CAN OPENER BJJ
Brazilian Jiu Jitsu can be a highly dynamic, and dangerous Martial Art. With its high paced competitive nature, many athletes are fully immersed in the technical, and brutal components that exist. There is a high impact within the takedown aspect, and a spine crushing nature to the passing pressure from a heavyweight competitor. From the slick, and unexpecting sweeping prowess, to the brutal compression of choke holds, and the bjj neck crank. Jiu Jitsu is a sport that weeds out the egotistical people, and builds the weak into strong, and formidable tacticians.
What this article covers:
- What Is a Can Opener
- How Dangerous Can a Can Opener Be
- Is the Can Opener Legal in Competition
- Why Would Anyone Use the Can Opener
- How to Defend the Can Opener
There are many moves that are considered extremely dangerous like the scissor leg takedown, jumping into the closed guard, and heel hooks from the bjj ashi garami position. These kinds of maneuvers can cause significant knee injuries, which are detrimental to the longevity of an athlete.
Neck and spinal cranks are another extremely dangerous component involved in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu. Submissions that involve twisting the neck, or the spine can be outright dangerous, and are considered illegal in most competitions, and training facilities. The can opener is one of those neck cranks that is extremely dangerous, and the worst part is how unassuming the move is from inside of a closed guard.
WHAT IS A CAN OPENER
Most athletes that begin training in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu will often ask are leg locks legal in bjj, but what they should be asking is all about the rules surrounding neck cranks. Considering that chokes are legal in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, sometimes it can be hard to differentiate between a choke, and a neck crank. Quite often an athlete will administer a choke, but as they apply their strength, it can often lead to an accidental neck crank. The can opener is one of those opportunistic neck cranks that often a beginner student is unaware that it can be dangerous. When an athlete is in the closed guard they may reach down, and place both of their hands behind the head of their opponent, as they pull the head upwards. This may seem innocent, but this maneuver can cause significant damage to the neck of a training partner, or an opponent.
HOW DANGEROUS CAN A CAN OPENER BE
There are significant dangers surrounding the can opener, as most athletes will avoid this maneuver at all costs. Lifting the neck up while an opponent has the closed guard, can cause significant trauma to the spine, or the muscles in the neck. The can opener can cause neck strains, which is when one or more of the fibers in a neck muscle, or the tendon, will stretch too far and even cause it to tear. There can also be sprains to the neck, which is when trauma is directed into a ligament. There are more than twenty muscles that are connected in the neck region, and all of these muscles work in harmony to support the positioning of the head. They also are responsible for the movement of the head, the neck, the jaw, the upper back, and the shoulders. Sustaining an injury to any of these muscles, tendons, or ligaments can be extremely daunting, and can cause a range of long term problems for an athlete.
There is a worse fate that can happen due to a can opener, and this is breaks, or fractures to the neck bones. There are seven bones that construct the cervical vertebrae, and these bones support the head, and connect to the shoulders, and the torso. If an athlete suffers a can opener submission, especially from a strong competitor it can cause a fracture, or a break to these vertebrae. This can be an extremely serious injury, and this is because the spinal cord, and the central nervous system runs directly through the centre of the cervical vertebrae. If an athlete suffers extensive damage to this area, it can cause temporary, or permanent paralysis, or even death. The possibility of injury from this maneuver is far too dangerous, and must be avoided at all costs.
IS THE CAN OPENER LEGAL IN COMPETITION
The can opener is an illegal move in IBJJF competition, due to the fact that it is a spinal crank. However in the ADCC the move is perfectly legal, just like the twister, as the event organisers allow spinal cranks. The can opener is also a legal move in the UFC, and other Mixed Martial Arts competitions. In the IBJJF the move used to be legal for breaking the guard, but illegal to use as a submission, so there was a grey area attached. In 2004 there was an event called the Arnold Classic, which was a strength and fitness expo, and a Brazilian Jiu Jitsu competition. In this event Jeff Monson was in Marcio Pe de Pano’s closed guard, as he was trying to break and pass his guard. Jeff decided to apply the can opener, which resulted in an instant tap from Marcio.
This caused significant backlash, as many Brazilian spectators began shouting. Twenty minutes after the fight the referee decided to disqualify Jeff Monson due to an illegal submission. This caused an eruption, which led to Jeff pushing the referee, as fights began to break out. As a result both competitors were banned from the next year's event, and the IBJJF decided to completely ban the can opener from its move list. Many people in the community believe that Marcio Pe de Pano had purposely planned to tap, because he knew that Jeff Monson would attempt the can opener to pass his guard. Marcio displayed arrogance, and told Gracie magazine that the fight was all Jeff's fault, and that he would never fight at the event again. Jeff would return the following year after his suspension was up to compete, which showed the community his integrity on the matter.
WHY WOULD ANYONE USE THE CAN OPENER
Of course there may always be bullies in combat sports that try to purposely injure other training partners. This kind of behaviour is unacceptable, and is usually exposed to the wider community. Bullies in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu never last, because they are usually on the receiving end of a hard roll, so they will often become humble, or simply leave the sport. But this is a realistic situation that arises in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, and using the can opener will not win a practitioner any friends inside their academy. There are other reasons why practitioners will use the can opener, and this is because they may have seen the technique as a way to pass the guard. Although this is highly frowned upon, the can opener guard pass is highly effective, and will easily break open most competitor's guards. The problem is that utilising this maneuver will get a practitioner arm barred, so it is not the smartest move in hindsight.
