When it comes to self-defense, the debate about which martial art is the best can be difficult. Today we talk about wrestling vs jiu jitsu. Both are grappling sports, but they are different in how they approach the art of combat.

Wrestling has been around forever and focuses more on overpowering your opponent, while Brazilian jiu-jitsu leans more on technique and finesse.

I train both martial arts and want to give you an inside into techniques, training structure, and which one is better for self-defense.

So, if you’re torn between the wrestling mat and the jiu jitsu dojo, stick around! This post will help you decide.

Wrestling vs Jiu Jitsu
WrestlingJiu Jitsu
History & BackgroundOne of the oldest combat sports, popularized through events like the Olympics and MMA.Roots in Judo and traditional Japanese Jiu Jitsu. In the early 1900s, it made its way to Brazil and evolved from there
Techniques & FocusFocuses on takedowns, control, and overpowering the opponent.Emphasizes leverage, technique, and submissions.
Rules & ScoringIntense, high-paced training; wrestling shoes, and singlets are common.Points for control and submissions; various joint locks and chokes are allowed.
Styles & VariationsFreestyle, Greco-Roman, Folkstyle.Gi and No-Gi.
Training & EquipmentIntense, high-paced training; wrestling shoes and singlets are common.More relaxed, focuses on drilling and rolling; Gi or No-Gi attire.
Applications in MMA And Self DefenseHighly effective in MMA for takedowns and control; good for self-defense situations.Commonly used for submissions in MMA; useful but perhaps less practical in self-defense compared to wrestling.
Pros & ConsPro: Effective control and takedowns. Con: Limited submission techniques.Pro: Wide range of techniques. Con: Less emphasis on takedowns
Training SessionsVery tough, high-paced, and physically demanding.More relaxed, playful atmosphere with a focus on technique and rolling.
Wrestling vs Jiu Jitsu: What’s the difference?

1. What’s The History Of BJJ and Wrestling?

The History of Wrestling

It’s one of the oldest combat sports. Ancient civilizations like the Egyptians, Greeks, and Romans all had their own wrestling style.

Fast-forward to today, wrestling has many styles, including freestyle and Greco-Roman. It’s even an Olympic sport, which says a lot about its standing in the world of martial arts.

Wrestling became mainstream, not just through Olympic competitions but also thanks to mixed martial arts (MMA). In MMA, many fighters rely on their wrestling background, which has shown to be very effective in MMA.

It also got a massive fan following in high school and college sports, making it accessible for people to get into from a young age.

The History of Jiu Jitsu

This martial art has its roots in Judo and traditional Japanese Jiu Jitsu. In the early 1900s, it made its way to Brazil, where it took on its unique twist. Brazilian jiu-jitsu focuses more on submissions and ground fighting, making it different from other martial arts.

Jiu Jitsu also got popular thanks to MMA. Many MMA fighters integrate jiu jitsu into their fighting style. And let’s not forget the world BJJ championships, like ADCC. Here jiu-jitsu fighters come to compete, making Jiu Jitsu accessible for fans to watch.

Both wrestling and jiu jitsu carved their own paths in the world of martial arts, often intersecting in MMA. But they’re different in their techniques, philosophies, and approaches to the fight.

2. What Are The Techniques In BJJ And Wrestling?

Wrestling Techniques

Wrestling is a grappling art that’s straightforward: You want to control and overpower your opponent. It’s about getting your opponent to the mat and keeping them there. This involves takedowns, pins, and throws.

Wrestling focuses on control. The goal is to pin your opponent’s shoulders to the mat. Wrestling techniques include double-leg takedowns, single-leg takedowns, and the suplex.

In wrestling training, you’ll often hear about the importance of stance, grip, and power. Many wrestling techniques aim to unbalance your opponent.

It’s a martial art that requires a lot of strength and stamina. You’ll know what I mean after you visit a wrestling practice. I’ve never been so exhausted after my first wrestling practice.

You need to have the power to dominate, but don’t be fooled; there’s a lot of skill and technique involved, too. You learn to use your body to maximize your strength.

BJJ Techniques

Now let’s look at jiu jitsu. BJJ techniques are designed for many situations, particularly ground fighting. The focus is on submissions – You’ll see submissions like the triangle choke, armbar, and rear-naked choke.

In jiu jitsu, it’s not about brute force. It’s more about using your opponent’s energy against them. Jiu-jitsu focuses on leverage and technique. You could be smaller and weaker than your opponent and still win.

