Is Choking Legal in Wrestling?

Wrestling has been renowned for centuries for its ability to give practitioners the ability to overpower and take down an enemy much bigger than themselves. It’s a great self-defense sport and is now used as a basic fundamental for those training to become professional mixed martial artists. 

A common question asked about wrestling is whether or not submissions and chokes are legal in the sport. In Olympic-style wrestling such as Greco-Roman and freestyle wrestling, chokes and submissions are illegal. Whereas, in catch wrestling, submission wrestling, and t.v. wrestling, we often see a wide variety of submissions being used.

In this article, we are going to discuss the ins and outs of exactly what a choke is, and why they are not performed within Olympic styles of wrestling. We have everything you need to know about the legality of chokes in wrestling right here.

What is a choke?

A choke often called a chokehold, is a submission used in a wide variety of grappling martial arts such as jiu-jitsu, Judo, and MMA. It is a construction technique that critically reduces or prevents air and blood from passing through the neck of an opponent. 

This style of submission can easily cause the opponent to pass out after 5-10 seconds and is one of the most effective submissions in any martial art and self-defense school.

A choke is applied by sliding your dominant forearm under the chin of an opponent so that you wrap their neck. Adjust your dominant arm by raising it up until your forearm is tight between the chin and chest of your opponent. From here you wrap your arm around their neck as tight as possible and grab their shoulder with your dominant arm to strengthen your grip.

Is a Choke Legal in Wrestling?

Olympic wrestling, or the popular style of wrestling you probably saw going on in your high school growing up, has a very different set of rules to that which you might see on your t.v. late at night.

Olympic wrestling has certain rules that do not permit punishing or brutal holds, i.e. choking, twisting of the fingers, arms, toes, or feet, and striking the opponent. Also, certain holds of the head, arms, and legs are prohibited because of the extreme danger they may cause to the vertebrae and joints.

The objective in Olympic wrestling is not to submit to your opponent, instead, it is a match that starts with both wrestlers on their feet and the main objective is to pin your opponent. This is achieved by holding their shoulder blades on the mat for about a second. 

Thus, any style of submission including choke holds is illegal in Olympic-style wrestling as they fall under the punishing holds category and will be a sure way to get yourself disqualified. 

“Professional” Wrestling

Confusion as to whether or not choking and submissions are legal or not in wrestling can arise from the other forms of wrestling you may see on t.v. or the internet. 

In today’s pro wrestling, such as WWE, we see a multitude of submissions such as chokes being used. Shanya Baszlers finishing move is a rear-naked choke, which is a common chokehold used in mixed martial arts. Samoan Joe is another wrestler that uses the coquina clutch, which is also a form of the common rear-naked choke. 

Roman Reigns, one of the most popular WWE stars uses a move known as the superman punch, yet any kind of strike like this has been illegal in wrestling since the very early days in Greece, thus we can see there is a clear difference between Olympic style wrestling and the entertainment kind you see on your t.v. 

The rules of Pro Wrestling are ambiguous and relate very little to the Olympic style, and this is why there is little to no believability in this kind of wrestling.


Olympic-style wrestling prohibits any submission from being applied to the opponent, this includes choking, as the objective of the match is to pin your opponent through a series of grappling techniques and takedowns. 

While you’ve probably seen your favorite wrestler when you were a child nearly break the neck of his opponent using such a choke, this will never get you to an Olympic level where you will wrestle against the best in the world.