Mastering the Crucifix launched on Monday, and the first full review has since been posted. It’s by a Sherdog poster you may know as GambleDub. He creates megathreads with dozens of GIFS and videos for specific positions like the Williams Guard. He backed the Indiegogo campaign and helped me with testing the product right before launch. Here is his review:

Where Is It?

First off if you want to purchase the Mastering the Crucifix instructional you can get it here, if you weren’t part of the Indiegogo fundraiser. You can also read the Introductions and browse the chapter and section list if you wish to find out what the Instructional covers.

http://artechokemedia.com/mastering-the-crucifix/

You can also view one of the chapters for free here…

http://artechokemedia.com/mastering-the-crucifix/crucifix-fundamentals/

What Is It?

For those who don’t know Artechoke Media (http://artechokemedia.com/) is a company ran by Author and BJJ purple belt Marshal Carper and BJJ black belt Matt “Aesopian” Kirtley. (http://www.aesopian.com/)

What Artechoke Media have done is put together a highly innovative new method of delivering and presenting grappling instructionals, combining text, animated GIF’s and video as a way to teach and demonstrate techniques. Marshal also released his own project through Artechoke before Mastering the Crucifix which was called 3D Jiu Jitsu, it is available free at http://artechokemedia.com/3dbjj/ and again is a great way to observe the unique format that Artechoke uses.

Who Am I?

While I was aware of what the crucifix was before this instructional, and that it was a position that interested me. I had never really experimented with it, or gone for it at the gym. To me the crucifix was like another language (let’s say French) while I could identify it if I saw it (or heard it) and I knew of a few techniques (or words) there is no way I would consider trying it live in rolling (or conversation) because I knew my technique (or pronunciation) would be sloppy as hell.

If the crucifix was like French then for me the reverse omoplata was like Klingon, I was aware somewhere out there people were doing it but I had no idea what it actually was. In other words while the crucifix was on my BJJ bucket list, outside of watching some competitions and Marcelo instructionals I would consider myself less than a novice, even more so when discussing the reverse omoplata.

Full disclosure I also did some media testing for Artechoke on this instructional. While I am not part of the company, nor was I paid (early access was enough incentive for me!) I feel like I should mention it. Also I’m currently nursing an injury and haven’t been training, so I have yet to try and implement any of the material in this instructional so far. It is also worth mentioning that at the time I was on holiday and Aesopian’s crucifix seminar was released as part of the perk I got when I initially purchased the instructional as part of the Indiegogo fundraiser, so I watched through this twice before starting on the Mastering the Crucifix instructional.

Production Quality

It is quite difficult to offer a comparison between other instructionals on the market because, at least to my knowledge, nothing else like this exists. The text, GIF’s and videos complement each other well. The text is easy to read and conveys all the important information clearly. The language is good enough that non-native English speakers shouldn’t have too much problem understanding it, but no so basic that the ideas of the technique get lost. It’s hard to explain but I think it works well at explaining the broader picture behind the technique and how it works alongside the other techniques. I like the anecdotes and inflections about the techniques that have been added in the text too.

The GIF’s are brilliant, I like how multiple angles are shown, and how Matt and Marshal also show troubleshooting (failing) aspects as well. This makes it a really handy feature as a skim through to show you how to do the technique, while reinforcing the critical aspects of the technique. I could see it being really handy in situations at the gym if I had it on my phone for quickly getting the important points ingrained before drilling/rolling etc. I also like how GIF’s focusing on different positions such as in the side ride section; the last frame has been extended to clearly show the emphasis on the final position.

The videos serve as the in depth how to of the instructional. The camera angles switch well between being zoomed in for explanations and detailed demonstrations, and zoom out nicely to see the overall technique. Matt sounds clear and I didn’t have any problems hearing or understanding what he was saying. The instruction is really good, Matt speaks well and doesn’t end up sounding monotonous causing me to zone out, even on techniques I had already known (I even learned some good tips!) plus the occasional mention of ninja skills with Bruce Lee sounds, traumatic wrestling experiences & nipple tweaking also does well to avoid the instruction fatigue I get with some instructors. What I found really good was how he would explain the purpose behind all of the movements and show what happens if you don’t do them, I think many instructors lack this. I think that will benefit beginners such as myself especially well. Matt’s videos and YouTube channel are also well worth a look at to further examine his teaching style. (https://www.youtube.com/user/Aesopian/videos)

Navigation throughout the instructional is great, I like how in the introduction of the chapters specific subsections have been linked to as they are discussed and the chapters along the side allow for quick and easy referral to specific techniques. Also there is a comment section at the bottom where according to Matt he will answer questions and film new material if neccesary.

In particular the GIF’s were a huge selling point to me. If you have seen some of my posts I often post GIF’s when discussing techniques. And I have seen the value of GIF’s for a long time, many people enjoy mind maps I have always preferred to GIF up the instructional videos I have and organise them into folders instead, so I can put them on my phone and take them to the gym to work on.

The format Matt and Marshal have gone for, has worked far better than I expected. You have the instructional videos, but chaptered like a book so there is no guessing times on DVD players or VLC etc. However unlike a book there are GIF’s and videos rather than comic book strips of techniques which are difficult to extract timing and subtle movements from. I really hope Artechoke have set a trend for the future of BJJ instructionals. I really believe they have set a new benchmark! Add that to the fact its online and I can access it anywhere from my phone, this is next level stuff!

