Catch Wrestling For BJJ: The Spinal Splitter with Keenan Cornelius

Catch Wrestling For BJJ: The Spinal Splitter with Keenan Cornelius

There are *those* kinds of Catch Wrestling submissions that, once you see them, make you shiver with fear… But that make your eyes shine with happiness as well! Yeah they’re nasty, but you still want to learn them.
The Spinal Splitter is one of those submissions. Taught by Keenan Cornelius, you’ll learn the potential of crushing your opponent’s ribs and cranking their spine at the same time.

Use with caution.



The setup starts with your opponent in a Turtle position. Keenan explains that in this situation, more often than not, you’d be trying to get your hooks in with a goal of taking the opponent’s back. However, now you’ll use something that’s called a reverse hook; you will push your leg from in-between their legs, up to their hip.

Keenan does this by first elongating his training partner and then hooking his ankle from the outside (just like when you would pull it towards yourself so as to take the back). For this technique, however, he opens the ankle so that he can create space for his reverse hook; so that he can punch his leg in front of the training partner’s thigh. Then he locks a figure four on that leg.

An alternative way of creating that space in-between your opponent’s legs is by grabbing the top of their foot and then pulling it. This will easily open up their leg. Keenan does this by grabbing the foot which is on his opposite side; he lifts it, steps his knee through, turns his ankle and drops the training partner’s knee to the mat.



From there, you’ll start breaking your opponent down. Keenan drives forward and gets his training partner to a belly-down position, separating his knees from the chest in the process. The reason this works is because your figure-four lock will pin your opponent’s knee to the ground; as you push your hips forward, you’ll flatten them out.

Keenan emphasizes that if he only has lower body control established in this situation, then his training partner will be able to turn into him for a bit. „That wouldn’t be the end of the world“, Keenan says, for he can get his hooks in and do a Berimbolo. However, for this technique to work, it is necessary to establish upper body control first.

The way Keenan gets it is by simply locking his hands over the partner’s far-side shoulder at the beginning of the movement. Then, as he gets his figure four lock in, he switches to a Cable Grip over the partner’s shoulder and pulls on it as he flattens him out.



This is a very, very difficult position for your opponent. They won’t be able to turn, nor even get up to their knees – you’ve pinned them down through and through. Keenan shows that your opponent may try to post with their hand, so as to alleviate a bit of the pressure they’re feeling. Big mistake.

Now you can grab this hand and elevate it so that you can swim your arm underneath – over the top of the opponent’s shoulder and with your palm behind their head.
All you have to do from here is to elevate your chest up towards the ceiling. This will finalize your Spinal Splitter setup, as it will start separating the opponent’s ribs and crank their spine in such a fashion that they can’t do anything else other than tap out – or risk serious injury.

Keenan explains the Spinal Splitter details on the video below:

If you are interested in learning more about Catch Wrestling, specifically as it pertains to competition grappling, you should check out Neil Melanson.  If you haven’t heard of Neil Melanson you’ve probably heard of the various champions he’s coached (Blackzilians team and Extreme Couture)

Neil learned his skills from the Hayastan Grappling system, developed by Gokor Chivechyan and Gene LeBell.  He is considered one of the foremost experts on Catch Wrestling.  For more information about Neil’s impressive grappling style, pick up his DVD set in which he covers some of his coveted techniques.