Greco-Roman Wrestling vs Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu

Greco-Roman Wrestling and Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu are two grappling martial arts with many similarities and differences. Both martial arts are practiced worldwide and have proven their effectiveness in MMA competitions.

Let’s see how the two grappling styles match up as we compare Greco-Roman Wrestling and Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. In this article, we’ll discuss the history of each sport and compare their similarities and differences.

Let’s dive in.

What is Greco-Roman Wrestling?

Greco-Roman is a style of Wrestling that was developed during the 1800s. Greco-Roman is based on folk-style Wrestling, which was the primary type of Wrestling practiced in Europe.

In Greco-Roman wrestling, you can only take your opponent down with takedowns and throws from their hips and up.

Some people have described Greco-Roman Wrestling as Judo without the GI, as both sports prioritize takedowns and prohibit leg attacks.

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Greco-Roman Wrestling History

According to United World Wrestling, Greco-Roman Wrestling
was developed in the 1800s. The person credited for devising this style was a French soldier called Jean Exbrayat.

Initially, Jean Exbrayat performed his style of Wrestling at French fairs. Jean called this “French wrestling.”

One of the first established rules was the disallowance of holds and takedowns below the waist. Furthermore, no submissions were allowed to ensure that nobody got hurt.

Greco-Roman Wrestling would become prevalent throughout Europe. The name Greco-Roman Wrestling was later designated by the Greek Wrestler Basilio Bartoletti.

Basilio used this term because the style was said to be comparable to Wrestling performed in the ancient Greek Olympics. Although it’s not similar to ancient Greek Wrestling, the name stuck, and the sport increased in popularity.

Greco-Roman Wrestling became popular globally and was included in the first official Olympic Games held in Athens, Greece, in the 1896 Olympics. Greco-Roman Wrestling has been included in every Olympic Games since 1904.

Greco Roman Wrestling Today

Greco-Roman Wrestling is one of the most practiced styles of Wrestling in the world today – particularly in Eastern European countries, which produce the best Greco-Roman wrestlers. Freestyle Wrestling and Greco-Roman Wrestling are the only two styles of Wrestling that are official Olympic sports.

Similarities and Differences – Greco Roman Wrestling vs Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu

BJJ vs greco-roman wrestling

As grappling arts, Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu and Greco-Roman Wrestling share many commonalities and differences.

Greco Roman Wrestling vs Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu Similarities

Greco-Roman Wrestling and Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu share many similarities. 

Below we discuss the main things in common between Greco-Roman Wrestling and Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu.

  • Both Greco-Roman Wrestling and BJJ are grappling-based martial arts.
  • Greco-Roman Wrestling and Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu are both effective in MMA.
  • Takedowns are taught within both styles.
  • No striking is permitted in either sport or allowed in competition.

BJJ vs Greco-Roman Wrestling Winning Objectives

These two grappling styles have very different objectives for winning in their competitions. Here are the winning goals of both BJJ and Greco-Roman Wrestling.

How To Win A Greco-Roman Wrestling Match

There are two ways to win a Greco-Roman Wrestling match. These methods include both pinning your opponent or scoring the most points during a match.

  • Pins: Holding your opponent on their back with both shoulders touching the mat for one to three seconds. This is known as a “winning by fall.”
  • Points: Takedowns and control in a dominant position. This is known as a “win by technical superiority.”

It’s worth noting that if one competitor gets an 8-point advantage over the other during the match, they are declared the winner. If no pin or 8-point advantage occurs, the competitor with the most points at the end of the match wins.

How To Win A Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu Match

In Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, there are two different ways that you can win a match. These methods include getting a submission or scoring the most points during the match.

  • Submissions: Strangulation or joint manipulation causing your opponent to submit.
  • Points: Points in BJJ are earned by successfully performing techniques including takedowns, sweeps, and passing the guard. BJJ fighters also get points for controlling a dominant position, including knee on belly, mount, or taking the back.

BJJ vs Greco-Roman Wrestling Rules

wrestling vs bjj

One of the significant differences between BJJ and Greco-Roman Wrestling is the rules and regulations of the sports.

Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu Rules

BJJ has different sanctioning bodies that all have their own rule sets. Below is a summary of the basic rules that most organizations share.

  • No striking is permitted. 
  • Don’t leave the mat to escape submissions.
  • No stalling. If stalling continues, points are deducted, and competitors can even be DQ’d.
  • BJJ matches are won by either submission or points.
  • The referee decides the winner of the match if it ends in a tie.

Greco-Roman Wrestling Rules

Below is a summary of the rules of Greco-Roman Wrestling:

  • No leg trips or sweeps are permitted.
  • No holds below the waist are allowed.
  • No strikes of any kind are permitted.
  • Each round is separated into three parts (60 seconds on the feet and two 30-second segments on the mat).
  • The wrestler who scores the most points from the neutral position will be given the on-top advantage.
  • If the wrestler in the top position scores no points, the wrestler on the ground is awarded one point for their defense. Afterward, the wrestlers switch positions.
  •  If neither wrestler scores, the referee flips a coin to determine who gets the top position.

