how to strangle another child. They are being taught to hyper extend a limb of another child to the point where the child feels that their arm is about to break and they must submit.

(please note this article has been updated 2/4/2016, please read the update)

No this is not some TV show, this is real life and the sport in question is the fastest growing sport in the world. Brazilian Jiu Jitsu or BJJ as it is known.



The picture above is a screen capture from YouTube footage of a children’s BJJ match. The result is a choke hold known as the Rear Naked Choke. The aim of this choke is to stop oxygenated blood going to the brain and the person will pass out. In this case the child realises the danger and ‘taps’ out which is a signal that they have been caught and the girl lets go.

The safety aspect here is clearly covered, there are numerous adults present and a referee to watch over them to intervene at the right moment. However in this article I will ask the question is it both morally and ethically right that children as young as 4 are taught to strangle and arm lock other children?



The picture above is from another You Tube clip and I will embed the video below for you to watch. The girls here are young but the female lying upset and crying on the floor has her neck knocked into as the other child s arm went into it.

I will warn you I found the video shocking for a few issues. Firstly it is clear that one of the children is neither physically or emotionally ready for this type of event and secondly is the actions of the coach or even father of the female child. You can see him shout ‘armbar, armbar’ several times which is him telling his young daughter to arm lock the other girl.


The sport of BJJ is very fast growing, in fact the interest in BJJ is getting larger than the on line interest in the Olympic Sport of Judo so it was inevitable for a children’s sport to form. For those that dont know the sport of BJJ is a grappling based sport that is very similar in many ways to Judo however the focus in BJJ is heavily geared towards the ground work element and chokes and arm locks feature heavily.

Whilst the sport of Judo does actually feature arm locks and chokes as well they are actually not allowed in children’s Judo and are only allowed for senior athletes.

I actually posed my questions on why BJJ allows the practise of children to be choked and arm locked to a variety of BJJ coaches and players and I got a mix of responses. From “the submission is the essence of the sport”, “its no different than BMX or boxing”. I actually got little real substance to any answer.

So I cant actually answer why the sport allow this activity to take place. Judo do not and that is a sport which is nearly identical in many ways. However I want to ask the question here from a moral and ethical point of view.

Should A Child aged 4 Know How to Strangle another child and Break an Arm?

I cant recall too much of my life at aged 4 but I do know it was filled with playing with toys, having fun and I think generally wanting to be HE MAN or Luke Skywalker. I cannot ever remember my desire to learn how to strangle another child.

If we are honest children would never ever want to train Judo, BJJ or any other sport and for the most part they want to play. Therefore as parents and adults we try and direct that play into the best kind of activity for them.

In this issue, as is with Judo it is the family element that is showing through. A proud father who studies BJJ will know doubt want their son or daughter to follow and reap the benefits that the sport has to offer such as increased fitness, focus and discipline. I totally understand this.

However this clearly identifies  that the parent is actually involving the child in BJJ. It is the parent that actually gets the child involved into the activity and they who want their child to learn to choke and strangle another child of their age. The child in many ways is doing as they are told.

As adults it is our job to safeguard our children from violence but in this activity there is a strong encouragement.

But Its No Different From Boxing

Im not a fan of children boxing but you would be right in saying that there is no difference.Boxers punch each other in the face. Well yes but there are a few fundamental differences. In boxing the aim is to score a point and although pain is involved in the sport of boxing the aim is to get score a point without a point being scored against you.

In BJJ the sport uses something called submissions. In other words the child has to submit. This involves a child tapping the mat several times or the other child to show they cannot continue. However what causes this tap?

Kids BJJ 2

The Tap

The tap or the submission is caused when an arm lock or choke is applied to the other child and that child is aware of the consequences that either they submit or risk a broken limb or being made to become unconscious. This decision making process is of course proceeded by pain. Any child who cannot breath or is having their limb hyper extended will be in a degree of pain.

It is that pain that will cause a child to tap. Of course in BJJ the referees are present or coaches to stop the match if the child does not tap. However we are talking split second judgement here.

Its interesting that the age for criminal behaviour is 10 in the UK. That is basically the age that a child can be deemed as criminally responsible for their actions. However in a recent report it has been suggested that this age is raised as children are not really aware of their decisions.

So within the context of a child ‘tapping out’ we are asking them to recognise the consequences of not tapping and then take action. Are they really able to do this as 4 year olds?


