Why You Should Add Wrestling for Self Defense

Table of Contents

When it comes to self defense, there are many different viewpoints and arguments in regards to what is the best style when it comes to self defense. 

There are self defense experts who think it is best to go fully reality based training, some think it is to learn striking only, some people focus on weapons, some people focus on grappling only and all of these have their valid points.

Wrestlers Fighting in the Clinch
Wrestlers Fighting in the Clinch

Today we are not here to convince you that one style is the best for self defense, we are here to let you understand why adding some wrestling to your self defense training is both beneficial and a really good idea in order to be best prepared for a true self defense situation.

Is Wrestling Good for Self Defense

Wrestling is a great addition to a self defense system, it is not the only style of fighting you should have when talking about self defense and there is a good reason why, wrestling is a sport first and foremost.

Due to the fact that wrestling is a sport, it has a rule set and a focus on winning in the sport of wrestling. A self defense situation has no rules and you must use everything you have in order to win the fight.

Another fact is that wrestling does not train you for the scenarios that you may face when trying to defend yourself, for example, the attack may come when you least expect it, it may not be on a soft wrestling mat but on a concrete floor, there may be weapons involved, there may be multiple attackers and it may be in a situation of poor lighting and bead weather.

Does this mean that wrestling is not suited for self defense, absolutely not the case. Wrestling is an amazing art to add to a self defense curriculum, be it Krav Maga, Jeet Kune Do, Combat Sambo, Gracie Jiu-jitsu and more.

You now may be asking yourself what is exactly so good about learning some wrestling for self defense? There are several defining reasons to add wrestling training which we cover below.

Wrestling Front Headlock
Wrestling Front Headlock



Wrestling is All About Control

Wrestling helps you learn how to fight for control of body positioning during a fight and maintaining a dominant position should there be any type of body contact, grab or scramble that can occur during a violent self defense situation.

Wrestler Control Par Terre
Wrestler Control Par Terre

Developing the skills to control an opponent gives you a better ability to to run away, it gives you a better ability to avoid being placed into a bad position, and it gives you the ability to not be pushed into a location you do not want to be in such as a car or into a corner.

The moment someone tries to grab you, you have an alternative to striking the opponent as well as should you get into any type of bear hug you will have the skills to not only get out but to get out with you being in an advantageous position.

Wrestling Scramble for Self Defense

Learning how to scramble properly in a fight is a great attribute to have as it gives you an advantage when a fight goes into absolute pandemonium, it helps you learn how to win position against a resisting opponent. When added to a self defense system such as Krav Maga which advocates fighting dirty and striking vulnerable areas such as the groin, eyes and throat, the addition of wrestling becomes more and more beneficial as it eliminates much of the “what if” as you now have more tools to deal with more scenarios.

Wrestling Scramble
Wrestling Scramble

Scrambling is simply fighting for a dominant position when neither opponent has a dominant position. In a violent fight, this is for sure to be a scenario as fights generally are dirty, violent and unpredictable. Having the ability to deal with unpredictability is a huge benefit to have and wrestling is a great art to bring that attribute into the equation.

Wrestling’s Mentality for Self Defense

Wrestling also teaches you to deal with pressure in the fight for control, this will better help you deal with the emotional and mental aspects of being in a proper fight where your life is in danger, it will better help you not freeze up mentally as well.

Another mental aspect of wrestling is learning how to get up from falling hard, even if it is on concrete, the ability to mentally not slow down from a hard fall is beneficial in a fight. Many times a fight occurs with 2 individuals swinging and hitting each other, then one individual falls over and stops for a second as they are not trained in what to do when the land on the ground, wrestling teaches you to deal with this as you would immediately spring up to base and stand up ready to deliver punishment to your opponent.

Wrestlers Fighting for Position
Wrestlers Fighting for Position

The last element of wrestling mentality is that of aggressiveness. Wrestling is all about being aggressive and dealing with aggression geared towards you. If you learn how to wrestle properly, you will learn how to use aggression to your advantage in a combat situation.

Wrestling is Gross Motor Movement Based

When in a self defense situation, your adrenaline will be pumping and with all that adrenaline pumping a person will find it much harder to perform fine motor movements. 

A good example of this can be seen in the question of the scalpel vs hammer as if you had a full adrenaline pump you would find it much harder to trace the small print of a newspaper with a scalpel than just swing and hit it with a hammer. This can also be seen in effective self defense systems where they focus less on fancy fine motor skills techniques and more on simple gross motor skills movements, as when you find yourself in a bad situation, the body can recall the technique much more easily in order to perform the self defense technique properly.

Wrestling is very gross motor based, with big and generally simple movements that are easy to remember and very easy to perform under pressure, this is why it simply is a great supplemental art to self defense systems as it does not hinder the brain’s performance when being used in a self defence fighting situation.

Wrestling Clinch for Self Defense

Wrestlers are true experts in clinch fighting, they know how to manipulate hands and body position in order to give them the best attacking position as well as theta re masters at defending against the clinch.

Clinch Fighting for Position
Clinch Fighting for Position

There are two main types of wrestling, Freestyle Wrestling and Greco Roman Wrestling and each has its own approach to the clinch. Freestyle will generally use the clinch to attack the legs, achieve a front headlock or get to the back whereas Greco will use the clinch to attain double underhooks (where both arms are under the opponents and hugging the opponent), to gain a front headlock or go to the back of the opponent.

