I remember when I was first introduced to the choke. It was back in the mid 80’s – by grappling and American Stunt legend Gene LeBell. I went around to have dinner at Gene’s house in Los Angeles, accompanied by then Word Kickboxing Champion Stan Longinidis. After we had finished dinner, Gene invited us upstairs to take a look at some of his training memorablia and discussions soon turned to his old-school pro-wrestling career and the famous Gene LeBell sleeper hold. I couldn’t help but ask if I could experience the technique first-hand – and anyone who knows Gene LeBell, knows that he is always ready to oblige such silly requests. He sat me down, slapped on a back-choke and asked me to count backwards from ten. Five or six seconds into the distracting exercise, the lights went out, and the vivid, technicolor dreams began.
When I came to, my eyes beheld the strangest of sights; there was Stan Longinidis, standing up on top of Gene LeBell’s sofa, as if he’d seen a mouse; mouth open and breathing more heavily than a world champ should. What a great experience. Suddenly I became a huge fan of the choke. It slipped quietly from the ‘theory’ column to the ‘practical’ column – and I knew I needed to master this art. That very same week, I sought out my first BJJ class. And so my serious study began.