"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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Stop by and try out one of our classes in Downers Grove. First class is alway free.
If you live in Chicagoland and train jiu jitsu, or are thinking about starting, you are lucky to be living in such an exciting time in such a great area. While Chicago is not quite the mecca of BJJ that California is, we’ve come a long way in the past decade.
Chicago, and the Midwest as a whole, has always been home to grapplers as tough as the local winters. There are many decorated wrestling champions with roots from this area. The Midlands, one of wrestling’s most prestigious tournaments, is held at Northwestern University every December. But Brazilian Jiu Jitsu is a fairly new grappling sport that has experienced tremendous local growth over the past few years.
Back when I started in 2002, I could probably count the number of black belts in the area on one hand. And choosing a school was a lot simpler because you didn’t have many choices. You just had to be willing to drive at least half an hour, and many times longer, to be able to train with a legitimate instructor. Now there are three schools within five miles of my house.
For competitions, there were only a few very small tournaments usually held at a local school. You were lucky to see a couple of purple belts competing. If you wanted something on the regional or national stage, you had to travel to Ohio for the Arnold’s Gracie Worlds which was held once a year or fly out to California for the Pan Ams.
Fast forward to 2015; there are pockets of Chicagoland where there are schools within a few miles from each other. Homegrown black belts are now plentiful and eager to share their years of experience. Schools have grown from individual dojos to a massive network of teams and affiliations.
The tournament scene has exploded as well. There’s a competition almost every month; from smaller promotions like NAGA, U.S. Grappling and New Breed, to the IBJJF Chicago Open which is considered by many to be “the big show”.
It’s certainly made moving easier. Although sticking with your school is ideal, often times moving too far just doesn’t make it possible. Now instead of quitting or cutting down on training, you’re more likely to find a school in your new neighborhood than you were in the past. And if you’re part of a big team, there may even be an affiliate school in the area.
There are a lot more options when looking for a school to fit your needs. Each school has their own vibe and atmosphere. Some are more competitive focused. Some are more family oriented. Some are stricter and very traditional. While others are more laid back. Now you can try out several schools within a reasonable distance to make sure the one you ultimately choose is the perfect fit. There's no need to settle for less than what you expect.
As a consumer, it’s great to have all these great options. And as an instructor, it pushes you to provide the best BJJ product you can deliver. All in all, this growth has really upped the level of Brazilian Jiu Jitsu in Chicago and its surrounding suburbs. For those of you just starting, relish the fact that many have laid the groundwork for this journey you’re about to take. Realize you’re now part of a subculture with a very rich recent history that you can actually trace. For those of you that have been part of it all a long, be proud of the local scene you helped to create.
Now let's all enjoy every minute of our time on the mat.
Looking for a Brazilian Jiu Jitsu school in the western suburbs of Chicago? Make sure you put Bodhi Collaborative BJJ at CounterStrike MMA on your list of schools to try. We’re conveniently located in Downers Grove just off I-355 and I-88, so it’s a short ride from surrounding areas such as Bolingbrook, Wheaton, Addison, Oak Brook, Naperville, Lisle, as well as all the surrounding areas.
Contact us today to set up a free trial class!