Attacking the Crucifix Against the Turtle

The Crucifix position can be a dominating position once someone gets there, the trouble is: attaining it, and holding the position. The position offers a slew of submission opportunities and is considered a “finisher’s” position. So, how do we get there, and how do we finish?

Isolating the Arm

First, from the top of someone’s Turtle Guard is one of the more prominent positions to attack the Crucifix setup from. Most people are not just going to have a loose guard. They will be turtled up tight, with their elbows tucked neatly inside their knees. Their head will be down, and their chin tucked in. This is their fortress, and now it is our job to systematically destroy it.

Let’s start as is we are on the left side of their body. First thing we need to do it to get our seatbelt. Our hips should be tight against their hips, and our arm closest to their body around their waist. This arm will go under their far arm, and our other over their shoulder closest to us. From here we simply lock our hands with a guillotine-like grip.

Our outside leg will be posted out. This puts our weight into our opponent, and keeps us tight to them. Now, we have to be able to get our inside knee in between our opponent’s elbow and knee.

The idea is to isolate their arm closest to us, in order to allow the space necessary to apply the crucifix setup. If they are loose with their guard, just simply slide your knee into the gap. If they care about defending themselves and stay tight, we can still get in.

Most people want to just slide their knee in, but obviously they can’t when their opponent is defending correctly. So, they try to force it in. How often does force get anyone in BJJ? Exactly. Instead of forcing it, face your inside knee towards their hips. This goes with the grain, so to speak, of your opponent’s defense, making it easier to get your knee in.

Once we are in, use that knee to push your opponent’s arm forward. With that leg that is posted, bring your foot inside the arm you pushed out. Now scoop their arm with your foot, and now figure four your bottom leg over your foot that is over their arm.

Getting Into Position

Now we have the arm between our legs. We have two options from here. First, the traditional way to take the Crucifix is to roll over our opponent, with their arm between our legs, bringing them into the position. To do this, we keep our seatbelt tight, and get to our toes. It is crucial we keep our legs tight around their arm in order to not lose the work we just did getting it.

Now that we are over our opponent, we turn our head as to face their head, and roll over the opposite shoulder. Keeping that seatbelt will make submissions readily available.

The second option we have is from that same setup, instead of rolling over our opponent, we can simply pull our opponent on top of us. Here, I prefer changing from the initial seatbelt setup to taking the arm that was over their shoulder out, and placing it over top the back of their neck. With my other arm still under their far arm, I make a Gable grip. The hand that is over their neck is supinated, and I press my forearm into their neck, creating a vice. Now, I simply pull them on top of me.

This is the Crucifix. It is crucial not to allow your opponent to connect their hands. This is the start to their escape. There seems to also be a debate over what leg should be over the arm you have in your crucifix. It will ultimately come down to preference, and submission attempt.

Finishing From The Crucifix

If you kept that initial seatbelt, and are in a Gi, a favourite go-to is simply a collar choke from the back. With the hand that is over the shoulder, make a grip high up on their collar. With your hand that is under their arm, go deep under and weave it behind their head. As you straighten your arms, the space will become smaller, and you will get the submission.

In Nogi, a rear naked choke is also available. I prefer a short choke, but again, these things come down to preference. One you are able to get your arm under their neck, release the hand that was underneath their arm, and connect a Gable grip. The hand that is across their neck should be palm down, or pronated.

The other, of course, would be palm up, or supinated. This grip should look familiar, since we used it earlier to pull our opponent on top of us. Again, think about bring your elbows in tight, creating that vice. This is a wind-choke, like a guillotine. It is brutal and will earn a quick tap.

For more advanced players there is also an armbar from this position with the arm that is between your legs. So, first thing first, we need to control the arm closest to us. You can do this with an under-hook, and your hand on their shoulder. This will control their ability to slide up, and down your body (another means to escape). But better than the under-hook, is locking up a kimura grip on that arm.

Remember when I said the leg positioning will matter for certain submissions, well this is one of those submissions. If your bottom leg is holding the arm, you need to switch to the top leg. To do this, and not lose the arm, you first weave in your top foot, before removing the bottom leg. If you just attempt a quick switch, more than likely, you will lose the arm.

Once the legs are switched, you need to cross your ankles and slide them over top your opponent’s wrist. Keeping your legs tight, press your hips up. Their arm should be locked out for the straight armbar.

The Crucifix is a dominating position. It is definitely one every high-level player should have in their arsenal. Play around with your preferred method of getting to, and holding the position. Become a finisher from the back.

About the author

Jake Lovell

Jake Lovell

My name is Jake, and I train at Steel MMA in San Diego, CA. I am currently a blue belt in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. Aside from training Jiu-Jitsu I enjoy boxing and Muay Thai. I love reading, and writing. I currently write fiction and non-fiction, including essays. When I can, I enjoy going camping, shooting archery, and just being in nature.