Is Greco Roman Wrestling A Martial Art?

There are so many different types of wrestling out there, each with its own set of rules. It can be confusing understanding the differences. You may have heard of Greco Roman wrestling but are probably looking for a bit more information on the unusual wrestling style. So in this article we will breakdown all you need to know about Greco Roman wrestling.

Is Greco Roman wrestling a martial art? Yes, Greco Roman wrestling is a martial art as it is a system of physical movements that can be used to defend yourself. Greco Roman is a powerful martial art as it teaches throws that if executed on a hard surface such as concrete can easily knock an attacker unconscious and or break bones.

What Is Greco Roman Style Wrestling?

What is Greco Roman style wrestling? Greco Roman style wrestling is a form of wrestling originally from France where you can not make contact with the legs either by grabbing or tripping. You are only allowed to take your opponent down using upper body attacks. Points are awarded for takedowns and back exposure and pins result in instant victory.

Funnily enough Greco Roman wrestling is neither Greek or Italian. It does not have any connection to the great ancient civilizations. Instead, it was purported to be invented by a Napoleonic soldier Jean Exbrayat who came with the style and would travel to different carnivals challenging local men to wrestling matches for money.

In 18th and 19th century Europe it became popular for people to connect modern concepts to the ancient Greek or Roman tradition in a way to legitimize their endeavors and create a link between European society and the founders of many European traditions and institutions. These links were often flimsy at best. It is purported that the term Greco Roman wrestling was coined by Italian wrestler Basilio Bartoletti who saw the sport as continuation of ancient masculine values however Greco Roman wrestling is vastly different to ancient Greek wrestling.

In ancient Greek wrestling not only could you grab the legs but you could use submission holds such as chokes and arm locks. Even bending an opponent’s fingers was a common and effective technique. All these techniques are explicitly banned in Greco Roman wrestling.

Is Greco Roman Wrestling Good For Self Defense?

Here Is A Video Showing How Effective Greco Roman Wrestling Can Be In A Self Defense Situation

The potential for serious injury is very high so you should only go for big throws if it is a life or death situation as you could seriously injure your attacker which could lead to you facing heavy jail time.

Is Greco Roman wrestling good for self defense? Yes, Greco Roman wrestling is good for self defense. Greco Roman wrestlers stand in an upright stance similar to a fighting stance and are experts at executing takedowns from the clinch which is a common position in self defense. Greco Roman wrestling will teach you how to powerfully throw opponents with enough force to knock them out.

Freestyle and folkstyle wrestlers typically stand in a bent over stance. This a very unnatural way to stand and is not how people stand as they walk around or when they engage in a fight. This bent over stance makes you vulnerable to kicks and punches. In contrast Greco Roman wrestlers stand in an upright stance similar to a fighting stance. In a self defense situation Greco Roman wrestlers are much more common engaging in wrestling as they are use to standing in a fighting stance.

Greco Roman wrestling focuses on throws and suplexes (back arching throws). Throws generate a large amount of force and send opponents flying through the air. These throws when executed on a hard surface such as concrete can easily lead to a knockout allowing you to quickly win a fight.

The average person in a street fight will not know how to defend against a Greco Roman throw or how to land properly and even if they did know how to land properly taking a big throw on concrete is still going to result in some serious injuries such as broken shoulders, arms or ribs. Greco Roman wrestling will make you an expert at launching people through the air so if you get into a self defense situation you will have no problem throwing your attacker and quickly ending the fight.

Is Greco Roman Wrestling Good For MMA?

Is Greco Roman wrestling good for MMA? Yes, Greco Roman wrestling is good for MMA. A number of Greco Roman wrestlers such as Randy Couture, Chael Sonnen and Dan Henderson have had great MMA careers. The clinch is a common position in MMA and Greco Roman wrestling will make you an expert at controlling and taking down your opponent from this position.

Wrestling is very effective in MMA. A wrestler can dictate where a fight takes place. If a wrestler is fighting a striker they can take the fight to the ground. If they are fighting a submission expert they can keep the fight standing. Taking an opponent to the ground, pinning them and punching them until the ref steps is a highly effective strategy as it takes away any attacking opportunity from the opponent and it utilizes the strengths of a wrestler.

Chael Sonnen believes the reason many Greco Roman wrestlers have had success in MMA is because of Greco Roman wrestling’s upright stance. The Greco Roman stance is very similar to the one used in MMA. Greco Roman wrestlers are comfortable attacking from this stance and do not need to alter their setups and attacks to adapt to MMA like folkstyle and freestyle wrestlers do.

Chael Sonnen Explains “Why have Greco-Roman wrestlers done better in MMA than Freestyle?”

Is Greco Roman Wrestling Better Than BJJ?

Is Greco Roman wrestling better than BJJ? Greco Roman wrestling is better than BJJ in terms of takedowns and athleticism. Greco Roman wrestlers are known for being incredibly strong and experts at throwing their opponents. However, as Greco Roman wrestling does not have submissions BJJ is better in terms of learning submissions and finishing fights effectively.

Greco Roman wrestling has some key advantages and disadvantages compared to BJJ.


  • Takedowns – Greco Roman wrestlers are experts at takedowns (particularly big throws), a Greco Roman wrestler will easily be able to throw a BJJ athlete, many BJJ athlete do not know how to land safely and may be injured from being thrown
  • Strength and Athleticism – Greco Roman wrestlers spend hours everyday picking up and throwing resisting opponents, they combine this training with weightlifting and body weight exercises, this results in Greco Roman wrestlers being incredibly strong and explosive, Greco Roman wrestlers are typically much stronger and more athletic than BJJ athletes,
  • Clinch – Greco Roman wrestlers typically attack from the clinch, they are masters at the clinch, the clinch is a common position in fighting and if you tie up with a Greco Roman wrestling there is a good chance you go flying and end up with your feet over your head


  • No submissions – All submissions are banned in Greco Roman wrestling, wrestlers have no knowledge of how to defend or use submissions, this makes it very easy for BJJ athletes to submit Greco Roman wrestlers, particularly if they pull guard and the wrestler unknowingly jumps on top of the BJJ athlete
  • Lack of easy way to finish Fight – Greco Roman wrestlers can finish fights by knocking out their opponent with a big throw but this is not always possible, the lack of submissions in wrestling can make it difficult for wrestlers to finish a fight
  • No leg attacks – Double and single leg takedowns are the most common takedown in MMA and BJJ, these are prohibited in Greco Roman, this makes Greco Roman wrestlers vulnerable to being taken down from leg attacks

Is Greco Roman Wrestling Effective?

is Greco Roman wrestling effective? Yes, Greco Roman wrestling is effective in both a street fight and MMA. Greco Roman wrestling will make you very strong and teach you how to throw your opponent effortlessly. You can modify Greco Roman throws so your opponent will land on their head resulting in a knockout.


Greco Roman wrestling is a highly effective martial art which we have seen many high level MMA fighters utilize. You can also find street fight videos where Greco Roman suplexes have been used with devastating effect. The fact that Greco Roman wrestling does not have leg attacks or submissions does make these wrestlers susceptible to double, single leg takedowns and submissions. However, when Greco Roman wrestling is combined with BJJ it becomes a highly effective base.

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