Wrestling vs BJJ: What’s the Difference Between Combat Submission Wrestling and Brazilian Jiu Jitsu

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Wrestling vs BJJ: What’s the Difference Between Combat Submission Wrestling and Brazilian Jiu Jitsu

Probably one of the most frequently asked questions when it comes to grappling is who wins: Wrestling vs BJJ?

These two forms of grappling are like fire and water. They were built on different principles and philosophies and have battled against each other many times over the years. Although they also benefit each other, especially so for wrestlers that transition to BJJ.

In this article, we are going to take a look at the similarities and differences of these two grappling arts. From their origins, principles, and layout of their matches. We also take a look at how you can benefit from cross training BJJ and Catch Submission Wrestling. 

Origins of BJJ

Before BJJ was developed, the creator of Judo got the idea to spread the teachings of Judo across the world. Master Jigoro Kano sent his pupils all across the world to teach the art of Judo. One of his star pupils Mitsuyo Maeda ended up moving to Brazil to teach Judo to a new audience.

One of the popularized stories of how BJJ came to be is Maeda and the Gracie family. Maeda befriended a wealthy Brazilian businessman named Gastao Gracie. In exchange for helping with Maeda’s immigration, Gastao asked that Maeda teach his sons Judo. (Carlos Sr. and Helio)

After spending years learning  under Master Maeda, Helio and Carlos started developing their own style of grappling. They were smaller in stature and tweaked the moves of Judo to work for their body types. What they helped develop is what we know as modern day Brazilian Jiu Jitsu.

Today, BJJ is one of the fastest growing martial arts to date and continues to evolve and is practiced by millions across the world!

Origins of Combat Submission Wrestling

Wrestling is one of the oldest forms of combat in the world. The origins of combat submission wrestling go back 10-15 thousand years with the most early depictions being cave drawings of men grappling. Reliefs from Egypt and Babylonia depict modern wrestling holds and the Old Testament refers to the art of wrestling.

Even older than the Old Testament wrestling is mentioned quite often in Greek Mythology. Zeus defeated his father Cronus to seize control of Earth.

Wrestling Origins

In Ancient Olympic Games wrestling was the most popular event being romanticized and illustrated in paintings and statues.

Literally every continent in the world has some form of wrestling they practice. Today, combat submission wrestling (or catch wrestling as it sometimes referred to) is as popular as ever practiced in schools throughout the world and the best competing at world events. Of course including the Olympics and World Championships.

Similarities in Wrestling vs BJJ

The similarities these two share is that they are both grappling art and that they both involve being on the ground. Also the goal of both is to subdue an opponent by taking an opponent to the ground and controlling them or submitting them. 

Difference Between BJJ and Wrestling

The goals of combat submission wrestling and BJJ are quite different from one another. In wrestling, your goal is to get a takedown and control your opponent with brute force and athleticism. You continue to implement your will on an opponent until the end of the match or until you get a fall or pin.

In BJJ, you are supposed to use your opponent’s strengths against them. The techniques you use are done with angles, leverage, and minimal effort. The end goal is to get some sort of submission(choke or joint lock) or have the most points when the bell rings. 

The other huge difference is that in wrestling is you have to be on top to win the match. In BJJ, you can win by either being on top or bottom. You can get submissions from either positions to win in BJJ. 

Amateur wrestling also has no submissions allowed in their matches. Only points. Catch wrestling allows submissions, but that is another type of grappling match.

Rules Differences - Wrestling vs BJJ

A wrestling match is made up of 3 rounds, while a BJJ match only has one round. In wrestling, the objective of the match is to establish complete control of an opponent to get a pin. While in BJJ, the goal is to set up your opponent to get them in some type of submission.

BJJ Rules Explained

The main objective of BJJ is to submit your opponent within the allotted time of the match. The secondary objective is to rack up as many points as you can on an opponent before the round ends. Types of scores include takedowns, throws, guard passes, sweeps, and getting to dominant positions.

