Every practitioner must build a solid game around their play style to improve in BJJ. This includes acknowledging weaknesses in your game. Working on all aspects of your game is admittedly difficult in a grappling art as complex as Jiu-Jitsu. Still, it is worth it as your confidence is but a reflection of your competency in whatever position you are in. If you want to become a dangerous grappler, learning wrestling is an absolute must, no questions about it. In this article, we will discuss why wrestling training improves your BJJ.
How Wrestling Improves Your BJJ
There are different types of wrestling that you can train in. Some of the most common are Freestyle, Greco-Roman, and Folkstyle Wrestling. Regardless of what you choose, training wrestling, in general, will help improve your BJJ in the following areas:
1) Physical Conditioning
Wrestling produces some of the most physically fit athletes. Wrestling training helps build cardio, strength, endurance, agility, and speed. While some BJJ practitioners neglect strength and conditioning, training wrestling tackles this issue effectively. In a setting where both grapplers are equally skilled, the grappler with better conditioning will almost often prevail in a match. Likewise, having a well-conditioned body can help cover the gap in skills between grapplers. What is the use of the mind if your body cannot follow?
A great example of how you can benefit physically from training in wrestling is that it helps you build a stronger base. Having a solid base in the stand-up and on the ground will make it harder for your opponents to sweep and take you down. A common identity of wrestlers transitioning to BJJ is that they are almost impossible to sweep. With years of intense wrestling training, these athletes have built an excellent sense of awareness and balance.
2) Tougher Mentality
Training wrestling helps you build mental toughness and grit. As Dan Gable said, everything else in life is easy once you’ve wrestled. A testament to this is how wrestlers fully commit to their takedowns. You will rarely see a wrestler in a match that is not committed once they’re set for takedowns. If you have a single ounce of doubt in your attempt, it will most likely fail. What wrestling teaches you is to believe in your abilities and continue driving forward even if there are hardships along the way.
Aside from this, wrestling also improves your ability to put pressure on your opponents mentally and physically. This is quite helpful, especially in gi Jiu-Jitsu, as most modern guards are played by controlling the gi to manage the distance. One way to counter modern guards is to do pressure passes and smash your way in. Overall, wrestling builds your ability to deal with pressure as your opponent constantly attacks and looks for countless ways to control you.
3) Better Takedowns
Takedowns are, unfortunately, one of the lagging areas of BJJ. Usually, BJJ practitioners cross-train to other stand-up dominant grappling martial arts like wrestling to get better with takedowns. While there may be a risk of getting caught with submissions like the guillotine when doing specific takedowns, training wrestling will help you recognise these dangers and teach you the adjustments you can make to prevent them. This, in turn, enables you to set your takedowns properly for BJJ. Besides the threat of submissions, the difference in the ruleset also prohibits some takedowns in BJJ. This allows you to work on takedowns that are legal for the sport.
In relation to takedowns, getting good at it will make you a better guard passer and, thus, improve your top game. As the main objective in wrestling is to pin the opponent on the mat, training in this mentality is an advantage when adapted to BJJ. It will change your mentality to directly transition to a dominant position like side control right after a successful takedown. Staying active with a go-to plan is the cure to a grappler’s timidity, which some BJJ practitioners fall into in their matches.
In connection with the one mentioned above, learning wrestling will make it difficult for opponents to take you down on the mat. Unless pulling guard is your first option, which is acceptable in a BJJ setting, learning takedown defence comes in handy in preventing the opponent from scoring extra points against you.
When led on, getting taken down instantly leaves the opponent a window to directly pass your guard and advance to a dominant position, as you will need a second to recover your guard.
A good takedown defence also allows you to set up submissions like the different arm triangle chokes as well as the guillotine, a typical submission BJJ practitioners use when facing formidable wrestlers. Even more so, wrestling teaches you how to fall and land safely from strong takedowns, which is critical in avoiding injuries. Adding breakfalls (also known as ukemi in Judo) in your warm-ups comes a long way in injury prevention; it is an essential skill to be familiar with. In general, wrestling helps you build stronger hips, which you can use for defence and applying heavier top control.
5) Hand Fighting
A skill every grappler must develop is the art of hand fighting. All matches start with the initial grip. Getting good grips allows you to impose your techniques on the opponent while restricting their ability to do the same to you. Strong grips can prevent opponents from moving forward with their technique. As John Danaher said, the initial grip fight is one of the determining factors responsible for the outcome of a match. While some practitioners ignore this aspect of fighting as it is not visually attractive, you must develop this skill to set up your attacks effectively. Altogether, training wrestling improves your hand-fighting ability, which can be used as a setup for your attacks and to control the opponent.
Wrestling is one of the best, if not the best, weapon you can add to improve your Jiu-Jitsu. Not only does it enhances you physically and mentally, but it improves your technical advancement as well. Try a wrestling class at least once weekly to see how it boosts your game.
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