Wrestling vs Grappling - The Full Comparison

Wrestling and grappling are two martial arts disciplines that have been around for centuries. While they share many similarities, there are some key differences between the two. Wrestling is a combat sport focused on taking an opponent down to the ground through physical force and technique.

Grappling, on the other hand, is a form of unarmed self-defense where practitioners use holds, locks, and throws to subdue their opponents without using striking techniques. Both styles require strength, flexibility, and skill in order to be successful but each has its own unique benefits for those who practice them.

In this article, we will explore the similarities and differences between wrestling and grappling so you can decide which one best suits your needs. We will look at the history of each style, the techniques used by practitioners, and the various benefits they offer.

Finally, we’ll discuss who should practice wrestling or grappling and what type of equipment is needed to get started. With this information, you can make an informed decision about which martial art is right for you.

wrestling vs grappling

Table of Contents

What is Wrestling?

Wrestling has been around for centuries, with evidence of it appearing in the ancient Greek and Roman civilizations. It is a competitive sport that involves two opponents trying to gain control over the other by using physical force and technique. In wrestling, practitioners use holds, locks, throws, pins, sweeps, takedowns, and submission techniques to defeat their opponents.

Wrestling matches usually take place on a wrestling mat, with competitors wearing protective clothing such as shorts and headgear. The goal of a wrestling match is to pin the opponent’s shoulders to the mat for three seconds or force them to submit through submission holds.

Over the years, wrestling divided into two main categories: real and fake wrestling, which is basically amateur and professional wrestling. Professional wrestling is the more widely known of the WWE organization dominating the scene. This form of wrestling follows a predetermined storyline and script and often includes high-flying aerial maneuvers, dramatic entrances, and in-ring promos. On the other hand, amateur wrestling is known for its Olympic competition which includes freestyle and greco-roman wrestling.

What is Grappling?

Grappling is a form of unarmed self-defense that is focused on controlling an opponent’s body with holds and locks. Practitioners use a variety of techniques to take their opponents down, subdue them, or force them into submission without the use of striking techniques.

In many cases, grappling is considered more effective for self-defense than striking because it does not involve inflicting physical harm on an attacker. In addition, grappling allows practitioners to control their opponents’ bodies without relying on strength alone.

Unlike wrestling, grappling does not take place on mats. Instead, practitioners can grapple with each other in any environment such as on a street or in a gym. Also, unlike wrestling, the goal of grappling is not necessarily to pin or submit your opponent but to gain control over them and then escape or restrain them.

Differences Between Wrestling and Grappling

1. Wrestling matches are usually conducted on a wrestling mat whereas grappling is conducted in any environment.

2. The goal of wrestling is to pin or submit the opponent whereas the goal of grappling is to gain control and then escape or restrain.

3. Wrestling requires protective clothing such as headgear, shorts, and shoes while grappling equipment is different.

4. Wrestling techniques include holds, locks, throws, pins, sweeps, takedowns, and submission techniques while grappling techniques are more focused on controlling an opponent’s body.

5. Wrestling requires strength, flexibility, and technique while grappling relies more on technique than physical strength.

6. Wrestling is a competitive sport while grappling is primarily used as a form of self-defense.

Similarities Between Wrestling and Grappling

1. Both wrestling and grappling require strength, flexibility, and technique in order to be effective.

2. Both styles involve the use of various holds, locks, throws, pins, sweeps, and takedowns to defeat the opponent.

3. Both styles focus on using physical force and technique to gain control over their opponents.

4. Both styles require a certain level of physical fitness in order to be successful.

5. Both styles can be used as a form of self-defense or for competitive sports.

6. Both styles require protective gear to prevent injury.

Which is Better for Self-defense?

Both wrestling and grappling can be used effectively for self-defense. However, grappling is typically seen as the better option since it does not involve striking and allows practitioners to control their opponents without relying on physical strength alone. Grappling also allows practitioners to escape or restrain attackers without physically harming them. Therefore, many BJJ and MMA practitioners use grappling as a base for their self-defense training.

In contrast, wrestling is a competitive sport, not a martial art. In addition, wrestling can be used in self-defense and can give you many advantages over your attacker. It requires a great deal of physical strength and technique, allowing you to control the fight and escape or restrain your attacker.

Overall, both wrestling and grappling can be used for self-defense, but grappling is generally seen as a more effective form of unarmed self-defense. It is important to note that both styles require a certain level of physical fitness in order to be successful and you will not win 4 opponents, like in movies, with either style, especially without years of training.

Which is a Better Option as a Workout?

Both wrestling and grappling can be used as a great workout. Both styles require strength, flexibility, and technique which will help to improve your overall fitness level. Wrestling cardio workouts will help to build aerobic endurance while grappling workouts focus on building muscle and cardiovascular strength. Each style has its own unique type of workout which can be beneficial in its own way.

Ultimately, it is up to the individual which type of workout they prefer and what best suits their goals. Depending on the type of workout you are looking for, either wrestling or grappling can be a great option. With that said, both styles should be used in conjunction with other exercises such as weightlifting and running in order to be the most effective.

Which Has More Popularity Across the US?

Wrestling has more popularity across the US than grappling. Wrestling is a sport that has been around for centuries and is an official event in the Olympics. It is also a very popular sport at the high school and college levels, with many wrestling teams competing in state and national tournaments.

Grappling, on the other hand, is still relatively unknown in the US and has yet to reach the mainstream popularity that wrestling enjoys. That said, it is quickly gaining in popularity due to its effectiveness as a self-defense system and the rise in Mixed Martial Arts competitions. As the sport continues to evolve and become more accessible, its popularity is expected to grow.

Injury rate

In terms of injury rates, wrestling is generally seen as a safer option when compared to grappling. This is mainly due to the fact that wrestling does not involve striking, which is the primary cause of injuries in other martial arts. Among the common wrestling injuries, you can find sprains, strains, bruises, cuts, concussions, and cauliflower ear.

Grappling, on the other hand, can be a dangerous sport as it involves submission holds which can result in serious injuries if not applied correctly. Common grappling injuries include sprains, strains, dislocated joints, muscle tears, and broken bones. Therefore, it is important to wear protective gear and practice proper technique when grappling and wrestling.

Who Should Practice Wrestling or Grappling?

Wrestling and grappling can be practiced by anyone regardless of age or fitness level. Both styles require strength, flexibility, and technique in order to be successful, so beginners should take their time in learning the fundamentals of each style. It is also important to note that wrestling and grappling can be a great way to stay in shape and gain confidence, and strengthen mental and physical skills.

The best way to understand which one of the styles is for you is by taking 2 lessons of each and seeing which one you like best. That way, you can get a better understanding of both wrestling and grappling, allowing you to make an informed decision on which style you would like to pursue.

You should also read books, talk to friends who wrestle/grapple, and watch videos online in order to gain a better understanding of the individual styles. This will help you make an informed decision regarding which style of martial arts is right for you.

Ultimately, only you can decide which style of martial art is best suited for your goals and needs. Wrestling and grappling are both great forms of exercise, self-defense, and competition. With the right instruction, dedication, and practice, you can become a proficient grappler or wrestler. No matter which style you choose, you will be sure to have a rewarding experience!


In conclusion, both wrestling and grappling can offer great physical and mental benefits, however, it is important to understand the differences between the two styles. Whether you choose wrestling or grappling, make sure to wear protective gear, practice proper technique, and stay focused on improving your skills. With dedication and practice, you will be sure to make great strides in your martial arts journey.