The reverse omoplata has a sordid reputation in the jiu-jitsu world. In one breath, jiu-jiteiros often dismiss the reverse omoplata as a technique that is too flashy, too complicated, and too dangerous to be reliably effective and therefore worth teaching to students.
But what happens when a white belt learns the reverse omoplata?
We have two case studies on that front, the first being Matt Kirtley (Aesopian). He learned the technique as a white belt, sparking the crucifix obsession that later lead to his writing his definitive crucifix instructional. While Matt’s story is interesting, the more curious story is the story of a white belt, Seiji Sugiman-Marangos that learned the reverse omoplata by reading Matt’s blog. If the reverse omoplata is as absurd and dangerous and many say it is, surely this story ends in disaster.
Here is what Seiji, who trains under Franco/Behring Jiu Jitsu, had to say:
I first came across Matt’s (Aeso) rants on the virtues of the crucifix position and reverse omoplata as a white belt with less than a year’s experience in jiujitsu. I thought that the technique looked really cool and began looking for the position during rolling. It wasn’t until I used the technique to win a match while I was still a white belt that I started taking the position seriously and began corresponding with Matt to troubleshoot the technique as well as working with my coaches: Shah Franco, Marco Costa and Richard Nancoo, on integrating it into my game. For the past few years I’ve slowly been accumulating wins by reverse omoplata in the blue and purple belt divisions of the local tournament circuit.
The whole match is pretty good, and you can watch it here. What this match helps to illustrate is that the reverse omoplata, and crucifix in general, is not an outlandish move. The opportunity to use it is open any time you are in side ride attacking the turtle. Sometimes your opponent makes a mistake and gives it to you quickly, and sometimes you need to slowly and steadily work your way into the set-up just like you would any other submission. In this particular match, Seiji catches the crucifix in a scramble probably because his opponent wasn’t used to having to protect his arms from being trapped when he turtles.
But Seiji hasn’t just used the reverse omoplata in jiu-jitsu tournaments. He’s used it in professional MMA as well, showing both the versatility and practicality of the reverse omoplata. Here’s what he said about it:
Ever since I had my first professional MMA bout last year I’ve had the thought in the back of my mind that one day I’d like to finish a fight by reverse omoplata. During my most recent fight, hitting the technique was the furthest thing from my mind, but when I felt my opponent’s arm grab my leg I went to the position instinctively. After executing the technique I think I was probably as surprised as my opponent as well as everyone else in attendance.
Here it is in action (and this is the full video if you’re interested):
In this match, Seiji’s opponent again makes a crucial mistake, and Seiji has the instincts to instantly trap and isolate the arm, protecting him from a takedown while setting him up for the finishing rolling. If he had not been drilling the crucifix for much of his career, the opportunity to end the fight may have passed him by. In reality, the mistake that Seiji’s opponent makes nears the level of leaving a head and arm between your opponent’s legs. With a quick shift of the hips, Seiji has multiple attacks at his disposal, the reverse omoplata being one of them.
And that’s really what the crucifix game is about. It fills a hole in your game that you may not know you have. Suddenly, you find yourself having options that you never noticed before, making you a more effective, more dangerous grappler. It’s not a gimmick, and Seiji agrees:
The reverse omoplata is not a complicated or gimmicky move (most people learn how to front roll in their first BJJ class). Although it may appear risky, I find that the most difficult part of the technique is the initial arm trap and not the roll-through, which is where you risk losing dominant position. I wouldn’t advocate giving up back control with hooks (although I have been tempted in the past) but the reverse omoplata has been one of my main options from side-ride for almost as long as I have been training.
Don’t pass up on a position just because it looks unusual, especially if legitimate grapplers and instructors have made it a regular part of the game. In the case of the crucifix, if Matt’s word is not enough to sway you, don’t forget that competitors like Marcelo Garcia and Baret Yoshida are crucifix enthusiasts as well.
Whether you’re a new student or a veteran grappler, the crucifix and reverse omoplata has a place in your jiu-jitsu education.