Novel and innovative multimedia facets add extra value to this digital book covering the crucifix hold-down and submission. More than just a step by step guide, this book is also a convincing argument for viewing the position as an entire submission gameplan.
Price: $39.95 (Chapter two available as a free sample)
Formats: Available to read directly via the website, or as an interactive PDF.
Disclosures - I have no business or personal connection with the authors. The opinions expressed in this review are my own.
The crucifix is a back-control ground fighting technique which immobilises the both of the opponent's arms using your own legs and one of your arms. This allows your free hand to attack with a a variety of submission techniques. The photo below, taken from the e-book, shows a classic crucifix position with the distinctive 'head resting on your own hand' position:
The authors of this digital book are Matt Kirtley (black belt and owner of the popular blogsite Aesopian) and Marshal D. Carper (purple belt and author of the Cauliflower Chronicles). Together they have combined their digital nous and talents for communicating BJJ knowledge to produce this handy and rather novel guide to what is arguably an under appreciated position.
Here's what I thought of the book and how it helped me incorporate the crucifix into my game:
Digital learning format
The book is available only in digital format (web view or as a PDF download), but the reason for this becomes apparent when you see how the pages are presented. Each page follows the same format of a short text based explanation followed by multiple animated gifs and bookended by a full video of the whole technique. To say that this content is media rich is an understatement. At first glance, it might seem a bit overwhelming but I soon got used to the format.
Structurally, the navigation is super simple. There are just four major chapters and nestled within are a range of sub-chapters. I prefered to use the website version to read and view the videos but the PDF was also downloaded onto my tablet computer, which offered the same reading experience, only more portable.
Due to the content rich nature of the book, pages were slow to load. Also, the animated gifs play without pause...all of them...all at the same time. Which was visually a little distracting at first, but again, something I just got used to.
Overall I could see that considerable time and effort had been put into the concept. It had the easy reading format of a paper print book, with the interactive bonus of viewable clips.
As mentioned earlier, Mastering The Crucifix contains four mega chapters and each holds a number of sub-chapters. Here is the full rundown of contents:
1 BASIC CRUCIFIX SETUPS
1-1 COUNTERING BAD SINGLE LEG
1-2 COUNTERING FIREMAN’S CARRY
1-4 SPIN BEHIND
1-5 SIDE RIDE
1-6 CRUCIFIX FROM SIDE RIDE
1-7 CATCHING IT IN TRANSITION
2 CRUCIFIX FUNDAMENTALS
2-1 KNEELING CRUCIFIX
2-2 TRADITIONAL CRUCIFIX
2-3 KNEELING CRUCIFIX SUBMISSIONS
2-3A STRAIGHT ARMLOCK
2-3B REAR NAKED CHOKES
2-3C MARCELO GUILLOTINE
2-4 CRUCIFIX SUBMISSIONS
2-5 RECOUNTERING ESCAPES
3 REVERSE OMOPLATA
3-1 FUNDAMENTAL FIVE
3-3 DRILL: RAPID REVERSE OMOPLATAS
4 ADVANCED CRUCIFIX SETUPS
4-1 PASSING GUARD TO CRUCIFIX
4-2 CRUCIFIX FROM GUARD
4-3 THE BIG STEP
Page design and ease of use
Writer Marshal Carper's experience producing Marcelo Garcia's Advanced Brazilian Jiu Jitsu Techniques print book has clearly been put to good use in the presentation of material here. Mastering the Crucifix offers a simple navigation panel on the left hand side of the web edition and each page contains the same format of brief intro text followed by moving content. The screengrab below shows how it all looks on a laptop computer:
What I found this format allows is for the authors to break down clips to the barest minimum necessary in order to highlight the point being discussed in the text. It is a bit like your real world instructor demonstrating a technique, stopping to explain, then showing more of the technique etc.
These nugget sized chunks of media arguably make the learning process much easier. The experience is akin to reading a print book but the pictures are moving.
The PDF version requires the latest version of Flash player. The short clips appear static at first but right clicking brings them to life.
There are a handful of crucifix instructionals already out there. What I like about this ebook is that it guides the reader from the very basic elements through to some quite advanced set-ups, transitions and positions in such a manner that I think a complete beginner could be able to understand and utilise straight away. I wanted to learn these because as a brown belt, I'm embarrassed to confess I've never attempted a crucifix in live sparring before.