In modern MMA it is common to see Greco Roman Wrestlers use the clinch to enable them to use dirty boxing against an opponent. Dirty boxing is where you entrap an opponent’s limb or head and hit the opponent at the same time. Although it looks very messy, there is a lot of technique involved and it all starts with the Greco Clinch in trapping the opponent.

Working a wrestling clinch also prepares someone for a lot of contact to the head, body and arms as clinch fighting is very physical. This builds up neck strength and resilience as well as it is great conditioning for self defense as it involves a lot of pushing, pulling and changing of directions, all of which happen in a self defence situation.

Wrestling Physical Conditioning is Second to None

The great NFL coach Vince Lombardi one said “fatigue makes cowards of us all” and this is absolutely the truth when it comes to any type of combat.

Wrestling Physical Condition
Wrestling Physical Condition

No matter how well trained you are, how many blackbelts you have, if you are tired you are not as effective at defending yourself. Wrestling is an incredibly difficult activity and by practicing it, you gain not only wrestling skills but wrestling conditioning as well. On top, the warmup and sport-specific conditioning of wrestling make it an excellent conditioning system for fighting, you will be physically prepared should you get into a physical altercation. We do recommend adding some boxing or striking type conditioning in order to help the cardiovascular system and limbs be prepared should you need to throw many strikes.

Wrestling Techniques for Self Defense

Wrestling has a lot of techniques and there are certain techniques that are great for self defense such as working off an underhook, escaping a front headlock, standing double leg takedowns, hip tosses, escaping pins and defending takedowns. 

Some self defense experts will say there is no need to learn these techniques but we at Grapplezilla believe they are absolutely wrong in their assessment. Knowing some wrestling techniques will give you more options to positions you may find yourself in that are hard to get out of. Also sometimes a groin hit or an eye poke may not work on an attacker who is high on drugs such as PCP, so you need options that work off of body mechanics and wrestling gives you these options.

Wrestling’s Weaknesses for Self Defense

It would not be fair to only speak about the pros of wrestling for self defense without speaking about the cons of wrestling for self defense.

Self defense situations are fast, surprising and very violent and sometimes knowing just wrestling is not enough to defend yourself from a serious attack. When training for Self Defense you need to always remember you need to train for the unknown as an attack will always come when you do not want it to.

Wrestling cannot help you when it comes to defending against knives, defending against guns and multiple attackers. There are specific arts that deal with these situations and are much better suited to handle the following situations.

Wrestling also does not teach you how to fight off your back and how to defend against submissions. Yes, wrestling does teach how to scramble out of positions and escape pins but should you only know wrestling and find yourself on your back or in a bad choke, you are going to be in trouble. In this case an art like Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu for self defense would be much better suited for these scenarios.

Multiple Attackers Self Defense
Multiple Attackers Self Defense

Multiple attackers is a huge issue that wrestling has a weakness, generally when facing multiple attackers you want to run away as he who runs away lives to fight another day and in the case you cannot run, you want to strike with the opponents and avoid going to the ground. The one benefit of wrestling is that you will be much harder to take down and much harder to keep down on the ground as you will have the skills to do so.

Dealing with clothed opponents is also a weakness of wrestling as certain grips on your clothes can be a true hindrance when fighting. It could be a hard collar grip on your leather jacket while the attacker is reigning down heavy first on your face and knowing how to deal with these grips is beneficial, an art like Judo or Sambo is much better suited to deal with grips on clothing should they happen.

Last but not least is the fact that it is very rare for a person to be attacked when on soft wrestling mats made for absorbing throws. Fights happen often on hard surfaces such as concrete or gravel and you do not want to shoot for a double leg with your knees scraping all over the concrete. Now it is a double edged sword as if you can throw someone on concrete, it can induce heavy damage on the opponent. It is always a better option not to land on the ground when on a hard surface.

How to Add Wrestling into Self Defense

When adding an extra art into an already existing self defense martial art, you want to make sure you do it correctly and not mix up the practitioner so they end up being confused on what to use in a fight.

Gripping for Self Defense
Gripping for Self Defense

We would recommend first adding basic wrestling fundamentals that will build the attributes that you want when wadding wrestling to your fighting skills. You want to start with getting the body into some type of basic wrestling condition, this means learning to sprawl, lots of hand fighting drills and basic wrestling matches for time.

As the practitioner progresses they then can start adding wrestling as part of the self defense solution into their self defense scenarios they practice. Perhaps it is when someone gets you in a hard headlock, perhaps it is when someone gets you in a hard bear hug or when someone has got on top of you pounding your face in on the ground and you need to get up fast as they have more friends coming to help beat you up. All of these situations will have elements of wrestling that can help better defend yourself, especially when combined with other self defense arts.

It may take a little time but add a bit of wrestling training each class and you will reap the benefits. Start slowly but surely and in each session increase the intensity a little bit more at a pace you are comfortable with.

Final Thoughts

Adding wrestling into your self defense training is a great idea but make sure to do it properly. Learn from a coach who understands why you want to learn how to wrestle and make sure to learn the techniques properly as the small details make a difference and a good wrestling coach will focus on teaching you the small details that count.

Wrestling is not the perfect art for self defense but it is the perfect art to add to your already existing self defense system and is always good to know.

In the End of the day, both learning wrestling for self defense and self defense for grapplers is an integral part to keeping people safe from dangerous attacks on the street. It simply is important.

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