The other key aspect missing from this is intent. By this I mean what is the intention in BJJ? It is clearly all about a submission. However to get a submission the other child must be willing to cause pain to his opposition. They must be taught to hyper extend that limb to the point of breaking it and must cut of the oxygen supply to the brain of the other child. All of which will actually cause huge injuries or knock out a child if there is not a tap or adult intervening.

So the training in BJJ is actually all about creating the intent to cause pain to other children. Is this really a healthy attitude or desire to have?

Putting a Business Before Child Welfare

The fundamental difference between BJJ and Judo lies not within its techniques but within its organisational structure because at its heart BJJ is a business and a good one at that. Judo has one product to give the world and its Judo as an Olympic Sport, however BJJ has followed the rules of busines and grown by creating numerous products such as Combatives and No Gi Grappling. It now has a child programme yet at what cost?

The consumers for this programme will be adults with a family who have an interest in BJJ already. This is a ready made market for their business to grow and it provides each club owner with a new revenue stream. However as stated BJJ can exist for children without any submissions or chokes. Judo does this already and BJJ can adapt similar rules.


 Should We Equip 4 Year olds with the Knowledge To Kill?

This article has a very strong ending. It is a question that is simple. A choke hold can kill, this much is a known fact. It is a matter of time not if. Many people have lost their life due to overly applied choke holds.

I do not know of any sport other than Brazilian Jiu Jitsu that is actually teaching a technique where the whole purpose is to stop oxygen getting to a child’s brain. Or a technique that causes so much pain and discomfort to the child that they are forced to give up.  With that in mind should we really be teaching these techniques to children and do we really need a sport such as this out there for children?

Judo has been around for a long time now and at some point the officials involved in Judo made the decision to NOT allow children to choke or arm lock each other. I feel that is the correct decision and I feel that at this time I would not recommend BJJ for children in its current format as a safe option for your child.

However what do you think? Should BJJ for children have armlocks and chokes? Did Judo get it wrong? Are parents trying to push children into an activity that could have fatal playground consequences later on?

As always comment below and feel free to share.

By Andrew Holland


This article is now nearly 2 years old and every now and again the same thing happens. A  BJJ player reads it and gets angry then shares it to a Facebook group or forum and I get a lot of comments and abuse.

However what is alarming is the nature of the comments all of which are mostly abusive and never see the light of day for that reason.

The BJJ community is one I have dabbled in and found that the on-line attitudes are very aggressive/rude and the complete opposite to the actual personalities in real life.

But either way I certainly won’t tolerate abuse both on-line or in person. So  for those who are writing comments please try and make them clean.

The next aspect is of course the argument for or against the teaching of chokes to young children.

So far all I hear from the BJJ community is that “its not worse than Karate or boxing” , “It develops confidence”,  “In Judo people get thrown what if a child throws another child in fun?”

I also get a range of people saying that the way children’s BJJ is run and organised there are high levels of safety.

All of which I get,  so here is a question to all those commentating:

Have you ever been to Crown court as a witness?

Have you ever been to coroners court as a witness?

If the answer is no then let me tell you the things you are saying in comments to this article would not stand up to questioning.

And this is exactly where the BJJ instructor will be heading if a fatality ever occurred inside or outside of the BJJ class.

If you are unsure what I mean. let me explain further.

The art of BJJ is teaching children to choke other children.

The art of the choke or strangle will cut off air to the victim and render them unconscious, also it may cut off the supply of oxygenated blood to the brain.

The argument among BJJ teachers and students is that this is safe to teach young children however my argument is that it is dangerous.

Even with older children we have seen issues in the sad case of Stephan Arceneaux III who was killed by a 14-year-old using a choke at a party. This caused Gracie Jiu Jitsu to put out the following video

The ex-cop in me sees a situation that is going to occur at some point, a child is going to fight how they are taught and when they get into a school fight they will of course, use a choke hold or lock if that is what has been drilled into them

At that point, we are asking the child under the age of 10 to recognise when to let go without causing injury.

However are we considering the chemical cocktail that occurs in any one of any age when violence happens?

The rush of adrenaline that affects vision, awareness of time and of course judgement.

When we add this to the mix we are asking a lot of the child.

Could BJJ be a sport for children without chokes? Yes we know this, and I am sure it would be an excellent and very safe one at that.

However at this time the question still remains: Why teach the children chokes in the first place?

Self defence? That argument doesn’t hold up the scrutiny for under 10’s.

Confidence? Again the ability to choke another child has nothing to do with confidence.

Part of the art? Sure this is part of the art but then why do you ban heel hooks? Oh yes because of the dangers of use in events.This shows that modifications can be made to the sport.

