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The Importance of Wrestling in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu
Wrestling is one of the oldest forms of grappling, there are techniques in wrestling that have been around for hundreds and thousands of years. Brazilian Jiu Jitsu is a relatively new martial art when compared to so many others. The essence and core of bjj has been around for hundreds of years, but what we see today in competitions such as the International Brazilian Jiu Jitsu Federation and the ADCC is a relatively new form of martial art and sport.
Today, we have an extremely active competition circuit for primarily Brazilian Jiu Jitsu competitors; for instance, the IBJJF holds many of what people consider the biggest tournaments for bjj practitioners. No wrestler, judo player, or other grappler can waltz into a black belt level IBJJF competition and perform very well with the black belts.
Jiu Jitsu has segregated itself from other forms of grappling and developed a strict rule set and style that creates a sport environment. We have so many different rules in bjj, and positions that you would not see in other martial arts especially when talking about gi competition. This has led to a rapid decrease in the incorporation of cross training other grappling arts. For example, years ago, many people would put emphasis on learning and cross training things like Judo, Wrestling, catch wrestling, and other forms of grappling. Today, we see people who primarily just train Brazilian Jiu Jitsu.
The problem we have created is many people who lack a well-rounded game and don’t have the intricacies to have takedowns, and other things that other grappling arts offer. Although Jiu Jitsu has developed its own competitions and rulesets, wrestling can still be a great tool to help you develop your Jiu Jitsu. Wrestling is one of, if not, the best grappling art that you can cross train with Brazilian Jiu Jitsu for several reasons. Wrestling can help you develop your bjj game and takedowns, it can help you develop your base and tenacity, it can increase your awareness and cardio, and overall it will make you better as a martial artist.
How Wrestling Can Help Your BJJ Technique
Wrestling can help you develop your bjj technique in so many different ways. There are so many similarities between wrestling and bjj that it is almost insane. So many positions and guards in Jiu Jitsu end up in a position that is probably utilized in wrestling as well. For example, let’s take the half guard, either bottom or top. In bjj, when playing the half guard on the bottom, you use your underhook to get up for many of the best sweeps; this puts you in dogfight position. This dogfight position is one of the most popular positions in wrestling. If you are on top half guard and someone tries to do an underhook get up, you will use a whizzer, this is also one of the fundamentals in wrestling. Check this video out below showing a half guard sweep with an underhook and see the similarities.
So as you can see above, wrestling is extremely prevalent in bjj. This is one of many positions where you will find yourself in a scenario where wrestling could be the factor that differentiates you from your opponent and allows you to ultimately get the sweep. There are many other places that you would use wrestling in your Jiu Jitsu. For instance, the De La Riva guard is very popular today; there are so many sweeps from the De La Riva guard that will put you into a single leg or standing take down position. Obviously, the grips play a role and the gi is not used in wrestling, but the fundamental principles of finishing takedowns, and being able to connect your takedowns from one to another are there. You can use wrestling in butterfly guard, Reverse De La Riva Guard, and many other guards to help you develop your sweeps. If you use high level black belt competition as an example, you will notice that many black belt world champions actually win matches with wrestling. For example, Andre Galvao, Bernardo Faria, Lucas Leite, Buchecha, and many more play a guard game that ends up putting them in single leg and double leg takedown positions. Check out this video below of Black Belt and ADCC champion, Rubens Charles “Cobrihna” showing how to get to a single leg takedown from guard. Cobrihna has won the ADCC 3x and attributes his victories to the fact that he has a rigorous wrestling camp.
You also use wrestling in stand up matches. This is obvious, but sometimes the deciding factor in a match can be just ne takedown. How often do we see guys at the highest levels that are even on points or advantages and the deciding factor being just one takedown? This happens so often and it is wise to be able to have an arsenal of takedowns so that you don’t just rely on your guard or passing to win a match. 10x World Champion, Marcus Almeida “Buchecha” has won the worlds several times with just one blast double leg take down. Buchecha has some of the best wrestling in bjj. Marcelo Garcia who is a 5x black belt world champion, and 4x ADCC champion has won so many matches on a simple arm drag takedown.
Wrestling for Base, Cardio, and Tenacity
Wrestling will not just give you a technical advantage when it comes to your Brazilian Jiu Jitsu. There are many other physical and mental advantages to incorporating wrestling into your bjj game. Wrestling can help improve your cardio by leaps and bounds. We all know that wrestling is more cardio intensive than Jiu Jitsu. At the vast majority of Brazilian Jiu Jitsu academies, we see people start their rolls from the knees. So many people neglect the standing aspect of Jiu Jitsu. Many times it is so more people will fit on the mat because when 2 people start standing it can endanger some of the people around them. The most tiring part of bjj is probably when you are trying to shoot and start standing. For this reason, if you start standing more often and just work your wrestling, so for instance, do 5 minutes of just takedowns, see how much better your cardio will improve. Check out this cool video below on how to finish a single leg from a D-1 wrestler.
Wrestling will also improve your tenacity. Being determined and tenacious can be an excellent factor for someone who wants to compete. This mental characteristic can segregate you from your competition. So many of the best bjj competitors have these characteristics. When they are trying to do a move, they do it with the intent of finishing and have so much determination. Wrestling can help you develop these characteristics. Why? Wrestling is grueling and can be very difficult. When you are inches from a double leg or ankle pick, you have to keep driving and keep going; your sense of determination will often help you finish a shot. This is one of the key components of being a wrestler. We all know those guys with no bjj experience that wrestled in high school. They have an enormous will to win and will not stop, they are very tenacious.
Last but not least, wrestling will help you improve your base. If you just train one 5 minute round of just takedowns every time that you train bjj, your base will get so much better. Wrestling will help you identify the inches necessary to have a good strong base. When someone is trying to double leg you, single leg you, or ankle pick you, you will go into fight or flight mode and start to notice the subtleties that allow you to prevent the takedown. You can then implement this in your Jiu Jitsu. You will become much harder to sweep and takedown. Many wrestlers are infamous for being next to impossible to sweep. They have an extraordinary sense of awareness and balance from years of wrestling. You to can attain these attributes if you just train wrestling. Check out our article on the single leg takedown and the double leg takedown to get a good overview of how to do them and why they are good for bjj.
So now you’ve read this and decided that you want to implement a wrestling regimen into your training? We understand. We highly recommend picking up the DVD Set “Wrestling For BJJ” by Hudson Taylor. Hudson is a guy who walked into Marcelo Garcias academy and was promoted to blue belt after just 6 months. After being promoted, he won the worlds at blue belt with just 7 months of bjj training. How? Hudson was a division 1 NCAA Wrestler. He had one of the highest pinning record in wreslting which helped him win the worlds. He may just be a blue belt in bjj (although he is a world champion) he is a black belt in wrestling.