Chapter one deals with how to enter the crucifix. Like any position that is new to the reader, this is probably the most important section of any instructional (yet not the most exciting to learn, admittedly). Kirtley does a good job illustrating a number of common entries and also, revealing the common mistakes and pitfalls that could happen. I think it is safe to state however that the most common method for obtaining crucifix is when the opponent has turtled and for this, I found Chapter 1-6 most useful. Interestingly, it is also the area that offers most variation and personal interpretation. For example this Youtube Clip demonstrated by Ritchie Yip suggests rolling onto your own back and dragging the opponent into the crucifix (around 3:20 here - https://youtu.be/641yvmGiP1w).
Chapter two is the money chapter and where Kirtley demonstrates a variety of submissions from crucifix. This is the section most people will probably go straight to if they don't want to read all the previous intros. Naturally the obvious and first submmission covered is the collar choke. But delve deeper and this ebook also shows a whole bunch of others, some with cool names like the cattle catch crank or the Marcelo Guillotine. Interestingly, Kirtley breaks the crucifix down into a kneeling version and then the more familiar 'face up' version. He suggests that this transforms the crucifix away from being a mere novelty technique and more "a serious part of a jiu jitsu game."
Here is a cool rear naked choke submission:-
When running through the various submission opportunities then it becomes quickly apparent how powerful the crucifix can be. The arm trapped between your own legs can be attacked with an armbar as well as the various attacks one can execute with your available free arm. The crucifix therefore is a 'double attack' position and in fact Kirtley suggests in the video, that one should actually be trying to attack both targets at the same time for maximum effect.
The section on recountering escapes is useful. Here you can see how the crucifix is not the be all and end all position but a place where you could, depending on how your opponent moves, transition to taking the back fully, moving into side control, or re-establishing the crucifix. There is also a techinque showing how to attack with a kimura - something covered also by Ryan Hall's Open Elbow DVD - reviewed here - http://meerkat69.blogspot.co.uk/2015/02/dvd-review-ryan-hall-open-elbow.html
Chapter 3 covers a position intimately tied to the crucifix position - the reverse omoplata. This, Kirtley explains, is one of his favourite techniques and although seemingly flashy, actually is more straightforward to apply than it looks. Kirtley breaks the concept behind the technique down into a five stage process then follows that up with a lengthy section called Troubleshooting - perhaps anticipating that most people trying reverse omoplata for the first time will screw it up and give up on the move. He explains it as:
"If you learn the reverse omoplata in isolation, it will be nothing more than a novelty in your game, but if you learn the system that surrounds it and understand how it fits into the crucifix game–and consequently the turtle game–it can become a high-percentage, reliable attack."
Here is Kirtley teaching the reverse omoplata in class:
Chapter 4 covers a variety of other crucifix set ups such as from the closed guard or as a counter to someone passing your guard. The closed guard one is very interesting. Kirtley suggests actually opening up the guard and performing a technical stand-up before proceeding to counter attack with the crucifix. On video, it looks rather risky! Most folk I know would prefer to maintain closed guard or other secure guard position rather than let go of it all just so they can attempt the crucifix. But then, here is something that the opponent may in all likelihood, never expect. Performed with precision and speed, it could take the opponent completely by surprise. As a guard player myself, I rather liked the audacity of the move, though I need to practice it a lot more.
Another stand out technique I liked was the crucifix from when an opponent uses deep half guard. At our place, there are a lot of my training pals who love playing deep half and as Kirtley states, they are pretty much putting themselves into a ready made position to attack with the crucifix. The trick of course is to catch the opponent's free arm before he hides it.
I really liked this digital book. I like the clear and concise textual explanation, written in a manner that guides you through each step without any waffle. I also love the multiple gif clips and the longer full video for each section. Most of all, this guide opened my eyes to a technique that I have never tried before in live sparring. After studying a couple of the earlier chapters, I began hunting the crucifix in my sparring sessions and surprised myself that it was indeed something attainable. The crucifix is actually really neat for us smaller, lighter players, as there is no crushing weight of a larger opponent to worry about, nor are my fingers going to get busted with excessive gi grips. Applied properly, the opponent is immobilised fairly securely plus the added bonus of it being a double attack position means that it is a high percentage position to finish and submit from.
What this guide offers however is more than just a few party tricks such as the reverse omoplata, but an entire system and map that allows any BJJ player to incorporate the crucifix into their gameplan. It's worth doing, many of the key trigger opportuities to obtain the crucifix can arise frequently, but you have to learn to spot them. This book gives you the tools to do that.