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What Is The Difference Between Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu and Wrestling?

What are the differences between wrestling and Jiu Jitsu?


In the world of martial arts and combat sports, Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu (BJJ) and wrestling are two disciplines often discussed for their effectiveness and techniques. Both have rich histories and have evolved into popular sports with dedicated practitioners worldwide. This blog post aims to elucidate the key differences between Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu and wrestling, covering aspects such as history, objectives, techniques, and competition rules. There is a general trend in BJJ for athletes to engage in cross training to other grappling sports like wrestling and Judo. The Midwest has a rich wrestling history and culture, which provides lots of great cross training opportunities in the Grand Rapids, MI area.

Historical Background

Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu:

  • Origins: BJJ originated in Brazil in the early 20th century. It evolved from Japanese Judo, which was brought to Brazil by Mitsuyo Maeda, a Japanese Judo master. The Gracie family, particularly, adapted these techniques, focusing on ground fighting and submission. The Gracie family then came to the United States and began on share their knowledge.

  • Evolution: Over time, BJJ developed a distinct identity, emphasizing leverage and technique over brute strength, making it suitable for smaller practitioners to defeat larger opponents. A key distinguishing contribution of Jiu Jitsu is the elimination of the pin as a win condition and the development of high level guards.


  • Origins: Wrestling is one of the oldest forms of combat, with its roots traceable to ancient civilizations like Greece and Egypt.

  • Types: There are various styles of wrestling, such as Greco-Roman, freestyle, and folkstyle, each with its unique rules and techniques.

Objectives and Scoring

Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu:

  • Objective: The primary goal in BJJ is to force an opponent to submit through joint locks or chokeholds.

  • Scoring: Points are awarded for dominant positions, such as taking the back, passing the guard, or achieving mount, with submission being the ultimate goal. There are submission only competitions where submission is the only path to victory.


  • Objective: In wrestling, the aim is to take an opponent to the ground and pin the opponent’s shoulders to the mat, demonstrating control.

  • Scoring: Points are scored for takedowns, reversals, exposing the opponent’s back to the mat, and controlling the match.

Techniques and Training

Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu:

  • Ground Focus: BJJ predominantly focuses on ground fighting, with extensive training in submissions, guard play, and positional control.

  • Guard Game: A unique aspect of BJJ is the guard position, where a practitioner can control or attack an opponent from their back. The usage of the athlete's legs creates asymmetrical advantages and allows for the bottom player to be offensive.


  • Takedowns and Control: Wrestling emphasizes takedowns, throws, and maintaining top control.

  • Strength and Conditioning: Physical strength and conditioning play a significant role in wrestling, often more so than in BJJ. Wrestling has a much stronger competition focus than Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, so the athletic demands are typically higher.

Gi vs. No-Gi

Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu:

  • Gi and No-Gi: BJJ is practiced both with a Gi (traditional kimono) and without (No-Gi). The Gi allows for more grip and technique variations.


  • Attire: Wrestling is traditionally practiced in singlets, with no use of clothing for grips. Wrestlers wear wrestling shoes, which allows them to be more explosive on their feet.

Competition and Rules in Wrestling and Brazilian Jiu Jitsu

Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu:

  • Matches: BJJ matches typically last from 5 to 10 minutes, with points and submissions determining the winner.

  • Illegal Techniques: Certain submissions, like heel hooks, are often banned in Gi competitions but allowed in No-Gi. Each competition organization has its own rules sets, so athletes must familiarize themselves with the rules for each competition they participate in.


  • Match Duration: Wrestling matches are shorter, often divided into periods with cumulative scoring.

  • Prohibited Actions: Moves like choking or joint locks are illegal in wrestling, with a focus on control rather than submission.


Both Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu and wrestling offer unique challenges and benefits to their practitioners. While BJJ emphasizes ground techniques and submissions, wrestling focuses on takedowns, control, and physical prowess. Understanding these differences can help martial artists and enthusiasts appreciate the nuances and strengths of each discipline. Whether you are a practitioner or a fan, the rich histories and techniques of both BJJ and wrestling continue to make them fascinating and dynamic sports.

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