What's the Most Dangerous Move in Karate?

Last weekend, the remake of "The Karate Kid" fought its way to number one at the box office, grossing more than $55.6 million, according to industry tracking site Box Office Mojo. The new movie focuses on kung fu, which, like the karate from the 1984 original "The Karate Kid" movie, consists primarily of kicks and punches. But in actual fighting, kicks and punches rank very low on the damage scale, with choke holds and elbows proving the most dangerous.

The rear neck choke, more widely known as the sleeper hold, poses the greatest risk, according to Vitor Ribeiro, a three-time Brazilian jujitsu world champion and instructor at Modern Martial Arts in New York City.

Karate and kung fu, which consist primarily of kicks and punches, do not use this choke hold, but it is found in jujitsu, judo and other grappling-focused disciplines.

In this move, the attacker positions himself behind the victim, wraps his arm around the opponent’s neck and cuts oxygen off to the victim’s brain. This renders the victim unconscious at first, and can cause death if the choke continues, Ribeiro said.

"Sometimes you can take someone down with a punch or kick, but then the person can get up and come at you again. Someone with one arm can still fight,” Ribeiro told Life’s Little Mysteries. “When you choke someone, and put them to sleep, sometimes they don't get up.”

Because of the extreme effectiveness of the rear neck choke, many martial arts have developed countermeasures specifically designed to defeat the move, Ribeiro said. However, making sure that one’s back never faces the opponent is the most effective prevent falling victim to the maneuver.

In karate, the most dangerous move is simply an elbow to the face, Ribeiro said.

Elbows are harder than fists, and an attack with an elbow is more likely to make contact than a knee or kick attack, Ribeiro said. Whereas a punch can lead to a broken fist, an elbow will simply make a solid impact, Ribeiro said.

This article was provided by Life's Little Mysteries, a sister site to LiveScience.

Stuart Fox currently researches and develops physical and digital exhibit experiences at the Science Liberty Center. His news writing includes the likes of several Purch sites, including Live Science and Live Science's Life's Little Mysteries.