There is an ongoing debate between the grappling arts concerning which is the better martial art. Some claim wrestling is superior because all fights start on the feet and a big slam can easily knock an attacker out. While others think BJJ is the better art because it gives you multiple weapons to quickly end a fight.
Is Wrestling Harder Than BJJ?
Wrestling is harder than BJJ. Wrestling has a higher injury rate, requires more athleticism and is physically more taxing. Wrestling is more competitive, winning an Olympic gold medal in wrestling is far more difficult than winning the BJJ world championships or ADCC.
Every way you look at it wrestling is harder than BJJ. The perfect proof of this is to look at the career of Nick Rodriguez. Rodriguez won a silver medal at the ADCC championships in 2019 after only training BJJ for 1 year.
He grew up training wrestling in New Jersey, where he was a very good but not elite high school wrestler. He racked up over 100 wins in his career before wrestling for 1 year at a DIII college. While Rodriguez was a good wrestler he was nothing special and nowhere world level.
Despite that Rodriguez was able to successfully compete in BJJ with limited training and earn a silver medal at the toughest BJJ competition in the world, ADCC.
There is no chance that a BJJ athlete could train wrestling for 1 year and compete in the wrestling world championships and earn a silver medal. I would bet serious money that they wouldn’t make it out of the first round let alone get to the final.
Wrestling is just a far more competitive sport than BJJ. BJJ has far fewer serious athletes training the sport, there are much fewer kids training and there is a lack of high performance systems that are geared at nurturing and developing talent.
BJJ is focused more on being a hobby and making money for gym owners. Whereas wrestling is all about producing champions and Olympic medalists. The training environments are just completely different. While some BJJ gyms are highly competitive these are in the minority while for wrestling the opposite is true.
Is Wrestling Or BJJ More Dangerous?
Wrestling is far more dangerous than BJJ. Wrestling has an injury rate of 13.1 per 1000 exposures while BJJ has an injury rate of 9.2 per 1000 exposures.
You may expect that because BJJ has submissions that it would be more dangerous than wrestling. However, BJJ is the safer sport because it occurs at a slower speed than wrestling.
Wrestling requires far more explosiveness than BJJ. These explosive movements often lead to injuries particularly in the knees, back, shoulders and neck.
While BJJ also places significant stress on the knees, back, shoulders and neck wrestling is even more damaging to these areas of the body, largely because of the higher amounts of forced involved in wrestling.
In wrestling, most of the action occurs when the athletes are standing which allows the athletes to generate more force as they drive off the mat with their legs. This greater force leads to bigger impacts which are more likely to cause injury. While in BJJ athletes are mostly fighting on the ground where the amount of power they can exert is seriously limited.
Are Wrestlers More Athletic Than BJJ Athletes?
Wrestlers are more athletic than BJJ athletes. Wrestlers spend more time performing strength and conditioning to develop their athleticism. Wrestlers typically outperform BJJ athletes in strength and speed.
As wrestling is a far more popular sport than BJJ there are more freak athletes training. For example if there are 10 times more people training wrestling than BJJ you can also expect there to be 10 times the amount of freak athletes in wrestling compared to BJJ.
This is not the only reason wrestlers are more athletic than BJJ athletes. Many BJJ athletes started training as adults while most wrestlers started training as children. Growing up training a sport as a child gives you a serious athletic advantage as your body molds to the sport as you develop.
Wrestling is also much more focused on strength and conditioning than BJJ. After every wrestling training session it is common for wrestlers to be doing rope climbs, smashing out pull ups, pushups, dips and situps.
Wrestlers will also do specialized strength and conditioning workouts where they perform sprints and lift weights. While BJJ athletes also do similar workouts it is not emphasized as much as it is in wrestling.
Wrestling warm ups are much more intense than BJJ warm ups. A BJJ warm up may last for 15 minutes and involve some very basic movements. While a wrestling warm up is far more extensive. A typical wrestling warm up will last for 30 minutes it will involve training speed, strength, flexibility, specific wrestling movements and general athleticism.
A standard wrestling warm will start with some jogging combined with dynamic stretching such as high knees and kickbacks. Then it will usually involve some speed workout such as sprinting.
Then wrestlers will do work on their general athleticism by performing gymnastic movements and work on their wrestling skills by performing wrestling movements such as sprawls and shots. The warm-up will finish with some strength work such as push-ups and neck exercises combined with some static stretching to improve flexibility.
The far more thorough warm up that wrestlers do compare to BJJ athletes adds up over the years and results in wrestlers displaying higher levels of athleticism.
You combine this with the greater amount of freak athletes in wrestling due to higher participation rates and the greater focus on strength and conditioning and the result is a distinct difference in athleticism between BJJ players and wrestlers.