Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu and wrestling are both martial arts that use grappling to control or submit an opponent. They are two of the most popular martial arts in the world, and many people wonder which one is better or at least more effective in a self defense context. In the case of BJJ, a submission requires the isolation of a single body part while in wrestling submission is pinning someone on their back. Wrestling focuses more on bringing an opponent to the ground from a standing position while BJJ emphasizes less on the ability to bring someone down than to manipulate someone from a grounded position. Both sports are highly complimentary and a well rounded martial artists finds value in knowing both. In this blog post, we look at bjj vs wrestling and discuss the pros and cons of each art and which is more effective.
Brazilian Jiu Jitsu vs Wrestling – Main Differences
There are several key differences between BJJ and wrestling. Understanding those differences will give you a better overall comprehension of both sports. The following lists are the biggest contrasts between the sports:
- Submissions vs Pins
- Scoring system
- Belt system/promotion
- Types wrestling
Submissions vs Pins
Probably the biggest difference between wrestling and jiu jitsu is the final objective of each sport – the pin or the submission. In wrestling, the main objective is to pin your opponent which entails getting their shoulder on the ground/mat for 3 seconds. This is the definitive way to end a match. In BJJ, you are looking to “submit” an opponent. While pin and submission sound very similar, in the context of BJJ, a submission is instead the isolation and forced manipulation of your opponents limb or depriving them of oxygen via a choke. Essentially a submission in jiu jitsu – if not practiced in the context of the sport – would lead to the serious injury or incapacitation of the opponent.
Practice sparring in both sports is also a little different.
In wrestling matches the main focus is on taking your opponent to the ground and controlling them through the use of various grappling techniques, such as pins, takedowns, and holds. In BJJ, the main focus is on submission holds and ground fighting, with the goal of forcing your opponent to submit by applying a choke or joint lock. In Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, opponents may start sitting on the ground or standing. Opponents will go at a 1/3 to 1/2 speed in order to practice their technique.
In BJJ, the scoring system is also a bit different. You generally receive 4 points to achieving a mount or back take. You receive 3 for passing an opponents guard and 2 for taking down or sweeping an opponent.
Points are awarded in wrestling through the execution of specific moves or techniques. For example, a takedown, where one wrestler takes their opponent to the ground, is typically worth two points. Similarly, a reversal, where a wrestler is able to reverse their opponent’s control and gain an advantage, is also typically worth two points.
Points are also awarded in wrestling through the control of the match. If a wrestler is able to maintain a dominant position over their opponent, they may be awarded points for their control. This is known as near fall points, and the exact number of points awarded can vary depending on the level of control the wrestler has.
Another key difference is the type of clothing worn during each sport. In wrestling, sparring is typically done in singlet uniforms. Singlet uniforms allow for a greater range of movement and make it easier to perform takedowns and other grappling techniques. In BJJ, sparring can be done in a Gi, which is a traditional martial arts uniform that consists of a jacket, pants, and belt. The gi provides a greater degree of control and allows for the use of techniques like choking and gripping.
What is unique to BJJ is the belt system. In BJJ, there are 5 main levels designated with a colored belt that demonstrates how much skill and experience one has in the sport. Beginners start at the white belt level, progress to blue, purple, brown and then finally black when they have achieved mastery of the sport. In wrestling, there is no such promotion system and certainly no color designations for skill.
BJJ and wrestling each have their own subtypes of practice. Wrestling has:
Freestyle wrestling is one of the three styles of wrestling that are featured in the Olympic Games. Freestyle wrestling is a fast-paced and dynamic sport that involves a wide range of grappling techniques, including takedowns, pins, and submission holds.
Greco-roman wrestling is another type of wrestling that is featured in the Olympic Games. It is similar to freestyle wrestling, but with a few key differences. In greco-roman wrestling, wrestlers are not allowed to grab or attack their opponent’s legs, making it a more upper-body focused sport. This type of wrestling is known for its dramatic throws and lifts, which can be used to score points and win matches.
Folkstyle wrestling is a type of wrestling that is popular in the United States. It is the style of wrestling that is typically taught in high school and college programs, and is also known as scholastic wrestling. Folkstyle wrestling is similar to freestyle and greco-roman wrestling, but with some key differences in the rules and scoring.
Brazilian Jiu Jitsu’s subtypes are:
Gi or BJJ with the Gi is the traditional form of the sport and dates it origins back to the foundation of the sport. Practitioners wear a kimono and pants made of thick material with large lapels. This allows one to obtain grip and control their opponent via their clothing. Gi comes with its own subset of moves, submissions and strategies when it comes to sparring a partner.
No-Gi is sometimes called just submission grappling. It is the practice of BJJ without the use of the traditional kimono also known as the gi. No-gi is usually more dynamic and faster paced than Gi jiu jitsu as there are no lapels or cloth to grip. Scrambles and moves more akin to wrestling are common in no-gi jiu jitsu with wrestlers generally feeling very comfortable with no-gi jiu jitsu to start.
