13 responses to “Take Your Breath Away: Basics of Breath Play”

  1. Iraie

    There are some much safer ways than choking to do breath play. If you are going to engage in it, and some people are going to no matter how much you warn them, please do it in the safest way possible.

    I recommend you go down to your local judo or jiu jitsu club and learn a few strangles. The difference between strangles and chokes is that choking involves cutting off the airway whereas strangling involves putting pressure on the arteries in the neck to reduce the oxygen getting through to the brain. Choking involves risking damage to the larynx and bruising the osoephagus, whereas strangling is more difficult but more or less safe providing the submissive is able to communicate the need for it to cease before s/he blacks out.

    Strangles are done in a safe, sane and consensual way at your local judo club and there’s no reason it can’t be the same in BDSM. You do, however, have to have the training, knowledge and confidence to do them correctly, and your submissive has to have the training to ‘tap out’ or safeword as soon as s/he begins to feel it working.

  2. Morgan

    Excellent advice Iraie! I think that’s a great idea. It hadn’t occurred to me that strangles could be used in BDSM, but totally makes sense. Also, Norische does mention other types of breath play besides choking.

    Thanks for your comment. It’s a great addition to the discussion.


  3. Ty

    While breath play done wrong is dangerous, i could be wrong but the author seems to have a closed mind about it, it could just be that i am taking this wrong but thats how it seems to me. As with anything in our world there are levels holding your hand over your subs mouth and nose while counting to 3 or 5 or so doesn’t seem dangerous to me. I hold my breath at the same time in order to not misjudge it. i rarely go past 5, in that even though i am also holding my breath fro the same extent she is in a bit more “distress” than i am and may be using more oxygen.
    In that instance to me it seems both safe and sane.

  4. Morgan

    Norische does say it’s their opinion only. I think there are a lot of ways to play with breath that aren’t as risky as those discussed in the piece. As with everything, opinions and mileage will vary. I agree with you that what you’re describing isn’t very high risk.
    Thanks for chiming in. Good point.


  5. socratessaysno

    This author did offer and opinion AND some great (and very true) medical advice. Blood chokes can be just as dangerous. However, I am also a martial artist trained in Kyushu jitsu, Ryukyu Kempo and Ne Waza Jitsu (the last art is similar to judo). Blood chokes NEED to be properly done otherwise you can do damage to the vessels. It’s already been stated, but, I’d like to reiterate that fact for emphasis. Not everyone reading this will have done research into the difference between strangulation and choking.

    Moving on, this is to address a way to determine what is too far for your partner. My partner and I use the blood chokes but use pressure over a broad area of the vessels. One, better restriction of blood flow for quicker results. Two: you spread the pressure out over a larger area which helps reduce pressure over one specific spot, considering the fact for repeated attempts will need to be at the same spot which, over time, any material that experiences repeated pressure and stresses at one spot will eventually start to deteriorate. The broader pressure allows for wiggle room to move your hand up and down. The final tidbit I have is have your partner grab your hair firmly. Once you feel the grip begin to weaken, that’s a strong indication to release. Anything that’s hard to hold onto, thats forcing their elbow to be bent at an angle of less than 20° is prime, because the arm will give no matter what.

    This leads into my final tip: should you be so inclined to take them to the edge of blacking out, the hand clutching the object will fall before they get to the point. Let go immediately. This can take a bit so you risk a lot more but, for those that only want to do it for a bit, the weakening grip is similar to grappling someone, having them in a hold properly, and as they attempt to get you off, it’s that moment when they are deciding whether to keep fighting or tap out. I’ve been at that point and that’s been where my grip and strength begins to fade every time I was caught in a hold. My thoughts were always “damn…I’ve been gotten. Should I tap or can I escape?” Or something to that effect. The folks I trained with all said the same thing. This may not hold true for everyone (nothing ever does) but, I figure I can offer some insight on what’s worked with me and my partner and give you folks a little insight. Just research blood chokes EXTENSIVELY if you want to do them. You can cause clots to form with them if you do not do then right.

    Just some tips from experiences I’ve had!!! Hope it helps a bit.

  6. Rev

    It would be wonderful to have you write a guest post for us on this topic. Or any that you’d like to share with our readership.
    If you’re interested, check the “write for us” tab at the top of the site and let us know if you have any questions. This is great information and I’d love to see more people have access to it.

    Thank you!


  7. Voron

    It seems I end up in many conversations on the topic of breath play. It also seems that since I shoot down very poor arguments and research used by people who claim to be concerned with safety many misunderstand my personal views on breath play. Hopefully this will clarify my thoughts on the topic to those who are interested.