The other arguments such as “Its just as dangerous in Judo”. Sure in the playground a child could get thrown by a  Judo player in self-defence or offence.

And yes the child could land on his neck, head or back and face life-changing injuries.

The factor missing in this argument is of course intent.

The child would be throwing onto the floor,  that is their intention. They are not intending to cut off their air supply.

This is a key factor

Here is another thought, what if the child being choked had asthma and the choke was just used to render the child unconscious? Well this could trigger a severe asthma attack.

I could go on all day with this debate because the simple truth is that by teaching children as young as 4 to choke another child, you are providing them with the technical knowledge and technique to end the life of another.

Now I hope that this doesn’t happen. I am sure the risk is ridiculously small, but there is a risk.

For myself the risk of this is too great, I don’t feel comfortable with it and without any serious counter argument i cannot change my views on the subject.

Please feel free to add a comment if you can add to this debate, please don’t re hash the same old comments that I have mentioned here. They will only ever be published if they add value to this debate.

I welcome strong counter argument to this article because I’m not an idiot and if I see a compelling argument that changes my mind on the subject I will change my mind and tell everyone why. However abuse and poorly constructed comments will not be published.





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  1. Hi Andrew,

    Can I ask if you have attended a children’s BJJ class personally, or spoken to someone who instructs such a class? I know you have spoken to BJJ players, but have you properly researched the topic by talking to parents and even children who participate in the sport? Have you attended a competition?

    Although it is more years then I like too admit since I was a child, I do remember a lot of wrestling and fighting (I had four brothers), which seems born out by my own children and indeed the children of my friends and associates. While I am not suggesting most of these scraps where violent death matches, it is I can assure you a fairly natural thing during childhood to experience physical confrontation.

    To suggest that children would not participate in BJJ, boxing, any sport unless they are coerced into it by a parent etc, seems a very odd claim to make, especially when the amount of children’s sports programs are booming. Is this based on any hard evidence, even personal evidence such as with your own children?

    Sadly this seems a fairly common thread through out your article, for instance have you researched the relative injury rate of Judo, BJJ, Boxing etc? Perhaps a comparison to football, or running would be enlightening. I have not done so on any great scale, I have however looked into it on a local level by asking people who participate and my limited research seems to suggest that the injury rate in BJJ is far lower then in Judo and vastly lower then in football/running etc, especially if you factor in minor injuries.I would be interested to hear your own findings and how they compare.

    Oh and an interesting fact you seem to have missed about Judo, which seems rather relevant is that Judo in general has moved away from ground work, mainly because of their quest to be in the olympics (I am sure you are aware of the issues wrestling has had).

    I am also intrigued as to why you have ignored the self defence implications of not allowing children to practice getting out of headlocks/joint locks etc in a safe and secure environment. Especially as these sorts of attacks are (according to my own experience and the opinions of teacher friends of mine) the most likely thing a small (and not so small) child will face from his peers. On a site that seems to be about self defence I find this oversight very disappointing.

    From my own experience and that of the people I have met, BJJ is a safe and enjoyable sport/martial art for people of all ages and provides amazing discipline/self control at an age when body awareness and self control is often lacking. Every competition and class I have seen offers amazing protection to the child (which you say yourself in your article) with dedicated referees who are used to refereeing children and stopping the match before there is any real danger, although of course as with all activities there will be exceptions.

    I wil also say that in the UK (I am not sure where you are) BJJ is one of the best regulated and controlled sports/martial arts I have come across, with the UKBJJA setting a very high bench mark which many other sports, especially other martial arts could learn from.

    This also extends to your comments about BJJ as a business, which leads me to assume you are not in the UK. Although I know several people who make a living from teaching BJJ, the only people who view it as a money making scheme are those already in the traditional martial arts arena, who are used to changing their standards/product to lure people in. Every BJJ coach I have come across views it as something they wish to pass on to their student, due to their enjoyment of the art. I have yet to find one who will change things for money, or for who money is their motivation. It is of course also a very bad business model to do, or teach something, that puts the client at risk of more harm then needed, especially in the lawyer driven society many of us live in. Your comments about no-gi/combative’s are of course laughable, mainly as the later is the beginners program of a BJJ group, and therefore not applicable to most BJJ groups and no different from beginners classes i any other arena, and the former (due to the fact it is submission wrestling) having been around, in one form or another, for several thousand years, which is far longer of course then BJJ has existed.

