The twister or the “guillotine” was a pinning technique used in amateur wrestling for years, however Jiu Jitsu master, Eddie Bravo, was an early pioneer in using it as a submission hold.

In Jiu Jitsu there was already a submission hold referred to as a “guillotine” so the term “twister” was used instead. What makes the twister such a mean submission?

The twister is one of the few submissions that applies force directly to the spine. The technique works by imposing shear and torsion forces simultaneously (spinal lateral flexion and and axial rotation).

The spine or vertebral column is composed of:

  • 33 vertebral segments
  • 7 cervical
  • 12 thoracic
  • 5 lumbar
  • 5 sacral (fused)
  • 4 coccygeal (fused)
  • intervertebral discs separating segments

The entire lumbar region only has 5-7 degrees of axial rotation, 20 degrees of lateral flexion. The thoracic region has 30-35 degrees of axial rotation, 25-30 degrees of lateral flexion. The cervical spine has 30-35 degrees of lateral side bending.

The motion of the twister will cause lower cervical lateral flexion, upper thoracic lateral flexion and lower thoracic/lumbar axial rotation. Based on these numbers if you are imparting a shear force (causing lateral flexion) and a torsion force (causing axial rotation), the most limited range of motion would likely be axial rotation.

The vertebral column is complicated and here are many structures that oppose extreme motion: ligaments (ligamentous flava, intertransverse ligament), joints (apophyseal joints, articular facets), intervertebral disc (annulus fibrosus).

While any of these structures may be damaged one of note is the intervertebral disc, which is particularly vulnerable to excessive axial rotation and lateral flexion.

Why is this submission so mean? It isn’t like an armbar which targets one joint, the twister targets several joints simultaneously. Also intervertebral discs have a high chance of injury, and damage to the collagen fibers of the disc could lead to disc herniation.

Dr. Mike Piekarski, DPT
BJJ Brown Belt
Former MMA Fighter