    First I do not promote the practice of breath play. I do engage in the practice myself. I am turned on by the reactions of my partner, if that reaction is achieved by soft slow sex, that’s what I do. If they are turned on by being fucked from behind while I apply a rear naked choke, that’s what I do. I suppose in that light you could consider me a bit of a “service top”. I would be perfectly happy if I never engaged in breath play again in a bdsm or sexual setting. It wouldn’t bother me in the least if in the future that reaction is achieved by nibbling on my partners neck. It’s the reaction that I like not the technique.

    Now beyond that my personal interest in the topic stems from the fact I have 20 years of martial arts experience in choking and being choked out. I have done so in tournaments, in the ring in front of crowds, I have taught and coached others how to do it. I have also taught anatomy and physiology at a post secondary level. This experience has given me a particular perspective on the topic of breath play.

    When I have encountered “BDSM experts” who have written, spoke and taught on the topic of breath play, I have found them on the whole not to be very accurate. I have found poor research, bad logic and conclusions. It also seems that the end result of much of this information is confuse the audience as to what the relative risk of the different forms of breath play actually are. Many of these educators claim that their goal is to increase the safety of those in the BDSM community, I think they often reduce the safety.

    What does it take to be a “BDSM expert”? Is there required education? Is there educational over sight? Is there certification? Is there a proving ground which shows competence beyond a shadow of a doubt? Nope there are none of these. It seems all some one has to do to be a “BDSM expert” is to hang around long enough to get known, write a book or paper, speak at a few events. Poof! Instant expert. This just doesn’t wash in most other areas of society. The problem is further compounded by the fact that these “experts” will dismiss people with skills and knowledge from other areas because it’s not kink. Well that’s just silly, if I have been applying chokes for twenty years on some one wearing a judo uniform, the technique and physiology don’t suddenly change because my partner is wearing black leather. This line of reasoning is simply used by people to defend their status rather than improving their knowledge and skill to maintain their position as “expert”.

    Now in the field of martial arts judo, jujitsu, submission wrestling and mixed martial arts all practice and use a variety of choking techniques. In practice and in competition these techniques are often applied until the person either taps out (uses a safe word/gesture) or passes out. There are done every day by tens of thousands of people with a near perfect safety record. If some one has competed in tournaments and matches with rules that allow chokes, and they have a winning record you can be pretty sure that they know how to apply chokes. If they have trained fighters who have won tournaments like the north American grappling association (NAGA) tournaments, you can be pretty sure they know how to train people in the safe application and defense of chokes. Unlike BDSM the martial arts world has a way or PROVING competency. That way is competition. I have competed and won, I have trained people who have competed and won. Like every other instructor I know none of my students have ever had a serious injury from the application of a choke. It’s important to know that a lot of people can claim they have martial arts experience but proving competition experience is another thing. I can point people to online videos of over 20 competition bouts that the team I coached recorded. I can walk you over to any of the five competitive schools in my area and all the instructors know me.

    I have run into BDSM breath play experts who have been teaching for 20 years and have a huge fan base that would be laughed out of any competitive jujitsu school in the nation. I’m not saying they would be derided because they couldn’t fight, there are a lot of great instructors too old and injured to compete. They would be the subject of scorn because their “information” is…bullshit. Anyone who has practiced hundreds of thousands of chokes at full force in a competitive setting for years learns the same basic things. Why, because reality will out. If you do something full out with out a compliant partner you learn what works and what doesn’t. You learn what is dangerous and what is safe. The physiology and reality don’t change because of opinions.

    You can look at my other writings to check the safety record of judo, jujitsu etc. With hundreds of thousands of people practicing for decades there has been one reported death from choking. I challenge anyone to find a similar safety record for putting plastic bags over your head, or for gaging some one with a foreign object. If experts are interested in safety and increasing the knowledge base in the BDSM community why not draw on the over 100 years of experience found in judo and jujitsu? I think part of the reason is that some of the experts don’t want to bring it up because they don’t have jujitsu or judo experience. In my mind that is unfortunate. You can still give a seminar and recommend some one seek out a good school, it doesn’t mean the expert has to go out and train. It would be a good idea, but it is not required.

