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How to Learn to Wrestle for BJJ – Explained in 5 steps

How to Learn to Wrestle for BJJ - Explained in 5 steps

   If you’re like me and you started bjj with no wrestling background and now want to learn to wrestle for bjj, this is the post for you.

Warning: First off, don’t do what I did, and go to one wrestling class during your first month of bjj and get hip tossed hard, hurt your ribs, and then never wrestle again until 3 years later.

Why Does Wrestling Matter?
Can’t I Just Pull Guard?

I get it- believe me I do. You’re sitting there butt scooting with all your friends and having fun, but deep inside you know that you’re afraid to start any round standing up, and your wife may also have come to your first competition and asked “why did you just fall down to your butt in the beginning of the match?”

So if you want to learn to wrestle for bjj here are our five steps:

  1. Study and drill wrestle techniques
  2. Get your feet wet with wrestling techniques by attempting to “wrestle up”
  3. Start doing wrestling rounds with a training partner who you trust
  4. Create an exact plan and setups to hit
  5. Begin thinking about advancing your wrestling technique with chain wrestling

Here’s a quick video of me trying to implement some more wrestling in my bjj.

This is shortly after I started trying to wrestle more in both training and competition (after not having any prior wrestling experience).

If I can emphasis one point it is that when you start learning to wrestle and begin matches from your feet do so with training partners whom you trust entirely.

These are the steps that have helped me during my bjj journey – coming from someone who never wrestled before and attempted to learn it at the age of 28 (and who hit a passable ankle pick in a recent competition) hopefully these will help you too.

With that being said, let’s go ahead breakdown each of these steps with specific examples.

How Can I Teach Myself to Wrestle for BJJ?

Best Ways to Deal with Slumps in BJJ Training

1. Study and Drill Wrestling Techniques

At the start, to learn how to wrestle for bjj, you must first learn wrestling basics. I’m a big fan of bjj instructinals and there are definitely some good ones out there for wrestling.

Some of my favorites are:

Here is our guide for how to get the most out of bjj instructionals and not have your hard-earned money be squandered by the likes of John Danaher (queue image of Danaher, Smog-like, sitting on a pile of gold).

If in person is more your thing, you can also take a wrestling class at your local bjj gym, but I do recommend a class with just drilling and no live wrestling at least initially.

Before jumping into live wrestling rounds check out the next step.

2. Get your feet wet with wrestling techniques by attempting to “wrestle up”

   From the bottom position you can begin to work on “wrestling up” from a seated position.

This will get you familiar with being aware of your head position, controlling their legs, and driving through to finish a take down.

Not only is this a great way to get more familiar with those positions, but you will be very surprise how often these take downs will work from a seated position.

As of this writing its a growing trend, to wrestle up from the bottom. It adds another tool to the bottom player’s arsenal.

Gone are the days where the person who chooses to play guard is stuck on the bottom forever.

Anther tactic that Craig Jones mentions in his DVD Power Bottom, is that “if you can turtle, turtle”.

example of turtle position

Turtle is also going through an evolution like other positions that exist both in wrestling and jiu jitsu.

No longer is it just a position that people use to avoid side control points.

Its a position that can play well into wrestling scrambles. 

Playing with turtle position will:

  • get you used to getting sprawled on
  • teach you how to become comfortable with defending front headlock attacks
  • teach you awareness with defending go behind attacks when opponents attempt to reach your back.

 Once you are comfortable in turtle, you will no longer fear shooting a failed single or double leg. So I highly recommend putting yourself there more often.

With the likes of Nicky Ryan, Andrew Wiltse, Dante Leaon, and Craig Jones we are seeing more and more wrestling techniques merge with jiu jitsu, and these are some of the prime examples and a way you can start to get familiar with wrestling techniques.

3. Start doing wrestling rounds with a training partner who you trust


Now comes the moment you’ve all been waiting for, the one that makes your knees shake in your gi pants that are probably a little too short for an ibjjf regulated competition.

So in reality it shouldn’t be this anxiety inducing.

This is something obvious that I should have realized sooner. Reach out to a trusted training partner at your gym (maybe a high school wrestler or someone who has more experience than you at wrestling but less at jiu jistu), and ask them if they wouldn’t mind wrestling a round or two with you.