Overall the production quality is top notch, from the camera zoom, to the angles of demonstration, audio quality, frame rate and size of the GIF’s and how they have been paused at the end to emphasize position when applicable.

Content

The initial welcome page gives some background to what Artechoke is about and Shouts out to the sponsors of the project.

The introduction details Matt’s story of how he came to train Jiu Jitsu.

The first chapter, chapter one relates to setting up the crucifix. Either from stand up off single leg attacks, or from turtle positions such as side ride and sprawl positions. The spin behind off the different guard passes was a particular highlight for me. I generally have a Darce heavy game when attacking the turtle, and I managed to pick up a bunch of really great tips from the side ride chapter. “Catching the crucifix in transition” is the last section and threads together many of the techniques previously demonstrated, showing how they can be chained together, I thought this was a nice way to demonstrate how the various techniques from the first chapter can relate to one another.

Chapter two (which you can read for free) involves crucifix fundamentals. Namely rolling from the kneeling crucifix to the traditional crucifix, positional control and maintenance, recountering escapes and submissions from both crucifix positions. Overall this was my favorite chapter. The techniques flow nicely together and you begin to see how the different techniques flow and complement each other, rather than just saying “hey look at this cool move you can do, ok here’s another cool move” Aesopian’s take on the crucifix comes across as a system rather than a couple of nice tricks you could add to your game. There is really no wasted add on techniques that I wouldn’t choose to do, every technique has its place and reason, Matt and Marshal have done a great job conveying this.

Chapter three, is the chapter focusing on the reverse omoplata. To be completely honest I was looking the least forward to this section, I didn’t really see the reverse omoplata as something I would do. However I have to say this instructional has sold me! I can understand how the reverse omoplata functions well as a new attack series that complements the crucifix perfectly, especially when the opponent hugs your leg with their trapped arm pointed towards their knees, or off the straight armbar. I don’t know whether or not, not knowing about the reverse omoplata made me pay more attention in regards to attempting to understand it. But I feel like up to this point in the instructional this is one of the positions I walked away with retaining the most info, and having that a-ha moment of it clicking together, again Matt & Marshal have done a great job of conveying why you should learn the reverse omoplata and how it is an integral part of Aesopian’s crucifix system. With that being said as the reverse omoplata has a reputation of being dangerous, I still walked away feeling uneasy about the safety aspect. In one of the sections Matt discusses it and how you can be controlled. But I’m not sure I would feel confident in applying the rolling variations without significant drilling with feedback. However there is a comment section which Matt will answer so I’m sure he would be happy to answer any questions regarding using the reverse omoplata safely

Chapter four details advanced crucifix set ups. Set ups from passing the guard, from bottom guard and an advanced turtle set ups are covered. This was the section I was really looking forward to, I expected some serious technique porn and it definitely delivered! I have to say though, to make an analogy of it I expected “supermodel” techniques, that is stuff that looks really good but would never work for me. But something strange happened, a couple of sections into this chapter. I began to see how the crucifix would be possible, as I began to spot the concepts and principles that make the crucifix possible to work even before Aesopian had really explained the technique in depth. His explanations had slowly ninja’d their way into my brain, and I think my mind set – especially when attacking the turtle is going to change significantly because of it. The techniques shown from the top of the guard reinforced how much I had slept on and underestimated the reverse omoplata. The crucifix from the sitting guard was my particular favorite from this section I can’t wait to try this one! The stuff from bottom guard was also really eye opening, and I would have never imagined being able to get crucifix’s from these positions.

Overall

As I said earlier I am a complete novice in regards to the crucifix and the reverse omoplata. The only other dedicated crucifix instructional I have seen was the section on Marcelo’s last dvd release, and while this may be blasphemy to the BJJ gods, I liked this one better! For the $35 I spent on the initial Indiegogo fundraiser I am more than happy, I would have paid more for the crucifix and reverse omoplata alone, there is a ton of information with no filler. Coupled with the seminar and the ebook version, I feel this was great value. As I said before the production values are very good, the unique format and the technical instruction all come together very well, also knowing Aesopian and Marshal both post on Sherdog and the instructional has a comment section, being able to ask questions is great. The chapters I enjoyed the most were 2-2 and 2-5 (I am a stickler for anything to do with positional control) I expect they will soon become burned into memory after the amount of times I refer back to them. With that being said I think the best part is that I don’t feel it’s a specific technique or section that really shines, it’s the overall product and how it flows together and each chapter compliments the other that provides a deeper conceptual understanding of the positions.

I feel like I have finished this instructional with a much deeper understanding of both the reverse omoplata and the crucifix. I really can’t wait to go and start drilling these techniques and try them during sparring. I know for sure I will be on the lookout from future releases from Artechoke. If you have any doubts check the free chapter (it has my personal favorite sections in it) and see for yourself! I can’t wait to drill, spar and add this to my game, I will keep you updated as to how it’s working out for me, hopefully I’m crucifying people like the Romans sometime in the not too distant future!

Buy Mastering the Crucifix now.