Breaking & Manipulating the Opponents Spinal Posture – Gambledub

Breaking & Manipulating the Opponents Spinal Posture – Gambledub

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This is a post taken with permission from a user on F12 (sherdog grappling forum) by the name of Gambledub. The original article can be seen HERE. It wasn’t getting the attention I think it deserved so I’m posting it here in hopes that more people can see it. Gambledub does some great breakdowns on the grappling forum (usually titled GIF HEAVY).

You can also download the Google Doc version HERE

This is a small subsection from an upcoming post that Drew Foster and myself have been working on about the D’arce choke. If you have seen my gif heavy/compendium posts before, this will be along the same lines, only bigger and wider in scope.

Again while this is only a small subsection of the finished post, I think it’s handy information for all grapplers whether you’re attempting a D’arce, breaking the opponent down in your guard, snapping them down on the feet or trying to minimize the opponent’s ability to bridge. Obviously because the topic for the post is the D’arce choke, that is what is referenced in terms of examples, however the same concepts apply no matter what your objective is. Hopefully it delves a little deeper into the buzzwords we often hear and isn’t a complicated mess of jargon for something most of us all ready do quite well!


Part X: The Anatomy of the D’arce Choke by Gambledub


Manipulating and Breaking Spinal Posture


Now that basic positioning has been covered there is a final step before specific set ups and finishes can be covered. This section will attempt to give you a fundamental understanding of the anatomy of the body in the context of Jiu-Jitsu and more specifically D’arce chokes.


A pivotal battle in obtaining and finishing the opponent with D’arce chokes is the opponent’s posture. A postured opponent can destroy your ability to properly lock grips, it can hamper your ability to manipulate the opponent’s shoulder against their carotid artery and it serves to lessen your control of the D’arce as a position. Not only will the above factors prevent you from obtaining and finishing the D’arce, they provide the opponent with more frequent and higher percentage escape options.


So, just how do we go about breaking the opponent’s posture? The answer lies not in specific techniques, but in a conceptual understanding of leverage, body positioning and spinal alignment and the relationship they have upon one another.


The first concept and the easiest to grasp is the concept of using leverage to break the opponent’s posture. While our bodies are quite complex, we can break down specific parts of the body into different levers. For this example we will analyze how the neck can be manipulated using leverage.

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When looking at the spine in humans, or more accurately the vertebral column which is colloquially known as the backbone, we can see alternating concave and convex arcs in the spinal structure. Doctors have grouped these arcs and came up with names for each section, in the context of the D’arce choke we will look at the cervical curve, the upper most vertebrae which give the head and neck a large range of motion.



If we imagine the cervical curve as its own lever we can gather principles that can aid us in breaking the opponent’s posture. Consider the head and neck as a gear stick in a car, with manual transmission. Imagine the head is the knob on top of the gear stick and the neck is the gear stick itself. Note that both affect each others movement. In which to a large extent where one goes the other will follow. However moving the gear knob is easier than moving the gear stick at its center, which is in turn easier than moving the gear stick at the bottom. The same applies to the head and neck. This is because of leverage, which tells us it is easier to move a lever when force is applied further from the fulcrum. Obviously this is a simplified example, especially when we consider that the neck and head in a human body can move independently, as well as rotating through pivot joints such as the atlanto-axial joint. However the core idea is the same, but often in the reality of a Jiu-Jitsu match factors such as sweat and fatigue can contribute to the principles, especially when combined with the opponent’s resistance.

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So what does all this anatomical theory mean in a practical sense? And how do I apply it? Well if you look at the adjoining diagram you will see a diagram of the head and neck in good posture. Line A runs from the temple to the base of the cervical spine. Line B runs parallel along the base of the cervical spine. The red circle in the diagram represents the fulcrum point. The grey box represents the best point theoretically to manipulate a lever (line A), however as previously mentioned, the impact of sweat, hair and resistance from the opponent means in a practical setting your grip will likely slip off. The red box represents the ideal practical area to exert force, in order to use leverage to gain the most mechanical advantage. In this example, we are seeking to minimise the angle between lines A and B. Or in layman’s terms bring the chin to the chest.



Anybody who has done large amounts of grappling or used the Muay Thai clinch will likely be familiar with this concept. I’m sure people who ever played the role of an enforcer in ice hockey are also fairly familiar with it. However it is important to discuss the concept, as controlling the opponent’s posture is imperative in developing an effective D’arce choke. This concept will be revisited later, not only with specific techniques and other points of leverage, but in discussion of rotation and lateral flexion of the neck.


Another important concept is the positioning of the opponent’s neck. The neck is a complex joint and as such can be manipulated in several ways, many of which can dramatically affect the ability to choke the opponent.


Screen Shot 2014-10-27 at 7.12.09 PMThe above section looked in depth at creating frontal flexion of the neck using leverage. This section will attempt to analyse the effects rotation and lateral flexion can have on, not only your ability to create leverage, but the impact they have on your ability to attack the D’arce. Both rotation and lateral flexion impact spinal alignment, which will reduce the opponent’s ability to resist your movements.


Note that to create rotation or lateral flexion we also want to use leverage. In the case of lateral flexion, the optimal point to apply force is by the temple, as it is the furthest point from the fulcrum in the context of line A. For rotation of the head and neck, the chin is the optimal point. The reason is, is that the chin is the closest lever to line B, as rotation does not come from the base of the cervical spine, but closer to the base of the skull. The chin also serves as a solid grip to turn the opponent’s head, and serves to be the most practical grip to create rotation. It is also worth noting that by pushing the chin upwards, you have good ability to create hyper-extension in the opponent’s neck.


While it may seem counterintuitive to describe hyper-extension in relation to the previous section pertaining to creating flexion, it leads nicely into the next topic. That is any movement outside of the necks natural resting position lends itself to other movements outside of the necks natural resting position. That is to say that creating a situation that involves moving a neck to an extreme state in one area, will make it easier to manipulate the neck into another range of motion. For example if you manage to rotate the opponent’s neck to the edge of its range of motion, it will then be easier to create flexion in the opponent’s neck. The only time this does not apply is when you are attempting to maneuver the opponent’s neck to opposite ends of the same plane. For example this does not work if you attempt to create flexion by first creating hyper-extension, or if you rotate the head to the left the principle does not apply if you want to rotate the head to the right. You can take a different approach however, by waiting for the opponent to resist the motion, before switching directions using the opponent’s resistance to add power to your movement as they overcompensate.


The reason that moving the neck one way can aid you moving the neck in another direction, is because of spinal misalignment. Taking the opponent’s spine out of its natural position dramatically reduces their ability to engage all parts of their body simultaneously. As a result the opponent’s ability to resist your movements with strength become dramatically reduced.

Screen Shot 2014-10-27 at 7.12.15 PMIt is worth noting that spinal misalignment does not necessarily have to occur in the cervical spine for this concept to be applicable. It can occur in the upper or lower back also. Again much like the upper or cervical spine, the lower portions of the spinal column can also be manipulated through vertical, horizontal, twisting or rotating type movements. By replicating “hunchback” type positions for example we can further impact our own ability to manipulate the neck, in essence by bringing the lever of the neck over and past its fulcrum point.

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All these concepts can function independently, however in my understanding they work best in a relationship of interdependence. That is to say each element (leverage, neck movement and spinal misalignment) adds to and draws from each other. For example by using leverage it becomes easier to manipulate the neck, which adds to spinal misalignment, which reduces the opponent’s strength and allows you to generate more leverage. This relationship is demonstrated and displayed here as a holistic cycle showing the relationship between all the elements and the role they play in breaking the opponent’s posture

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