    It is sad that people spend a great deal of time talking about the potential dangers of cardiac arrest and stroke from the application of martial arts style artery chokes. There is no evidence to support the supposition that properly applied artery chokes carry any more risk of stroke or cardiac arrest than engaging in vanilla sex. In my view many of the other forms of breath play DO carry a much higher risk of such things happening than vanilla sex. Some people say “but if the chance of death is even one in a million shouldn’t it be mentioned?”. My answer is yes of course but it must be put in context, it’s all about relative risk. Advocates of abstinence only sex education go to great lengths to play up the small percentage of condom failures, mainly to support their case for chastity. The numbers show that this method of education actually increases unintended pregnancies. Why, because it provides the argument that condom’s might fail so why bother. A good sex education class mentions that condoms still bear a small risk, but should be used because they are the best option.

    There are people who are going to engage in breath play, simply over playing the potential dangers obscures the information about the relative risk of the different forms of breath play. It would be safer if no one engaged in breath play. It would also be safer if no one ever had sex. For the portion of the population who is going to engage in breath play the BDSM community owes them the best information about how to play as safe as possible. They owe them information that accurately portrays the risk, information that does not over play and does not underplay the risk. Breath play kinksters deserve recommendations on things they can do to gain practical knowledge about the health risks and the safe applications of various techniques.

    In that light here are the my recommendations to those who want to engage in breath play
    1 Go to your doctor. Tell them you are planning on joining a jujitsu class were they practice chokes. Ask your doctor to perform a stress test to assess your cardiovascular and respritory fitness. Have them discuss what they think your risk factors are. Certain information in your family and personal health history can effect your risk, as can certain medications. Your doctor is the one to inform you about YOUR risk, not some random un certified non physician “BDSM expert”.

    2 My next recommendation is to find a competitive jujitsu school in your area. It is important to find a school that competes, and hopefully wins, because that helps assure competence. Then sign up for 2-3 months. You can tell the instructor you have a particular interest in applying and defending against chokes like the rear naked choke. If they ask why you can say because they win a lot of UFC matches and they look cool.

    3 Consider talking future play partners into taking a month or two worth of classes.

    4 IF you are not going to take classes the safest breath play is to hold your own breath, kids do it all the time safely. When you get into putting objects in the mouth and bags or gas masks over the head, then you get into much more danger. I can point to huge populations safely doing artery chokes, you won’t find evidence of huge populations putting bags over their heads safely.

    5 You can also consider using a cheap heart rate monitor and blood oxygenation monitor in your play. You can purchase them for under 100 dollars and they are easy to use. It’s not hard to talk to your doctor about the danger zones for blood oxygenation and heart rate. You can be straight up with the doc, or do it by saying you are concerned about those levels when exercising.

    Now when you hear people talking about vasovagal dangers, R on T incidence, cardiac arrest and strokes from the application of artery chokes. Please ask them do you have any evidence that this happens, can you give me the percentages of the tens of thousands of judo players that die from this happening?

    You should further ask them what safety precautions they suggest. See if they mention talking to your doctor, or using heart rate or blood oxygenation monitors. If not you have to wonder if they are truly and expert concerned about safety, or they are simply some one who enjoys “being the expert”

  8. Hanz

    I don’t really want to add to the dick jousting above but I would like to clarify that brain cells do in fact grow back. Source: http://lmgtfy.com/?q=Do+brain+cells+grow+back%3F

  9. nex5

    Brain cells only replicate in your hippocampus (the long term memory part) after the age of two. Even if your brain could grow new cells throughout the brain, it wouldn’t matter because the neural connections would not reform.

  10. Ivan Z

    New neurons do form new connections. They come mainly from neural stem cells dividing in the subventriculat zone, and may arrive for the purpose of learning, or indeed replacing lost cells. There is also some evidence for neurogenesis in thecneocortex, resonsible for higher brain functions.

  11. J-112358

    Does anyone understand/have more info on the topic of breathay being less safe for those with bipolar depression and why the manic phase especially is damgerous?

  12. Raven

    To be honest I am bipolar. The reason for myself it not being as safe for me when I am manic is because I love to take it further then I normally do. But I have an amazing partner who knows me well enough to know that I have become manic. So he takes me further other ways so he won’t hurt me with the breath play. Because I have encouraged him to take that further when I am manic. And I had a medical check up to basically clear me for this play. He knows how (medically speaking) far we can take it. This is just my personal experience not an “Expert opinion or advice”.

  13. Matthew

    @Voron, this is WAY late, but I still want to say thanks. Your comment was far more informative than any article I’ve read. My new gf is really into this, but honestly, I know little to nothing about it, so looking for information, it’s good to see comments like yours. I’m not saying that I’m going to indulge her with breath play at all, but I’d like some less biased info than what I’m finding.
    An article titled “Basics of Breath Play” that goes on to be nothing more than a long warning saying not to do it, but if you do “do it safely”. Well, THAT was no help at all!
    So thanks for your much more insightful comment!

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