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Use The Cradle To Dominate The Mats

Use The Cradle To Dominate The Mats


Jiu Jitsu is a natural step for a lot of wrestlers, whether it be during middle school or high school that they start training Jiu Jitsu along side the wrestling they are training after school, or maybe they don’t find their way to Jiu Jitsu until later in life, after wrestling has ended.  Either way, we find a lot of Jiu Jitsu practitioners with wrestling backgrounds and it certainly can help. Wrestlers are typically very explosive in nature as a result of their prior training. We also typically find that wrestlers have a strong take down game out of the gates, which is rarely true for typical new students.

Because wrestling and Jiu Jitsu differ in concepts and overall goal you will often find wrestlers to have a less traditional, more unorthodox approach to a lot of the techniques, transitions and takedowns.  One of the most well know for this is Neil Melanson known as “The man who does everything different- yet all the big stars worship him” and his unorthodox secrets coupled with his “most effective half guard you have ever seen”.

Neil Melanson lets us in on some of his unorthodox secrets in his video “Using the cradle to smash BJJ guys”.


Let’s take a look at what he has in store for us.  

When using a cradle position, the grip is important, but should not be the only thing you are relying on.  Your opponent will be looking to peel your fingers and ultimately your grip, but if you are pinching your elbows together properly this should not be an issue.  If you fail to pinch your elbows together, you will run the risk of leaving too much space and allowing your opponent to escape. To know if you are doing this properly, you should be forcing the opponent’s face into you rib cage.

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Before we can get into the drills and tips Neil provides, we must first understand what the cradle position is.  The cradle is achieved when you are starting on the side of your opponent, this could be from an established side control, or possibly after just after passing the guard.  You will reach over the opponent’s head with your top arm and lace your bottom arm through the opponent’s legs. Once you are able to achieve this you will want to connect your hands either with a S grip, and gable grip, or a wrist to wrist grip depending on the opponent’s size and the length of your arms.  From here we are pulling the opponents legs towards the head and their head toward their legs at the same time as if trying to make them meet in the middle. While doing this it is very important to keep your elbows tucked as tight as possible as to prevent the opponent from being able to slip their head out ruining everything you have worked for.

The first basic drill Neil shows us is starting with the cradle position he turns his hip down, facing away from the opponent initially, allowing his to step over the opponent’s top leg trapping it with his top leg.  Once he get’s control of the leg, without sacrificing the cradle, he turns his hips the opposite direction, so he is now facing his opponent. When Neil does this his leg that was on top now becomes his bottom leg and is being used as a shelf for the opponent’s leg while his other leg is planted and based out to ensure stability in this position.  Keep in mind the cradle is sill locked.

The next step is to bring your outside leg that was based behind the opponent’s leg as well allowing you to drive it in as far as you want. It should go without saying that the further you drive the leg towards their head, the more painful that position will become. You can stay in this position for as long as you would like, depending on the situation and amount of discomfort you intend to cause.

From here we can continue to progress by taking our inside leg and walking it back and stepping it to the opposite side of the opponent at which point you can begin shifting your weight from one side to the other to move your entire position safely to the other side of the opponent. From here, in an MMA or self defense situation you can use your hand to grip their arm and pull it tight causing the opponent to twist slightly and making it even more uncomfortable.

As a variation of this, if the opponent is giving us a lot of trouble with their top arm, we can do the bicep cradle.  The difference here is when we get to the point where we are ready to lace the legs we first step back, to get out of our own way, and use our inside arm to pull their arm down towards their legs “like we are starting a lawn mower in the 80’s” and then now instead of lacing through the legs to the floor we simply lace through to and cup the bicep.  From here we are able to continue the technique just as we did before the difference being that we now control the opponent’s top arm, so they are able to give us less trouble.

Next let’s take a look at how the cradle can be used to get us to a submission.  Setting up the arm triangle submission can be rather simple if properly executed.  Let’s walk through the steps.

Starting in top half guard, making sure as always that we are sitting on the opponent’s bottom leg so we can make sure that they are not able to move, or at the very least, it slows them down and we are acutely aware of the movement.

Just like in the previous technique, we are going to pull on the opponent’s top arm as we are lacing the legs, however instead of reaching for the bicep, we are grabbing the wrist.  Grabbing the wrist creates an opening between the opponent’s arm and torso. As we drive in, rather than driving forward as we have in the previous technique, we are looking to drive our head under the opponent’s arm and into their torso as we are reaching for the over hook on the head.  

Just as in the previous techniques we must circle our legs initially sitting to our hip facing away from the opponent, and then “bunching” the opponent’s top leg with our inside leg, and then switching control to our other leg so we can get to a mount like position still driving their leg forward with our leg and controlling their bottom leg by using our shin to trap that leg to the mat.

From here the next thing we need to do is make sure that our head control is very deep, and we have a gable grip around their head and top arm with our ear on the outside of their tricep.  The final movement is to drive the opponent flat so you can finish the strangle. To do this simply lift the knee that is holding the opponent’s bottom leg down allowing you more mobility and stretch your opposite leg back, staying only on your toes and being sure not to allow your weight to slide backwards as you extend your leg.

Once you are able to get the opponent flat, you want to drive your shoulder into their neck while squeezing your grip pushing their shoulder into the other side of their neck ultimately forcing the opponent to tap in a Jiu Jitsu or MMA situation, and in a self defense situation, well, you can decide how much damage you want to do.

As mentioned earlier, Neil is known for his unorthodox methods of pressure and control that allow him, and his students to surprise their Jiu Jitsu opponents with massive amounts of uncomfortable control.  It is thought that more than half the “battle” in competition is mental, imagine breaking your competitors soul using this crushing position to get to your arm triangle submission. Nothing breaks someone’s mental strength more than not being able to breath and feeling like there is no way to get out of the position.  

If you want to gain a deeper understanding of Neil’s methods and systems check out his full library of video instructionals here.  Everything from the Snap Guard to Leg locks to Head Hunting and everything in between.  These instructionals are sure to take your game to the next level, surprise your opponent and give you incredible capability and control.



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