“Mastering the Crucifix” (Product Review)

Black belt Matt Kirtley and purple belt Marshall D. Carper have joined forces to bring us this innovative BJJ instructional.

Those of you who are active in the online Brazilian jiu jitsu community are likely familiar with Aesopian blog, one of the longest running online BJJ resources. Its author, Matt Kirtley (an Eduardo de Lima black belt), and Artechoke Media founder, Marshall D. Carper (a purple belt), have now joined forces to bring us an innovative BJJ instructional, Mastering the Crucifix.


  • In-depth text analysis of theory and technique in each segment
  • Each technique is shown from multiple angles using animated GIFs
  • A video breakdown of each technique, including common mistakes
  • Access to a cloud version of the book, optimized for desktop and mobile viewing
  • A digital download of the book for devices that support the iBooks app or rich media PDFs, so you can view the content offline


I liked the format of this instructional and that the techniques were organized progressively. For concepts I already felt competent in, I could read the text analysis, view the GIFs, and move on to the next technique. For techniques I wanted to know a little more about, I could watch the video.

In the videos, Matt provides an in-depth explanation and demonstrates the techniques, as well as providing dos and don’ts. This instructional is great for beginners who may not understand some of the fundamentals that a more experienced practitioner can take for granted. If you have questions or comments, you can even post them online right below the technique, as shown in the photo below.

If you want to see if this format works for you, check out Artechoke Media’s free instructional, 3D Jiu Jitsu, or read Chapter two of Mastering the Crucifix for free.

Video Quality

The videos were clear in sight and sound quality and remained so when enlarged to full screen. However, I was a little distracted by the lighting. The glare of the lights on the wall, as well as the moving shadows, were a bit distracting. I prefer the lighting in Matt’s YouTube videos as it remains an unnoticed part of the background.

Matt’s Video: Introduction

I love to hear stories about people’s first experiences in jiu jitsu, and I enjoyed reading Matt Kirtley’s story. I only wish there had been more. I would be interested in reading a bridge from Matt’s introduction to BJJ to the creation of Mastering the Crucifix. If you would like to learn their story, it is available on Artechoke Media’s Indiegogo page and in the video below.

Chapter One: Basic Crucifix Set Ups

The goal of this chapter is to “to arm you with the skills you need to create opportunities to trap your opponent in the crucifix.” It includes instruction on how to effectively crush an opponent’s attempts to take you down and covers how to transition from your deflection to gaining and maintaining positional control. I found the breakdown of the sprawl to be especially valuable and I really liked the spin behind, which is shown from side control and as a transition from numerous guard passes. Relevant drills are also demonstrated.

FURTHER READING: Advice for BJJ Beginners – From MMA and BJJ Pros

Chapter Two: Crucifix Fundamentals

The chapter on the crucifix is extremely detailed, and is available for free. Nothing remains invisible in Matt’s instruction. He covers everything, including those small movements that may not be necessary for someone bigger or someone who already knows them or does them instinctively.

Chapter two helps you to maintain kneeling and traditional crucifix and apply numerous submissions including the guillotine, armlocks, neck cranks, and various rear naked chokes. My favorite is the palm-to-palm rear naked. It comes on fast and feels gross if you slide that forearm across the trachea. Kirtley also provides options for moving on from a lost crucifix.

Chapter Three: Reverse Omoplata

Initially, I avoided this chapter because I found the reverse omoplata intimidating. Once I delved into it, though, I found it much less so. It is just another branch of the crucifix system and can be applied from kneeling crucifix. Matt explains that, “In this chapter, we will first simplify the reverse omoplata to its five fundamental components, then troubleshoot how to finish it no matter what our opponent throws at us.”

Imagine a little kid learning a technique and saying, “Yeah, but what if this happens?” each time you show a counter. This chapter is so in depth, it would quiet any four-year-old. In addition to the technique and trouble-shooting, drilling options are also included.

Chapter Four: Advanced Crucifix Set Ups

In this chapter, you learn how to set up a crucifix from anywhere. You’ve stacked your opponent? Go to crucifix. Your opponent goes to the star sweep from a standing guard break? Crucifix. Kirtley explains, “If you’ve been paying attention, you should be able to spot the two points we care about: an arm is between our legs and our opponent is rolling to their knees.” If you understand the crucifix and you have practiced enough to get your timing down, this chapter could really help you to take your opponent by surprise. Don’t tell anyone, but I’m going to try and get it from deep half guard.

If you understand the crucifix and you have practiced enough to get your timing down, this chapter could really help you to take your opponent by surprise.”

Here’s my favorite quotation from the book:

Your success with many submissions can be improved by taking the focus off the finish–the final second–and backing up to see it as a position. Common examples of this are the triangle, the omoplata and leglock positions. This allows you to slow down and figure out the finer points of the control and the contingency plans for when your opponent defends or attempts to escape.


Mastering the Crucifix is more than a crucifix tutorial. Matt presents so many different techniques and details, it can help to improve your whole game, from stuffing takedowns to solidifying position to finishing your opponent. He is enthusiastic about the techniques and clearly has extensive experience with them. Each section of each chapter has valuable information, and my approach was to watch a segment or two, go to class, try the techniques, and then come back and watch again to try to figure out where I went wrong.

It was great to have the GIFs for quick reference, but when I still didn’t get it, the videos were always a click away to save the day. Since I began studying Mastering the Crucifix, I have already seen improvement in my game. I’m not an expert yet, but someday I expect to take over the world via crucifix – or maybe even the reverse omoplata! Most of my omoplatas are by accident, but you never know.

Artechoke Media continues to develop new content for the BJJ community, including the new free ebook, How to Love a Grappler by our own Valerie Worthington. They’ve also promised us a new instructional with Jeff Rockwell called The Sit-Up Escape System. Follow them on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube to stay informed of new products!

“Mastering the Crucifix” is available for $39.95 at Digitsu.com.