If you are a BJJ athlete looking to better understand the art of grappling, you must educate yourself on wrestling. All-on-the-feet grappling is rooted in wrestling. A basic understanding of wrestling training can be the difference between you winning close matches & losing close matches. But it can also be the difference between you being average and being elite. Let’s dive into how wrestling compares to jiu-jitsu.
Why Should I Wrestle?
From a wrestler’s perspective, wrestling is far greater than just the sport of wrestling. It is a way of life. You learn wrestling lessons that apply not just to the mats, but to all realms of life.
Of course, this is true for BJJ as well and really all martial arts. But the greatest thing an athlete can get out of wrestling in my opinion is the mindset that it builds.
On the mats though & applying it to BJJ, there is a multitude of reasons why you should train wrestling while also training BJJ. For example, wrestling is bar none the best way to get better at getting takedowns.
So if you struggle to either attack the legs effectively or finish takedowns efficiently once in on the legs you will benefit from training wrestling.
If you are somebody who gets taken down frequently, training wrestling will help you learn how to better get your leg back when attacked, to sprawl, and to apply downward pressure to defend yourself.
Wrestling vs Jiu-jitsu: Choose Your Form of Combat
To be very honest, your aim as a martial artist should be pointed toward well-roundedness. With that being said, unless you are a HIGH-LEVEL wrestler (think: Olympic level) there are very few opportunities to actively compete in wrestling.
This is primarily because wrestling in the United States follows a pretty cut-and-dry pipeline.
High school wrestlers aim to wrestle in college, if they are very successful in college they then move on to the international styles of Freestyle & Greco – Roman. Unlike BJJ, there is not a wide array of opportunities to compete for those without a wrestling background.
So for most grapplers, the option to train and compete is in BJJ. You do not see BJJ athletes that did not wrestle in High School/College take up wrestling and compete after the fact.
The reason for this is that there is a WIDE skill gap between those who are at the elite level and actively competing and literally anyone else that would want to compete. The NCAA ran statistics on the percentage of wrestlers that make it from High School to college. To get a better gauge of how elite this feat is, check this out.
The guys competing “professionally” in wrestling are in the top .01% of wrestlers on the entire planet. They have been wrestling for well over 16+ years more often than not as well.
It is also important to consider the different ranking systems in BJJ & wrestling. BJJ offers the belt system, which ensures that the people you will be competing against will be of similar skill & experience level as you. Wrestling does not have a system like this. So in a wrestling tournament, say there are 16 guys in the bracket. Those 16 guys are likely all HAMMERS. So, if you do not have an extensive wrestling background, you will very unlikely do well at the tournament.
With all that being said, there are a few opportunities for grapplers that are not traditionally wrestlers to compete. Depending on your location, you can find local tournaments that have an “open division” and compete in it. These will be in Freestyle & Greco-Roman for style.
There is also the “veterans division” for wrestlers between the ages of 35-70. The level of competition will vary. Some people in the bracket will be studs, others will just be older people that love wrestling and want to compete. You can get more information on the Veterans Division.
In the past few years, we have seen a few examples of former Senior Level (Olympic) wrestlers competing in the veteran’s division. Most notable would be Reece Humphrey. He was a multiple-time World Team Member for the United States in Freestyle, and his long list of accolades includes a fifth place at the world championships in 2014. He was also a two-time All-American for Ohio State (2nd place, 3rd place).
So even in the Veterans division, there is a chance that the level of competition could be ridiculously high.
Benefits of Doing Both BJJ and Wrestling
To be blunt with you, if you want to be an elite grappler you need to be wrestling as well as doing BJJ. They go hand in hand together.
The best BJJ athletes are no strangers to scoring takedowns or grappling on their feet. They know how to hand fight, they know how to use head positioning, how to clear ties, how to level change, etc.
Even if they heavily play guard, they still have an understanding and general grasp of wrestling skills. This is because they want to be elite, so they become well-rounded.
You want to be an elite grappler right? Or at least be able to beat people better in practice? It’s time for you to widen your game by tossing some wrestling into it.
It may be difficult at first for you because there are differences between the two, but keep applying pressure to it and you will start to figure it out.
Your entire grappling game will thank you in the future.