BJJ vs Wrestling — Top 7 Questions Answered

BJJ vs Wrestling has been, perhaps, the hottest debate among grapplers for many years now. This is because we are talking about the two best grappling arts that differ a lot from one another. But the ultimate question is: which one is more effective, BJJ or Wrestling?

BJJ is often seen as the best fighting style for self-defense and MMA. It puts a lot of focus on ground fighting where its fighters use chokes and joint locks to finish the fight. They also learn how to stop or execute takedowns, trips and change the positions on the ground. Wrestling, on the other side, has many forms out of which most put a lot of focus on explosive takedowns. It is better than BJJ in this aspect, but it won’t teach you any finishing moves.

Still, this is just the tip of the iceberg as there is a lot more to BJJ vs Wrestling. Keep reading this article to find out which one is better for self-defense, MMA, or would win in a street fight.

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BJJ vs Wrestling — what are the main differences?

Although both BJJ and Wrestling are grappling arts, they do not share much in common. They are a world apart when it comes to history, emphasis, training, and techniques. Here is all you need to know:

History and origins

BJJ is a much younger style of the two founded by the famous Gracie family in Brazil. In the 1920s, Carlos and Helio Gracie, both skilled judokas, used judo as a base to create their own fighting style. The final result was a grappling art that focuses a lot on ground fighting. While judo focuses on throws, BJJ is all about rolling on the ground and finishing a fight using chokes and joint locks.

BJJ won’t teach you any striking, but, it is still superior to other fighting styles. Don’t look any further from its dominance in “Vale Tudo” and early “MMA” events if you need an example. This enabled it to spread really fast and grow into, perhaps, the most popular modern fighting style.

Wrestling, on the other side, is one of the oldest sports that was a part of the initial Olympic Games. Its earliest records date all the way back to 15,000-year-old cave drawings in France, and there were a couple in Egypt as well.

In a form of competition, it started to rise in Ancient Greece where it served as an Olympic sport. These early wrestling matches were very brutal as they included various dirty tactics. But, the Romans would later change it for the better and make wrestling much safer.

Techniques and emphasis

BJJ is a fighting style that covers both standup grappling and ground fighting. The goal is to use judo throws and trips in the standup to take the fight to the ground. Once there, students learn how to secure a dominant position from which they can place various chokes and joint locks. It won’t teach you any striking and the emphasis is on taking the fight to the ground as fast as possible. Here is what students learn in training:

  • Various Judo throws and trips as well as wrestling takedowns
  • Many joint locks like elbow locks, kimura, armbar, or leg locks
  • Strangles and chokes like an anaconda, guillotine, or rear-naked choke
  • How to secure or escape from a dominant position

Wrestling is a grappling art that focuses on powerful takedowns and throws with limited fighting on the ground. The goal is to score a takedown and use pins or certain grappling holds to subdue the opponent and win a match. It focuses a lot on competition, and this is the main reason why it won’t teach you how to finish the fight. Still, this also depends on the style, as wrestling has many styles out of which two are the most popular ones:

  • Greco-Roman– in this form, wrestlers are not allowed to hold or grab the opponent below the belt. This means the focus is on powerful throws and trips.
  • Freestyle– this form differs a lot as wrestlers can hold or grab the opponent both above and below the belt. The goal is to win a match with a takedown or by pinning the opponent to the mat.
Nogi vs GI BJJ

BJJ vs Wrestling- which one is more effective for self-defense?

BJJ is a better choice when it comes to self-defense in our view. It focuses more on finishing a fight, and its techniques are more practical in various fighting scenarios. This doesn’t mean that wrestling is bad by any means. But, it’s not better, and here is a brief look why:

  • BJJ will teach you how to finish a fight, while wrestling won’t
  • BJJ chokes and joint locks work in any situation and against any person
  • It trains you how to fight against a bigger and stronger opponent
  • Wrestling focuses too much on competition

The main reason why BJJ is better than wrestling is that it focuses more on self-defense. In fact, it is the only fighting style that trains you to beat a bigger and stronger person in a real fight. Its trips, throws, chokes, and joint locks work on every person, no matter how big and strong they are.

This is ideal for self-defense as most average people don’t know how to fight on the ground. We can all throw a punch or kick to hurt a person standing in front. But as soon the fight hits the ground, trained BJJ fighters would play with an average person as a lion plays with their food.

Wrestling, on the other side, is also great for self-defense. It teaches you all about how to close the distance, duck under the punch, and score powerful takedowns. On paper, it doesn’t teach any finishing techniques like BJJ. The goal is to take down the opponent and subdue them using pins. And to be fair, knowing how to hold the opponent on the bottom is often enough to stay safe.

But what people often miss about wrestling is how powerful their takedowns are. Wrestlers can hurt a person with a powerful double-leg slam or suplex, and we are not joking about that. Just imagine them throwing an average person with a suplex, and the opponent’s head hitting a concrete. It would end really, really bad.

BJJ vs Wrestling – which one is more effective for MMA?

This is a really tough question to answer because both BJJ and Wrestling play a key role in modern MMA fighting. The only fair answer is to say that you can’t expect to succeed in MMA without skills from both arts. You can have the best striking skills in the world, but the lack of grappling will backfire on you sooner or later.

BJJ has been the king when it comes to ground fighting in MMA since day one. In the early UFC events, Royce Gracie showed the power of BJJ by beating fighters from other styles. Many skilled wrestlers and boxers had a really hard time dealing with BJJ on the ground.

