Which is better: BJJ or wrestling? In this post I break it down. I discuss the similarities and differences between wrestling and BJJ, their application in grappling, MMA and self defense, and who would win between a wrestler and a BJJ practitioner.
BJJ and wrestling similarities
BJJ and wrestling have many similarities, including:
- BJJ and wrestling both have two athletes competing against one another.
- BJJ and wrestling are both martial arts that focus on grappling.
- BJJ and wrestling both require a strong upper body.
- Both martial arts practice full contact sparring in training.
- Wrestlers use a takedown to initiate a match, and a BJJ practitioner can use a takedown to initiate a match as well.
- Wrestlers use a clinch to defend against an attack, and a BJJ practitioner can use a clinch to defend against an attack as well.
- Wrestling and BJJ have many overlapping techniques, such as the whizzer, the snap down, and the sprawl.
- BJJ and wrestling both build up mental toughness and confidence through hard training.
- BJJ and wrestling are both highly successful disciplines in MMA.
- BJJ and wrestling can both be used for self defense.
Despite these similarities, there are also differences between BJJ and wrestling.
BJJ and wrestling differences
BJJ and wrestling have some important differences, including:
- In wrestling, the goal is to pin the opponent on their back. In BJJ, the goal is to submit the opponent.
- BJJ focuses on ground techniques, wrestling on stand up techniques
- Wrestling practice is more structured and involves more drills and positional sparring, whereas BJJ practice involves more free sparring.
- BJJ uses a gi while wrestling uses a singlet.
- BJJ has many more different techniques than wrestling
- Wrestling emphasizes athletic ability, BJJ emphasizes efficiency.
- Wrestling programs are often tied up in school programs, whereas BJJ schools exist on their own.
- Wrestlers train harder than BJJ practitioners.
These differences determine in which ways BJJ and wrestling are suitable for MMA, self defense and grappling.
BJJ vs Wrestling for MMA
In the early days of MMA, Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu was the dominant martial art in the cage. As the sport evolved, more wrestlers came into the fold and wrestling began to overtake BJJ. Wrestling was the most dominant martial art in the UFC for many years.
But of late, BJJ fighters are making a comeback in MMA. Ronda Rousey, Demian Maia, Brian Ortega and Ryan Hall are terrific grapplers who have BJJ as their base.
So the history of the UFC has shown that both BJJ and wrestling can be incredibly effective in MMA. You could argue that both these grappling arts have been more dominant than any striking art has ever been.
Weaknesses of BJJ and Wrestling for MMA
Although BJJ and wrestling are both great for MMA, they also both have important weaknesses.
Obviously, both lack striking completely. But that’s not really important for the comparison between BJJ and wrestling here.
A weakness of wrestling is that it doesn’t punish back exposure. Wrestlers often turn their back to their opponent, but in MMA this is lethally dangerous, both due to rear naked chokes and strikes.
A weakness of BJJ is that it doesn’t teach people to stand up from a grounded position. BJJ athletes are comfortable on their back, but it can still be important to know how to get back to your feet, and BJJ doesn’t practice this at all. For example, when you’re behind on the score cards and you can’t get anything to work on the ground.
BJJ Vs Wrestling style for MMA
BJJ and wrestling tend to lead to different mma fighting styles. Historically we’ve often seen the combinations of wrestling with punches and BJJ with kicks.
That’s because wrestlers like to sprawl and brawl, relying on their takedown defense to keep the fight tanding and then being the superior boxer. Chuck Lidell made this fighting style famous.
Whereas BJJ fighters don’t care if they get taken down, so they throw high kicks all day long without being followed to the ground when they fall. Ryan Hall is a great example of this mma fighting style.
BJJ vs wrestling for self defense
People often ask: is BJJ or wrestling better for self defense? But the truth is that BJJ and wrestling are both great for self defense and street fight situations.
- Both practice full contact sparring, which makes you mentally ready for confrontations.
- Both can be used to control your attacker and take him down.
One advantage of wrestling is that it focuses on standup techniques, and in a self defense situation you probably don’t want to go to the ground anyway.
But one advantage of BJJ is that it uses the kimono. That means that if someone on the street grabs your clothes, you have already practiced breaking their grips many times.
The main thing to remember is that wrestling and BJJ both beat untrained people with staggering efficiency.
Which is harder: BJJ or Wrestling?
Neither is more difficult than the other, but wrestlers train harder than BJJ practitioners. This is both because of physical and cultural reasons.
Firstly, wrestling focuses on stand up techniques, and BJJ focuses on ground techniques. It’s simply a truth of physics that you can exert more force and energy while standing up than while laying down. Therefore, wrestlers tend to exert much more energy per minute than BJJ practitioners.
Secondly, wrestling is often practiced in school programs, which means that the practitioners are all of the same age and young. Therefore, they can make their training very physically demanding. And that’s what they do.
BJJ, on the other hand, attracts a much wider audience. There can be women, children,and older people, and everyone is there recreationally. Therefore, the training can’t be made too exhausting by the teacher.
Furthermore, BJJ actually aims to be maximally efficient. So philosophically it also doesn’t necessarily want to create fighters that are very athletic.
Who would win: BJJ or wrestling?
If a pure BJJ practitioner would face a pure wrestler in a grappling match, the BJJ practitioner would always win.
Wrestling doesn’t have submissions. So the wrestler is almost always just going to get submitted.
We also have proof of this. The ADCC (Abu Dhabi Combat Club) hosts a biyearly grappling event in which grapplers from any discipline can join. And BJJ fighters have won it every year since it exists.
In fact, non-BJJ people don’t show up there anymore because they have no chance to win at all. The only wrestler that comes there is Nicky Rod, who trains BJJ full time now.
The same is also true for MMA. Unless the wrestler learns some extra skills, such as boxing, he will always get submitted.
BJJ Vs Wrestling: Combining the Two Arts
In the end, BJJ isn’t better than wrestling and wrestling isn’t better than BJJ.
The best thing is to combine BJJ and wrestling together.
If you learn takedowns from wrestling, and submissions from Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, you’ll be an unstoppable grappling machine.
This will serve you well MMA, self defense, and in life in general.