Jiu Jitsu vs Wrestling: Which one is better? Complete Comparison

Jiu Jitsu vs Wrestling

Jiu Jitsu vs Wrestling: Both are considered combat sports and grappling sports. Wrestling focuses on stand-up fighting while Jiu Jitsu focuses on ground fighting. That is why wrestlers usually wear wrestling shoes that give them extra stability and grip to push off the ground.

BJJ on the other hand is done barefoot since the feet are also subject to attack and to be able to use the feet for various hooking maneuvers. The difference in style is especially apparent when considering Gi Jiu Jitsu which originated from Judo. Also check out our article Jiu Jitsu vs Judo, if you are interested in a in depth comparison of the two.

In general, none of the two arts/sports is better than the other. They have a lot of similarities and differences that makes them unique and give each one an edge over the other in certain aspects. We cover the following topics:

The Differences and Similarities

Jiu Jitsu vs wrestling comparison

Brazilian Jiu Jitsu originated from Judo in the early 20th century in Brazil. In 1914 Mitsuyo Maeda left Japan and came to Brazil where he passed on his Judo knowledge to Carlos Gracie and his brothers. The Gracie brothers, especially Helio Gracie, then adopted and refined the art making them the root of what is known as Brazilian Jiu Jitsu today. You can check out our article Jiu Jitsu vs Judo to dive into a full comparison between the two.

Wrestling dates back thousands of years. It was found in cave drawings and was part of the ancient Olympic Games. British settlers brought their wrestling tradition to America, where it was already popular in Native Americans. In 1888 the first national wrestling tournament took place in New York leading the way for wrestling’s debut at the modern Olympic Games in 1904.

Jiu Jitsu vs Wrestling: Differences


Jiu Jitsu is either done in a Gi or wearing a rashguard and shorts in No Gi Jiu Jitsu. It is always done barefoot. Wrestling is done wearing a singlet and wrestling shoes.


Jiu Jitsu focuses on ground fighting. After the opponent is taken down our pulled into the athlete’s own guard the fight continues on the ground. There are many complex positions, controlling holds and submissions available at his point.

A wrestler’s first objective is to place the opponent on the mat and establish control. Wrestling focuses on stand-up fighting and throws.

Wrestling Rules

There are mainly two international wrestling disciplines that are Olympic disciplines today, Greco-Roman Wrestling and Freestyle Wrestling. Both are part of the Olympic Games, although Greco Roman is a male-only discipline.

Greco-Roman wrestling prioritizes upper body attacks. It is forbidden to attack the opponent under the belt line. An immediate win can be achieved by so-called “fall”, pinning and holding the opponent’s scapulars to the ground. The goal is to hit high amplitude throws, since the amount of points awarded depends on throw altitude, back exposure of the opponent to the mat and passivity/control of the opponent.

Freestyle wrestling has the same goal as Greco-Roman wrestling but allows offensive and defensive use of a wrestler’s and his opponent’s legs.

Brazilian Jiu Jitsu Rules

At the risk of repeating ourselves, check out our section on BJJ Rules in our Jiu Jitsu vs Judo article.

Techniques and Philosophy

BJJ focuses on control on the ground and advancing to more dominant positions which will eventually lead to submission holds like chokes, joint locks, and compressions.

Jiu Jitsu was originally developed as a self-defense martial art. As a result, its techniques have been optimized to enable the smaller athlete to deal with bigger opponents by utilizing angels, optimal levers as well as the opponent’s momentum. It is usually much calmer than a wrestling fight and often compared to a chess game.

Wrestling was a competitive showdown from the start. It focuses on takedowns and throws that lead to dominant positions on the ground and subsequently control of the opponent.

The techniques used in wrestling are generally more dependent on strength and athletic ability. It is the more aggressive and explosive sport.

Jiu Jitsu vs Wrestling: Similarities


Athletes of both sports wear mouth guards. Protective headgear is optional in both sports but is more common in wrestling.


Judo and Brazilian Jiu Jitsu fights start in a standing position and usually move to the ground throughout the fight.


Both sports aim to control and/or submit/pin the opponent.


