How to Apply a Sleeper Hold

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How to Apply a Sleeper Hold

If you watch mixed martial arts (MMA) bouts or professional wrestling matches, you may hear the announcer call many chokes and submission moves as “sleeper holds.”  The sleeper hold stays true to its name: it forces the opponent to be knocked out, as if he or she slowly falls asleep.  Here are ways to help you learn how to perform these basic wrestling maneuvers.

What is a Sleeper Hold?

Sleeper holds are a group of wrestling and martial arts maneuvers that are applied from the back of an opponent.  The goal of a sleeper is to focus the attack on certain veins and arteries on the neck area to force a submission or a knockout.  While the move is meant to look dangerous in professional wrestling, very little pressure is applied when a sleeper is executed.  In combat sports, however, the danger of sleeper holds is very real, and may cause serious injury when applied improperly.

There are three kinds of sleeper holds:

  • The catch sleeper is the sleeper hold used in many professional wrestling matches, although it is also used in MMA.
  • The choke sleeper is also known as the rear naked choke (RNC), and is a very common sleeper hold used in MMA.  The popularity of the choke sleeper in MMA has also made it a popular submission hold in professional wrestling.
  • The inverted sleeper is called a “Dragon Sleeper” in professional wrestling, and is a popular part of the move set of wrestlers who specialize in submission-style wrestling.

Applying a Catch Sleeper

The catch sleeper is a popular counter for running opponents, and was once used as a very effective submission hold in the early days of professional wrestling.  The catch sleeper applies pressure on the jugular vein in the neck, while applying pressure on the veins on the temple.  To apply the catch sleeper, follow these steps:

  1. Get behind the opponent.
  2. Wrap your right arm around the neck of the opponent.
  3. Grab the left shoulder of your opponent, and encircle your forearm over his or her forehead.
  4. Apply the pressure needed for your opponent to tap out.

Applying a Choke Sleeper

The choke sleeper, or RNC, is a popular maneuver in MMA, and has forced many fighters to tap out because of its quickness and effectiveness.  The RNC applies pressure on the carotid arteries, restricting the flow of blood to the brain.  To apply the choke sleeper, follow these steps:

  1. Get behind the opponent.
  2. Wrap your left arm around the neck of the opponent.
  3. Grab the biceps of your right arm, and place your right forearm on the back of the opponent.  Your arms should now resemble a figure-four around the head of your opponent.
  4. Apply the pressure needed for your opponent to submit.

Applying an Inverted Sleeper

The inverted sleeper, also known as the dragon sleeper, is a popular finisher that restricts the airway of the opponent, and applies pressure to the veins of the neck.  To apply an inverted sleeper, follow these steps:

  1. Get behind the opponent.
  2. With the opponent’s face up, tuck his or her head underneath your arm.  Hook his or her near arm with your free arm to minimize the chances of a counter.
  3. Kneel and pull back with your shoulders to apply pressure.  You can also force the opponent downward as you apply a body scissors to apply maximum pressure.

Like any submission hold or choke hold, sleeper holds are particularly dangerous and can cause serious injuries when executed improperly.  Do not attempt to execute any sleeper hold if you do not have the training or skills needed to apply a proper sleeper hold.