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5 Ways Wrestling Will Elevate Your Jiu Jitsu Game

Wrestling Tallahassee Jiu Jitsu Takedowns Zicro
Recent Wrestling Class with Grappling House at Zicro Academy/Alliance Jiu JItsu in Tallahassee

What if I were to tell you that you could start almost every IBJJF match up 2-0 with a pretty good chance of getting side control or taking the back? This is the reality for a lot of Jiu Jitsu players who come from a wrestling background, or cross-train some wrestling into their game. Now, points aren't everything. But, "position before submission" is likely a saying you've heard before, especially when it comes to points tournaments.

Whether you're a seasoned competition veteran, or getting ready to try out your first tournament, it's important to be aware that all matches start standing (neutral position). Understanding the position and ideals is important for your BJJ game, even if you don't master them. This article will focus on 5 benefits that wrestling provides to your jiu jitsu game.

#1 - Defense From Standing

Here's a scenario.. think about if you've ever seen this before.

Match starts, and one competitor, we'll call him "Tim" shakes hands, quickly gets taken down, and finds himself in an awkward position on his back. Tim's opponent passes into side control. As Tim's fighting the sub attempt and scrambling, his opponent takes the back and throws in hooks. 4 minutes is now off the clock, and Tim's down 9-0. It's basically 'get a sub or lose' at this point, but Tim's opponent has hooks, a seatbelt, and is in no hurry to switch to another position. That's Tim. Don't be Tim.

wrestling front headlock back take tallahassee leon county wakulla takedown backhook
Example of a sprawl to front headlock to a back take. Basic defense and re-attack in wrestling.

If Tim would have done some cross-training in wrestling, he would understand some solid defensive principles from his feet. Things like head and hands defense, sprawling, front headlocks, handfighting, re-attacks, and more.

After a month of training, is Tim going to be able to stop a takedown from a former College Wrestler? Probably not (hopefully over time). But, he surely will be able to stop someone who recently learned a double leg. And he'll put himself in a much better position to suceedd.

#2 - Takedowns Will Improve

You don't have to be amazing at 10 different takedowns when it comes to wrestling for Jiu Jitsu. One or two good ones will be more than sufficient. Just like Jiu Jitsu, it's good to learn a whole bunch of techniques, and pick what you like best.

wrestling takedown double leg single leg jiu jitsu tallahassee wakulla leon county
Example of a double leg with proper head position

You may find that double legs are perfect for you, but single legs aren't your thing. You might not really like attacking legs, but love scoring takedowns off of a tie up with shrugs or arm drags. Or, you could be more comfortable with the judo style throws (which we DO train in wrestling class, just without a Gi.. we call it Greco-Roman Wrestling).

Either way, wrestling is going to teach you to be comfortable with a variety of options.

#3 - A Mental Edge at the Beginning of a Match

For people new to competition, nerves are always tricky. There's no telling how they will affect you. I've seen people who thrive on the spotlight and are 'gamers,' or in other words, they play their best game in tournaments. I've seen people who crumble under the pressure. The mental side of combat sports comes back to one very simple concept: Confidence. This isn't a "fake it til you make it" thing, either. It's having that mentality of "I dare this guy/girl to come out and try to beat me." Don't think it's about being arrogant.. it's just having faith in your abilities and knowing that whatever situation presents itself, you'll be okay because you've prepared for it.

If you're competing in Jiu Jitsu, you should have some level of faith in your Jiu Jitsu game. Can you say the same for your takedown game? If the answer is no, or even "I'm not sure," you should take into consideration how that affects your preparation for a tournament. If there's a sliver of doubt in your mind when you walk on that mat, odds are not in your favor.

Learning wrestling and understanding that you have options on your feet makes a world of difference in your head.

I'm not the world's best Jiu Jitsu player.. I literally just got promoted to blue belt. But, as a former college wrestler, I'm extremely confident walking onto the mat because I know that I have a good chance of getting the first takedown, putting me in my most comfortable position (playing from the top). You can't put a value on comfortability when it comes to mental preparation.

#4 - Body Weight Distribution and Pressure

There are a few reasons wrestlers do well in MMA and BJJ. Obviously, takedowns are key. But if you've ever rolled with a wrestler, you may have thought "Wow, their pressure is insane. How do they do that?!" There's no magical elixir. Wrestlers have been grappling for years. The ones that last through high school and college generally master how to shift their body weight for any scenario that's presented to them.

If someone attacks my leg, I sprawl and shift my weight back. If someone gets in too deep on a shot, I shift my weight to my hips, and bump their shoulders with my hips to throw them off balance. In Jiu Jitsu terms, if I get side control, I distribute my weight evenly through the body and pressure down. If I want to sweep, I might shift my weight to the left to cause a reaction from my opponent, and then quickly shift back to the right to hit a sweep. You get the idea.

The further you get in combat sports, the more you understand how important this skillset is. Wrestling will teach you this over time. There are key details in a lot of the techniques that we cover which will exhibit this. For example, on our front headlock, we shift all of our weight from the chest up to the opponent's neck (photo to the right). This makes the technique more

wrestling defense front headlock tallahassee takedowns sprawl
Example of a proper wrestling front headlock with weight distributed onto opponent's shoulders.

uncomfortable for them. While you're learning a good wrestling technique, you get the dual benefit of learning how shifting your weight affects and/or limits your opponents reactions. This applies to a lot of the techniques that we cover, and will cross over into your jiu jitsu.

#5 - Advantage Over Most of Your Peers

Specifically, an advantage over other Jiu Jitsu players from other gyms. Most BJJ gyms don't offer wrestling classes. They're masters of Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, and generally stick to that. While wrestling is certainly incorporated into most curriculum, it's rarely a focal point with a dedicated class time.

That said, if you dedicate an hour or two a week to training wrestling, you're going to be a better wrestler than your opponent. And the more aspects of your game that are better than your opponent's, the higher your chances to walk away with wins becomes.


Why did I write this article? Let's call a spade a spade. I'm trying to convince you to come try a wrestling class with the Grappling House at Zicro. But, I also want you to be fully aware of how training as little as once a week will help improve your Jiu Jitsu game. Wrestling isn't the answer to everything, but it's definitely another piece to the puzzle. Happy Training!

If you have questions, or are interested in trying a class, message us on Facebook, email us (both options listed below), or just stop in on a normal class day and join in. We'd love to have ya!

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