Be open about your lack of experience and willingness to learn and be taught.

I can’t emphasis how important it is choosing someone who you trust to begin wrestling with. You need to be able to trust them not to slam, supplex, or overall just embarrass you on the mat.

Since you are new at wrestling you may not yet move in the common, expected ways that other wrestlers move. Just like when you roll with the guy who is one or two weeks in – they don’t move in expected ways.

Since they don’t know the common moves and positions of jiu jitsu they are playing their own game one which may lead to injury if you are not careful.

So now that person is you except you are standing on your feet instead of sitting on your butt, and now there’s a chance for falling body weight to do more damage – embrace your lack of knowledge and be open about it.

After some time doing some wrestling rounds you will begin to see your overall jiu jitsu game increase and those wrestling rounds will start to pay off in large dividends. This is the start of appreciating wrestling for bjj.

4. Create an exact plan and setups to hit

   When you start wrestling you may get frustrated since non of your take downs are working and they are being defended very easily.

One of the most common reasons is that you are not using setups before going for a take down. A setup can be anything to get a reaction out of your opponent.

This can be using push/pull motions to get the reacting one way, it can be pulling their one side closer to you to expose them to an easy single on that same side, or it can be something as simple as a misdirection by using feints to get a them reacting then hitting that single or snap down. 

Here are some simple and common setups that have worked at the highest level that you can implement into your wrestling

  1. using a quick feint or two as if you are going to drop down for a double or single leg then once your opponent resets actually go for your double or single leg take down
  2. push into your opponent and when they push back immediately snap them down into front headlock position
  3. from a quick arm drag when they attempt to pull their arm back go for a single leg on that same side

5. Begin thinking about advancing your wrestling technique with chain wrestling

There are a couple things you’ll notice about advanced wrestlers:

  • they have go to setups and take downs that they have hit hundreds of times which they will rely on heavily
  • they make their opponent reactive by using a ton of movement, fakes and feints
  • they know when to use their strength – this is one of the main differences between wrestling and bjj (if a take down doesn’t work they may just do it again with more strength or just keep driving to the next one)
  • they are able to chain wrestle effectively and at high speeds (*chain wrestling is combing several setups or take downs quickly in a row to eventually work toward a successful take down)

Now is the time to begin implementing these things into your own wrestling game.

These will come with time and experience. Just like jiu jitsu, you will begin to see common patters and reactions in your opponents and eventually learn how to take advantage of them.

After about 1-2 years of wrestling more you will see your confidence skyrocket both when sitting or standing during live rounds.

Furthermore, you won’t be stuck considering how you can organize your home furniture to best suite your berimbolo setups if an intruder were to break in*

Conclusion – How to Beat Wrestlers in BJJ

   If you can’t beat ’em, join ’em right? right? RIGHT GUYS??

Actually, this section is the very opposite of that saying. If all else fails, and you’re still struggling with learning to wrestle for bjj consider focusing on your jiu jitsu alone especially during the first couple months.

Its okay to put wrestling on the back burner if you are new to jiu jitsu.

It’s hard enough to learn one grappling based martial art never mind two.

Plus after you get the basics in jiu jitsu down, you will feel more confident standing up with wrestlers even if your wrestling skills are lacking, since you know once you guys end up on the ground (via their fireman’s carry or lat drop) you can dominate the round again.

We all regret not wrestling in high school.

I know for me I spent way too much time playing Sonic Adventures for Dreamcast (I may or may not still have my chao on my Dreamcast vmu), but there is hope for us all.

If you are serious about learning to wrestle for bjj you can implement some of these steps that have helped myself and other training partners be more comfortable standing up, starting from their feet, and going for that take down.

These steps again are:

  1. Study and drill wrestle techniques
  2. Get your feet wet with wrestling techniques by attempting to “wrestle up”
  3. Start doing wrestling rounds with a training partner who you trust
  4. Create an exact plan and setups to hit
  5. Begin thinking about advancing your wrestling technique with chain wrestling

Thanks for reading and see you on the mat. – Zack

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