How is wrestling different from BJJ?

How is wrestling different from BJJ?

Wrestling or BJJ? That is one of the most debated questions among grapplers around the  world. While both sports are well known in the grappling world, they are often pitted against each other as to which one is more superior.

Brazillian Jiu-Jitsu and wrestling are part of the same combat family tree. BJJ focuses more on technique and executing finishes while wrestling is an explosive and aggressive sport that focuses more on domination rather than submission.

In this article, we will discuss everything there is to know about wrestling and BJJ. All the major differences and similarities that you need to know, to help you choose between one or the other. 

As you’ll learn through your reading: the question is not which sport is better, rather which sport is better for you?


The Origins of Wrestling

Wrestling is an Olympic sport that involves the use of grappling. Two opponents fight against each other in a bid to pin, submit and overpower the other without the use of strikes.

The sport has been around for thousands of years. The remnants of wrestling can be found in the history of Greece, Rome, and Arabia. Over time the sport has evolved and various branches of wrestling have come up. These include Sambo, Judo, Kushti, and a bunch of other sports with different names depending on the region.

All these styles involve grappling. Striking is forbidden while scratching, biting, groin shots, and eye-gouging are forbidden. The difference comes in the rules and regulations.

In wrestling, the goal of the wrestler is:

  •       To bring the opponent to the floor and execute a procedure known as the ‘pin’. It involves holding an opponent’s shoulder plates against the mat for two seconds or more.
  •       Get the opponent to touch the floor with any part of the body, except the feet.
  •       Push the opponent out of the mat
  •       Submit the opponent or place them in a subordinate position
  •       Dominate the opponent to gain maximum points by the end of the match

The Origins of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu

Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu is a combat sport that focuses more on the ground combat aspect of grappling. Each individual aims to dominate the other using submission techniques to defeat their opponent.

The basic principle behind Jiu-Jitsu is to allow a smaller, weaker individual to use their skill, agility, and balance to outmaneuver a stronger, larger, and heavier opponent. The sport was made famous when Royce Gracie, a lightweight jiu-jitsu practitioner from Brazil, defeated numerous larger and stronger opponents in the first event of the UFC.

Ever since then Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu has been seen as one of the best self-defense sports and a necessary base to compete in Mixed Martial Arts.

BJJ is practiced in two categories, known as GI and No-GI. GI involves practicing Jiu-Jitsu in a traditional Kimono called the GI. While in No-GI, there is no use of a Kimono and the practice revolves around techniques that enable the practitioners to use them for Mixed Martial Arts.

BJJ has several techniques for throwing and sweeping an opponent. A trained individual can use the basic movements of the human body to trip, sweep and throw an opponent.

When an opponent is on the ground, both individuals can execute a number of techniques to submit to each other. These techniques involve controlling the opponent, being in a dominant position, or executing a submission. This game of calculated moves can be equated to a form of kinetic chess. When one is able to submit the other, it is equal to a checkmate.

The sport is based on ground combat and its rules are somewhat similar to wrestling and judo. These include:

  •       Being in the dominant position for a majority length of the match.
  •       Being able to submit the opponent via a submission.
  •       Gaining maximum points by the end of the match.

Difference between BJJ and Wrestling

1.     Style

Wrestling is a sport that is more focused on executing aggressive techniques that enable an individual to control their opponent, pin them, and score points. There are no set objectives to make your opponent tap. The pace of the overall match is fast. There is also the mat, through which pushing out your opponent will result in a point score.

Meanwhile, in BJJ, the focus is on taking your opponent down to the mat. Get on a dominant position such as the mount or the back. And finally executing a technique that makes your opponent submit. 

Submissions are illegal in wrestling while the whole premise of Jiu-Jitsu is to simulate such a scenario in which you are able to choke or break your opponent’s limbs.

2.     Grappling vs Submission

The main difference between the sports of BJJ and wrestling is that one is focused on submissions and executing chokes. While the other is focused on grappling and pinning the opponent.

Wrestling has a restricted set of objectives and rules as compared to BJJ. The number of techniques available to wrestlers is not as much as those available to Jiu-Jitsu athletes.

3.     Uniforms

Wrestlers usually wear a singlet or a one-piece. It is a tight-fitting uniform made from spandex. The singlet allows the referee to clearly see each wrestler’s body when awarding points for pins.

Contrarily, in No-GI Jiu-jitsu the athletes can wear a rash guard with shorts. When they train in GI’s they wear the traditional kimono with their respective belt.

4.     Belts and Progression

In Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu belts and ranking systems are divided into different colors with stripes being awarded for each belt. There are a total of five belts with

  •       White
  •       Blue
  •       Purple
  •       Brown
  •       Black

There is no official progression system in wrestling. However, Greco-Roman and collegiate wrestling have the following rules.

For international athletes

  •       The number of wins/losses
  •       Performance in the Olympics
  •       Performance in World championships
  •       Performance in Continental championships

For high school and college athletes

  •       The NCAA places collegiate wrestling athletes in different Divisions according to their win/loss record in different tournaments.
  •       There are a total of three divisions with Division 1 being the most competitive among the college wrestling circuit.