Classes in both sports usually follow a simple recipe:

  • Warmup
  • 1 hour of technique drilling
  • Sparring

Jiu Jitsu might involve additional position sparring to focus on the positions and techniques of the day. Wrestling classes are more likely to involve additional conditioning work.


Both sports have a point system under most rulesets and the option to immediately win the match by submitting/pinning the opponent.


Many wrestling techniques are taught and used alongside Judo techniques for BJJ’s initial stand-up phase of the fight. On top of that, many control positions work in similar ways and are utilized in both sports.


Both sports assume an appropriate amount of respect towards the opponent. Shaking hands before and after fights is a standard procedure. Nevertheless, Jiu Jitsu has more traditional aspects to it. For example, bowing after class is mandatory at most schools.

Jiu Jitsu vs Judo: Quick comparison

The following compares BJJ and Wrestling in different categories:




Self Defense



Competition recognition



Stand-up fighting





Ground fighting



Physical training



Mental training



MMA and real-life usage



Beginner friendly












Cheaper Price



Jiu Jitsu vs Wrestling: Quick Comparison

Jiu Jitsu vs Wrestling: What would happen in a Real Fight or MMA fight?

Real fight or MMA fight

To grasp how Jiu Jitsu and Wrestling would perform in a real fight with minimal rules we should consider MMA (Mixed Martial Arts) fighting. In MMA, fighters of different martial arts backgrounds fight each other, hence the name, so we can analyze how each set of techniques performs.


There are tons of fighters with a Jiu Jitsu background that do well in professional MMA fighting. Starting in the early 90s where Royce Gracie was dominant in the early events of the UFC, Jiu Jitsu began its rise in MMA. The dominant wins of BJJ fighters have shown the necessity for every fighter to develop a solid ground-fighting understanding. Jiu Jitsu techniques had to be adapted to consider all aspects of MMA fighting, like striking, making MMA related BJJ a specialized branch. Today ground-fighting is an essential part of every MMA fighter’s training.

Jiu Jitsu offers offensive and defensive control on the ground and an endless list of available submissions to end the fight. On the other hand, Jiu Jitsu techniques mostly don’t score points and techniques like “pulling guard” can be very dangerous when striking is involved.

A recent example of effective Jiu Jitsu in MMA fighting is Charles Oliveira. He is a Brazilian fighter who holds the record for most submission wins in the UFC, proving that Jiu Jitsu still has its place.


Wrestling is also very popular in MMA. The list of successful MMA fighters with a wrestling background seems endless: Randy Couture, Matt Hughes, Henry Cejudo, Jon Jones, Daniel Cormier and Kamaru Usman just to name a few.

Wrestling offers strong takedowns which score points each time and allows to keep the opponent down and controlling him which goes a long way when it comes to winning rounds.

The athleticism, strength and endurance that is developed by training wrestling is mandatory for every MMA fighter and translates perfectly between the sports.

A possible downside of wrestling is that usually wrestlers leave their neck wide open since the neck is not attacked in pure wrestling matches. In an MMA fight the opponent might attack the wrestler’s neck with various chokes.


Both arts are great, but wrestling seems to have the edge here. Additionally, both are very popular in MMA, but wrestling needs less adaption to work in MMA fights since the scoring systems are closer related.

In the following video Chael Sonnen, who is known for his achievements in MMA, his trash talking and controversial views, discusses the topic from his point of view. Although his roots are in wrestling, he favors Jiu Jitsu in this scenario:

To consider another opinion, check out Jocko Willink’s view on the topic:

Jiu Jitsu vs Wrestling: Self Defense


When it comes to self-defense, both sports are great. Mainly because both focus on controlling the opponent and establishing dominant positions.

No matter which one of them you practice, the fight IQ and intuition you acquire through hundreds of hours of drilling and sparring will be an immense advantage.

In our opinion Jiu Jitsu is the winner when it comes to one-on-one self-defense situations and Wrestling wins in more dynamic fight situations and here’s why.

First of all, neither of the two martial arts involve striking techniques and striking defense. Any grappler must avoid getting hit and get a controlling hold of the opponent as soon as possible.


Check out our detailed article on BJJ for self-defense.

