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Is Wrestling Good For Self Defense?

Last Updated: 15.05.22


Your New Year’s resolution this year was learning self-defense techniques, so you got your youth wrestling shoes, from your short days of doing wrestling in high school and you’re ready to roll. The problem is, you’re not exactly sure whether this is the best martial art to learn just for knowing how to protect yourself.

Since we always like to help, here’s an article about how much wrestling can help you in an everyday-life-type of situation and other variables if you are faced with a street fight in which you have to defend yourself.


A Little Bit Of History

What history teaches us is that until approximately mid 20th century, all forms of fighting involved some usage of wrestling in their techniques. Therefore, it’s safe to say that this sport has earned its place into the gallery of combat forms which can be used for self-defense.

What changed, though, is the influence that a lot of Asian styles now have on the western types of fighting and on what western people will regularly turn towards when it comes to learning how to defend themselves. These exotic arts like Judo, Jiu Jitsu, and Karate have enraptured the minds of Americans and Europeans alike, especially through movies.

Even if you’ve never seen “The Karate Kid”, once-in-a-generation action actors have made sure that these types of fighting are what people will usually look at first. As an irony, there’s now an even newer generation of styles that claimed its place at the top of the list such as Brazilian Jiu Jitsu and Krav Maga. Nobody really talks about wrestling as the “to-go” form for self-defense.

The reasons for this are not always very clear. Maybe it’s the popularity of the Asian culture, maybe it’s the tons of flashy moves that these styles employ or maybe, just maybe, this is because wrestling at its core is really hard to learn and practice. Built in a unique way, the art of wrestling is a more primitive fighting style with two people grappling each other in order to win the fight.

There’s a raw emotion involved and a level of personal contact that can easily scare away those would-be practitioners that would like to come just for taking a few self-defense classes. Not to mention that, to many people, rolling around on a mat would seem counterproductive and like the thing they want to avoid doing by learning how to defend themselves.



Can Wrestling Help Me?

As we said, wrestling definitely has its place when it comes to defending from an attack. It would be hard for it not to since this sport pretty much requires controlling and manhandling your opponent until you hold him with both shoulders on the ground for three seconds, using nothing but your hands and your entire body.

When somebody comes and grabs you from behind, a simple Standing Switch, which is a basic wrestling move, should be good enough to take care of them and allow you to move forward by controlling the fight. Since combat on the street is pretty much done between untrained people and will usually get to the ground, a lot of the moves taught in wrestling can be useful.

Also, keep in mind that your regular drunken assailant is not a trained fighter so will most likely get tired and gas out pretty quickly. Doing wrestling provides you with attributes like explosiveness and endurance, both of which are great to have in a fight. However, even these don’t last forever and eventually both of you will get tired if it lasts long enough.

Someone trained in the art of wrestling will know how to change these fight levels, how to handle when someone is in a clinch with them and, especially important, how to get the fight to the ground and control it from there with a minimum risk of injury for himself and his opponent.

Another reason why wrestling can work is that it is considered the framework for modern grappling arts such as Judo or Brazilian Jiu Jitsu. Even though they are not by any means identical, the basic moves often are the same so a wrestling student who would like to diversify their studies will find an easier time in those arts.


How Is Wrestling Different From Other Martial Arts?

Even though wrestling, judo, and even Brazilian Jiu Jitsu focus on taking down your opponent, there are still fundamental differences between them. However, when it comes to self-defense, it will be up to you to learn what style best suits your needs and ability to fight. For example, wrestling moves involve preparation and making use of strength as well as technique to overpower your opponent.

Practices such as BJJ and judo, on the other hand, have been built to allow smaller persons to deal with large attackers. The reason for this is that while wrestling can require some time to set up the moves, judo techniques, for example, are fairly quick. The weakness, on the other hand, is the extreme amount of time required to properly learn judo compared to wrestling.

When it comes to Brazilian jiu-jitsu, the difference between them is the final goal of each one, which has affected how both of them have evolved. While competitional wrestling requires you to pin your opponent for three seconds, BJJ aims toward placing them in a lock or hold so painful that they have to tap out.

Therefore, where wrestling requires strength, BJJ will require skill and good technique. As we said, neither are better or worse than the other, especially for self-defense, so opt for one of them depending on the abilities, type of body and amount of time that you possess.


Wrestling Qualities That Are Good For Self-Defense

Being a long time wrestling practitioner will award you certain qualities that will certainly be useful in a situation where you have to defend yourself. Due to the nature of the sport, you will be forced to develop your leverage, balance, explosive power and technical knowledge, all of which can help you defend yourself should the need ever arise.



There’s a saying from a legendary wrestling champion, Dan Gable, that can be a very good explanation for this: “Once you have wrestled, everything else in life is easy”. Therefore, it should be easy to imagine the amount of punishment that this sport puts you through, both mentally and physically, to make everything else in life just a little easier to do.

You can be sure that after wrestling for a while you will not fear a confrontation. More than that, as people tend to get more advanced in any martial art, they tend to avoid fighting outside the gym and it’s easier for them to do so. After some time, your posture will improve, your stride will be more powerful, your gaze will be more firm.

Wrestling forces you to hold yourself personally accountable because you have nobody to blame for the end result but yourself. This way, you will become a more rational person who will think twice before doing anything rash. You will also learn the importance of humility and be able to relate with other people better, diminishing your chances of conflict.

As you can see, wrestling can be a good form of self-defense, both in the fighting-capabilities department and in the mental one. While not an answer to every kind of situation, it is definitely a good sport to practice and it will improve your ability to defend yourself.



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