7 Reasons Why Every Wrestler Should Consider Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu
It Only Makes Senses....
It’s no surprise to anyone who knows me what my original passion was back in the day: wrestling. I competed for years in middle school, high school, and across the North Carolina USA Wrestling circuit, and had a blast for years. Like many wrestlers eventually face, I hit a competitive snag along the way. Perhaps I was getting burned out, or I was realizing that I hit the proverbial glass ceiling, but I found myself without an outlet for competing. Enter Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu.
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Across almost six years of practicing the sport on-and-off, I have considered the following seven benefits of BJJ to be extremely useful for current/former wrestlers. They are not in any specific order, but if you are looking to venture into the sport, you can…
- Understand ground fighting in MMA a lot better
There’s a lot of crossover appeal between fans of collegiate/Olympic wrestling and MMA, mostly attributed to the onset of former wrestlers who enter the sport such as Matt Hughes, Henry Cejudo, and Daniel Cormier. While watching UFC and Bellator cards with some old high school teammates, occasionally the fight would end up on the ground with one fighter in the other’s guard (with the latter actively working for a submission or sweep). My friends believed the fighter on top would win the round because he was “in control,” but they were confused when the scores at the end of the bout had the BJJ-savvy fighter must closer, or even winning.
By knowing how a grappler in bottom position moves and actively defends while the top player looks for transitions, you can become better acquainted with how the fights should realistically be scored (unless you’re Cecil Peoples). The little nuances that you think don’t make a difference when the bottom fighter continues to look for underhooks in half-guard ultimately make the game more exciting, rather than becoming a battle of takedowns.
- Determine your own skill level through belt rankings
Wrestling is an atypical martial art in that there are no true “ranking” levels. While more mainstream martial arts such as karate, Taekwondo, and Aikido have their own systems of distinguishing novice, intermediate, and advanced levels of skill demonstration, wrestling does not, at least beyond the realm of JV and varsity. Some wrestlers may not care about rank and see value through competition medals, but others may look for something tangible and progressive.
The above belts are held in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, acquired through what my instructor deems is “time, timing, and technique.” Unlike wrestling, where a varsity competitor could be someone who simply fills the weight class and a JV wrestler being someone beaten out by their teammate, belts such as these allow for a journey of knowledge and application that can fulfill your own need for success.
- Make a fluid transition into the sport via previous positional knowledge
One of the main concerns I have heard from potential wrestlers-to-BJJ practitioners is the concern that there is too much of a learning curve to relearn grappling techniques. A valid concern, one that everyone has had when trying to learn something kinesthetically challenging. However, consider the side control position:
What does that position remind you of?
Exactly, the same body pressure that you apply when pinning an opponent in wrestling is analogous to keeping someone under you in BJJ’s side control, with some minor arm and hip placements. As a wrestler, you have distinct advantages when controlling an opponent when they are under you, as you have been engrained for years about proper weight distribution and core strength. That is not to say that as a wrestler you will have an advantage over EVERYONE in the gym, and you will be humbled if you think otherwise.
- Develop your MMA game (should you go down this path)
As mentioned earlier, wrestlers have participated in mixed martial arts for years, from Mark Coleman to Randy Couture to new participants fresh out of college. If you follow the trends of the sport from its inception in the ’90’s, you will notice that the best fighter out of the bunch was not one who was extremely dominant in their craft, but rather a “jack of all trades.” If you plan to pursue a fight career, you cannot simply rely on your wrestling to be the fight decider. The law of probability shows that there will ultimately be someone better than you at takedowns, so what happens when you reach the ground? If you begin to learn BJJ, you will have a back-up plan for when things go south. Even the real-life Manilla Gorilla, Brock Lesnar, adapted jiu-jitsu to his repertoire following his first defeat to Frank Mir.
- Better prepare yourself for self-defense
You cannot rely solely on wrestling to keep you safe if faced with a life-or-death confrontation. You have the advantage of taking your assailant to the ground and keeping them there until help arrives, but this will be dependent on your settings. After all, it’s not the smartest idea to shoot on gravel or pavement. As you can learn in BJJ, there are holds that allow you to stay standing while carefully incapacitating your opponent, such as a standing guillotine, wristlocks, kimura/keylocks, and so on. If the fight does reach the ground with you on the bottom, you will have a chance to even the odds and save your life.
- Gain a sense of team and family after college
I have been blessed to come across a lot of wonderful people during my tenure as a wrestler, from teammates who I consider close friends to coaches who have instilled a strong sense of work ethic into my personality. Suffice to say, wrestling has provided me with a strong extended family, and BJJ can do the same. There’s a common theme across martial arts: family.
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BJJ is no different, but it takes this concept into more personal levels. While you sweat and bleed with teammates in wrestling at all levels, you literally trust your health with your partners in BJJ with submission holds that are meant to be used in self-defense scenarios, as we discussed. It’s a beautiful concept to know that the same person that you tried to choke out five minutes earlier can be one of your strongest allies in life, which leads to arguably the most important benefit…
- Improve as a human being
When I first entered the mat room as a young, wide-eyed kid not knowing the difference between a half-nelson and a cradle, I was immature, selfish, and an overall degenerate. Putting my body through nearly a decade of physical baptism turned me into a stronger individual physically and mentally, but there were still some pieces missing. After coaching for two years, I found myself into a small combat room, and I began to relearn how to be a student of the game again. Years later, I stand here today proud of my accomplishments and ready to take on new challenges, and I attribute it to BJJ.
As a wrestler, you may believe you are mentally tough, but it takes a certain amount of maturity to go into a potentially losing situation every day. From white belt to black belt, your new teammates will be able to beat you even after months of practice, and not only will you lose, you must acknowledge it with tapping, a symbol that your body cannot take much more. And you will be better for it.
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