Call the hold used by NYPD officer Daniel Pantaleo on Eric Garner what it is: a choke.

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On Wednesday a grand jury failed to indict officer Daniel Pantaleo for the murder of Eric Garner, even though the medical examiner determined that his choking death was a homicide. The NYPD and supporters of Pantaleo have insisted that the maneuver the officer used to subdue Garner on the day of his death was a wrestling headlock, but I’m a member of the martial arts community, and I know that is not true.

The hold applied to Eric Garner by NYPD officer Daniel Pantaleo is called a "rear naked choke" (RNC) in Brazilian jiu-jitsu, judo, mixed martial arts, catch wrestling, sambo, and other submission-oriented martial arts. The exact variation applied to Eric Garner is known as "the pliers choke," "the palm to palm clamp," the "Roman choke," the "short choke," or the "bulldog choke."

This rear naked choke variation is the exact chokehold that NYPD officer Daniel Pantaleo applied to Eric Garner on the day of his death.

Below is a video link of Stephan Kesting, a well-respected jiujiteiro, teaching the steps to successfully perform a rear naked choke on another person. You can watch how, starting at 1:55, Kesting introduces a position he calls "The Tiger Claw" which is used to initially wrap your forearm around a person. The next step is called the "Palm to Palm Clamp." At this point, strong pressure is being applied to the neck, and is enough to choke someone into unconsciousness. The “palm to palm clamp” is what we in the martial arts community call the “Pliers Choke.” This is exactly how Eric Garner was choked.

The idea that this was a wrestling headlock, as the NYPD has claimed, is laughable.

That is why I am calling on Attorney General Eric Holder and his team, who will be performing a federal investigation into this incident, as well as the NYPD, who are currently conducting a separate investigation into the conduct of the officers involved, to recognize what really happened here and correctly classify it as an illegal chokehold, not a benign wrestling headlock.

Review the video below and then re-watch (if you can stomach it) the video of Eric Garner's homicide. The officer does the Pliers Choke step by step, almost as if he had training in how to choke someone.

The Pliers Choke is a nasty choke hold. I practice submission-grappling, and a lot of us don't like to apply this move to our partners because it creates a frontal crushing pressure on the trachea if not done with complete accuracy. It is painful and can cause damage to the trachea.

Eric Garner was choked, Attorney General Eric Holder. Call it a choke to speak the truth of a man's death, and give him that small but highly important piece of justice. 

Stephan Kesting video:

Eric Garner video: (At 1:32 of this version you can see the palm to palm Rear Naked Choke being applied to Eric Garner.)

Update: On Dec 6th at UFC 181, a mixed martial arts fight between Raquel Pennington and Ashley Evans-Smith ended when Pennington placed Evans-Smith in the chokehold above. Please see the exact choke applied here in an MMA match:

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