The Twister Vs. The Toehold

Q: You’ve previously discussed dangerous submissions. Do you think that the twister spine lock is a dangerous submission? How dangerous is the twister compared to other submissions, say something like a toehold?

A: The quick answer is that both submissions (the toehold and the twister) are dangerous.

If you were to collect injury statistics, you would probably find that more people have been hurt by toeholds than by the twister, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that the twister is safer. The twister is a great submission – I use it myself whenever I get the chance – but it hasn’t really hit the grappling mainstream yet. As such it is less commonly used and it’s not surprising that injuries from this submission are still fairly rare.

The thing to remember about a twister is that it is a spine lock, just like other neck cranks, and that the spine, particularly the cervical spine which is targeted by this lock, is a delicate and unforgiving-once-injured body part.

One significant difference between the two techniques is the level of control necessary to apply the submission. The twister requires the victim to be pretty much immobilized and controlled, whereas the toehold can be applied with widely varying amounts of control (depending on the exact entry).

A common toehold injury scenario goes like this: one person applies a toehold on another person, but refrains from cranking it on because he knows that it can be a dangerous submission. The guy caught in the toehold decides to spin out – which is one of the correct counters – but spins in the wrong direction. Before the first person can let go something in the second person’s leg goes snap, crackle, pop, and the toehold has claimed another victim.

When caught in the twister, on the other hand, it’s very hard for your opponent to move this spastically. People still have egos, and it is very common for people to try and tough their way through a neck crank, only tapping after injury occurs.

I speak from personal and collective experience – neck injuries are no joke! I know a number of grapplers who have had their competitive careers cut short by neck injuries, and others who have quit the sport altogether. Severe neck injuries (or a series of less severe ones) can lead to herniated cervical disks, osteoarthritis, spondylosis, spondylitis, spondylolysis and many other nasty multi-syllabic conditions.

I use both submissions, but I treat them both with a lot of respect. If a person starts thrashing or refusing to tap I try to let go and move on to something else before they injure themselves and deprive me of a training partner.

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