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BJJ vs Wrestling: What is the most effective?

Within MMA, the BJJ vs Wrestling debate has been going on for years. Both are effective grappling martial arts that are vital to being successful in MMA.

These two styles of grappling have very different principles and philosophies but are effective when put together. Let’s do a comparison of the old BJJ vs Wrestling rivalry. Going over these two martial arts similarities and differences to see which is more effective.

BJJ vs Wrestling techniques

First, let’s look at the most obvious differences between Wrestling and BJJ. Starting with their techniques.

Wrestling techniques

The techniques of wrestling were created based on the parameters of the sport of wrestling. Takedowns, control, and staying on top.

You do these techniques with the goal of either pinning your opponent’s shoulders to the mat or winning by points. Generally, it takes a mix of proper technique along with speed and athleticism to succeed at the sport of wrestling.

BJJ Techniques

BJJ’s techniques are a little bit more vast than those in wrestling and have a different philosophy behind them. Not only are techniques performed on top of an opponent, but many are done from your back in a guard.

From the guard, you use a mix of timing and leverage to sweep or submit your opponent. The submissions include a wide variety of joint locks and strangulations from different positions.

BJJ vs Wrestling training

bjj vs wrestling

Wrestling and BJJ training actually has a similar type of training format in their classes. The obvious differences would be the techniques and intensity of the classes. Lasting between an hour and 90 minutes.

Both generally start with some type of warm-up to get the students heart rate up. This could be drills or exercises depending on the academy.

After the warm-up, the instructor goes into the technique of the day and explains its details. They’ll go through these techniques for 15-30 minutes with varying levels of intensity.

The last part of each class is usually live rounds of practice sparring. In a wrestling class, you may either do rounds with teammates attempting takedowns or try getting out of bad positions.

Live sparring in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, or rolling, is where teammates try to submit each other. This is like what you would do in a competition, but at a lesser intensity and not trying to hurt your teammates.

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BJJ vs Wrestling rulesets

bjj vs wrestling

The rulesets of each sport is another thing that makes these two sports vastly different. Everything from the goals of a match, the techniques allowed, and the time of the matches.

Ruleset of BJJ

A BJJ match can be anywhere from 4-10 minutes for adults depending on rank and age. The main goal is to submit your opponent and the second way to win is by points.

The points in an IBJJF regulated match include:

  • Takedowns 2 points
  • Sweeps 2 points
  • Knee on belly 2 points
  • Passing guard 3 points.
  • Mount 4 points
  • Back mount 4 points

There are also advantages that the referee will call within the match.

Ruleset of wrestlings

The ruleset of wrestling is a little trickier to follow because there are different types of match styles and rule sets. There are three levels of competitions including international, college level, and high school with each having different periods for matches.

  • American high schools: 3 two minutes rounds
  • College: 1 three minute period and 2 two minute periods
  • International: 2 three minute periods

To win a wrestling match outright, you have to pin your opponent’s shoulders to the ground for one second. The other way to win is by points, which are earned by takedowns and controlling your opponent. 

BJJ vs Wrestling uniforms

Wrestling uniforms are vastly different from what is worn in BJJ. In wrestling, you wear tights called a singlet with wrestling shoes, and headgear to protect your ears.

The uniform of BJJ varies depending on if you’re doing Gi or No-Gi. Gi of course is done in a uniform called a Gi and No-Gi is done in a rashguard and board shorts. Grappling shoes are generally not worn in any type of BJJ training.

BJJ vs Wrestling belt systems

This is one of the big differences between BJJ and wrestling. The belt or ranking systems of each style of grappling.

BJJ’s belt system

Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu rank is done by a belt system to separate the different ranks. With adults, there are 5 different ranks you go through (excluding red belt).

  • White Belt
  • Blue Belt 
  • Purple Belt
  • Brown Belt
  • Black Belt

Wrestling belt system?

In wrestling, there is no belt or ranking system of any kind. It is strictly sport based, where each competitor is separated by their weight class.

Rankings in wrestling are only measured by those that win championships or have the best record. The best wrestlers go on to wrestle at universities and the exceptional among them go on to compete at international competitions.

BJJ vs Wrestling schools

wrestling vs bjj

Another difference between these two grappling styles is their schools. BJJ is similar to other martial arts schools. They have their own format they follow and many of their students are hobbyists training for a variety of reasons.

For a long time, amateur wrestling was only done within grade schools. Today it is pretty common for kids and teenagers to train at wrestling academies outside of grade schools. These wrestling academies also have their students participate in wrestling meets done by different organizations like in BJJ.

Professional BJJ vs Professional Wrestling

Both of these grappling arts also have professional athletes that compete for prize money around the world.

Pro BJJ

At first in Jiu-Jitsu, you could only get cash prizes if you won worlds at the IBJJF or the ADCC. Now, there are numerous ways for BJJ athletes to make a living competing in the sport.

Throughout the world, professional BJJ promotions have been popping up. Showcasing some of the best athletes in the sport. Everything from Polaris, EBI, and WHO #1.

Pro Wrestling

When you say professional wrestling, the first thing that comes to people’s minds is the WWE. Wrestlers cutting promos, wearing flashy spandex, and hitting each other with chairs.

Just like with BJJ, various pro-amateur wrestling promotions are popping up starting to be created. One of the biggest is run by Flo Wrestling, which is giving wrestlers the ability to make a living doing the sport they love.

Which is more effective?

bjj vs wrestling

This has been the topic of many within the MMA community. Which grappling style is more effective?

For years, the obvious answer was BJJ. This is because nobody knew how to defend submissions or sweeps. BJJ fighters would beat wrestlers and strikers with ease back in the early days of MMA.

Now that wrestlers in MMA are learning submission defense, the gap has shortened significantly. Fighters with wrestling backgrounds and great submission defense have started becoming among the best in the sport.

That is not to say BJJ has become ineffective. The truth is that in order to excel at MMA and even BJJ, you need to train in both disciplines. You need to know how to take your opponent down and also how to fight off of your back.

Train both BJJ & Wrestling

Gone are the days of the old school BJJ vs Wrestler fighter MMA fights. To be a complete martial artist or a fighter, you must train both Wrestling and BJJ techniques. 

Knowing both will not only help you on the mat but also in a self-defense situation. If you are serious about developing your skills and increasing your ability to defend yourself, you need to train both. That way you’ll be ready for anything that can happen on and off the mat.

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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.
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