Should I Learn Judo or Wrestling Takedowns for BJJ?

If you are like many other Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu athletes and have developed your BJJ game pretty much absent any training of takedowns, you are not alone. In order to fill that gap, many athletes including myself look to fill in the gaps with training in either wrestling or Judo, but which style of takedown works best in BJJ?

Wrestling takedowns are better than Judo takedowns to supplement your BJJ training since it is comparatively easier to execute the basics and less risky to execute in the context of jiu-jitsu competitions and training.

Let’s take a look at some of the key points for both wrestling and Judo style takedowns and see how each would fit in the context of jiu-jitsu so that you can make your own training decisions in regards to adding takedowns from either discipline.

Wrestling and Judo Have Different Grappling Rulesets

BJJ, wrestling, and Judo have fundamentally different goals and rulesets so there will not be a one-to-one value transfer training in either wrestling or Judo for jiu-jitsu. However, if we examine how wrestling and Judo each work, we can set up a framework to understand how skills transfer from Judo and wrestling to jiu-jitsu and try to make an educated guess on how to best add takedowns from each martial art to jiu-jitsu.

Modern Judo

Judo has evolved over time to become a somewhat restrictive grappling sport.

Let’s take a quick look at some of the changes that have happened over time that cause some issues in creating a good transfer of standing skills from Judo to jiu-jitsu.

  1. Restricted Grips – judokas are required to use “standard” gripping for any grips over 5 seconds, which essentially means same-side grips for both judokas. This eliminates a host of other options like arm drags that are common in grappling.
  2. No Leg Grabs – since 2010 you are not allowed to use hands below the waistline to perform a takedown. Traditional moves like “Morote Gari,” a type of double leg takedown have essentially stopped being taught since it does not apply to sport Judo. Ignoring grips on half of the body will result in some holes in your standing game if you rely solely on Judo.
  3. Grip Breaking Rules – you are not allowed to use two hands on one to break grips, which is a staple grip-breaking technique in jiu-jitsu. Not practicing these skills in a takedown situation could result in some disadvantages.

Wrestling

Wrestling is less restrictive from the standing position. A wrestler is allowed to grab both an opponent’s upper and lower body with their hands to perform takedowns.

Some basic examples of wrestling moves that transfer over to the BJJ ruleset at a nearly one-to-one level of value are single and double legs, ankle picks, arm drags, and duck-unders.

In general, moves practiced in the wrestling ruleset will transfer over without a need for too many adjustments to the BJJ ruleset.

For more about how to learn wrestling as an adult check out How To Learn Wrestling as an Adult.

Use of the Gi in Takedowns: Judo vs Wrestling

The inclusion of a gi changes the situation for takedowns from a standing position. The amount of friction and control allowed through manipulating the gi is not something that can be ignored in a grappling match.

In Judo they make use of the gi judiciously and will frequently attack for grip dominance and off-balancing their opponent. In isolation, a skilled judoka will have an advantage in being able to establish control on their opponents through grip fighting to attack throws and other takedowns.

Wrestlers will be unfamiliar with maximizing the use of a gi while attacking takedowns since their sport does not allow the use of fabric grips at all. If a wrestler is able to utilize their takedowns before gi grips are established most of their takedown skills will translate. They may struggle if gi grips are involved against a skilled opponent, however.

Minimum Expertise Required to Effectively Execute Judo vs Wrestling

Judo developed as a traditional martial art that involves theoretical and practical concepts to break down takedowns while learning.

One of these concepts, the most basic one, is the one of Kuzushi (off-balancing), which involves a long-term commitment to practicing high repetition partial movement drills in order to learn specific functions of the feet, each hand, feet, and even the head to off-balance in many directions.

Most judokas will require several months to practice the eight directions of the Kuzushi before beginning to develop expertise in their chosen Judo takedowns.

Wrestling is a whole different animal in that somebody can spend a few hours working on a “basic shot” for a double leg or single leg takedown and succeed against an unskilled opponent. The same cannot be said for an aspiring judoka attempting an “O-Soto-Gari” takedown against a resisting opponent after only a few hours of training.

