NECK CRANK BJJ
Brazilian Jiu Jitsu can be a highly dangerous art form, from the strenuous impact of takedown maneuvers, the heavy grinding pressure of a guard passer, to the dangerous components of joint locks, and choke holds. Commonly the bjj building blocks to a choke consist of pressure to both carotid arteries, or pressure up into the trachea of an opponent.
What this article covers:
- What Is a Neck Crank
- Are Neck Cranks Legal in BJJ Competition
- Different Variations of Neck Cranks
- How to Defend a Neck Crank
This concept can become exceedingly dangerous, as the neck area does not take much of a tweak to cause an injury. Most chokes are clean, and precise, because the effect will cause an opponent to tap, or they will lose consciousness.
Some chokes will become borderline, as the effect can be disastrous. Any rotational or twisting action, or upwards, or downwards hyperflexion, or elongation is considered a neck crank, and can be very dangerous for a practitioner.
WHAT IS A NECK CRANK
A neck crank is unlike a clean choke, as the twisting nature can cause debilitating neck injuries. Any type of pressure applied to the cervical spine which causes hyperextension, hyperflexion, lateral hyperflexion, or hyper rotation is extremely dangerous. This can happen when the neck is bent, twisted, or elongated. Commonly a neck crank is applied by an opponent pulling, or twisting the neck beyond the normal parameters of its normal range of motion. Neck cranks are extremely dangerous, and even though they are banned in many forms of combat, there are disciplines like Mixed Martial Arts and Submission Wrestling that do still allow this dangerous practice. A neck crank is predominantly applied as a submission maneuver, but it can also be applied as a way to break the guard, or pass the guard.
Neck cranks can also be clean submissions that have gone wrong. For instance a guillotine choke, or a triangle choke that uses lateral movement of the neck can be considered a neck crank. This is exceedingly true when an opponent has a triangle secured, and they scoot their butt backwards, as they bring their locking mechanism towards the mat, and this will cause significant pressure on the neck of an opponent. There are many other chokes that can often cause neck cranking problems, and it is up to each individual athlete to make sure that they administer their chokes in a clean, and functional way. Sometimes an opponent may have a clean choke, but it is the rotational angle of their hips, as they try to secure a better angle, that forces the choke into a neck crank. This can become extremely debilitating to an athlete, and can also result in disqualification from competition matches.
ARE NECK CRANKS LEGAL IN BJJ COMPETITION
There has been a heavy debate within the Brazilian Jiu Jitsu community about the viability of neck cranks in Jiu Jitsu. The IBJJF is the number one organisation worldwide, and they have a strong stance on the concept. Neck cranks are completely illegal in all divisions, and all referees have their right of discretion to disqualify any competitor that uses a neck crank. This means any premeditated attacks, and even an accidental neck crank is deemed illegal, and can warrant a disqualification penalty. However, not all organisations deem the practise of neck cranks illegal, as the up and coming ADCC is one that does allow some neck cranks. In the ADCC athletes are allowed to use the twister submission, and the bjj can opener. The only neck cranks that are illegal in the ADCC are neck cranks that trap both shoulders of an opponent, and put downward pressure onto their neck.
DIFFERENT VARIATIONS OF NECK CRANKS
There are many different types of neck cranks that are all just as dangerous as each other. The can opener is one of the most common, and this is because of the accessibility of the maneuver. Quite often an opponent that is trying to break open a guard may use two hands behind the head like a thai clinch, and without realising the danger they may pull upwards causing significant hyperflexion to the neck. This type of neck crank can happen from a number of different positions like when an opponent is in the mount position, and they pull the head upwards. Another common, but accidental way this neck crank can be administered is when an athlete is in the seated guard position. From here the athlete may be looking for double under hooks, as their opponent looks to sprawl, and this can cause an accidental pressure to the back of the head, as the opponent drives their weight downwards. This can be extremely brutal because the athlete is stuck in a seated guard position, and they cannot escape their hips in time to avoid the injury.
Neck cranks are dangerous just like jiu jitsu leg locks, and athletes will need to be careful how they transition, and set up, or escape submissions. Another dangerous neck crank is a reverse crucifix, and this will cause hyperflexion to the neck region. This submission involves trapping an opponent's hands, while forcing their head towards their chest. This movement commonly happens when an athlete is in side control, as their opponent's head is lifted up underneath the chest of the athlete, with their arms trapped. This will inhibit their ability to escape, as the dangers of this submission are exponential. This is why there is a significant importance to staying connected, and using frames to manage the distance between combatants.
The twister is Eddie Bravo's signature move, and it starts by securing the bjj lockdown. This defensive position will help an athlete improve their position into more attacking ones like the bjj electric chair, before then rolling into the truck position. From here the athlete can manipulate their opponent's body posture to administer the twister, which at first glance is a spinal crank, but is predominantly a neck crank. The twister is essentially a sideways body bend, and neck crank that involves an athlete's head getting pulled towards their shoulder, as their body is controlled in the opposite direction. This movement causes lateral hyperflexion to the cervical spine, and is an exceedingly dangerous maneuver. The tension of this submission to a number of different body parts can be extremely painful. The twister is often thought to be just a spinal crank, but the main pressure is to the cervical spine, which makes this submission a neck crank.
Sometimes submissions like the guillotine, the darce choke, or the peruvian necktie can also be considered as a neck crank. This is because these types of chokes can be applied with a sideways angle, therefore making it a neck crank. Predominantly these chokes are clean, and as long as the practitioner applies the correct technique this will not be considered a neck crank. Any kind of rotational pressure, or lateral hyperflexion within the choke parameters will be considered a neck crank, and is extremely dangerous for an athlete. This type of pressure can create considerable damage to the cervical vertebrae. So it is vitally important to apply chokes in a clean, and responsible manner.
Another way that an athlete can suffer from a neck crank is through getting stacked by an opponent. This can be a common occurrence when athletes try to invert, as all the opponent has to do is put pressure down on top of their neck, causing significant neck crank pressure. Sometimes this pressure can be accidental, while other times it can be a premeditated way for an opponent to pass an athlete's guard. Either way, getting stacked onto an athlete's neck is technically not illegal in competition, but in a training sense it is frowned upon by many practitioners of the art. Understanding the mechanics of how to invert properly is crucial in the survivability of an athlete's neck. This means that all athletes that invert must know how to bail out of the position, and roll through into a guard retention system. Staying safe from neck cranks is crucial to the longevity of an athlete's career, and more importantly to the overall safety of a person's life.
HOW TO DEFEND A NECK CRANK
There are several ways to defend the neck crank but with most of these types of defenses it comes down to early prevention methods. First and foremost, athletes must understand the mechanics of the neck, and know how to position themselves with posture. If an athlete drops their head they leave themselves exposed to an opponent's attack, which can often leave them vulnerable to neck injuries. Many world class athletes speak about posture as one of the most fundamentally important aspects of a Brazilian Jiu Jitsu athlete's game style. To use good posture means to keep their spine in alignment, and this will help them dramatically in staying safe from unwanted attacks to the cervical spine.
Framing is one of the most important details to learn for defensive mechanisms in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu. A lot is spoken about muscular strength, and good technique, but little has been divulged about skeletal strength. This is an element that involves an athlete to use the strength in their frame to keep themselves protected from an attacker. Most top game athletes will attempt to attack the crossface, or the guillotine scoop, which can put an athlete in danger of getting neck cranked. Using the frame to manage the distance between an athlete, and their opponent is crucial in keeping their neck safe from any type of neck crank. Using frames doesn't just mean to keep an opponent away with their hands, it involves using the whole of their forearms, and their elbows to connect to their knees, and their shins. This type of framing system will make it easy for an athlete to stay safe, and harder for an opponent to have any kind of achievable attack system.
If an athlete finds themselves stuck in some form of neck crank they need to instantly escape their hips, so they can get their spine back in alignment. The crushing pressure of a neck crank is the feeling of having the cervical spine wrenched in an opposite direction, to the rest of the spine. Escaping the hips is crucial to freeing themselves from a dangerous neck crank, but at the same time the athlete needs to address whatever grip is around their neck. This goes back to early prevention methods of addressing whatever grip is tight around an athlete's neck, as this will alleviate some of the pressure, as they try to escape their hips. This means if an athlete has to give up a position, then they must do this, otherwise they may wind up with a broken neck, or worse.
THE IMPORTANCE OF CLEAN JIU JITSU
Often practitioners of the art talk about clean Jiu Jitsu, or dirty Jiu Jitsu. Using dirty Jiu Jitsu tactics means to purposely administer neck cranks, or dangerous pressure to an opponent's neck, or head region. Some of these tactics may not be illegal in competition, but inside of an academy there is a code of ethics, and an unspoken rule of having a duty of care toward all members in the community. Clean Jiu Jitsu is all about using the correct technique to apply a choke hold, and having the respect to not bully or endanger an opponent recklessly. Using clean Jiu Jitsu will help an athlete to gain respect within the community, as they will be known for honour, and integrity. These are extremely important traits for an athlete that is actively seeking to climb the ladder of promotion within the art of Brazilian Jiu Jitsu. To become a black belt, an athlete needs to be humble, honourable, and integral, and not be known for dirty, or bullying tactics. Representing the art of Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, an athlete needs to be caring, nurturing, understanding, and inspiring. An athlete that practices dirty tactics is egotistical, and has none of the traits that is needed to become a leader, or a black belt of the Brazilian art.
BULLET PROOFING FOR BJJ
It is quite common to see beginners of the art injure themselves at the start of their Brazilian Jiu Jitsu journey. This is mainly due to the fact that these new students are not conditioned to the rigorous impacts that competitive grappling has on offer. All athletes must condition their bodies appropriately, so they can be strong, and competitive against all practitioners. There is a common misconception that technique beats strength, and even though to some degree this may be true, this does not apply to an athlete that has amazing technique, and is incredibly strong. This means that all athletes must add significant strength and conditioning to their Brazilian Jiu Jitsu technique. This is called bullet proofing their body, and it is very important, not just for becoming a seasoned athlete, but for injury prevention too.
When athletes are stuck in bad positions in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, this can lead to a diverse range of different injuries that can occur. Neck cranks are high on the list, as they become exceedingly easy to suffer from these debilitating injuries. Strengthening an athlete's body will help to divert some of their opponent's pressure. Commonly when an athlete suffers from a neck crank it is usually because their opponent is stronger, which means the athlete is unable to stay in a defensive position. Using bullet proofing techniques will help to keep an athlete's spine strong, which becomes next to impossible for an opponent to break down their posture. Along with strength and conditioning, all athletes need to warm up comprehensively. This means dynamic stretching, which is getting the blood flowing first, before they static stretch. Warming up an athlete's neck is crucial in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, because of the rigorous grind an athlete will find themselves in. All athletes have their necks hung on by opponents, as they attempt thai clinches, or cross faces. Athletes will also find themselves stuck in different kinds of choke holds, which can lead to severe neck problems. If an opponent is reckless then some of their chokes may actually be neck cranks, so an athlete must warm their necks up so they have a greater chance at surviving, and escaping from these detrimental positions.
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