Having someone’s back is one of the most dominant and efficient ways to control them, which is why the back mount is so well rewarded under all grappling rulesets and fought for in MMA and real fights. But what’s sometimes even better is having back control and control over the hands of the opponent, and this is achieved through the crucifix position.
The crucifix in BJJ is a dominant position in which you are behind the opponent, controlling one of their arms with your legs and the other with your hands. The name comes from the T-shape you are in relation to the opponent.
The crucifix provides unparalleled upper-body control and a double-trouble attack system in which you can attack with both armlocks and chokes. There are not as many submissions as in other positions. Still, they are very efficient, so if you haven’t already, now is an excellent time to start implementing the crucifix position into your game.
What Is A Crucifix In BJJ
The crucifix in jiu-jitsu is a form of back control in which you are behind the opponent, forming a T-shaped configuration, controlling one of their arms with your legs and the other shoulder with a seatbelt grip, a kimura grip, or through another hold.
This leaves them completely trapped and able only partially to use one hand to defend themselves. The perfect scenario for you as an attacker is to fully trap both the opponent’s hands and have them crucified and utterly helpless.
The position offers strong control and quite a few attacking options. Like other forms of back control, all your weapons are oriented toward the opponent while they are in full defensive mode without a single attacking option.
The position brings instant devastation in MMA, where the one trapped has no way of defending the torrent of punches and elbows coming at them. There is no better example of this than the legendary hellish knockout of Paul Herrera by Gary Goodridge.
Luckily, the danger in BJJ is less frightening but every bit as real as there are equally potent options for chokes and arm locks, creating a double trouble situation. But before we go into the submissions, let’s first look at how to obtain the crucifix.
There are multiple ways to enter the crucifix, and a popular setup is to go for it from the front headlock. This is a common scenario when you’ve successfully sprawled and faceplanted the opponent. But a solid guy quickly shells up from this position, and it can be hard to go to the back.
Instead, when they extend an arm to stop your attempts from running around to the back, hook the extended arm with your leg and quickly trap the arm with crossed legs.
From there, either the guy will roll forward, or you will initiate the transition. It’s important to control their other arm by reaching under their armpit like in a normal back mount.
Another popular way of getting into a crucifix is to attack a shelled-up person in a turtle from the side. You can also find yourself in this position as a continuation of the previous sequence, where you successfully defended a takedown attempt. Still, this time, you can manage to circle to one side.
The next step is to use your near-side knee to separate and flair the opponent’s elbow away from their knee. This is not an easy task, but once you manage to do it, reach with your other foot and gradually trap the arm. From there, the transition to the full crucifix is the same as in the front-head lock example.
Submissions From The Crucifix
The beautiful thing about the crucifix is the level of control it provides and the submission options it offers. As I said, you have equal opportunities for arm locks and chokes, which makes the defender’s task much more complicated as they have to guess what’s coming.
The easiest submission from the crucifix is the armbar with the legs. They are already crossed and controlling the arm, and your hips act as a fulcrum. Move your feet closer to the wrist and push with your hips for the finish.
If the opponent rotates the arm and escapes the armlock, you can transition into a reversed triangle position with the legs. First, move your hips underneath the opponent’s shoulder, then cross your outside leg under your inside leg. The armbar is finished with a bridging motion, as usual. Both versions are demonstrated in the video:
Usually, people in the crucifix are more worried about the chokes, which is why armbars work so well from this position, but the reverse is also true. You can apply a choke while they are focused on defending the armlocks.
You can easily access a basic but high-percentage lapel choke in the gi. As your legs are crossed around the far arm, you won’t need to worry about it; make sure to control the wrist of the near arm and keep it unable to defend the choke. This leaves only tucking the chin as a viable defense against the lapel choke.
Reach under your opponent’s head and wrap your hand around their neck to grab the lapel closest to you. Insert your thumb into the collar and grip the lapel as tightly as possible. Straighten your arm, bringing the lapel against the neck, and the tap should come almost immediately.
Without the gi, you can execute the one-arm rear naked choke, which is very similar in approach to the lapel choke. The most important part is ensuring their hand cannot come to the rescue. Be patient and find a way to slide your hand beneath their chin and cup it on their trap.
For the finish with one arm, it’s better not to squeeze like in a regular RNC, but after you grab their trap or shoulder, pull your forearm to the opposite shoulder for a nasty choke and a quick tap.
How The Escape The BJJ Crucifix
We’ve dealt in length with how to enter and submit someone from the crucifix, but we all make mistakes in life and sooner or later share the same unfortunate fate of being on the receiving end of a crucifix. This is one of the worst positions to be in because you feel helpless and at the mercy of the one crucifying you.
Luckily, even when you find yourself in this dire position, not all is lost, and there are ways to escape. While in a crucifix, both your shoulders are pinned to the opponent, and you have few options to move.
One way to escape is through the rollout technique. This is not too easy to execute, but the crucifix is an awful position to be in, and there are no easy ways out besides never getting there in the first place.
For the rollout, extend your arms to the ceiling while putting your back and head on the mat. Then grab what you can for support, tuck your knees, and roll up to end in side control.
Another possible last resort defense is to turn toward their legs. This will put you in a position to work on defense and create space to prevent a choke. You’ll take advantage of the fact that a good crucifix requires proper leg positioning. When you get to the legs, try to hook the bottom leg with one of your own, preferably your bottom leg.
Once this is done, you can start addressing the hand grip and look to hip escape like you would from a regular back mount.
The BJJ crucifix is a type of back mount where you have tight control over both of the shoulders of the opponent. The position offers excellent control and few but highly efficient submission options.
In MMA and a street fight, this is one of the best positions to have if you want to fully control the opponent or cave his head in with punches and elbows. Experiment with the different entries and submissions available; in time, you will have an indispensable tool in your toolbox.