Exploring the difference between Wrestling and Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu

Navigating the Takedown Terrain: Exploring the Nuances and Contrasts Between Wrestling and Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu

Wrestling and Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu (BJJ) represent two distinct yet complementary realms within the broader spectrum of martial arts. While BJJ has gained acclaim for its ground-based techniques and submissions, wrestling stands out as a discipline that excels in takedowns and controlling opponents on their feet. In this article, we will delve into the key differences between wrestling and BJJ, focusing particularly on the nuances of takedowns and the strategic considerations that practitioners must navigate in each discipline.

Objective and Starting Position:

The fundamental difference between wrestling and BJJ lies in their primary objectives. Wrestling, being an Olympic sport, places a heavy emphasis on taking opponents down to the mat and controlling them from a standing position. In contrast, BJJ often starts from a ground-based position, with practitioners typically engaging while sitting or on their knees.

Points System and Scoring:

Wrestling and BJJ employ different points systems to determine the outcome of a match. In wrestling, points are awarded for various takedowns, throws, and positional control. BJJ, on the other hand, introduces a unique scoring system that rewards positions such as mounts, back mounts, and submissions. Understanding the points system is crucial for practitioners to strategize and score effectively within the rules of their chosen discipline.

Takedown Techniques:

Takedowns in wrestling are characterized by explosive movements, quick level changes, and a variety of throws and trips designed to bring the opponent to the mat with force. Common wrestling takedowns include the double leg, single leg, high crotch, and various throws. Wrestling takedowns emphasize control and domination from the feet, reflecting the sport’s origins in ancient combat.

In BJJ, while the importance of takedowns is acknowledged, the approach is often more measured. BJJ practitioners may opt for techniques that allow for a controlled descent to the mat, minimizing the risk of giving up advantageous positions to their opponents. Judo throws, trips, and sweeps are commonly incorporated into BJJ takedown strategies, aligning with the art’s focus on ground-based techniques.

Grip Fighting:

Grip fighting is a critical aspect of both wrestling and BJJ, but the dynamics differ. In wrestling, grip fighting is essential for gaining control of an opponent’s upper body, disrupting their balance, and setting up takedowns. Wrestlers often engage in intense hand fighting to secure advantageous positions before committing to a takedown attempt.

In BJJ, grip fighting extends beyond the hands, involving control of the gi (traditional uniform) or, in no-gi settings, control of the opponent’s body. The grip fighting in BJJ includes strategies to break an opponent’s grips and set up throws or takedowns while minimizing the risk of being pulled into a submission.

Level Changes and Stance:

Wrestling involves frequent level changes, with practitioners moving quickly from a standing position to lower levels to execute takedowns effectively. The low stance in wrestling provides stability and agility, allowing for rapid changes in direction and powerful attacks.

In BJJ, the stance and level changes are influenced by the desire to avoid certain takedowns and set up effective guard play. BJJ practitioners often maintain a more upright posture to defend against takedowns and to facilitate their transition to the ground where their expertise in submissions and positional control comes into play.

Risk and Consequences:

Wrestling takedowns are executed to forcefully bring an opponent to the mat, often resulting in a rapid change of position. This aggressive approach carries a higher risk of injury, making it imperative for wrestlers to develop the agility and awareness necessary to defend against counterattacks.

In BJJ, takedowns are approached with a focus on control and minimizing risk. The art places a premium on smooth transitions to the ground, where practitioners can capitalize on their ground game without exposing themselves to unnecessary danger.

The Transition to Ground Play:

Perhaps the most significant difference lies in what happens after the takedown. In wrestling, the match continues on the ground, with an emphasis on controlling the opponent to earn points. Wrestlers aim to turn their opponents onto their backs for a pin or to accumulate points through various positional controls.

In BJJ, the takedown is just the beginning. Once on the ground, practitioners aim to pass the guard, achieve dominant positions, and ultimately submit their opponents. The ground game in BJJ is a complex tapestry of sweeps, escapes, and submissions that unfold once the action transitions from the feet to the mat.

Cultural and Historical Context:

The cultural and historical contexts of wrestling and BJJ contribute to their distinct approaches. Wrestling has deep roots in ancient combat traditions and has evolved into a highly competitive Olympic sport. BJJ, with its origins in Japanese Jiu-Jitsu and Judo, has a more recent history, blending elements of traditional martial arts with a focus on ground fighting and submissions.


Wrestling and Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, though distinct in their approaches and objectives, offer practitioners valuable tools for self-improvement and personal growth. Whether the goal is to master takedowns on the wrestling mats or navigate the intricate ground game in BJJ, both disciplines provide unique challenges and opportunities for physical and mental development. By appreciating the differences and understanding the nuances of each art, practitioners can enrich their martial arts journey and gain a well-rounded skill set that transcends the boundaries of any single discipline.