Thanks to Eduardo de Lima for demonstrating this technique, and to Matt Kirtley for taking the photos and writing the descriptions. For more information, or to contact either person, please visit the Gracie Barra Tampa – Stephan Kesting.
The crucifix is an often overlooked or neglected position that has the potential to be very effective if known and practiced. Eduardo encourages his students to use the crucifix since it often takes opponents by surprise when they are expecting a more common attack, and it offers a large degree of control and strong finishes.
“Hey, this isn’t the crucifix!”
A common confusion exists around the name “crucifix” which is cleared up in A Confusion of Crucifixes. In short, this isn’t the neck crank by the same name.
The technique Eduardo teaches below shows one of the easiest (and most common) situations where the crucifix can be taken, the fundamentals of maintaining the position, and a simple yet effective choke.
Thanks to Lee for helping with the demonstration.
Both you and your opponent are on your knees, and he is trying to take you down with a single leg takedown, either off a shot or after escaping to his knees from under side control.
He’s making a major mistake by trying to do the single leg with his head on the outside. In this situation, many make the mistake of trying to spin and take the back while their leg is still being held. Even if they get their hook in, their other leg is still trapped so they just get taken down anyway. It’s easier to just take the crucifix since he’s practically giving it to you (not to mention guillotine chokes and crossfacing, but that’s for another day).
Cut to his side, laying your chest and stomach on his back. It is important that you pinch your knees together and keep your hips close to his shoulder. These are key to maintaining the crucifix and stopping him from pulling his arm out. If you give him too much space he’ll be able to pull his arm out, and you’ll lose the position.
Reach your left hand through his armpit and get a one-on-one (one hand grabbing one wrist) to control his far arm. You can turn his arm in towards his body to break him down.
Since your opponent is still trying to take you down, post with your right hand to keep your base. Even if he does succeed in knocking you over, just keep tight to his back and do not let his arm come out from between your legs, and you should be able to recover.
If he’s still clasping his hands together around your leg, drop your hips and do a “sprawl” of sorts to break his grip, but (like always) don’t give him enough space to pull his arm out.
Kick off with your left leg and roll over your left shoulder. Your right leg stays bent around his arm as you flip him.
When you roll, you always want to go over the shoulder that’s nearest to his hips. Rolling over the other shoulder is awkward and difficult, and makes him do a nasty flip on the back of his neck.
You’re now in the classic crucifix position, laying out with his head and neck on your stomach and both arms trapped and spread apart.
Your left hand grabs the back of your head to trap his left arm, and you cross your legs and pinch your knees to keep his right arm trapped.
Your right arm reaches around his head and grabs his left lapel. Your left hand grabs the gi and feeds it to down, tightening the choke. Be careful while doing this that his arms don’t reach together or he’ll use this to start escaping.
Trap his arm by grabbing the back of your head again and finish the choke by pulling his collar across his neck.
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