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Is Wrestling a Martial Art?

is wrestling a martial art?

Wrestling, an ancient and revered form of combat, is often debated regarding its classification as a martial art. To address this question comprehensively, we must delve into the definition of martial arts, the history of Wrestling, its techniques and skills, and compare it with other well-known martial arts.

Defining Martial Arts

A martial art can be defined as a traditional or contemporary system of combat practices designed for self-defense, physical fitness, competition, or mental and spiritual development. These practices typically include physical techniques—such as strikes, blocks, and grappling—and mental and ethical components like discipline, respect, and perseverance. Despite various disciplines and philosophies, martial arts aim to hone the practitioner’s skills and character.

History of Wrestling as a Combat Sport

Wrestling is one of the oldest forms of combat, often considered the “world’s oldest sport.” Its roots span various ancient civilizations, each contributing to the diverse styles and techniques within Wrestling:

  • Ancient Greek and Roman Wrestling: Known as Greco-Roman wrestling, this form influenced the modern Olympic sport. It emphasizes throwing and holding without using the legs.
  • Pankration: An ancient Greek martial art that combined Wrestling and boxing, demonstrating the integration of grappling techniques into combat sports.
  • Asian Influence: Wrestling’s grappling and throwing techniques were integrated into systems like Judo, Jiu-Jitsu, and Sumo, showcasing Wrestling’s global impact.

Techniques and Skills in Wrestling

Wrestling encompasses various techniques centered around takedowns, throws, and ground wrestling. Let’s analyze these techniques in alignment with the definition of martial arts:

  1. Takedowns: Techniques such as single-leg and double-leg takedowns emphasize balance, leverage, and timing. These are essential components of many martial arts. They mirror the striking and blocking elements in traditional martial arts and focus on taking an opponent off their feet.
  1. Throws: Wrestling includes an array of throws, like hip throws and suplexes, emphasizing body manipulation and control. These techniques parallel those found in Judo and Aikido, highlighting shared principles of redirecting force and using an opponent’s momentum against them.
  1. Ground Wrestling: Techniques for controlling and pinning an opponent on the ground, as well as escapes and reversals, demonstrate the importance of grappling and ground control, vital aspects of Jiu-Jitsu and other grappling-focused martial arts.
  1. Strategy and Mental Development: Like many martial arts, Wrestling requires strategic thinking, discipline, and resilience. Wrestlers must adapt to their opponent’s movements, demanding high mental agility and tactical decision-making.

Comparing Wrestling with Other Martial Arts


  • Judo: Both Wrestling and Judo emphasize throws and leverage techniques. Wrestlers and Judokas use similar principles to unbalance and control their opponents.
  • Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu (BJJ): Ground control and submission techniques in wrestling overlap with BJJ. Both disciplines focus on dominant positions and effective grappling strategies.
  • Self-Defense and Competition: Like many martial arts, Wrestling is practiced for self-defense and competitive purposes. The discipline and physical fitness required are also common traits.


  • Striking Techniques: Wrestling does not include strikes, unlike many martial arts, such as Karate or Muay Thai. It focuses solely on grappling techniques.
  • Philosophical and Ethical Components: Traditional martial arts often integrate deeper philosophical teachings and ethical components less emphasized in sports wrestling.
  • Rules and Objective: Wrestling matches are generally governed by specific rules aimed at pinning the opponent, while martial arts like MMA incorporate a broader range of techniques, including strikes and submissions, for victory.

Impact of Wrestling on Combat Sports

Wrestling has significantly impacted modern combat sports, particularly Mixed Martial Arts (MMA). Wrestlers often excel in MMA due to their grappling skills, conditioning, and ability to control opponents. Many champion MMA fighters have a background in Wrestling, underscoring its effectiveness as a combat discipline.


Is wrestling considered a martial art?

Yes, Wrestling is considered a martial art. It fits the criteria of martial arts as it involves a system of combat practices focused on self-defense, competition, and developing physical and mental skills.

What types of wrestling styles are there?

There are several styles of Wrestling, including Greco-Roman, freestyle, folkstyle, and submission wrestling. Each style has unique rules and techniques, but all share core principles of grappling control and tactical strategies.

How does Wrestling contribute to self-defense?

Wrestling contributes to self-defense by teaching techniques for controlling and neutralizing an opponent using leverage, balance, and ground control. The skills developed in Wrestling, such as takedowns and escapes, are valuable in self-defense scenarios.

Can wrestlers compete in Mixed Martial Arts (MMA)?

Absolutely. Many successful MMA fighters have a background in Wrestling. The grappling skills, physical conditioning, and mental toughness developed through Wrestling provide a strong foundation for competing in MMA.

What are the benefits of learning Wrestling?

Learning Wrestling offers numerous benefits, including improved physical fitness, strength, and endurance. It also hones strategic thinking, discipline, resilience, and the ability to handle physical confrontation confidently.

Is wrestling safe for all ages?

Wrestling can be safe for all ages when proper training, supervision, and safety measures are in place. Youth wrestling programs focus on teaching fundamental techniques and sportsmanship in a controlled environment.

How does Wrestling compare to striking martial arts?

Wrestling differs from striking martial arts in that it solely focuses on grappling techniques without any striking. While striking martial arts like Karate or Muay Thai emphasize punches and kicks, Wrestling emphasizes takedowns, throws, and ground control.

What are some famous wrestling-related competitions?

Famous wrestling-related competitions include the Olympic Games, the World Wrestling Championships, and national championships. In addition, high-profile MMA organizations like the UFC often feature fighters with strong wrestling backgrounds.

Conclusion: Wrestling as a Distinct Martial Art

Given its rich history, comprehensive techniques, and alignment with key martial art principles, Wrestling can be classified as a martial art. While it may differ in its lack of striking and deeper philosophical teachings, the physical and mental skills it develops and its significant impact on modern combat sports affirm Wrestling’s place within the broader martial arts community.

In summary, Wrestling is a distinct martial art that offers unique benefits and contributes significantly to combat sports. Understanding and appreciating its intricacies helps us recognize the diverse landscape of martial arts and the valuable role wrestling plays within it.

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