Over the years, the MMA game has changed a lot but the importance of BJJ remains the same. Not a single fighting style out there will teach you better skills to fight on the ground.

All that we said for BJJ stands for wrestling as well. In fact, wrestling has produced more UFC champions than any other fighting style, including BJJ. Around 40% of the all-time UFC champs have come from some type of wrestling background. But what makes it so effective?

First of all, wrestlers are the ones who can decide where the fight takes place. It matches well against other styles, and it’s hard to stop wrestlers from imposing their will. They can take just about every fighter on the ground and stay on top for the entire fight.

BJJ vs Wrestling — which one would win a street fight?

In our view, BJJ fighters stand a better chance of beating wrestlers in most types of street fighting scenarios. We have to bring up that we can see it going the other way around as well. But we would choose BJJ fighters to beat wrestlers just about every time and here is why.

BJJ fighters have a small edge because it focuses more on finishing a fight rather than control. The goal is not to win points, but to submit the opponent, which differs a lot from wrestling. Wrestlers know how to take you down and control you on the bottom. But for BJJ fighters, this is not a big deal as they all know how to fight off their back. Wrestlers never train how to defend against submissions.

For instance, wrestlers tend to leave their neck wide open when diving in for a takedown. This allows a BJJ fighter to wrap their hands around, and catch a wrestler into a guillotine choke, which happens often in MMA. Speaking of MMA, in the early days, we saw many BJJ vs Wrestling matchups, and jiu-jitsu won just about every time.

Of course, the outcome of this fight also depends on various factors like the place of the fight and skills level. But if fighters are evenly matched in both size and skill, BJJ would win 9/10 times in our opinion.


Can you train in both wrestling and BJJ at the same time?

Yes, training in both wrestling and BJJ is a great combination that will make you a complete grappler. 

But in our opinion, you should focus on becoming an expert in one style, before crossing over to add skills from the other one. These two styles differ a lot and it’s crucial for you to develop a strong base in one style first.

Wrestling and BJJ complement each other in many ways. But we can’t escape the fact that wrestlers can learn more from BJJ fighters than vice versa. You see, BJJ already teaches you certain aspects of wrestling, notably when it comes to takedowns. Its students all learn single and double-leg takedowns, sprawls, and other elements of wrestling. But these are just the basics and they can learn a lot more by attending pure wrestling classes.

Wrestlers, on the other side, can really benefit from training BJJ. In fact, a strong base in wrestling and good BJJ skills is an ideal combo when it comes to grappling. You see, wrestlers are much better at taking the fight to the ground and securing a position. But what they miss in their game is how to finish a fight with a submission, which BJJ will teach them.

In MMA, for instance, just about every fighter must cross train between these two arts, including the fighters with a strong base in striking. This shows you how crucial it is to have skills from both arts, as they really complement each other.

BJJ vs Wrestling – which one is better for kids?

First of all, both wrestling and BJJ classes are very safe for kids, and the injury rate is really low, even if we include all ages and genders. 

This is because we are talking about two grappling styles that do not include any striking at all, which often causes most injuries. That’s why these two fighting styles are often seen as an ideal option for kids. To decide which one is better, the best way is to let your kid attend both classes and see which suits them better.

One of the most important things about grappling is that keeps their minds busy and it’s very playful. Even outside the training, rolling and grappling around is what most kids love to do, and they just want to laugh and have some fun. Apart from fun, BJJ and wrestling training will teach them all about discipline, focus, patience, and how important it is to work hard to achieve your goals. Training hard also makes their bodies strong and healthy.

In our view, you can’t make a mistake choosing any of these two fighting styles when it comes to kids. They are both safe, playful, and have a lot of health benefits. Just let your kid decide which suits them better, it’s all good as long as they are on the mats, and not on the streets.


BJJ vs Wrestling — which one is better and more effective?

Both of these arts are very effective and will teach you valuable fighting skills. Here is our final view on BJJ vs Wrestling and which one is more effective.

BJJ is very popular among all genders and ages. We can see teenagers and 50 year olds playing around on the mats all the time, and that’s the best thing about BJJ training in our view. It’s really never too late to join the classes, and you will have a ton of fun. It should be your option if you want to learn self-defense, as it focuses a lot on submissions and finishing a fight. And, let’s not forget that it plays a key role in MMA fighting as well. 

Wrestling is also very popular but it’s not a fighting style people train for self-defense. No, it puts a lot of emphasis on competition, and that’s why it’s very important to start wrestling at a young age. You will rarely see people in their late 20s or early 30s joining the wrestling classes. The beginners are usually young kids, and you might have a hard time fitting in or keeping up with the classes. There are simply not as many hobbyists in wrestling as there are in BJJ. But on the other side, you must develop solid wrestling skills if you want to succeed in MMA.




I'm Timmy and I'm the chief-editor and co-founder of Jiu-Jitsu Street. You'll usually find me on the mats and also cross-training Muay Thai. Besides martial arts I'm also into functional fitness and all things health. Jiu-Jitsu Street was created to provide useful information for BJJ beginners and seasoned practitioners alike to help you on your journey and love for Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. Oss!

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Jiu-Jitsu Street is a community of fun loving and hard rolling BJJ enthusiasts. Born out of our passion for the gentle art, we have decided to create this blog and help you on your journey. Let’s grow and learn together on this never-ending journey. Oss!

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