On Cranking Necks & Cracking Joints

It’s in our syllabus, and we practice it in techniques, but should we be cranking eachother’s necks and applying dangerous submissions in class? Like everything it depends on your intentions. 

In a life threatening situation, you do what needs to be done in order to stay safe, as quickly as possible. If your life is at risk, and you crank someone’s neck to maintain control of them, go you. 

The dojo isn’t one of these times. Your number one priority with your training partners isn’t to get out of danger as quickly as possible, but to stay safe while simulating danger with eachother. 

Steve Maxwell Guillotine.jpg


With this in mind, your partner still has a neck, and a spine, and joints, and it is their right to keep them safe and away from harm. If you don’t want to have your neck cranked, you better be careful and keep it protected. Keeping your chin down, your spine long, and your shoulders slightly elevated toward your ears is one way to do this. When this fails, tapping is the way to go. 


Understanding how these submissions work is the way to learn how to defend yourself against them. 


Now, just as it is your own responsibility to stay safe in a roll, and tap, it is also your responsibility to protect your training partner too, especially if they are less or at a similar level of experience as you. You’re a team and you’re on this journey together. 

This journey involves mistakes. We all make them. And if your training environment is a healthy one, mistakes are encouraged as ways to make improvements on your current ability. And if you are to learn from these mistakes you ought to be made aware of them.


Being submitted is the perfect way to bring errors to light. But if these submissions end with pain, clicks, hard cracks, and cranks, you have no way to improve on them - usually because you can’t walk, or move!

Sometimes you don’t mean for moves to hurt people - but they still do. It’s a martial art, and a system of combat, so it can’t be totally free from danger. But we can manage the danger. So, do we include cranks, and other dangerous submissions like heel hooks and knee bars? Yes, and no. 

The yes involves finding the positions, going through the motions, feeling the points of leverage, and control, and stopping short of applying it fully. 

The no is to take away the desire to find the tap. Be content getting to the position, tagging, and releasing, so that whether or not your partner wants to tap, or knows to tap, they can live to fight another day. 


Tag and release is an intelligent way to include all techniques of human combat whilst maintaining a sustainable practice.


It allows you the chance to set up the positions and pins in which the submission becomes possible, and then you let go. You aren’t asking for your partner to tap, because it isn’t the essential aspect of the movement. You’re not even getting near the danger zone where injuries are more likely. 

Instead you create the position, and the control, you feel the mechanic involved in finishing, and you move onto the next one. You could even let your partner know what's happening. Then you can drive home that night knowing you could have had it, and with a clear conscience not having maimed your friend's precious joints, and bones. 

The risk of injury keeps so many people away from the jiu jitsu mats. This is an unfortunate reality considering just how beneficial the practice can be. This applies especially for those who are more frail, and weak and need the self defence skills the most. 

If we can manage how we train, we can welcome many more people to our beloved martial art, and we can enjoy it for a lifetime. 

It's how we help everyday people build quality of life - this is the Higher Jiu Jitsu way.