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John Danaher Leglocks
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The Brutal Art of Catch Wrestling Vs. The Gentle Art of BJJ

The Brutal Art of Catch Wrestling Vs. The Gentle Art of BJJ


What is Catch wrestling?

Throughout the past few years, the leg lock game has become a major aspect of competition grappling, more so than ever before.  One result of this has been the development of “new” systems, but another, far more interesting result has been the resurgence in popularity of certain grappling arts.  Perhaps one of the most interesting of these is Catch Wrestling, also known as “Catch as Catch Can.”


Originally developed in the 1870s, Catch Wrestling as a grappling style has always been seen as a possible jiu-jitsu killer.  Whereas Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu is considered “The Gentle Art” Catch Wrestling is the “Brutal Art”.  While BJJ practitioners’ goal is generally to control an opponent by effectively moving with them, a catch wrestler’s objective is more in line with wrestling, in that pinning is a viable option, but catch wrestlers can use submissions to attain the pin…

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Catch Wrestling a Brief History

In Brazil, Catch wrestling became an integral style in the Vale Tudo scene, specifically in its use by Luta Livre practitioners and in North America Catch wrestling has always had a close association with professional wrestling, many catch wrestlers showcasing their techniques on the professional wrestling stage, but it wasn’t until the advent of MMA that Catch Wrestling’s efficacy against other grappling arts was made evident.

Grappling prodigies like Josh Barnett and Kazushi Sakuraba made very good use of their superior tactics and techniques to overcome Brazilian Jiu Jitsu experts.  Sakuraba famously dethroned Royce and Renzo Gracie with his impressive systematic use of Catch.

Catch focuses on an aspect of grappling that Brazilian Jiu Jitsu often ignores: the use of pain.  The concept is that if a grappler can cause an opponent pain, that opponent will have specific options insofar as viable responses.  These responses then evoke follow-up options for the grappler that can lead to submissions or improvements of position. Check out this video below with the modern legend of Catch Wrestling, Neil Melanson breaking down some incredible Catch techniques.

Catch Wrestling techniques can change your game!  Click Learn More!


Catch Wrestling Techniques

Catch wrestling, with its roots deeply ingrained in the history of combat sports, stands out as a distinctive grappling style characterized by its aggressiveness and a wide array of techniques. Catch wrestling techniques encompass a broad spectrum of moves, aiming at both controlling and submitting the opponent. Renowned for moves like the double wrist lock (akin to the BJJ kimura), the toe hold, and various punishing neck cranks, catch wrestling empowers practitioners with effective tools for combat. Beyond these, athletes in this discipline employ a plethora of takedowns, rides, and mat control strategies, ensuring they are well-equipped for any grappling scenario. By integrating catch wrestling techniques into their repertoire, athletes can augment their grappling skills, enriching their offensive and defensive capabilities, and embracing a more holistic approach to combat sports.

Is Catch Wrestling Better Than BJJ?

Engaging in the perennial debate about the supremacy of catch wrestling versus Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu (BJJ) unveils a world of contrasting philosophies and techniques within the grappling community. Catch wrestling is celebrated for its straightforward, submission-oriented style, accentuating an aggressive pursuit of pins and control. On the other hand, BJJ cultivates a more methodical approach, valuing positional control, leverage, and an extensive array of submission opportunities. The choice between these two influential grappling styles often boils down to personal preference, individual goals, and the specific competitive environment in which an athlete operates. Some practitioners find the dynamic and no-gi centric nature of catch wrestling to be more appealing, reveling in its versatility and submission diversity. Meanwhile, others are drawn to the technical depth and strategic complexity that BJJ offers. In the grand scheme of things, both catch wrestling and BJJ hold substantial merit, and when their techniques and philosophies are interwoven, they have the potential to create a formidable and comprehensive grappling skill set for practitioners.

Catch Wrestling vs BJJ

Back in the summer of 2014, the jiu jitsu community got to watch Josh Barnett use catch wrestling in a no gi submission only match against Dean Lister, and the affect was clear.  Barnett utilized principles of pressure, discomfort and pain that are central and essential to catch wrestling to overcome Lister, submitting Lister for the first time in 16 years.

Catch wrestling teaches its practitioners how to create pain by applying pressure, a principle that jiu jitsu places in the back seat.  Jiu Jitsu focuses on finessing the submission, whereas catch teaches how to use force to bring about openings to attain the submission. Check out another instructional with Neil Melanson on how Catch Wrestling wrecks the half guard to get an even better perspective on the intricacies of Catch. 

Ready to wreck your training partners with Catch Wrestling?  Click Learn More!



Catch Wrestling and Leg Locks

Leg locks have recently become a highly popular group of submissions, more so than in the past, because of their efficacy in submission only grappling.  The result of this is that leg lock instruction is being sought after like never before, but Brazilian Jiu Jitsu has neglected leglocks for a long time because of common competition rule sets.  Therefore, Catch Wrestling which has a plethora of useful lower body techniques has a new found usefulness in the sport of grappling.

The leglock entries used in catch wrestling translate well to jiu jitsu competition, and there are Achilles locks, toe holds and knee bars taught by catch wrestling that are legal in the IBJJF.  Catch wrestling is a skill set that is inherently useful to the competitive grappler, as well as any MMA fighter looking to up their grappling game.

Catch Wrestling is still relatively underground, even in comparison to Brazilian Jiu Jitsu.  Finding good instruction can be difficult, but there are gyms, teams and associations just like in the familiar culture of Brazilian Jiu Jitsu.  Many American fighters who list “wrestling” as their primary style have put time into learning catch wrestling.

The history of Catch Wrestling is so rich in America and some of it's techniques can continue to be seen in the modern day folkstyle wrestling techniques that millions of athletes and fans watch at their local high school or favorite college events (check Adeline Gray’s guide to scoring in freestyle and folkstyle "Gold Medal Fundamental Offense by Adeline Gray"). Even today's wildly dramatic professional wrestling occasionally pays homage to the brutal techniques that have been developed by the pioneers over the years.

The legends of the sport like Billy Robinson and even modern day warriors like Josh Barnett and Kazushi Sakarabu continue to employ these techniques in their own fighting.  No one though, has done more to develop and keep the techniques and philosophies alive than Coach Neil Melanson.  Neil Melanson has developed systematic ways to utilize the guard and leg locks amongst other things that go far beyond the idea of neck cranks which the casual observer might feel Catch Wrestling is.

As one of the most revered MMA Coaches on the planet, Neil Melanson has helped shape the careers of many high-level mixed martial arts athletes.  He continues to live and breath the spirit of Catch Wrestling with his brutally effective instruction in his live classes and the many hours of content available from BJJ Fanatics.

Catch wrestling might not be something that you're currently able to study and work towards your black belt in per se.  But it can become a very valuable complement to the skills you are learning in your BJJ classes on your way to black belt.

If you are interested in learning more about Catch Wrestling, specifically as it pertains to competition grappling, you should check out Neil Melanson.  If you haven’t heard of Neil Melanson you’ve probably heard of the various champions he’s coached. To learn more on Neil check out his Fighter Page Here.

Neil learned his skills from the Hayastan Grappling system, developed by Gokor Chivechyan and Gene LeBell.  He is considered one of the foremost experts on Catch Wrestling.  For more information about Neil’s impressive grappling style, pick up his DVD set in which he covers some of his coveted techniques.  You can get it here at BJJ Fanatics!



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