"Why wrestlers become good BJJ players and why good BJJ players learn to wrestle"
Although I had no wrestling experience before I started Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, I’ve trained with some high-level wrestlers through the years that have helped me incorporate wrestling into my jiu jitsu. The goals of the two sports are very different and there are fundamental adjustments that need to be made when applying wrestling to BJJ, but when you get down to it the objective is similar: POSITIONAL DOMINANCE.
Whether you’re a wrestler moving into BJJ or a BJJ player looking to add some wrestling to your game, here are some techniques that translate really well.
Double Leg: The traditional double leg can be a powerful tool in bringing a fight to the ground. There are some considerations to be made while wearing a gi, but some basic wrestling principals apply, such as changing your levels, keeping your head up and getting a deep penetration step. A key difference in BJJ is breaking of any gi grip, as attempting a double leg while your opponent still has grips is usually not effective. When a double leg is executed correctly, the opportunity to land in side control offers an ideal way to get your ground work started.
Single Leg: Being able to attack one leg is almost always easier to do than attacking two. In addition, many single legs can be performed even if the opponent has grips on your gi. But although it’s often easier to execute than a double, a single will often times land you in what can be considered as a less desirable position such as half guard or full guard. Still, it’s worth two points in a tournament and if you’re a strong passer anyway, it’s an opportunity to score an additional three points for the pass. As an added bonus, many sweeps against a standing opponent are basically single leg takedowns. So you can use the same single leg takedown details when applying them to your sweeps.
Fireman’s carry: Similar to a single leg, a fireman’s carry can be hit when your opponent has grips. Timing and weight distribution of your opponent is a little more critical with this takedown, but once you get the entry, the finish is quite simple. The fireman’s carry also often lands you in side control, so you’re off to a great start once you hit the mat.
Front Headlock: Getting a front headlock from standing often leads to a takedown. But with a few adjustments, you can turn this into an arm-in guillotine. Olympic wrestler David Schultz has used this to temporarily put people to sleep, get the takedown, and score the pin. Although chokes are illegal in wrestling, most of his opponents would wake up before they knew what happened. In BJJ you’ll either get the tap, or they’ll nap.
Arm-in Pin/Arm Triangle: I’m not sure if there’s a technical wrestling term for this, but this is basically an arm triangle choke. It’s a great control position in wrestling which often gets the pin, but in BJJ with a few minor adjustments it’s one of the best ways to get a tap. With the position being so familiar to wrestlers, it’s not surprising it’s one of the first submissions they adapt into their games when they start BJJ.
Cross Face: The wrestling cross face is a simple yet devastating move designed to do one thing: Get your opponent’s head to point where you want it to go, because where the head goes the body follows. As a BJJ player, you can incorporate this into your game from many different positions. It can be used to keep someone from re-guarding you in side control, you can use it to block a single leg attempt, or try it when someone is attempting to flatten out or turtle.
Hammer Lock: There are limitations on what you can do with a hammerlock in wrestling, but in BJJ it’s basically a Kimura. In wrestling, you have to be careful not to bring your opponents arm past a certain angle or you’ll get disqualified. In BJJ, this is your objective: Get the angle severe enough that it causes enough pain for the opponent to tap.
Granby Roll: Primarily used as an escape from referees position in wrestling, the granby roll can be used not only for escapes in BJJ, but also to re-guard and to set up submissions from the guard like omoplatas, triangles and kneebars.
Leg Ride: The leg ride is a great way to attack from the referee’s position or in the case of BJJ, the turtle. In wrestling, the objective is to use the leg ride to turn the opponent so his shoulders get pinned to the ground. In BJJ, there are many submissions from here including a calf crush, or rolling into an Eddie Bravo style twister (which is called a guillotine in wrestling). Or you can use it to get your hooks in.
This is just a start. There are many, many techniques that crossover between the two disciplines. So as you can see, the two sports go hand in hand. Most Brazilian Jiu Jitsu schools do incorporate some wrestling into their programs whether the students realize it or not. Some even have separate classes. If you’re one of the lucky people to have a dedicated wrestling class at your school, start participating in the classes and see how much your jiu jitsu game improves.
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