Wrestling Or BJJ For Self Defense? Which One Should Be Your Go-to

Share on:

Wrestling or BJJ for self-defense? In the self-defense world, you have a lot of different martial art styles to choose from. It can be confusing, so let’s break it down.

Two of the most popular forms of self-defense are wrestling and Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu (BJJ). They are both great options, but they offer different benefits and drawbacks. Let’s look at each one to decide which is right for you.

What Is Wrestling?

Wrestling Or BJJ For Self Defense?

Wrestling is the entertainment business in which fighters, masked or unmasked, beat the living hell out of each oth… Oh wait, we were not talking about THAT wrestling, right?

Let me start over; Wrestling is a combat sport, and it combines multiple grappling techniques:

  • Clinch fighting. 
  • Takedowns.
  • Throws. 
  • Holds. 
  • Pins. 
  • Joint locks.

There are multiple types of wrestling disciplines with diverse rulesets; some popular styles are: 

  • Freestyle.
  • Greco-Roman.
  • Sambo.
  • Folkstyle.
  • Catch. 

We will focus on Freestyle Wrestling, which opens the most possibilities for attacks and defense, as (unlike Greco-Roman) it allows the wrestler to use his or the opponent’s legs to attack or defend. 

It awards points on throw amplitude, exposure of the opponent’s back to the mat, and opponent passivity.

Holding the opponent’s scapulas flat on the mat would grant an instant victory.

Let’s take a look at how wrestling is different from BJJ.

What Is Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu?

Using Wrestling Or BJJ For Self Defense

Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu is a grappling art derived from Judo. It focused most of its techniques on ground fighting, changing Judo’s focus on pinning the opponent into getting a submission via a joint lock or choke.

This discipline became as popular as it is by giving birth to the UFC as it tried to prove itself to be the most effective martial art to exist.

With its recent run in the spotlight, the BJJ has continued growing and evolving.

 BJJ is now taking the go-to grappling art for most MMA fighters. It has taken techniques from other disciplines like Judo, Wrestling, and Sambo into its technique repertoire to become the complete ground martial art in modern competition.

So now, let’s take the time to explain where both martial arts focus and how they differ.

The Key Differences Between Wrestling And BJJ In Self-Defense

As we have mentioned, both are grappling martial arts and share some techniques that are quite popular to see in competitions, but their focus and the execution of their moves and techniques are pretty different.

Wrestling focuses on strength, power, and speed in the execution of its techniques, and as polished as the movements are, if it lacks the explosiveness required, it is likely to be stopped by your opponent.

The focus of wrestling is placed on the throw and positional pins, which means you focus on controlling the other fighter.

Being on your back is the position you do NOT want to be in as a wrestler. Therefore a wrestler is taught to avoid it at all costs.

In BJJ, however, there is an entirely different focus on techniques and how they are used.

Why is BJJ the “gentle art”

Jiu-Jitsu is called “Arte Suave,” or “Gentle Art,” as its origin focuses on using the technique to defend against an opponent with a size advantage, utilizing leverage and weight distribution instead of raw strength and power.

Jiu-Jitsu also works the ground game differently, focusing on finishing the fight via submission instead of holding and pinning the opponent.

This also transfers to another detail, working from the guard or with your back on the floor, which in Judo or Wrestling is basically the “death area.” 

Let’s dive into some quick pros and cons for each of the arts to clearly point out the strengths and weaknesses of both martial skills in the streets.

BJJ pros and cons in a street fight


  1. Covers takedowns, controls, and submissions.
  2. Allows a smaller fighter to control and submit a larger opponent effectively.
  3. Multiple positions and options to fight from almost every possible angle.


  1. Not suitable for multiple opponents at once.
  2. Some techniques might leave you exposed to people attacking you on the ground.
  3. If you only train sport BJJ, you might develop bad habits on the streets.

Wrestling pros in a street fight


  1. Excellent for takedowns and throws.
  2. Great Control of the opponent once on the ground.
  3. Overpowers the other person with explosive techniques.


  1. Not suitable for multiple opponents at once.
  2. No options to fight from your back.
  3. Does not have many methods to finish the fight.

When To Use Wrestling For Self Defense?

Wrestling is an excellent tool to know, as it doesn’t require exchanging strikes to be effective. It requires good reaction time and power to be effective in any street fight.

A fantastic way to use it is when the other person comes in trying to hit you. As they close the distance and get in the range, you need to set up a takedown.

Once the fight hits the ground, you can continue to control the opponent and de-escalate the fight, or well, get some ground and pound going and finish it.

We have a perfect example of a man diving under a punch and going for the throw-in to finish a street fight quickly. However, it feels wrong to watch as the way the guy landed could have caused a lot of damage from hitting the concrete surface.

That’s a way to use wrestling, but now let’s jump over to see what BJJ can do in similar situations.

When To Use BJJ In A Street Brawl?

When the opponent closes the distance, it is time to switch the Jiu-Jitsu gears on.

 You could use the multiple takedown options it offers and then control the fight on the ground as you either hold and control the opponent or actively look for a submission.

Jiu-Jitsu is good in any position you are in, but unlike a regular competition, being on your back in a street fight means that strikes will come in your way.

The best BJJ for street fights is MMA-focused Jiu-Jitsu, as you focus on exposing yourself as little as possible while looking to finish the fight.

Here is a video of a street fight in which the guy tries to land the submission and slows down the opponent’s striking until they get split up.

We have touched on the strong points of learning and using these disciplines in a fight, but we have to mention the most significant risk that could present itself on the streets.

The Risks Of Grappling In A Sreet Fight

You have to take risks if you get into a street fight, like not knowing what the other guy knows, if he has a good chin, or sometimes, knowing if he has back-up.

The last point represents a danger to any grappler, as both Wrestling and BJJ focus on taking down and neutralizing a single opponent at a time.

You could see how fighting on the ground with a single person, even if you have him in an arm lock or something else, would leave you open to getting punched or kicked by another person in proximity.

A grappler’s nightmare is usually being outnumbered in a street fight, as it presents a lot of danger when you are focusing on finishing a single opponent.

So, after all, it is time to let you know our pick as the discipline of choice for real-life situations.

Which Is Better For Self-Defense, Wrestling Or BJJ?

how to win a street fight using BJJ or Wrestling

For us, the choice is simple, but there are a lot of factors in it.

Our pick for self-defense is Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, but why you ask?

The first thing is the focus it has. It uses leverage and weight distribution to allow the smaller fighter to control the opponent effectively.

This means that you do not need to be the stronger or bigger fighter to come out on top, it sure does help, but it is not a requisite.

Wrestling does depend on strength and speed to be effective, but it also gasses you out if you are not used to it, and it could be bad for you if you only learned it for self-defense but are not actively training it.

Second, the fact that wrestling avoids being placed on your back, but any surprise takedown may land you right there in a real fight.

The lack of game on your back and the focus on pinning instead of doing a lock, which could end the fight, is a detail that reduces wrestling’s real combat efficiency, whereas BJJ works on these details along with all the other parts of grappling. 

Wrestling Or BJJ For Self Defense? – Conclusion

For anybody who decides to train a grappling art to defend themselves better, keep in mind that no matter what choice you pick, as long as you are eager to learn and practice, you are getting an excellent tool to keep yourself prepared.

Make sure to invest enough time into learning and practicing to be ready for the day that you may need it, and over everything else, just enjoy your time.

We hope to see you soon in another article and hope that you liked this one and may even contemplate the chance to share it with friends and other grappling enthusiasts you know.

Recent Posts

About The Author

Scroll to Top