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Wednesday, July 24, 2024

Grappling vs Wrestling: Key Differences (Definition Dependent)


The money in wrestling comes in the form of professional wrestling, such as the WWE, AEW, and Impact Wrestling. However, professional wrestling is purely for entertainment and isn’t a combat sport. The main difference between grappling and wrestling is grappling is the umbrella term for combat where two fighters grab each other, of which there are many types, whereas wrestling is a type of grappling, designed as a combat sport with its own specific set of rules and techniques.

Grappling vs Wrestling

Let’s now look at the difference between grappling and wrestling when grappling refers to the combat sport. Let’s look at the difference between grappling and wrestling when grappling refers to the umbrella term and as a combat sport. In this article, we’ll examine grappling vs wrestling by going over the key differences depending on how grappling is defined.

Grappling as an Umbrella Term

Submission holds secure the win as they lead to tapout or verbal tapout. Referees stop the bout to disqualify a grappler, or when a grappler’s in imminent danger, a grappler’s gone unconscious, or a grappler’s unable to continue due to injury. Submission grappling is the combat sport most synonymous with grappling because of all the types of grappling it incorporates. Submission grappling incorporates techniques from: Submission grappling has recently become more commercialized with its 2018 introduction in ONE Championship, the second-largest MMA and combat sports promotion globally. 

  • Judo
  • Wrestling
  • Submission grappling (combat sport/martial art)
  • Brazilian jiu-jitsu
  • Japanese jiu-jitsu
  • Sambo

For example, in greco-roman wrestling, combatants aren’t allowed to attack the opponent below the belt. They can’t grab an opponent’s legs or use their own legs for any technique. For ease of understanding, it’s the same as striking being the umbrella term for many striking martial arts and combat sports, of which kickboxing is one. Within grappling, the most popular martial arts/combat sports are:

  • Freestyle wrestling (Olympics)
  • Greco-Roman wrestling (Olympics)
  • Folkstyle wrestling (collegiate)
  • Catch wrestling
  • Sumo wrestling
  • Professional wrestling (WWE)
  • Mongolian wrestling (Bökh)

Are you wondering what the difference between wrestling and grappling is? While grappling is the main umbrella term, wrestling is also an umbrella term for the many different types which fall under it, with the most common being:

Grappling as a Combat Sport (Submission Grappling vs Wrestling)

To further illustrate the point, within mixed martial arts (MMA) there’s a lot of grappling involved. This grappling mostly comes from judo, wrestling, and Brazilian jiu-jitsu. This makes submission grappling more technique focused, as grapplers can win from their back and other disadvantageous positions.

1. How They Win

Wrestlers wear singlets with compression shorts and a cup underneath for groin protection. They also wear specialized wrestling shoes to protect their feet and ankles from injury. On the other hand, submission grapplers win via submission hold, points, or referee stoppage. 

  • Takedowns
  • Turns
  • Throws 
  • Counters 
  • Forcing an opponent out of the mat (1 point)

Wrestling is more focused on strength and controlling an opponent for advantageous positioning, as this allows a wrestler to either pin their opponent or score points in the above ways. Wrestling focuses on takedowns, takedown defense, clinch fighting, and positions on the ground, judo focuses on throws from the standing position, and Brazilian jiu-jitsu focuses on ground grappling in terms of positioning and submissions. Submission grappling is a lot more inclusive and less restrictive on techniques and styles, whereas wrestling is restricted to each type of wrestling in terms of rules and techniques allowed. For example, Olympic wrestling such as freestyle and greco-roman don’t allow any submission holds. On the other hand, wrestling includes only what’s allowed within that specific type of wrestling, whether it be freestyle, greco-roman, or sumo wrestling.

2. How Inclusive They Are

When grappling is referred to as a combat sport, it’s mostly submission grappling which is meant. The difference between submission grappling and wrestling comes down to the difference in rules, techniques, and other things between the two combat sports.

  • Sambo
  • Luta Livre
  • Catch wrestling
  • Folk wrestling
  • Greco-roman wrestling
  • Freestyle wrestling
  • Brazilian jiu-jitsu

Both greco-roman and freestyle wrestlers win by pinning an opponent’s shoulders on the mat for 1 second, which means they’re on their back. They can also win via points (technical superiority), which in greco-roman is an 8-point lead, and in freestyle wrestling it’s 10. With their ruleset, submission grapplers have one 12-minute round and can only win via submission. Fights end in a draw if neither grappler has been submitted. Essentially, this rule change makes the submission grappling contest much more aggressive as both continuously attempt submissions. So ‘grappling vs wrestling: what is the difference?’

3. What They Wear

When grappling refers to a combat sport, it’s most often referring to submission grappling. The difference between submission grappling and wrestling is submission grapplers win via points and submissions (joint locks and chokes), whereas wrestlers win via points and pinning an opponent. Submission grapplers aren’t allowed to wear cups because they can potentially injure the opponent when applying submissions. Cups/groin protection also acts as a fulcrum point for extra leverage during armbar submissions. The difference between grappling and wrestling is grappling is the umbrella term for martial arts/combat sports where combatants grab each other, while wrestling is a type of grappling, designed as a martial art and combat sport with its own specific set of rules and techniques.

4. Commercialization

However, while grappling mostly refers to the umbrella term, it can also refer to the combat sport of grappling. The different types of wrestling have different purposes, such as competition, entertainment, money, or discipline. Because of this, they have slightly different rules, techniques, and settings. Points are scored many ways, but can be split into 5 main categories: Essentially, submission grapplers can use varying throws, trips, sweeps, clinches, and submissions from all of the above combat sports/martial arts – it’s less restricted. Not only techniques, but it’s the varying styles of fighting they use that separate submission grappling from one specific type of wrestling.

The Bottom Line

On the other hand, the combat sport of wrestling isn’t commercialized. It’s huge in terms of collegiate wrestling (folkstyle) in the USA, and freestyle and greco-roman wrestling at the Olympics, but there isn’t much money involved. The major difference between grappling and wrestling, as mentioned above, is grappling is the umbrella term for all types of grappling martial arts and combat sports, of which wrestling is one. So, here are the 4 key differences between submission grappling vs wrestling. Submission grapplers wear grappling shorts and/or spats for their lower body, and rash guards for their upper body.

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