How To Do A Can Opener In BJJ?

The BJJ can opener is known as one of the ‘dirtiest’ and risky moves within the sport.

Many of those who practice Brazilian Jiu Jitsu deem it an almost unspeakable move.

How To Do A Can Opener In BJJ?

However, for those who are new to the sport, its elusive nature only adds to its enigmatic status.

If you have found yourself wondering what exactly the can opener move involves, you will find the answer below.

What Exactly Is A Can Opener?

The can opener is essentially a neck crank. Neck cranks are controversial because they involve twisting a person’s neck in different ways.

There are several different varieties of neck cranking, but the thing which they all have in common is that they are prohibited by many jiu jitsu organizations.

The reason why they are so dangerous is that they involve manipulating the spine, which may cause fatality.

In terms of the BJJ can opener, it is used primarily to open a closed guard.

Unlike twisting the hip, you grab hold of a person’s neck to make them look downward at their chest.

The goal, of course, is to force your opponent to submit. Submission happens after you get your opponent to open a closed guard or tap out.

Other Kinds Of Neck Cranks In BJJ

The Cattle Catch Neck Crank

Also referred to in the sport as the reverse crucifix, it is a hyperflexing neck crank which involves forcing the person’s head toward their chest, whilst trapping their hands to restrict movement.

The opponent will be lying on their back, and the person performing the cattle catch will be face down in a side mount position above them.

One arm will be trapped by their legs, and the other by their arms, allowing them to bring the head down to the chest.

The Twister

This involves forcing your opponent’s head towards their shoulder and twisting the lower portion of their body in the opposite direction.

By doing this you will be hyperflexing their lower spine.

Unlike other neck cranks, the person will feel pressure all the way down the spine as well as the neck, even in body parts such as the knees, shoulders, and abdomen.

This one can prove particularly dangerous, and it is advised that if someone performs this move on you, tap immediately.

UFC fighter Angela Magana refused to tap whilst in this position and found herself in a full-body cast.

What Is The Best Way To Perform A BJJ Can Opener?

The best way to perform a can opener move in BJJ, is to either stack your opponent, which can cause measurable discomfort or to pull from the base of your knees.

It is often used in MMA tournaments when facing somebody with a closed guard.

You can find a video instructing you on how to perform the can opener step by step here.

Is The BJJ Can Opener Legal?

Is The BJJ Can Opener Legal?

The can opener move has gained a kind of legendary status in Jiu Jitsu circles.

According to the older rules many years ago, the technique was allowed to be used as a guard break as well as a submission.

You were only permitted to apply this neck crank when their guard was closed.

It is important to note that in our modern era, the technique is banned from being performed in IBJJF matches, Gi or No-Gi, despite your belt status.

It will only end up with you being disqualified from the fight. It is however legal in MMA matches where it has been used on occasion.

Whether or not it is illegal, it is known amongst many of those who practise the sport as a ‘bully’ move.

To perform it might mean losing the respect of your opponents. Despite its illegality, it should be spoken about and perhaps even taught in classes.

This means that students know exactly what to expect if they find themselves on the receiving end of a can opener, and more importantly, how to get out of it.

How To Defend Yourself Against The Can Opener

If you are one of those people unfortunate enough to find yourself at the receiving end of a can opener, don’t fret, there are ways to defend yourself.

First and foremost, you must always keep your head against the ground when facing someone in closed guard.

This means that you will be able to prevent them from performing the move on you in the first place, because they won’t be able to get their hands behind your head.

The simplest way you can defend yourself against this move is to simply tap out.

This is the easiest way to avoid injury. In terms of countering the move, you can perform an armbar.

The armbar involves trapping your opponent’s arm, putting another hand underneath their leg and then turning your hips.

Another way to defend yourself against the move is to push your opponent’s chin with both of your hands.

Then, when they open their guard, straighten one leg and place the other on their hip.

A fairly straightforward way of dealing with a can opener is to ease into it. That’s right.

Just put both of your hands on the ground and sit up, leveraging your hips away from your opponent.


It is easy to see why the can opener is frowned upon in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu.

It is a move which can cause some serious damage, including fatality, which is the reason why it is banned in so many tournaments.

Does this mean that people should not be taught how to perform the move? Not necessarily, no.

Increased awareness about some potentially threatening moves in Jiu Jitsu means that students will be able to recognize and defend themselves if they ever find themselves in contact with them.

Christopher Anderson
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