HOW TO DEFEND THE CAN OPENER
The can opener can be just like a jiu jitsu leg lock, it can come on hard and fast, and be extremely dangerous if not checked. Even though the can opener is a highly destructive move, it is extremely easy to defend. One of the easiest ways to defend this neck crank is to address the grip on the head. For starters a high level practitioner would never allow an opponent to secure two hands around the back of their head. It becomes easy to use a two handed grip on a wrist of the opponent, which should make the opponent defend the grip. Another important tip is to use forearms as frames, and this will deny an opponent any chance at attacking the head. Utilising spatial distance is extremely important, and a good knee shield will also make it hard for an opponent to get close to a can opener attempt.
There is another way to defend the can opener, but the practitioner will need to allow their opponent to secure the grips on their head. One of the most basic concepts that a beginner is taught is not to over extend their arms, and this is because of how easy it becomes to secure an arm bar from the guard. When an opponent takes their grips on the can opener, all a practitioner needs to do is pick one arm and secure the tricep, before swinging out to the side, and slotting into an arm bar submission. The practitioner could also thread both of their legs from out of the closed guard, and in front of their opponent's shoulders. This will give them the opportunity to lift their hips and execute a double arm bar, and even if this submission attempt doesn't work, it is guaranteed to force the opponent to escape their arms backwards.
Another way to defend the can opener is when an opponent begins pulling down on a practitioner's head, they should look to secure two hands on their opponent's head. From here they are looking to pull their opponent's head down lower than their own head, then they can push to free themself from this dangerous position. Of course there is always another option, which is to simply open the guard, as the opponent will lose leverage, and will most likely take the guard pass. This may be effective in stopping the pressure to the neck, but it will land a practitioner in other bad positions. The last option if nothing else has worked, or if a practitioner is not quick enough to execute any of these techniques, is to tap. There is no shame in hitting the submit button, because if a practitioner starts to feel pain in their neck they should be thinking about saving themself, rather than not losing the fight. Longevity is extremely important not just for Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, but for a person's life. Suffering from a bad neck injury can severely change a person's life, so it is not worth risking a long term injury just to save the embarrassment of a tap.
All Brazilian Jiu Jitsu practitioners are expected to abide by the unspoken rules of rolling. These rules include not to utilise any jerk submissions, or positions. This means in training, can openers are out the window, so is reefing on any dangerous twisting bjj ankle locks, or heel hooks, instead these moves must be done with caution. Destroying a training partner's knee in the academy is just bad practice, and unacceptable behaviour, which will most likely be met with expulsion from the academy. Some academies will even say that driving a forearm into an athlete's throat is also unnecessary. Brazilian Jiu Jitsu is all about technical proficiency, and using techniques, as opposed to bully moves is what the sport is all about.
Rolling etiquette also involves looking after a training partner, because if a practitioner does not let go of a submission then it can cause dire circumstances. Training with other members in the community means that each athlete has each other's life in their hands, so it is important to respect each other so they can both stay humble, and stay on the mats. Another important aspect of etiquette is when a high level athlete trains with a lower level athlete, or a heavy opponent trains with a light opponent, or a female opponent. These are important aspects and these athletes must treat these etiquette rules as sacred. There is no satisfaction in a 120 kilogram athlete crushing a 60 kilogram athlete, as all this will bring about is injuries. Rolling in the academy is a crucial part of improving in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu techniques, and all members of an academy deserve respect, and have the right to train safely without being bullied.
TRAINING WITH HONOUR AND INTEGRITY
Most Martial Arts are universally integral, as they embody the true nature of the warrior. Brazilian Jiu Jitsu is one of those Martial Arts that creates honour, humility, and integrity. The Brazilian art derived from Japanese Jiu Jitsu, which was passed down the generations from the ancient Samurai in feudal Japan. The honour, and integrity that was bestowed by the Samurai, followed straight into Brazilian Jiu Jitsu. This is why the BJJ community has such an incredible reputation for helping people not just become better fighters, but become better humans. Brazilian Jiu Jitsu is more than learning how to fight, it is a lifestyle that incorporates many principles that apply to real life. Teaching, training, and competing are highly inspiring, as all the members of the community hold their core values in high esteem.
Of course there is always a bad egg among the bunch, but in most cases these people are exposed, and are usually the ones that don't last. When it comes to training in such an extensive Martial Art, it is hard to be anything but humble, and integral. When someone else holds your life in their hands, and they show you mercy, it creates a trust between members, and this core function is what creates the bjj building blocks of a Brazilian Jiu Jitsu academy. Helping members of the community build confidence, learn self defense, build fitness, and improve the quality of their relationships is highly rewarding to members of the Brazilian Jiu Jitsu fraternity. It takes a long time to become a black belt in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, but to see black belts treating white belts equally is amazing, and it is what sets Brazilian Jiu Jitsu apart from other Martial Art forms.
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