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Wrestling With Monsters: Adding Basic Wrestling Skills to Your Jiu Jitsu Game

Wrestling With Monsters: Adding Basic Wrestling Skills to Your Jiu Jitsu Game



“The best fighter is someone who can adapt on any style.” ~ Bruce Lee

We were never taught wrestling in school. In the land of ice hockey and poutine, Canadians completely lack the mat experience that our neighbours in Iowa, Ohio, Pennsylvania or Wisconsin enjoy. Instead, most of us who did not play hockey were enrolled in recreational judo or karate classes in the 1980s, and that filled the fire in our bellies. However, the first time you feel a wrestler slap a grip on the back of your neck or shoot in for a double, you really wish that you had done some high school wrestling instead of being subjected to those useless hours of dodgeball. We cannot alter the past, so what can the average jiu jitsu competitor or hobbyist do to bring wrestling into his or her game? 

Firstly, it would be naïve to somehow believe that you can just learn wrestling like Neo in The Matrix did through a neural implant. Nothing quite builds in complex movements like youth and the availability of countless hours, and shifting all of your training hours to add wrestling to improve your jiu jitsu seems like a plight of diminishing returns. However, like any art form, there are parts of the wrestling styles that can be added to you daily routines so that they eventually become familiar enough to use with confidence. 

Where can you begin? If you are fortunate enough to have an instructor who competes at a high level, then he will undoubtedly have his own collection of wrestling techniques to share with you. Many gyms also bring in a wrestling specialist to work on techniques with jiu jitsu students or add a class to their regular weekly offerings. Such opportunities are definitely to be sought out, but be very aware that just like when you began jiu jitsu wrestling will feel awkward and embarrassing; your ego will not enjoy the outing. Before beginning, have a look at Championship Wrestling Fundamentals Cowboy Offense by John Smith.

BJJ Podcast Ep10 Hudson Taylor: The Wrestling Renaissance Man

The Pareto Principle [better known as the 80-20 Rule] is a


great place to start. Understanding  that 80% of the effect which can be gained from wrestling will come from 20% of the techniques will mean that since you will not be competing in wrestling on a collegiate level, you can focus on those foundational techniques that will enrich your own jiu jitsu game. So how can you discover your 20% focus? From my experience, the best place to look is at your own game and the gaps you may have already discovered in your competitive experience.

Check out Hudson's unique approach to grappling, Click Learn More!



Given the athletic nature of wrestling and its various schools [Folk-Style, Free-Style, Greco-Roman], almost every 40 year old I know who practices jiu jitsu shudders at the idea of risking his knees hitting the mats while shooting doubles and singles.  In my own case, I feel most comfortable using upper-body wrestling techniques to trap and wear down my opponent. I wish that I could feel confident using penetrating shots, but I enjoy relatively good knees and want to keep them into my old age. 

Underhook Fundamentals with Chael Sonnen


One accessible instructional is Wrestling Fundamentals From the Bad Guy by Chael Sonnen. Sonnen has the credentials of being an All-American wrestler, a UFC fan favourite and a competitor who does not rely on the athleticism of youth. He can also sell snow to residents of Alaska in the winter, so you will enjoy the sales pitch for each technique that he chooses to show you. His ability to share the details of his game will also give you food for thought as you begin to drill the skills on the mats. In the four parts of his video offering he covers headlocks, underhooks, leg riding, the low single and a wide variety of drills and warm-ups to keep you from becoming injured.

Taking a look at Gordon Ryan’s domination of the most recent ADCC competition, it becomes clear that one major wrestling/no gi grip set that everyone should add to their wheelhouse is the Collar Tie and Tricep grips. Gordon effectively opens his first contacts with his opponents by making his presence known with a heavy hand on the back of his opponent’s head while looking for either a tricep or wrist control on the other side. Sometimes he is looking for a snapdown, other times he is wearing out his opponent. Regardless, it is one position that most wrestlers will gravitate towards even when wearing a kimono jacket. If you are going to compete against a wrestler, then this will be one position that you will need to know intimately. In The Front Headlock System, John Danaher examines this position with the intent of showing how to use it to enter a headlock opportunity, but during ADCC Gordon Ryan also used it to great effect to catch opponent’s with a Knee Tap takedown. 

Inside Tie Side to Side Snap Downs by John Danaher


The place that I feel most confident, however, has been the 2 on 1 gripping style that can be found inside The 2 on 1 Encyclopedia by Georgi Ivanov. When I am playing a judo-based gripping system, the wrist is always my first grip. Therefore, it comes quite naturally for me to seek out a wrestling grip that transitions easily from my normal game. Once I feel that I am dealing with a wrestler I can leave my attempts for the cross collar grip and switch my grips to the outside. It acts as a nice redirection of my opponent and takes me closer to his back while gaining a solid control over one arm. From there, I can move to a wide variety of techniques outlined by Ivanov to get my takedown. My favourite takedown from Georgi’s repertoire has to be his Nearside Fireman’s Carry; the movement feels both easily accessible and fluid at the same time. If you want to add some slick John Wick-esque takedowns to your repertoire, then you should start here with this Bulgarian Olympian’s work. 

Nearside Fireman’s Carry by Georgi Ivanov


In the end, you may want to add any number of techniques to your game, such as cradles (find Blackout Hybrid Cradle Gi System), fireman’s carries, snapdowns, double legs, single legs, collar ties, Russian ties or even some of the catch wrestling techniques favoured by BJJ Fanatic Neil Melanson. Either way, you should start looking outside of the traditional pantheon of Brazilian Jiu Jitsu techniques, because your opponents may be coming from a myriad of backgrounds in the fightworld. With the rise of mixed martial arts, we are all coming to the centre, and as Bruce Lee so wisely reminds us: we all need to adapt or die. 


The 2 on 1 Encyclopedia by Georgi Ivanov
The 2-on-1 Encyclopedia by Georgi Ivanov is ESSENTIAL for grappler’s looking to dominate the mat. If you want to learn more Russian tie technique, be sure to check out Georgi’s in depth video titled “The 2-on-1 Encyclopedia by Georgi Ivanov”.



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