The overwhelming success BJJ has had in MMA fights throughout the recent years is a testament to how well rounded it is. MMA comes closest to a non-restricted real-life fight, therefore proving the real-life applicability of Jiu Jitsu.

In a real-life scenario, you would have to get your opponent to the ground to use most Jiu Jitsu techniques. BJJ schools also teach stand-up fighting most of the time since Jiu Jitsu fights start standing. Even if BJJ training doesn’t focus on stand-up fighting, most BJJ athletes will still be far ahead of most real-life aggressors in takedown-fighting.

Jiu Jitsu was originally meant to be a self-defense martial art. Therefore, it is made to enable the smaller person to control the bigger opponent which will be of need in many real-life situations. BJJ techniques don’t rely on athleticism and physical strength.

Additionally, Jiu Jitsu enables the practitioner to fight from their back and escape bad positions as well as finish the fight for good by breaking certain bones or putting the opponent to sleep.

All of this only holds true if you are defending against a single opponent. You do not want to go to the ground if there are several aggressors. On the ground you can be kicked stabbed etc. and you lose the ability to quickly disengage.


Wrestling techniques are very effective in real-life situations. Aggressors can be taken down to the ground and controlled. The athleticism and speed gained through training wrestling will help immensely if a real-life fight ever emerges.

On the other hand, wrestling isn’t meant to be a self-defense martial art. It demands certain physical attributes to be practical. Therefore, it can’t easily be picked up and is not as useful against a stronger opponent.

Additionally, wrestling is more one-sided than Jiu Jitsu since it focuses on control from the top only.

In a dynamic fighting scenario, where several aggressors might become involved in the fight, wrestling is extremely useful, provides great control and preserves the ability to disengage at all times. Furthermore, it provides the ability to take an opponent out quickly and move on. This makes wrestling superior to BJJ in many real-life fighting situations.

Here’s what Joe Rogan has to say about both of the sports:

Ranking Systems in BJJ and Wrestling

ranking systems


In BJJ there are only five major belt colors for adults: white, blue, purple, brown and black. Belts beyond the Black Belt are seen as a great honor and can only be achieved at a high age after decades of training Jiu Jitsu. Check out our complete lists of Coral Belts and Red Belts in BJJ.

The image shows the IBJJF’s (International Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu Federation) Graduation System.

Belts are awarded based on the skill level observed by the professor and therefore are somewhat subjective.

ibjjf graduation system


In wrestling there is no traditional ranking system. Your skill can only be categorized by previous performance and statistics. The NCAA (National Collegiate Athletic Association) categorizes competitors into Division 1, Division 2, and Division 3. Therefore, athletes competing in Division 1 have the highest skill level.

Jiu Jitsu vs Wrestling: Competition



BJJ competitions are held under varying rulesets. There is no single overarching ruleset. Aspects that depend on the chosen ruleset are:

  • Match duration & overtime rules
  • Point system
  • Clothing
  • Submission-only mode
  • Elimination mode

Unfortunately, Jiu Jitsu is not an Olympic sport. Becoming an Olympic Sport would bring a lot of popularity and prestige to BJJ and establish official recognition. For now, it doesn’t look like it will become an Olympic Sport anytime soon. Jiu Jitsu athletes have to be content with the other competitive possibilities that keep growing in the sport.

Currently the most prestigious championship in No-Gi Jiu Jitsu is the ADCC Submission Fighting World Championship and the most prestigious Gi Jiu Jitsu championship is the World IBJJF Jiu-Jitsu Championship.


Wrestling became an Olympic Sport in 1904 at the Olympic Games in Missouri and has been one ever since. Wrestlers all around the world strive to make it to the Olympics, represent their nation and prove themselves on the biggest competitive stage.



Jiu Jitsu and Wrestling have completely different origins.

Originally Jiu Jitsu was only meant to be used for self-defense purposes. This changed, when Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu was used by the Gracies in “Vale Tudo” fights in Brazil in the early 20th century. These fights can be seen as an early version of MMA fights, which have a very open ruleset, where almost everything is allowed. Therefore, Jiu Jitsu was starting to be used as an offensive martial art. Today Jiu Jitsu has become a major part of MMA training.