The art of BJJ is often described as physical chess because of how much strategy it involves. BJJ practitioners spend a lot of time on the mat, practicing submissions and working on their ground game.

Differences Between BJJ and Wrestling Techniques

So, what’s different? Well, in wrestling, the match often ends when you pin your opponent, while in jiu jitsu, matches end mostly in submissions.

Wrestling and jiu-jitsu may be grappling sports, but they have different goals, techniques, and training styles.

Wrestlers learn how to take somebody down and pin them there, Jiu Jitsu focuses less on takedowns but more on control on the ground and submitting the opponent.

In my experience, I see that there are more BJJ techniques than Wrestling techniques. Wrestling techniques work with timing, set-ups, and speed.

BJJ techniques work with understanding leverage. You need to acquire knowledge about body positioning and strategy.

3. The Rules and Scoring Systems

The Wrestling Rules and Scoring System

The Wrestling rules are pretty straightforward. The main goal is to pin your opponent’s shoulders to the mat. But it’s not the only way to score points. You can also get points through takedowns, reversals, and near-falls.

Wrestling matches are generally divided into periods, with both wrestlers starting from a neutral position.

In high school and college wrestling, you usually see three periods lasting six minutes. Scoring varies depending on the wrestling style, but in general, you earn points for controlling and taking down your opponent.

In this video the rules and scoring system of Wrestling are explained

The BJJ Rules and Scoring System

In BJJ, it’s all about submission. You want your opponent to tap out, and that can happen through a variety of holds and locks. You get points for takedowns, dominant positions, and near-submissions.

Matches usually start with both competitors standing, just like in wrestling. However, in BJJ, the fight often goes to the ground pretty quickly. The match length can vary depending on the tournament, usually around 5 to 10 minutes.

Sometimes it can be confusing to understand the BJJ scoring system. Every tournament I visited had a different rule set. But you’ll get used to it.

IBJJF has the most common ruleset. You can check it out here.

Wrestling vs BJJ Rules Comparison

Now, how do these rules stack up when you look at wrestling vs jiu jitsu? The key difference comes down to the endgame.

In wrestling, pinning the opponent is the ultimate goal, whereas in BJJ, getting a submission is the main focus. This impacts the techniques used and the training focus in each martial art.

For example, because submissions are the end of BJJ matches, you’ll see a lot of emphasis on joint locks and chokeholds. Wrestling, on the other hand, is more about control and positioning to get a pin or score points.

So, the rules aren’t just rules—they tell you a lot about what each martial art values and how it’s used. This gives us clues when you’re trying to figure out which one is better for self-defense in a wrestling vs jiu jitsu debate.

4. Styles and Variations In BJJ And Wrestling

3 Styles of Wrestling

When we’re talking about wrestling styles, there are mainly three big ones: Freestyle, Greco-Roman, and Folkstyle.

  • Freestyle Wrestling: This is the most open-ended one. You can use your arms and legs to control and take down your opponent. It’s versatile and the style you’ll most often see in international competitions.
  • Greco-Roman Wrestling: Here, you can only use your upper body to make moves. No leg trips or tackles. It’s about upper body strength and technique.
  • Folkstyle Wrestling: This one is particularly popular in the United States. It’s similar to freestyle but with some variations in rules and scoring. Folkstyle focuses more on control rather than just the takedown.

I mostly train freestyle wrestling and I find it to be the most fun and demanding one. But no matter what kind of wrestling you practice – you’ll learn a lot.

Different BJJ Styles: Gi vs No-GI BJJ

Now, let’s hop over to Brazilian jiu jitsu. The big divide in the BJJ world is between Gi and No-Gi.

  • Gi Jiu Jitsu
    Here, you wear the traditional martial arts uniform known as a ‘gi.’ The gi actually becomes part of the strategy, as you can use it to grab and manipulate your opponent.
  • No-Gi Jiu Jitsu
    As you might guess, no-gi means you’re not wearing the traditional uniform. Here, you wear rash guards. It’s faster-paced and often considered more practical for self-defense or MMA situations because you don’t usually have a Gi in a street fight.

    But this is a completely other debate to get into… Read about it here.

5. What’s The Training Gear In BJJ And Wrestling?

Wrestling Gear

First up, let’s talk wrestling gear. The main thing you’ll notice is the wrestling shoes. These are designed for grip and agility. They help you move fast and keep your footing, which is super important when you’re trying to pin someone or avoid being pinned yourself.

