Wrestling vs. BJJ: What’s the difference

The difference between Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu (BJJ) and most other popular martial arts is obvious. While arts like Muay-Thai, boxing and Taekwondo focus on strikes, Jiu-Jitsu is all about grappling. This is what we specialize in at Gracie Castle Hill.

But Jiu-Jitsu is not the only grappling-based martial art; there’s also Judo and wrestling. Though they’re part of the same combat family tree, there are significant differences between these arts. This is especially true of BJJ and wrestling.

Making the decision even more difficult, both BJJ and wrestling are effective. Both Gracie Castle Hill and a wrestling club will teach significant practical skills, and are great for fitness.

So it’s not so much about which is better as much as it’s about which is better for you.

bjj vs wrrestling
photo source bjjee.com

Choose your combat

Though they share many similarities, a key difference between BJJ and wrestling is intensity. Wrestling, generally speaking, is a more explosive, demanding and aggressive sport. This comes with positives and negatives.

The positive is that wrestlers almost always have excellent conditioning. Wrestling clubs focus extensively on cardio, strength and explosiveness. Make no mistake, doing Jiu-Jitsu will also improve your fitness. But not quite to the same degree as wrestling.

This permeates much of the martial art itself. The goal in wrestling is to take your opponent down and pin them to the ground. The goal in Jiu-Jitsu is to submit your opponent, which you can do from both top and bottom position. This is a crucial difference.

Bottom position in Jiu-Jitsu slows the game down. Watch two athletes playing a guard game. Then compare that to two wrestlers trying to take each other down and scramble for top position. You’ll see that the latter is much more dynamic.

The tradeoff here is that athleticism matters more in wrestling. The fundamental principle of BJJ is that it works for people of all shapes and sizes. So goes a famous quote from BJJ co-founder Helio Gracie: “Always assume that your opponent is going to be bigger, stronger and faster than you; so that you learn to rely on technique, timing and leverage rather than brute strength.”

The technical aspect of BJJ, and its use of the guard, allows practitioners to neutralize large differences in size and strength. Which is not to say that wrestling is not technical – it is. It’s that its focus on takedowns and pins favor strength, conditioning and explosiveness more so than BJJ.

If you’re more interested in pushing your body to its physical limit, you may prefer wrestling. If you’re more interested in the technical side of martial arts, and of real-world self-defence, it’s our opinion that Jiu-Jitsu is a stronger option.

What BJJ can learn from wrestling

Though Jiu-Jitsu is perhaps a more comprehensive martial art, there’s still much Jiu-Jitsu practitioners can learn from wrestlers.

Practice takedowns. Wrestlers drill takedowns extensively. Takedowns are often excluded from many BJJ curriculums due to their being more vital to sports BJJ than to self-defence. But drilling takedowns gives your grappling game a huge boost.

Conditioning helps. It’s true that technique is more important than athletics in BJJ. But that doesn’t mean that becoming a better athlete can’t improve your Jiu-Jitsu. Better cardio and explosive power are hallmarks of wrestling, and can be of great benefit in BJJ too.

Don’t get too comfortable on your back. There’s nothing wrong with playing guard in Jiu-Jitsu. Grapplers have won world championships from having a strong bottom game. But remember that in a real-world situation, you don’t want to be playing guard. Make sure you learn how to get top position, even if you don’t like playing Jiu-Jitsu from there.

If you’re in the Hills District and interested in trying out BJJ at Gracie Castle Hill, feel free to come in for a free trial class.