Self Defense: The Carotid Slap / Strike

The carotid slap / strike is a great self defense technique, which is very useful in self-defense and close range situations. When executed correctly, the so-called “Okinawan slap“, “carotid strike” or “carotid slap” will cause the assailant  a sudden loss of oxygen to the brain, followed by the fainting and collapse. This self-defense technique aims to strike the carotid sinus, which is located on either side of the assailant’s neck, slightly behind the jaw.  If we may delve into human anatomy for a minute: the carotid sinus is the area at which the common carotid artery separates into the internal and external carotid arteries. The carotid sinus contains numerous baroreceptors which act to regulate our blood pressure.


Human neck anatomy showing the carotid arteries, the carotid sinus, and the location of the baroreceptors responsible for regulating blood pressure

A strike to the carotid sinus “confuses” the receptors to believe that the body’s blood pressure is too high. That, in turn, leads to a sudden drop in blood pressure, as the body attempts to rectify the “high blood pressure”. The effect is insufficient blood supply to the brain, which triggers the fainting. It is a very striking result — a seemingly simple self-defense strike / carotid slap, and the assailant falls to the floor. Yet another version of slap hits the assailant’s ears, aiming to rupture the eardrum.

The slap is seemingly simple — everyone knows how to do an open hand slap! The key to generating good power in the slap is to keep the arm relaxed, and use the legs and hips to power the technique. Here is the result on a Thai pad:

Okinawan slap self defense technique

After the self defense slap

And here is a result in real life — a strike to the carotid sinus, which causes immediate loss of consciousness, and a lingering effect that ends the fight right there:

(Please don’t try this at home — the partner in the video could have easily hit his head on a piece of furniture while collapsing, sustaining serious injuries.)

and another one (with no comment on the appropriateness of the situations):

Please join our regular martial arts and self defense classes in San Diego for more training.

Brian is a life-long martial artist, athlete, and serial entrepreneur. He teaches martial arts and self defense to adult and teen students in San Diego, at the Full Potential Martial Arts dojo in Carmel Valley.

12 comments on “Self Defense: The Carotid Slap / Strike
  1. C Wilowki says:

    Thank you for all the great material about karate. It is very practical for self defense. I appreciate it for your efforts. You should keep it up forever! Best of luck.

  2. Pat says:

    I tried this last weekend and its worked! The Okinawan slap is a very powerful technique.
    Thank you for your post!

  3. Sean J. says:

    The carotid sinus slap is an awesome self defense technique.
    Is there any way to practice it “for real” on a partner?

    • Brian Sensei says:


      I would definitely not recommend deliberately inducing loss of consciousness in your training partner.

      First, it is bad for one’s brain to be deprived of oxygen (that’s how the carotid sinus slap works). Second, when one faints, there is no telling what they will hit as they go down. They may hit the back of their head, their spine — who knows.

      How would you feel if you caused permanent damage to your training partner? I would not practice carotid slaps “for real” any more than I would practice eye gouges “for real.”

      Here is a video of an especially egregious case of a dumb instructor repeatedly causing their student to faint using the carotid slap. This is a very bad idea.

      By the way, if someone faints during training, immediately tend to them with first aid. Assuming the person has not sustained any injuries in the associated fall:
      1. Check for ABCs — Airway clear, Breathing, heart Circulating blood.
      2. Position the person on his or her back, and raise the legs above hear level. This will aid in restoring blood flow to the brain. Loosen belts, collars, and other restrictive clothing.
      3. If he person does not regain consciousness within one minute, immediately seek emergency help!!!
      4. Allow the person to remain in a reclined position for a few minutes. Do not rush to stand the person up!

  4. Pat M. says:

    Wonderful article on self-defense! Thanks!

  5. Kevin H. says:

    Excellent article! The Okinawan slap is a formidable self defense technique.

  6. Demi B says:

    Thanks for the excellent article. The carotid sinus strike is a great technique!

  7. Gary S. says:

    Excellent explanation of the carotid sinus strike! Awesome blog. Keep up the good work!

  8. Lola D says:

    Do you think that the carotid slap can be used by a small woman, in self defense against a large man?

    • Brian Sensei says:

      Yes — most certainly!
      Like many Okinawan Karate techniques, the primary aim of the carotid slap is for self defense against a large opponent. It does not require much power to be executed correctly.
      Note that the carotid sinus is located a forward from the side of the neck, ahead of the neck’s sternomastoid muscle (imagine about half the distance between the muscles on the side of the neck, and Adam’s Apple on the front of the neck). Therefore, it can be hit even if the assailant is much taller than you.
      Keep training and practicing!

  9. Alfred K. says:

    Another great martial arts post.

  10. Jane H. says:

    Excellent article on this very simple yet highly effective self defense technique. Thanks!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *