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Resurrecting the Crucifix: How To Redeem From Top of the Turtle

Resurrecting the Crucifix: How To Redeem From Top of the Turtle



The Crucifix had always seemed like a cool position. I had never seen it taught in classes and frankly, as a white belt, getting near the back position was so exciting that it generally ended with a failed attempt at a rear-naked choke. After a year and a half at blue belt, however, I have been looking for attacks to chain together into sequences that will lead into one another. This week has led me to realize that from Turtle top there is a pretty awesome Bow and Arrow Choke, the obligatory back take and a pretty awesome Crucifix option when either of the preceding fails. In fact, as a brown belt was evading my back take, the Crucifix just kind of happened for me last week. All it required was a simple rotational movement. Suddenly, I found myself with both of his arms pinned with a myriad of submission options at my fingertips. 

One of the first things that you will notice when researching the crucifix is that it falls into two camps: brilliant and too risky. Some will say that it offers up multiple options for submissions while naysayers will argue that it will leave you in bottom side control with one wrong move. One of the major dangers of the attack comes from the inherent risk of a Fireman's Carry throw as you set up the leg and arm entanglement. I found this out the hard way: at a recent IBJJF competition. 

I would tend to argue that any position that few people use can become a deadly attack simply because few people know the defensive responses since it is rarely encountered. 

The Crucifix is an arm control from the back that opens up similar attacks that one might find from the more traditional back control. One important difference between the two positions is that in lieu of a parallel alignment of your spine with your opponent’s, your spine and chest are perpendicular to your opponent’s. While you use your legs, the control focuses less on your opponent’s legs and solely on his shoulder girdle, upper limbs and head. By controlling one arm using your legs in a figure-four formation, the second arm and neck are exposed to attacks such a wrist locks, strangles and guillotines, arm locks using legs or arms.

Kimura to Crucifix From Side Control by Thomas Lisboa


Where can you learn the basics of this position is a manner that should easily connect to your current game?  The most obvious BJJ Fanatic to turn to would be Thomas Lisboa and his instructional entitled Cruci-fixing - 30 Easy Setups & Finishes From This Forgotten Position. In this video series, Thomas shows how he chooses to set up the entry and the essential concepts around this position. What I like about Lisboa’s approach is that he explains how to complete the techniques, builds upon each successive lesson and offers transitions to positions and attacks that we commonly find ourselves in.

Lisboa demonstrates the importance of creating a trap for your opponent by leaving your lead leg in front of a turtled opponent to encourage him to open up his arm for the taking while also giving space to insert your based rear leg. The challenge here, however, is to ensure that your trap does not simply lead you into being swept or thrown. Any successful trapping and baiting carries some inherent risks, but as Lisboa notes, with proper pressure and awareness you can readily trap the arm and begin entering the position with security. 

Crucifix From Turtle by Thomas Lisboa and Bernardo Faria


Another place to find the Crucifix is within the series Killer Turtle Attacks by Mike Palladino. Unlike Lisboa’s approach, Palladino spends his time looking at a wide range of attacks from top of Turtle and the Crucifix is shown as an ideal attacking position. He also shows how to complete the attacks when resistance is solid from the toughest of opponents.

Learn The Crucifix in and out with BJJFANATICS!


Crucifix Rollover and Crucifix Pull by Mike Palladino


What I have noticed while working on the position during live sparring sessions is that because most practitioners are protecting against hook insertion and chokes, they are not usually thinking about giving up their arm. In fact, most players will readily do so during their attempt to escape and come back on top. Timing becomes critical. I have found that using an algorithmic attack series from the top will lead your opponent into one of the following three negative zones: Crucifix, Bow and Arrow Choke or Back Control. This happens because as he protects against one, it opens up the other. For instance, the Bow and Arrow requires a Collar Grip and the opposite leg, while the Crucifix requires both arms, while the Back requires your legs to hook and eventual control of one arm. The major factor relates to the degree of angle you take with your chest to back position. So, as he attempts to move your grip away from his leg, he opens up an arm; as he defends the Seatbelt control, he opens space for hooks. This holy trinity of attacks can become fierce and overwhelming while you tire your opponent out from the constant downward pressure he faces by carrying your weight. 

At minute 32:56 of Volume 6 of John Danaher’s Attack the Back: Enter the System, Professor Danaher introduces the Back Crucifix as an Auxilliary System that surrounds his main Straightjacket System. Of the Crucifix, he muses that it is “surprisingly, not more used in the sport of jiu jitsu…given that is is one of the more effective attacking positions from the back.” Danaher explores the idea that alignment is truly what matters when attacking the back and enable continuation of attacks against your resisting opponent. His main focus is to create opportunity for an uncontested strangle hand, but also examines how to use wedges and kuzushi to off-balance your opponent when needing to insert the knee between the arm and leg of your opponent.  While the Back Crucifix is a relatively short section of the vast series, John does an excellent job of explaining how it fits into a complete approach to attacking the back. 

I would be remiss if I did not mention that this blog entry is a follow up to my previous article on the power of the Turtle position from the bottom, Turtle Power. Often the only way to understand a defence is to intimately learn the attacks against it, so it follows that to improve your chances at both survival and attacking from a certain position. 

Back Attacks Enter The System by John Danaher

The Enter The System series CHANGED Jiu-Jitsu. Whether you are catching triangles, strangling the neck, or rippin’ Heel Hooks there is a good chance you have John Danaher to thank for the major changes he has helped influence. Check out the complete Enter The System Series!



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