In addition to the shoes, you typically wear a singlet, which is a one-piece uniform that reduces friction and makes it harder for your opponent to grab onto you. Headgear is also common to protect your ears.

Also, in wrestling gyms, you’ll see grappling dummies with which you can practice your throws.

BJJ Gear

The equipment in BJJ varies depending on the style. In Gi jiu jitsu, you’ll wear a Gi, which is a martial arts uniform made of heavy fabric. This becomes part of your technique, allowing for various grabs and holds.

For No-Gi jiu jitsu, you typically wear a rash guard and fight shorts, which offer less material for your opponent to grab onto. No specialized shoes here; barefoot is the way to go.

Also, in Jiu Jitsu is common to wear mouthguards, less so in wrestling. 

6. The Training Structure: Wrestling vs Jiu Jitsu

I trained in both wrestling and jiu jitsu and stepping into different gyms for each has been eye-opening. Each martial art has its unique vibe and training approach, and here’s what I experienced:

The Training Structure in Wrestling

Guy warming up his neck before practice

From my experience in different Wrestling gyms, I can say that wrestling practice is a beast—there’s no other way to put it.

It’s likely the toughest martial arts to train in. It’s for sure the toughest martial art I ever trained.

The moment you walk in, you’re hit with an atmosphere of intense focus and seriousness. The warm-ups alone feel like a full workout.

It’s not uncommon to see people drenched in sweat just from the warm-ups. The practice itself emphasizes on high pace and tons of drilling. You’re kept on your toes constantly, and you leave exhausted after each session.

It’s tough, but that’s what prepares you for intense control and overpowering your opponent.

The Training Structure In BJJ

Jiu jitsu gyms have a different atmosphere — more laid-back and playful. It’s almost funny how much these two martial arts differ in their training approach.

Here, the warm-up is shorter and far less taxing compared to wrestling. Once warm-ups are done, you move on to drilling techniques. After that comes the rolling sessions.

Rolling can be exhausting, especially if you’re new to it, but people here tend to be more relaxed. It’s a learning environment where people aren’t as serious all the time.

You’ll find some people having a nice and easy roll and others who go 100%. Both is fine, just find the rolling partners who agree with your pace.

The beauty of BJJ is that it’s suited for all ages and body types. You see all body types, ages, and genders in a BJJ Gym. Not so in Wrestling – here you’ll see young and fit guys as it is a very grueling sport.

7. Is Wrestling Or BJJ Better In MMA and Street Fights?

So now you learned all about the techniques, the gear, and the rules. But what about the real-world applications? The question now is which one wins in the Wrestling vs Jiu Jitsu debate when it comes to MMA and street fights.

How do these Martial Arts transition to MMA Fights?

Nowadays, you’ll see fighters mixing both wrestling and jiu jitsu. But in my opinion, wrestling seems to have the upper hand here. Why? MMA fights start on the feet, and wrestling is all about takedowns and controlling your opponent. This gives wrestlers an advantage in the MMA ring.

You don’t want to stay across a wrestler. If you don’t have takedown defense, you’ll be taken down. That’s guaranteed.

That’s not to say jiu jitsu is not effective. It is, but it leans more toward submissions. Those are great, but it’s hard to get to the positions for applying these submissions. The wrestling takedowns you see more often in MMA fights.

Wrestling specialists usually make it far in MMA. I think it’s the most important component of MMA.

One great example of that is Khabib. His stand-up was average at best. But he negated everything by his wrestling. He is considered one of the GOATs, but he is not even a complete martial artist. He is a wrestling specialist who learned a bit of striking.

Which Martial Art Is Better For Street Fights?

Again, street fights start standing up. And let me tell you, wrestling teaches you exactly how to bring someone down to the ground and keep them there. The pace, strength, and control are all there in wrestling. Going toe-to-toe with a wrestler on the street? Good luck…

BJJ focuses more on takedowns, so you’d have a harder time bringing somebody to the ground. But once on the ground, BJJ Players are unbeatable.

So I think wrestling is more effective against an untrained person on the street. But with a blue Belt in Jiu Jitsu you’d be just fine on the streets.

By blue belt level, you’ll know how to bring somebody down. Unfortunately, I don’t see many BJJ schools emphasizing takedowns anymore. So you need to make it a point to learn takedowns to be effective on the streets.