Greco-Roman Wrestling vs Bjj Point Systems

Both Greco-Roman Wrestling and BJJ have a points system to determine a winner if there is no pin or submission during the match.

Below we discuss the points system for each martial art.

Greco Roman Wrestling Point System

  • Takedowns: 2-5 Points (This is based on cleanliness, technicality, and positional control).
  • Reversal: 1 Point
  • Out of Bounds: 1 Point 
  • Exposure: 2-3 Points (Points are awarded for the amount of time a competitor is on his back).
  • Penalty: 1-2 Points (Awarded when a wrestler commits an illegal move. The penalty points are awarded to the non-penalized wrestler).

Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu Points System

  • Guard Pass: 3 Points
  • Mount/Back Take: 4 Points
  • Takedown: 2 Points 
  • Knee on Belly: 2 Points
  • Sweeps: 2 Points

Greco-Roman Wrestling & BJJ Uniforms

greco-roman wrestling vs bjj

One of the most apparent differences between Greco-Roman wrestling and Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu is the uniform of each martial art. Below we discuss the uniforms that are worn in each sport.

Greco-Roman Wrestling Uniform

The uniform in Greco-Roman wrestling consists of:

  • Wrestling Singlets.
  • Wrestling Shoes.
  • Mouthguard.
  • Headgear (Optional).

Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu Uniform

There are two different uniforms in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, depending on if you’re doing gi or no-gi. 

BJJ uniform consists of:

  • BJJ Gi.
  • Rashguard (can be worn both under the Gi and for No-Gi).
  • No-Gi Shorts.
  • Spats.
  • Mouthguard.

Greco-Roman Wrestling Is An Olympic Sport

Greco-Roman Wrestling is trained more as a sport than a martial art like Jiu-Jitsu is. It is more sport-oriented and focused on that rather than self-defense.

Greco-Roman Wrestling was included in the first modern Olympic Games, in Grece, in 1896. Greco-Roman Wrestling has been included in every Olympics since the 1904 Olympics held in St. Louis, Missouri.

Greco-Roman Wrestling vs BJJ Philosophies

These two grappling arts have two very different philosophies from one another.

Greco-Roman wrestling has the ethos of using strength to keep your opponent on their back and stay on top in control. Brazilian Jiu Jitsu’s philosophy is more about leverage, technique, and working both from the top and off your back in guard to use your opponent’s weight against them.

Submissions In Greco-Roman Wrestling

One of the most significant differences between Greco-Roman Wrestling and BJJ is that submissions are taught within Jiu-Jitsu and not in Greco-Roman Wrestling. While both upper and lower body takedowns are permitted in BJJ, only upper body takedowns and top control are taught within Greco-Roman.

Greco Roman Wrestling FAQs

Below we discuss some of the most common FAQs about Greco-Roman Wrestling.

What’s the difference between Greco-Roman Wrestling and BJJ?


Greco-Roman Wrestling and BJJ have many differences, including the use of submissions and the uniform. In Greco-Roman Wrestling, you can only take your opponent down with takedowns and throws from their hips up, while in BJJ, you can grab and attack the legs.

How do you win in Greco-Roman Wrestling?


You can win a Greco-Roman Wrestling match either by pinning your opponent’s shoulders to the mat or by earning more points during the match. If one wrestler gains an 8-point advantage over their opponent during the match, they are declared the winner.

Is Greco-Roman Wrestling effective in MMA?


Greco-Roman Wrestling provides a solid foundation for mixed martial arts. Clinch positions often occur in MMA, so Greco-Roman Wrestling skills are effective. Most successful MMA fighters have a strong background in Wrestling. Wrestlers can control the fight, making it difficult for opponents to impose their game.

When was Greco-Roman Wrestling invented?


Greco-Roman Wrestling was invented during the 1800s by a French soldier called Jean Exbrayat. The sport evolved from folk-style Wrestling, which was the primary type of Wrestling practiced at the time. Greco-Roman Wrestling was included in the first Olympic Games in 1896 and has been included in every Olympics held since 1904.

What’s the difference between Greco-Roman Wrestling and Freestyle Wrestling?


Greco-Roman Wrestling forbids scoring below the waist. In Freestyle Wrestling, wrestlers can use their legs to attack and defend against opponents. Greco-Roman Wrestling puts more emphasis on throws compared to Freestyle Wrestling.

Grecco Roman Wrestling VS BJJ Summary

Greco-Roman Wrestling has a long history that is very different from Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. Although the sports are pretty different, learning Greco-Roman style wrestling can benefit your Jiu-Jitsu game, particularly in no-gi grappling.

We recommend that you take the time to learn different Greco-Roman Wrestling techniques that will improve your Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu.

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Gareth Davies

I'm a martial arts competitor and enthusiast. Over the last 15 years, I have trained and competed in several martial arts. I live in Manchester U.K working as a strength & conditioning coach when I'm not travelling and exploring martial arts around the world.