Wrestling on the other hand evolved thousands of years ago and was a competitive sport from the start. It was the ultimate one-on-one showdown of strength and fighting technique. Therefore, it was part of the ancient Olympic Games and is still part of the modern Olympic Games today. Besides being popular for its own sake, it also plays a major role in MMA fighting today.

Jiu Jitsu is the more formal martial art today. Therefore, traditional schools require a practitioner to wear a formal outfit, the Gi, and formal procedures like lining up by rank and bowing to show respect are very common.



Jiu Jitsu and Wrestling enjoy different popularities in different parts of the world. Nevertheless, both are very popular today due to their effectiveness in MMA and the rise of the UFC.

Wrestling is a long- and well-established sport by now being an Olympic Sport for more than 100 years. Jiu Jitsu is still growing in popularity and has not reached its peak yet.

This shows hen e take a look at Google Trends. Jiu Jitsu is constantly growing in popularity while Wrestling is falling in popularity. Therefore, Jiu Jitsu is slowly catching up in popularity. In a few years, both might be similarly popular around the world.

The big international differences in popularity can be observed when considering Brazil. Obviously Brazilian Jiu Jitsu is very popular in Brazil. Google Trends confirm that BJJ has been more popular than wrestling for at least the last 20 years with a peak in popularity in 2012.

Jiu Jitsu vs Wrestling Popularity
Comparison of popularity of Jiu Jitsu and wrestling around the world

The increasing popularity of Jiu Jitsu is caused by its prevalence in MMA fighting and public figures promoting it based on their own positive experiences.

For example, Joe Rogan, who is a Black Belt in Jiu Jitsu himself, promoted Jiu Jitsu a lot by talking positively about it on his podcast which has a big international audience. The following clip shows that Joe respects Wrestling and Jiu Jitsu alike:

Injuries in BJJ and Wrestling


Unfortunately, every combat comes with a high risk of injury. But is there a difference in injury risk in BJJ and Wrestling?

For a detailed look at the injury statistics in Jiu Jitsu you should check out our articles How common are Injuries in BJJ?, analyzing most studies on BJJ injuries available, and How to prevent and treat Neck Pain and injuries in BJJ.

For Wrestling, a study from the year 2000 which followed 458 male high school wrestlers, found that there were 219 injuries in 418 wrestlers throughout one season. This computes to an injury incidence of 52 injuries per 100 wrestlers per season and an injury rate of 6.0 injuries per 1,000 exposures. The most commonly injured areas were the shoulder (24%) and knee (17%). This study also considered minor injuries and the rate of serious injuries requiring medical intervention is generally lower.

In general, wrestling seems to be more taxing and injury-heavy because it is more explosive and uses more strength.

Cauliflower Ears

Randy Couture Cauliflower Ears
Randy Couture with Cauliflower Ear

Cauliflower ear is an iconic injury that unfortunately goes hand in hand with many grappling sports. Some see it as a batch of honor for all the hard work they put into the sport. Most practitioners simply see it as a deformation and try to avoid it.


Cauliflower ear is caused by hits and friction to the ear as well as bending ear, usually repeatedly. These impacts lead to clots of blood, called hematomas. Furthermore, skin can be pulled away from the ear’s cartilage, the more rigid part of the ear that give it its shape. As a result, blood flow to the area is inhibited and the tissue is not sufficiently supplied with nutrients anymore. The clotted blood can’t drain off resulting in permanently deformed ears.


Preventing cauliflower ear starts with wearing protective headgear. If you are not keen on developing cauliflower ear, you should either generally wear it or put it on as soon as there is any kind of irritation to the ears.

Acute treatment is necessary if there are significant swellings on the ear. In that case, the ear should be drained with sterile equipment followed by compression to stop blood from clocking up the affected area again. You should seek professional medical advice in case you are affected.

Conclusion: Jiu Jitsu vs Wrestling

None of the two sports is better than the other. Practitioners of each of the sports should be open to learn from each other and incorporate aspects of both arts into their fighting arsenal.

Jiu Jitsu is more complex and well-rounded since it covers many different positions. Wrestling is specialized in takedown fighting and focuses more on athleticism and strength. As a result, both provide a good foundation for MMA and self-defense.

If you are curious how Jiu Jitsu compares to other martial arts, check out or articles on:

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