The crucifix is a good way to take your opponent’s grips out in the equation. It allows the player to get submissions such as chokes simply because of the lack of hands that defend the neck. However, the crucifix is also a good entry for wrist lock and armbars. Some setups are even subtle.
What makes the BJJ Crucifix Practical?
The crucifix is practical simply because it is common to find yourself in a scramble position. There are instances when you can hit the crucifix when the opponent tries to wrestle with you while there are also times when your opponent is on turtle. And also, the crucifix can open setups for the neck or limbs when your opponent least expects it.
The crucifix is also a good way to control an opponent especially when you are ahead and up comfortably on points. This can be a good way to also rest and breathe.
And if your opponent even thinks of escaping the crucifix, this becomes a tricky proposition because he or she may leave attacks to happen.
Neck Cranks and Crucifix
Apart from the traditional crucifix, there is a variation that can be used along with a neck crank. This variation isn’t exactly common in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu settings because neck cranks are illegal. However, it has made its appearance in the UFC when Jerry Bohlander subbed Nick Sanzo in UFC 12. This type of crucifix can come from a side mount. You can windshield wiper and eventually get your legs on top of the opponent’s arm (the arm that would frame). Next, you will have to weave your arms underneath the opponent and catch the farside arm to create pressure on the spine.
Crucifix and MMA
Catching someone in the crucifix position is advantageous in MMA especially because you can get shots unanswered. There are even instances when the referee could step in because the opponent isn’t intelligently defending himself or herself.
Setting Up The Crucifix From The Stand Up
One of the more common ways to set up the crucifix is when you defend the takedown successfully. When the opponent tries to shoot, it is crucial to break any hold on your hip or your legs by sprawling your legs back. Next, it is important to choose one arm that you can trap. In some instances, you can also push the head down to the mat to make sure that he or she can’t recover to regain the posture.
Switch to the side where you want to catch the arm and establish your hook. The hook usually comes from the side nearest your opponent’s shoulder. You can triangle your legs to trap one arm in between your legs. And as for the other arm, you can have your Kimura grip.
However, this isn’t the only configuration that you can go for. It is also possible to trap the arm using the one closest to the hip. If you opt to use this setup, you also have the opportunity to go for a sneaky armbar using just your legs. If you want to have one arm free, you can opt to not use a kimura grip. You can use the hand that is closest to the hip to grab by the arm and push your opponent’s arm towards the body. This opens many opportunities such as going for the neck. Also, it becomes easier to roll for a crucifix with your back on the mat because you removed the opponent’s posting hand.
Submissions From The Crucifix
There are several submissions that you can come up with if you opt to go for a crucifix. If you have your near the shoulder free, it becomes a good option to go for a collar chokes in gi. However, setting it up in nogi can be a bit different. To expose the neck, it is important to get the opponent to bridge. To do this, you need to find the configuration where you can attack a key lock on your opponent using your legs. If you can’t get the tap, the most common reaction of your opponent is to load their weight on your body and do a bridge. This will usually expose the neck making it easy to go for a rear-naked choke from the crucifix.
If it is impossible to go for an Americana from the crucifix to expose the opponent’s neck, it is also a good idea to attack the wrist. You can do this by grabbing the palm instead of the wrist. You have the option to use both hands to make it look like you are going for the wrist lock. It is a common scenario that the opponent will also bridge to try to find the leverage to relieve the pressure from the wrist. And from here, you can go for the neck once it becomes available.
Armbar is a sneaky attack from the crucifix. If you can straighten the arm using your leg that is closest to the opponent’s hip, it becomes possible to hit a quick armbar.
Finishing the Kimura
The Kimura trap and the crucifix go hand in hand. From the crucifix, it is a common control to use the kimura grip. But with your legs busy trapping the other arm, it becomes hard to finish the shoulder lock from this position. However, it is easy to release the arm trapped by the legs. You can easily escape your legs and fight for the top. As long as you can keep the opponent’s arm on his or her hip, it becomes harder for him or her to fight for a better position. Here, you can go for the Kimura or even decide to go to the back.
Escaping the Crucifix
It is also a common question asked by a lot of grapplers how to efficiently escape the crucifix. A good way to escape the crucifix is to load yourself towards your opponent and be able to shoulder shimmy out once your shoulder reaches the mat on the other side. It’s the same move done by Andre Galvao when caught in a crucifix by Buchecha.
The crucifix is a powerful position in grappling. It leaves you prone to different attacks given the fact that both hands are taken out of the equation. With many attacks a few escapes and counters from this position, it’s something that you want to add to your arsenal.
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.
The crucifix is a niche position, and when a competitor is good at it, they can normally dominate their competition with it. Similar to Keenan and his lapel guards.
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