Below is the scoring system of a BJJ match:

  • Takedown/Throw - 2 Points
  • Sweep - 2 Points
  • Passing the Guard - 3 Points
  • Knee Mount - 2 Points
  • Back Mount - 4 Points
catch wrestling vs bJJ

In sanctioned IBJJF match, the time limit can last between 4-10 minutes depending on age and experience level. The match starts out standing and both competitors must strategize how to get the better of the other opponent. Either working off their back to get a sweep/submission or get a takedown and work from top position.

The main goal is to submit your opponent. If you cannot do that, then you try to win on points and advantages. If the match ends in a tie, then it goes to a referee's decision.

Wrestling Rules Explained

There are actually two types of wrestling styles with different rules. Greco-Roman and Freestyle Wrestling. In Greco-Roman wrestling, you are only allowed to do techniques above the waist all and freestyle permits techniques above/below.

The match starts from standing and the competitors goal is to get a takedown. From there, the goal is to get a pin or rack up more points before time expires.

These are the points in a wrestling match.

  • Takedown - 2 Points
  • Reversal - 2 Points
  • Near Fall (2 seconds @ a 45 degree angle) - 2 Points
  • Near Fall (5 seconds @ a 45 degree angle) - 3 Points

In international style competitions, the period format is two 3 minute periods. College’s format is one 3 minute period followed by two 2 minute periods. High school’s format is usually three 2 minute rounds.

BJJ vs Wrestling Rule Differences

In the event of a draw, the match goes to a 1 minute overtime, where the first person that scores wins. If nobody scores, then it goes to two 30 second tiebreakers in referee’s positions. 

If the match is still tied it then it goes to a 30 ride out. In a ride out if the wrestler on bottom escapes within the 30 seconds, they win. If they don’t get out, they lose.

Wrestling vs BJJ Uniforms

BJJ has two types of matches - Gi or No Gi. In Gi Jiu Jitsu, practitioners wear a regulation Gi Kimono. Whereas in No Gi, shorts and a compression shirt or rashguards are worn. Competitors are distinguished by their team patches and possible sponsors if they are professional BJJ grapplers.

A wrestler’s uniform consists of a wrestling singet, ear protectors, and wrestling shoes. Wrestler’s are distinguished by either wearing the colors of their school or their country on their singlets.

Benefits of Cross Training Wrestling and BJJ

When it comes to a wrestler learning BJJ, there aren't really any benefits for a wrestler to cross train in BJJ to help their wrestling. They can’t do submissions or work from there back in a wrestling match. Neither can they use their opponent’s singlet like a Gi to control or submit them.

On the otherhand, a BJJ practitioner can get a ton of benefit by cross training in wrestling to help their overall grappling ability in BJJ. A wrestler transitioning to BJJ can really excel at BJJ from having a good base knowledge in wrestling. If you’re apart of the BJJ community, you have seen this countless times. A wrestler already has a grappling base coming into BJJ and already knows a few of the principles.

Catch Wrestling and BJJ Crosstraining

Wrestlers know how to get takedowns better than most every BJJ person and know how to stay on top. If you’ve ever rolled with a wrestler, then you know they’re extremely relentless and able to dish out heavy top pressure.

One great example of a wrestler transitioning to BJJ and simply dominate is Nick Rodriguez. In less than a year, he made it to ADCC, where he beat former world champions. He did this with less than a year of BJJ training and is only getting better!

A BJJ athlete that cross trains in wrestling will significantly improve their game. Generally two things are going to improve your BJJ game by training in wrestling.Your takedowns will get infinitely better and so will your top control. 


BJJ and wrestling are contrasting styles of grappling, but at the end of the day, they’re both great in their own way. They may have different principles and goals in their matches, but there are still things you can learn from both.

Maybe the question shouldn't be who would win Wrestling vs BJJ. Perhaps the better question should be how can you benefit cross training the two sports. It would also be a great benefit to learn one of these forms of grappling or both. Especially so if you already train in BJJ!

Just taking one wrestling class a week will increase your BJJ game dramatically. Not only will you learn how to execute takedowns better, but learn the fundamental theories about controlling an opponent. 

Being able to switch games from having an active guard or a heavy pressure top game depending on your opponent. If you can transition to different types of games, then you will be one dangerous grappler to deal with!