5.     Rules and Regulations

The rules for point scoring in BJJ are:

  •       Takedown (2 points)
  •       Sweep (2 points)
  •       Knee on belly (2 points)
  •       Guard pass (3 points)
  •       Mount (4 points)
  •       Back Mount (4 points)


    The prohibitions in BJJ are:

  •       No slams
  •       No eye-gouging
  •       No groin shots
  •       No striking
  •       No stalling
  •       No neck cranks
  •       No finger bending

The rules for point scoring in wrestling are:

  •       Takedown (2 points)
  •       Escape (1 Point)
  •       Reversal (2 Points)
  •       Near fall (2 points)
  •       Penalty (1-2 points)

    The technical violations in wrestling are:

  •       Grabbing the singlet, the mat, or the headgear
  •       Going off the mat to avoid wrestling
  •       Being unnecessarily rough
  •       Unsportsmanlike behavior
  •       Incorrect starting position
  •       Eye gouging, striking, scratching, or taking groin shots


6.     Popularity

The popularity of BJJ has been increasing due to its necessity in MMA. However, wrestling is an ancient sport that has been legitimized by the Olympics. Even in the United States, due to wrestling being an integral part of the high school and college programs, its popularity is far more than Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu.

You can see the difference between the two sports in this graph. Over the past 20 years, there has not been much difference, if we compare the popularity of the two sports.

7.     Similarities

The similarities between Wrestling and BJJ are that they both are combat sports. They are both offshoots of grappling. Along with that, the goal of an individual in both sports is to subdue their opponent by either scoring more points, controlling them, or submitting them.

There are several moves that can be categorized in the same category. Such as takedowns, sweeps, mounts, and controls.

8.     Which one is better?

The question is not about one sport being better than the other, the question is which sport suits you the best. While wrestling involves more brute force and athleticism. BJJ allows more technique, mental capacity, perseverance, and leverage to be used.

Pitting a wrestler against a BJJ athlete will not get us to a conclusive answer. The benefits of cross-training in these sports would be a huge benefit for anyone. If you train Jiu-Jitsu, then taking one class of wrestling per week can drastically enhance your standup game. Similarly, one class of Jiu-Jitsu can elevate the wrestler’s game in terms of technique and ground game.

Being able to switch between sports can add flexibility and break the monotonous routine of doing the same thing over and over every day. Adding a different mixture can not only improve your game but keep your focus from flailing.

Pros and cons of BJJ and Wrestling

Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu

If you are inexperienced and new to martial arts. BJJ is a great place to start. Most gyms are beginner-friendly and allow you to settle into a challenging environment. Furthermore, practicing Jiu-Jitsu is immensely satisfying which allows you to channel your energy in a positive way and keeps you physically and mentally fit.


  •       Great place for beginners: Beginner friendly. A great place to start for newbies who do not have any prior experience in martial arts.
  •       A perfect way to learn self-defense: Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu allows you to learn techniques that are practical and can be implemented in real-life situations for self-defense.
  •       Family-friendly: Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu is a sport for everyone. Men, women, and children can enjoy this sport as a family and make new friends along the way.
  •       A natural form of stress release: Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu is something that allows you to release your stress productively. No number of meds or visits to the shrink can replace an exhausting session at the gym.
  •       Keeps you physically fit: Practicing jiu-jitsu is a healthy way to keep your body fit without the monotonous routine of a conventional gym.
  •       Improves mental health: It takes a lot of mental fortitude to earn a belt and progress to the next level. Your daily release of endorphins will keep your brain healthy and motivated.
  •       A great way to socialize: In any BJJ gym, there is a sense of camaraderie among the athletes. You share the mat with all sorts of people. This activity allows you to socialize and make new friends on your journey.


  •       Difficult progression: It takes nearly a decade to reach the pinnacle of this sport. That too if you train and compete regularly. It takes a lot of patience and perseverance to keep this journey going.
  •       Fake Gyms: It can be difficult to separate the wheat from the chaff. Fake black belts and fake gyms are popping around everywhere trying to make some money. Be sure to research your instructor’s lineage before you join a gym.
  •       No slams or striking: Striking and slamming are not allowed in Jiu-Jitsu. It is purely a grappling martial art. If you want to enjoy the best of all worlds, try an MMA class.
  •       Requires tremendous patience: BJJ can be slow at times. So, it requires a lot of patience to overcome plateaus in your journey.



Wrestling is a sport that allows you to explore your athleticism and explosiveness. This grappling sport is for high-paced individuals that enjoy constant rigorous physical activity.


  •       Physical endurance: Wrestling workouts are tough. They require a lot of physical endurance and capacity to follow through. Slowly but surely, they develop an individual’s capabilities to handle physical punishment.
  •       Mental toughness: Learning how to wrestle will improve your ability to handle pressure situations. If you can go through the pain and punishment in the gym, it will have a positive impact on other areas of your life as well.
  •       Great for cardio: Due to the explosive nature of the workouts, your cardio will steadily increase.
  •       Self-defense: Similar to BJJ, wrestling is a great sport to learn self-defense.
  •       Great for your stand-up game: Being able to take down opponents, explode and defend takedowns will add confidence in your ability to stand up and strike.


  •       Location unavailability: High-quality wrestling gyms are mostly found in North America. If you are anywhere outside that location, it may be hard to find a reputable gym.
  •       Not for everybody: Wrestling does not cater to hobbyists. It is a competitive sport that only the fittest can survive.
  •       No submissions: Wrestling allows you to learn how to control and dominate your opponent. But there are no submissions in this game, which is a problem if you are looking to finish your opponent.
  •       Slamming not striking: Slams are a big part of wrestling. However, there is no striking allowed.


BJJ and wrestling are both grappling martial arts. Both enjoy a great deal of respect in the Mixed Martial Arts and Olympic communities. They have their similarities and differences yet give tremendous benefits to a practitioner.

As we said earlier, it’s not a question of which practice outperforms the other. But rather a matter of how the intricacies of  each sport complements your objective. Certainly,  if an athlete decides to cross-train then that would dramatically improve their game.

We hope that this article was able to educate you on the differences between the two sports. If you have the choice, we recommend you try out both sports to reap their unique value in improving your physical and mental capabilities.

Thanks for reading!

Until the next one,

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