Judo vs Wrestling Takedowns: Positional Risks in BJJ

Another important factor in making this decision is considering the positional risks that can happen when executing either Judo-style takedowns or Wrestling-style takedowns.

Judokas commonly use techniques like Uchi Mata and Seoi Nage when practicing Judo. Both techniques are done in such a way that you end up turning your back on your opponent. If not executed well, this situation can easily get out of hand if your opponent manages to take your back, giving up points and putting yourself in a dangerous position.

Since Judo is already more difficult to learn how to execute, adding in the risk of getting your back taken makes it not seem like it’s not the best option for an average BJJ athlete looking to add a few takedowns to their game.

However, it is possible for an aspiring judoka to practice judo techniques that have a better carryover to jiu-jitsu, but they would need to train Judo with their jiu-jitsu in their mind. For example, practicing sacrifice throws may be prudent if you can simply slow into some form of open guard that you like if you fail your throw.

Wrestlers tend to have their takedown skills translated over without too many adjustments being required. They might have issues with getting caught in chokes that do not exist in the wrestling ruleset. Guillotines and other chokes can occur that take advantage of head positioning. After some basic head positioning adjustments and awareness wrestling takedowns will typically work normally.

Judo and Wrestling Takedown Follow Through

In competition, a judoka’s goal is typically to maneuver into a position that maximizes their ability to explosively perform a single takedown that results in an ippon. With this goal in mind, the judoka will spend comparatively little training time fighting for position after the takedown is completed. This is insufficient in the context of a BJJ match in which movement continues after a takedown has been completed.

In a wrestling competition, an explosive takedown will occur, and instead of stopping the action like an ippon would in Judo, a wrestler will need to complete additional dynamic move sequences to control and attack their opponent. This is far more similar to jiu-jitsu. In fact, many of these movements overlap with fundamental top-side attacking pressure.

Should I Do Judo or Wrestling for No-Gi BJJ?

Judo and wrestling are both effective martial arts for takedowns, but if you put it into the context of no-gi jiu-jitsu and MMA, wrestling is the superior base.

If you have limited time to train I would consider taking private lessons with a judoka or wrestler, I discuss how to get the most out of private lessons in this post and recommend checking it out.

The reason wrestling is superior for no-gi jiu-jitsu and MMA is that Judo is not as immediately useful out of the box. Most Judo schools practice exclusively in the gi. That does not mean that a good judoka is helpless without a gi. A skilled judoka will have excellent balance and will be able to modify their throws and techniques with different natural grips. However, this takes extra time to do.

It is important to think about this in the proper context. If you are fundamentally thinking about choosing takedowns that maximally help you as a no-gi BJJ player or a mixed martial artist that wants to incorporate a few techniques to build out your standing grappling game, you are better off practicing takedowns in something closer to your fighting conditions. This means wrestling since it does not include a gi and more closely mimics the situation you are training for.

Final Thoughts

Wrestling and Judo are both fantastic martial arts and can both be incorporated into your overall jiu-jitsu game. If you are interested in doing Judo, then pursue that sport. If you are interested in learning wrestling, then go learn wrestling!

If you are strictly looking for the best bang for your buck in training time you should lean towards learning some wrestling-style takedowns. Not only is it easier to execute wrestling takedowns with less training time, but wrestling training also tends to integrate a bit more seamlessly into a jiu-jitsu situation than Judo does based on some of the common dynamics that happen after the takedown occurs.

For more check out Does BJJ Include Throws in Training? and Can You Suplex in BJJ? | Putting Your Opponents Behind You

Andre

Hi, I'm Andre and I am the author of this website. I have always been fascinated with martial arts and train them as often as I can. I currently train primarily in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu and train judo and wrestling as secondary martial arts. I help to coach a kid's grappling program that blends all three martial arts. I hope that you find the value that you are looking for in the articles on this website.

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