One of the nastiest, flashiest submissions out there is the Twister. Popularized by Eddie Bravo, the submission is a cornerstone of the 10th Planet style of jiu-jitsu and is something you will rarely see in actual competitions because it’s usually banned. But this doesn’t mean you shouldn’t know how to do it because it’s a hell of a submission and can double up as torture. But what exactly is the Twister?
The Twister is a spinal lock from the back position, which puts immense pressure on the cervical spine and other body parts, causing severe pain. The technique is a modification of a wrestling move used for pining and is illegal in many jiu-jitsu rulesets but is permitted in MMA and pro-level submissions grappling.
Unconventional techniques have their time and place in grappling, and the Twister sure has been proven effective, so learn all the details about it and how to perform this most vicious of submissions.
What Is A Twister In BJJ
The Twister is a nasty spinal lock that feels as terrible as it looks. The Twister is a rotational spine crank submission that forces the opponent’s head towards one of their shoulders while twisting the lower body to the opposite side.
This creates immense pressure and pain in multiple places in the body, not just on the cervical spine, which is the main target. Tension can be felt in the neck, the spine, abdominal muscles, and the knee.
The Twister in its modern form was created or instead discovered and popularized by Eddie Bravo while he was a student of Jean Jacque Machado. The move is a jiu-jitsu evolution of a common wrestling technique called “guillotine,” used to pin the opponent.
The Twister is still a crucial element of the 10th Planet Jiu-Jitsu system, the rubber guard, and many other novel positions. This submission hold is illegal under the IBJJF and many other organizations, but it is fair game at the pro submission grappling level and MMA.
On top of being super painful, it also earns many style points and is one of the flashiest and coolest submissions you can pull off, aside from some crazy flying stuff.
There are two main paths to doing the Twister- from back control or turtle. Here is the simplest way to perform the move from back control, as Stephen Kesting shows.
- You can start setting up the Twister from the half-back position if a choke is not happening or you end up in the position after the opponent succeeds in removing one of your hooks and starts turning.
- Make sure to control the arm of the opponent, or they will turn away, and you’ll end up in a half-guard
- Lift your opponent’s arm to make space to bypass it. Your head and inside arm will go under your arm as you lift it up.
- Reach across the back of the head, grab your hands in a Gable or S grip, and pull. That’s it
The other basic setup for the Twister is from turtle, which is where the wrestling variation of the move originates.
- From turtle, slide your leg in between your opponent’s knee and elbow to hook their leg. After you get your hook, triangle your legs together, grab your opponent’s far foot and roll them toward you.
- The position you end up with is called the truck and is a cornerstone of the 10th Planet system from where other positions and submissions are possible.
- From the truck, the continuation and finish of the submission are the same as in the previous explanation.
Here is another good video with detailed instructions for the Twister by a 10th Planet black belt, which will help you with more details that the other two may have missed.
The Twister can also get to from side control or, more specifically, from the reverse Kesa Gatame side control (where you face the opponent’s feet).
After establishing control over your opponent’s leg, gable grip your hands together and shoulder roll over your opponent’s body, ending up in the truck position and continuing the sequence for the finish.
I advise you to be very cautious with the Twister. It can be practiced safely and used in competitions when the rules allow it.
Still, it also holds the potential for life-altering trauma, so regardless of the scenario, always apply the pressure gradually and be ready to release it immediately.
Are Twisters Legal In BJJ
The Twister is banned at any skill level under the IBJJF rules and every other set of Gi rules because it is a spinal lock.
Spinal locks and neck cracks (technically also spinal locks) are banned because they have the potential for life-altering injuries. Breaking an arm or even a leg is one thing, but damaging the spine is sometimes an injury you cannot return from.
However, the submissions grappling scene has a more liberal ruleset, and especially at professional events like EBI, WNO, and the like, the Twister is completely legal and can be used. The submission is also legal under ADCC rules, so plenty of avenues exist for it to shine.
But the most attention the Twister has gathered has been in MMA.
Twisters In MMA
The first time the technique was completed in a high-level mixed martial arts fight was by the Korean Zombie against Leonard Garcia in 2011.
For many people, this was the first time they had seen the Twister, so the Zombie is responsible for taking it mainstream.
Since this fateful day, two more Twisters have been finished under the UFC banner, first by Bryce Mitchel in 2019 and very recently by Damon Blackshear in August 2023.
Another high-profile Twister in MMA was done in 2015 by One FC’s standout start, Angela Lee, who became the first person to make the rare move under the Asian promoter’s banner.
The Twister is one of the rarer submissions in grappling, partly because it’s banned in most rulesets and partly because it’s just hard to set up and finish. But once completed, it’s an accurate representation of jiu-jitsu- beautiful and brutal at the same time.