BJJ vs Wrestling Summarized:
|BJJ||Submission or “tap”||Gi or no-gi (rashguard)||No-gi, Gi|
|Wrestling||Pin or takedown||Singlet||Freestyle, Folk Style, Greco-Roman|
Is BJJ Harder than Wrestling?
It is always difficult to say if one martial art is more difficult than another. One can make the argument that the complex and often multi-step BJJ techniques make it harder to learn than wrestling. One can counter argue that the scrambling and more dynamic nature of wrestling makes it harder to learn. Both martial arts are difficult to learn and even harder to master without consistent practice and tutelage. The multiple techniques of BJJ may make it the harder sport to start learning. You can’t really spar in BJJ without some grasp of at least a few techniques. The pure physicality and dynamism of wrestling however may make it a harder sport to continue to improve at in the long run.
Is Wrestling Good for Jiu Jitsu?
Wrestling is a great way to complement your BJJ game. BJJ practitioners often express they wished they learned wrestling before learning BJJ. For one, most BJJ tournaments start opponents on their feet. The art of taking someone down from their feet can come from both judo and wrestling. Wrestlers usually have a huge advantage in matches starting from the feet. Furthermore, wrestlers tend to have sturdy bases (it is hard to get a wrestler on their back) and are great at scrambles. All of these skills make it harder to perform sweeps and submissions on your opponent in BJJ. It would behoove any BJJ fighter to learn some wrestling to round out their game.
For mixed martial arts fighters, both grappling martial arts are a must have for your arsenal. Mixed Martial Arts involves strikes and kicks and starts from the feet 100% of the time. Brazilian Jiu Jitsu will be difficult to utilize in a situation where you cannot get your opponent to the ground. That is why mixed martial artists generally practice wrestling and BJJ. Most UFC (Ultimate Fighting Championship) fighters generally have advanced experience in both wrestling and BJJ. Wrestling to take opponents down and BJJ to get a submission while they are on the ground.
Is BJJ or Wrestling Better for Self Defense?
Both martial arts are good for self defense and can give you the ability to survive a physical altercation.
One reason why BJJ fighter may be considered a bit better at self-defense is that it focuses on techniques that are designed to control and submit an opponent, rather than relying on strikes and kicks. In a real-world self-defense situation, punches and kicks can be unpredictable and potentially dangerous, as they can cause serious injury to both the attacker and the person defending themselves. By contrast, BJJ techniques are designed to control an opponent without causing significant injury, making them more suitable for self-defense.
Another reason why BJJ may be considered better for self-defense is that it teaches practitioners how to fight from a position of disadvantage. In BJJ, practitioners are trained to defend themselves and attack their opponents while on their back or against opponents who are bigger or heavier. This can be useful in a self-defense situation, where the person may be taken to the ground by an attacker and may not always be in the same weight class as the assailant.
One advantage wrestling may have over BJJ is the ability to take someone down from their feet. If you are in a self defense situation that requires subduing a person from a standing position, wrestling will provide more advantage.
Is BJJ Safer Than Wrestling?
It is difficult to say whether Brazilian jiu-jitsu (BJJ) is safer than wrestling, as both sports involve physical contact and the potential for injury. However, there are some factors that may make BJJ somewhat safer than wrestling.
One reason why BJJ may be considered safer than wrestling is that it places a greater emphasis on technique and control, rather than sheer strength and power. In BJJ, practitioners are taught to use leverage and positioning to control and submit their opponents, rather than relying on brute force. This can help to reduce the risk of injury, as it allows for a more controlled and technical approach to sparring and competition.
Another reason why BJJ may be considered safer than wrestling is that it has a strong culture of safety and respect. In BJJ, practitioners are taught to tap out, or signal submission, when they are in a hold or position that they cannot escape from. This allows their opponent to release the hold and prevents them from being injured. In wrestling, there is no such concept of tapping out, so a wrestler who is caught in a hold or position that they cannot escape from may be at greater risk of injury.
Overall, it is difficult to say definitively whether BJJ is safer than wrestling, as both sports involve some degree of risk. However, the emphasis on technique and control in BJJ, as well as the culture of safety and respect, may make it somewhat safer than wrestling.
Would a Wrestler or BJJ Fighter Win in a Fight?
This question is almost impossible to answer because it depends on so many factors. Who has more overall experience? Is it a street fight or is it taking place on mats? Generally an experienced wrestler will be able to dominate an inexperienced BJJ fighter while the vice versa is true as well. In professional events between wrestlers and BJJ fighters, such as when Gordon Ryan (the best no-gi BJJ fighter) fought Bo Nikal (the best D1 wrestler), Gordon Ryan was eventually able to win via a triangle choke. In the fight however, Gordon Ryan was not allowed to use leg locks – a major submission type in BJJ. The match would have likely ended the match much sooner if he was able to use them.