BJJ vs Wrestling for Self Defense: Who Would Win?

Before diving into the comparative analysis of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu (BJJ) and wrestling, we must understand the foundational principles behind each martial art. Both disciplines offer unique strengths and strategies, making them instrumental in different scenarios. Here’s an overview of what each martial art entails.

BJJ: The Art of Submission

Originating from Judo, BJJ emphasizes ground fighting. It equips its practitioners with the skills to control an opponent using leverage, technique, and submission holds. The primary aim is to force an opponent into a submission using chokes or joint locks. BJJ’s philosophy revolves around the idea that a smaller person can successfully defend against a bigger assailant using proper technique.

Wrestling: Dominance and Control

Wrestling, an ancient martial art, emphasizes takedowns, pins, and control. Its primary objective is to establish dominance by taking the opponent to the ground and maintaining a superior position. Wrestlers use their strength, balance, and technique to overpower adversaries, making it a crucial discipline in many mixed martial arts (MMA) competitions.

Comparing BJJ and Wrestling for Self Defense

Takedown Defense and Offense

Wrestling provides a strong foundation in takedowns, offering practitioners the ability to control where a fight takes place. For self-defense, this means having the option to take an opponent to the ground or defend against takedowns, ensuring one remains on their feet.

On the other hand, while BJJ does teach takedowns, it’s more renowned for its ground-fighting techniques. In a self-defense scenario, a BJJ practitioner might be more willing to go to the ground to capitalize on their strengths.

Ground Control and Submission

BJJ shines when the confrontation reaches the ground. The art equips its students with a plethora of submissions, sweeps, and escapes. Its practitioners learn to remain calm in disadvantageous positions, searching for openings to reverse the situation or apply a submission.

Wrestling focuses more on maintaining dominant positions and controlling the adversary. While it doesn’t emphasize submissions as much as BJJ, the control and positional awareness it instills can be advantageous in a self-defense scenario.

Adapting to Multiple Attackers

In a self-defense situation with multiple attackers, staying on your feet is often crucial. Here, wrestling’s emphasis on takedowns and staying upright might offer an advantage. Wrestlers are trained to control their opponents and stay on their feet, which could be beneficial when faced with more than one assailant.

Conversely, BJJ’s ground-focused approach might be less advantageous in such scenarios. Engaging one attacker on the ground might leave one vulnerable to others.

Endurance and Stamina

Both BJJ and wrestling demand high levels of physical fitness. Wrestling, with its explosive movements and emphasis on strength, cultivates short bursts of high-intensity efforts. BJJ, with its methodical pacing and prolonged engagements, fosters stamina and patience. In extended self-defense situations, both disciplines offer invaluable conditioning, albeit in different manners.

The Verdict: Which is Better for Self-Defense?

Neither BJJ nor wrestling can claim outright superiority for all self-defense scenarios. Each art offers unique advantages, and their effectiveness depends largely on the situation and the practitioner’s proficiency.

For ground control and submissions, BJJ stands out. For takedowns, staying upright, and handling multiple attackers, wrestling might hold an edge. Ultimately, a combination of both disciplines would arguably offer the most comprehensive self-defense toolkit.

However, it’s essential to remember that martial arts are tools in the self-defense toolbox. Situational awareness, understanding of conflict de-escalation, and a clear mindset are equally, if not more, important.


BJJ and wrestling, both revered martial arts, offer distinct approaches to self-defense. While BJJ emphasizes ground control and submissions, wrestling prioritizes takedowns and positional dominance. Depending on the self-defense scenario, one might be more effective than the other. For those serious about self-defense, understanding the strengths of both disciplines and potentially integrating them can be a game-changer.

READ: MMA vs Kickboxing for Self-Defense: Who Would Win?