    In summery your article seems under researched and over conclusive, with an awful lot of assumptions and a conclusion that seems to have been held since the beginning, one which interestingly does not appear to extend to other combat sports if your biased and blinkered comments about boxing are anything to go by.

    1. Hi,

      My apologies having read your bio it would appear you are certainly someone who knows about grappling, which makes me all the keener to hear your research. I would also be interested to hear your own experiences and thoughts on the injury ratio between judo (predominantly from throwing) and the wear and tear on the body, compared to other sports.

      1. Hi Hugh, thanks for taking the time to make a detailed comment on the post. I have received numerous comments on this article by BJJ players that are abusive and rude. Which really makes me wonder even further about this.

        Boxing, Judo, Wrestling, Rugby and even football have risks associated with them. But the goal of all these sports is to score points. Even boxing the goal at amateur level is points based but if a stoppage occurs it does so for the safety of the participants. However even then boxers are not allowed to compete until aged 10 or 11 (or thats what it used to be)

        Yes I have spoken to many parents who take their child to BJJ lessons and in every instance the parent does BJJ.

        As an art I have praised BJJ players and the art itself for its self defence qualities and this for me is not the question that needs answering here. The real issue is if it is ethically and morally right to teach children as young as 4 to strangle each other.

        In every single case the BJJ player/fan has responded to this argument with abuse, rudeness and criticism of me personally. Which again makes question that BJJ is good for personal development if it’s practitioners are really that rude.

        On the other scale I have been given really weak arguments for it’s inclusion such as: “karate is worse”, “It develops confidence”, “Its great for self defence”

        All of those argument fall flat with the instruction of choke holds, even one person commented that a child would survive a choke being applied for minutes after it was on and they were asleep.

        Having done BJJ, Judo, Boxing and a host of other martial arts and sports I know the risks involved in all of them but this is not about the risks in participation, this is about the need or desire for adults to teach children to choke each other. Sure teach them to get out of headlocks, sure teach them to control the attacker, take them down or whatever but choke?

        Childrens BJJ would be every bit as effective for self-defence and personal development without the need for under 10’s to be taught chokes.

        Why do we not allow children to play violent video games anymore? Or why did Judo ban chokes and locks for young children?

        Why does BJJ ban the heel hook and neck cranks in competition?

        This is all down to risks. People have calculated the risks and tried to reduce them.

        I ask the question “Is it right that children are taught to strangle each other” and still the answer is a resounding no. Because there is no compelling argument for their inclusion. A 4-year-old won’t need them for self-defence (nor any age under 12).

        However I personally believe that the teaching of chokes to children represents a risk. The risk that one could be applied to another child in their room or playfighting.

        Does that risk, however small outweigh the need for inclusion? This is the question that those involved in the sport of BJJ need to ask themselves rather than trying to compare with other sports that have made rule changes for safety purposes.

        What about the 5 year old boy that decides to ‘try’ that choke on his little sister whilst his parent is out of the room.

        Kids will be kids. However they are being given this knowledge by adults.

        Lots of people don’t like this article because it offends their belief that teaching kids chokes is morally acceptable. Which is fine.

        All of this is hypothetical debate until something bad happens which I hope and pray it doesn’t.

        What I think doesn’t matter as I do not do BJJ nor would I allow my children to because of the aforementioned issues. I do not want my child to know how to choke a person because he doesn’t need to learn that skill. It will not help in any situation he would face, it won’t develop him on a personal level and I wouldnt want him to actually have another child apply a choke hold onto him either.

        Again, I am left with no compelling counter argument to think that the teaching of chokes to kids carries with it a risk.

        But thanks for taking the time to write a constructive comment.

        Others reading this reply please note I will not publish comments that are rude or abusive so please save yourself the keyboard time and write constructive comments only or valid counter arguments

  2. I would argue that it’s irresponsible to teach any breaking or strangulation techniques to children under at least 12. I would use 12 as a guide, as it would really depend on the cognitive development of the individual based on their understanding of risk, long term effects and moral judgement as all these apply outside of the dojo where real damage can occur without supervision. After all, this is why people and u18s can be afforded a shorter sentence in the legal system under ‘deminished responsibility ‘ due to their lack of development.
    Ild also put forward the point that when I was last involved in abae boxing, children are non contact until ten, and can only do skill bouts initially.

      1. I read quite a few of the posts on facebook, but the above response to this one riled me. Do people forget the the express intention at the core of these techniques is ultimately to kill and maim an opponent?

  3. Your an idiot Chokeholds can’t kill you and armbars only break your arm sometimes Chokeholds killing you are rare possibillities

Comments are closed.

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