BJJ 101: Twister

Conventional techniques are often the best way to show the effectiveness of a martial art. This is the case with Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu and for almost all forms of combat sports. While this is very true, there are also unorthodox techniques that hold much value. They can be equally as effective and can catch unwary opponents. 

In the context of BJJ, unorthodox submissions use pressure to manipulate the opponent’s body and extend it in awkward positions. In this article, we will talk about a submission called the twister, a combination of a neck crank and spinal manipulation popularized by Eddie Bravo.


Spinal Manipulation In BJJ

Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu tournaments prohibit spinal manipulation. Spinal manipulation in the rulebooks refers to twisting the entire spine, not just the neck (cervical) area. A neck crank is a spinal manipulation because it applies twisting pressure to the spine by putting stress on the cervical region. 

Applying a twister, doing a can opener to open the closed guard, or even using a full nelson if you have the opponent’s back, are all examples of spinal manipulation that BJJ tournaments prohibit.


What Is A Twister?

Twister is a brutal submission that is as uncomfortable as it looks. Rarely seen in BJJ tournaments due to rules restrictions, the twister is typically seen in MMA fights. Performing the twister requires you to rotate the opponent’s spine by controlling their lower body with your legs while cranking their neck, forcing their head towards their shoulder, opposite to the direction their lower body faces. 

The opponent on the receiving end will feel the torque of this submission in different parts of their body; from the lower body, core, shoulders, neck, and spine. The force of the twister is placed heavily on the whole cervical spine, causing hyperflexion.

Eddie Bravo, the founder of 10th Planet Jiu-Jitsu, is responsible for introducing the twister in BJJ. Originally a wrestling move, he started using the submission when he was training under the BJJ legend Jean Jacques Machado. 

Eddie learned the move while competing in an amateur wrestling match during his teens (which was referred to as the guillotine), a method used to pin the opponent. Being proficient with the move, he realized it could be effective in Jiu-Jitsu and modified the technique with minor adjustments. 

Eddie began experimenting on the effectiveness of the submission in different competitions. It has earned some attention regarding the legality of the move because of its spinal manipulating nature.  

Spinal manipulation and neck cranks are given little attention in training. These techniques can cause serious damage when done hastily and without control. Also, these submissions are banned in competitions, which justifies why some BJJ academies refrain from training them. 

Even though it is banned in many BJJ competitions, there is no doubt that it is eye-catching when someone pulls off the twister. Not all submissions should be immediately taught to a beginner, as the risk of them or their partner getting hurt is always possible. However, it is still a good idea to understand the mechanics of techniques such as the twister so that you’ll have a deeper appreciation of these types of submissions.


How To Perform The Twister

The twister is no doubt a powerful submission when done correctly. It can deal neck and spinal injuries, so keep the intensity in check when practicing this submission during your training sessions. As shown in the video below by Stephan Kesting, here is the simplest way to do the twister.

This submission is easiest to perform when you are familiar with the finishing position. Familiarity will help you recognize the common entries. This gives you a roadmap on when to attempt the technique. If you can’t choke the opponent from the rear mount, it is best to apply the half-back rather than lose the position. Half-back is a position where you trap an opponent’s leg by doing a triangle with your legs from the rear mount.

The half-back is a controlling position that can be used to enter the twister. Keep in mind that when you are in half-back, it is imperative to control the opponent’s arm on the opposite side (top arm) to prevent them from turning away. The reason for this is the opponent may land in half guard, and you will lose the opening to apply the twister. 

Now that you have control of the arm, use your far arm to loop underneath the opponent’s, bring it behind your body, and grab across the back of their head. Doing this makes you more attached to your opponent and, at the same time, makes it easier for you to finish with a twister. Pull the top of the opponent’s head down to their shoulder to finish the submission.

The video above is an example of the application of the twister in MMA, executed by Angela Lee from the EVOLVE Fight Team. Angela is one of the few MMA stars who have successfully pulled off a twister in an MMA bout. She secured the submission against Natalie Gonzales. 

To start, Angela goes to the mount position, brings her forearm to the frame, and creates space to break the opponent’s body lock. After breaking the body lock, Natalie tries to explode and bridge to turn out the mount but ends up giving her back, putting herself in the turtle position. Angela secures one hook in as she performs a half-nelson. 

She then rolls to her left side and applies a triangle lock on Natalie’s leg. After securing the leg, she reaches under Natalie’s right arm and locks her hands around the top of the head to perform the crank and finish the twister.



It is always a good idea to have many tricks up your sleeve. Like in any sport, a broader repertoire always ensures that you’ll have more options, thus making you dangerous in all positions. It is important to learn the mechanics of submissions like the twister so that you drill the technique in a controlled and safe manner.


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