The ideal approach? Train both. Learn how to bring someone down with wrestling, then switch to your jiu jitsu skills to lock in a submission. They complement each other perfectly.

So, what’s the final word? Wrestling is superior if you’re looking purely for self-defense, but adding some jiu jitsu to the mix would only make it better. You learn to control, you learn to submit.

In the end, you become a more well-rounded fighter, ready for whatever comes your way.

Statistics that showing a poll. 67% perfecent think BJJ is better for self defense, 25% think its wrestling, 8% think they are the same.
I asked my BJJ community on Threads. They think BJJ is superior if takedowns are also trained.

8. Pros and Cons: BJJ vs Wrestling

Ah, the age-old debate—Wrestling vs Jiu Jitsu—which is better for self-defense? The answer isn’t that simple, and both have their strong points and weaknesses.

Why Wrestling Might Be Seen as The Better Martial Art

First up, wrestling. This martial art is one of the oldest combat sports out there. It’s been refined through many wrestling matchups in many championships and has a proven track record in mixed martial arts.

The training is grueling, but it trains you to overpower your opponent.

Plus, wrestling focuses on getting your opponent down quickly—a skill that can come in handy during street fights. And when it comes to European open wrestling championships, the skill level is off the charts.

  • Intense control techniques
  • Ideal for takedowns
  • Translates well to MMA fights
  • High intensity during practice
  • Less focus on submissions

Why Some Would Argue BJJ is The Better Martial Art

On the other flip of the coin, we got Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. Unlike wrestling, BJJ techniques are designed for various situations. If you’re smaller or not as strong, jiu jitsu focuses on using leverage and technique to bring down your opponent.

  • Emphasize on submissions
  • Perfect for ground fighting
  • Combines takedowns, control and submissions
  • Less focus on takedowns
  • Might not be as effective in MMA compared to Wrestling

Why Both Martial Arts Should Learn From Each Other

Both of these popular grappling sports can learn a lot from each other. Wrestlers benefit from BJJ’s focus on submission and ground control.

Meanwhile, BJJ practitioners learn from the intense focus on takedowns that wrestling offers. Combining wrestling and BJJ could make for a more complete grappling art, better preparing you for MMA fights and street fights.

So, Wrestling vs Jiu Jitsu—which one is better for self-defense? Both have their strengths. Wrestlers enjoy better control and are generally more successful in MMA and street fights.

BJJ fighters have broader skills designed for ground fighting and submissions. Ideally, mixing the two would offer the best path for self-defense.

This is what I did. Learning both wrestling and Jiu Jitsu gives me a huge advantage. I notice that whenever I compete in BJJ.

My wrestling is almost always better than my opponents. That means I’m able to get an advantageous position in the beginning. Which is often crucial for the outcome of the match.

Conclusion: Which One Is Better For Self-Defense?

When it comes to the debate on wrestling vs jiu jitsu for self-defense, both these grappling sports offer strengths and weaknesses. Wrestling is a martial art that aims to pin your opponent. On the other hand, BJJ teaches many techniques designed for different scenarios, focusing on submissions and using leverage.

In wrestling, the training environment is intense, emphasizing hard work and drilling to develop the grappling techniques needed to overpower an opponent. BJJ offers a more relaxed atmosphere where the BJJ athlete can experiment and learn in a less aggressive setting. 

When it comes to real-world applications like MMA or street fights, the two martial arts offer different advantages. Wrestling provides a base for takedowns and control, beneficial in MMA scenarios. BJJ is also seen in MMA, but usually in more specific situations where submission skills are handy.

Now, when we zoom out and look at the broader picture, we see that wrestlers can learn from BJJ, particularly when it comes to submissions and ground control. Similarly, a BJJ athlete could benefit from the intense training and takedown techniques in wrestling.

In many ways, BJJ and wrestling share the ultimate goal of controlling the opponent but get there through different routes.

So, which is better for self-defense? It’s hard to say as both have their strengths. For those looking for a more intense, physically demanding experience, wrestling is the go-to. For those interested in learning a wider range of techniques focusing on submissions, BJJ is for you. Ultimately, the ideal approach for comprehensive self-defense might just be a combination of the two.

The debate between wrestling and jiu jitsu for self-defense is far from settled, but one thing’s for sure: Both martial arts offer valuable skills that can serve you well in different situations.

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