Types of Grappling Martial Arts: List of all the Grappling Arts

Grappling: To say the least it’s more or less the act of fighting without strikes. On the other hand some styles allow striking, but primarily focus on grappling. So how far deep does this rabbit hole go? It’s commonly told that wrestling is the oldest sport, dating as far back as 3000 BC. Evidence of this comes from ancient carvings depicting men wrestling/grappling against one another. The earliest found of the grappling martial arts: Wrestling, was later first introduced to the ancient Olympics in 708 B.C.

In addition, to grappling going this far back it’s duplicated and reduplicated itself into several different types of grappling martial arts. These martial art forms had quite literally evolved from people wrestling and rolling around with each other in prehistoric times, and later got written down and carved for us to see much later. Today, many of them are step by step systems that have been improved upon and passed down from one generation to the next. So we ask again, how deep does this rabbit hole go?

The discussion of how deeply rooted grappling technique gets is a discussion for another time. Right now we’re going to look into the many different types of grappling martial arts. Some of these are more popularly looked at as a sport than an actual martial art. On the contrary, they all do involve finding leverage points on your opponent in order to defeat them which is what the base of what a grappling martial art is.

In order to delve into how deeply rooted grappling is to human beings on the planet lets look into the different types of grappling martial arts that exist. Once again, keep in mind some of these may not widely be considered a martial art to all but they definitely belong in the category of grappling arts.

Jiu Jitsu

If you’re on this website, then you probably know a thing or two about Jiu Jitsu, or at least I certainly hope you do. Jiu Jitsu is among one of the most popular styles of grappling today.

Jiu Jitsu can be practiced either with the Gi on or without the Gi on. This makes for two types of grappling (gi and no gi) that can be very different from one another. The object of jiu jitsu along with a few other grappling styles is to get your opponent to submit, give up, or tap out (admit defeat). Brazilian Jiu Jitsu focuses much much more on the ground than most other grappling martial arts.

Jiu Jitsu is also my passion. It is my the thing that I’d rather be doing when I’m doing just about anything else. Jiu Jitsu shaped me into who I am today and I encourage anyone to try it.

IBJJF Point System

How to improve a low self esteem through jiu jitsu


Judo is a grappling martial art similar to Jiu Jitsu. The object of Judo is to take your opponent to the ground from a throw. After taking your opponent to the ground you have a short limited time to submit your opponent.

An immediate victory, or Ippon in Judo can be achieved in 3 ways:

  • landing a submission on your opponent
  • immobilizing them on the ground for 25 seconds
  • throwing them to the ground in a way so the opponent lands directly on his back

The other way you can win in judo is through half-points or waza-ari. Waza-ari are awarded for throws in which the opponent does not land directly on his back or immobilizing the opponent for less then 25 seconds.

The least favorable point is called a Yuko which is awarded for throwing your opponent in an less effective manner or almost catching and losing a submission hold. (Reference From http://www.rulesofsport.com/sports/judo.html)

Folkstyle Wrestling

Folkstyle wrestling is the most common grappling style in the United States. The goal in folkstyle wrestling is to pin your opponents entire back on the mat for a total of 1 second to win the match. This style of wrestling does not use submissions like joint locks and chokes.

Folkstyle wrestling uses leverage points on take downs, as well as leverage points used to force your opponent to pin his back to the mat. You can also get “tilt” points for pinning one shoulder blade to the mat for a period of 2-4 seconds. These are called near fall points.

Pinning your opponent awards your team 6 points. Alternatively there is a more embarrassing way to lose in Folkstyle Wrestling. This is called a technical fall (tech).

In order to tech your opponent in Folkstyle Wrestling you must score 15 more points against your opponent than he has against you. This is most commonly done by repeatedly taking your opponent to the ground and allowing him to stand back up. A tech awards the team 5 points, which leaves a pin more beneficial.

The leverage points are very different in Folkstyle wrestling compared to most joint lock grappling styles. As remembering the objective is not to submit your opponent but to take him to the ground and forcibly make his back touch the ground for a second.

Folkstyle Wrestling Point System

Freestyle Wrestling

The purpose of Freestyle Wrestling again is to pin your opponent’s back on the mat. The rule structure, however is massively different which makes for a very different (and very interesting grappling style to watch)

Freestyle wrestling is one of the two types of wrestling in the Olympic Games. The other type will come up next.

Like Judo, freestyle wrestling involves a lot of throws attempting to immediately position the opponents back against the mat.

It’s relatively common for highschools to offer freestyle wrestling to their students who are on the wrestling team to do in the off season. I know this from experience because I wrestled in junior high and high school. I also attended freestyle wrestling classes in the off season.

Watch Some Of These Freestyle Highlights. This sport is crazy flashy

In Freestyle wrestling your opponent gains points if your back even faces the mat. It doesn’t even need to really touch it. This is why Folkstyle Wrestlers might also practice freestyle as it builds the habits of keeping your shoulders as far away from facing the mat as possible.

As for grappling martial arts, Judo is also currently an Olympic sport. There is talk of jiu jitsu entering the olympics but it has not happened yet.

Further information on Freestyles Point system can be found at:https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Freestyle_wrestling

Greco Roman Wrestling

Greco Roman wrestling is the other type of wrestling that is involved in the Olympics today. This type of wrestling differs from other grappling styles in two major ways. The first, being it focuses mainly on throw, and the second being that it focuses on all upper body throws.

Greco Roman wrestlers completely avoid grabbing their opponents legs, no trips and no leg attacks are allowed. Once again strength isn’t everything but it is definitely a factor in Greco Roman wrestling.

In Greco Roman wrestling a takedown can be worth anywhere between 2-5 points. A match can be won either by pin, winning on points or leading the match by 8 points over your opponent. You can also score 1 point by knocking your opponent out of bounds.


We all know about sumo wrestling. Yes, it’s the grappling style where those big fat guys wrestle in what many people think looks like a diaper. Contrarily, sumo wrestling is actually pretty badass.

Sumo wrestling involves takedowns and throws in attempt to push your opponent out of the circle you both are grappling in. Wrestlers in sumo are referred to as Rikishi. They wrestle in a relatively lage ring that measures 4.55 meters in diameter.

There are two ways for a Rikishi to win in sumo, either to forcibly push or throw their opponent out of the ring. The second way to win is when a Rikishi touches the floor with anything other than their feet. A Rikishi can force their opponent to touch the ground with techniques like head snaps and takedowns.

The weight of Rikishi is much different than those in other grappling styles. In most types of grappling competitors actually try to drop weight to get in a more advantageous weight bracket. Contrarily, sumo wrestlers devote their time to gain weight over their opponent to get an advantage.

Sumo wrestling may seem silly in the western world, but it is taken very seriously in Japan. Their grand champion is treated like a god. A Rikishi certainly is a force to be reckoned with. Sumo many involve gaining weight over their opponent, but weight is merely just a part of the art. Rikishi use joint locks, slaps, headsnaps, throws, and trips to either take their opponent down or force them out of the ring.

Before underestimating the style of sumo, we need to pay respect to the amount of time devoted to their training. They certainly would know thing or two about grappling. It would be impossible to spend that much time without gaining some skill.

Senegalese Wrestling

Senagalese Wrestling is a West African grappling art practiced by the Serer people.

The first note to make is there is no mat here. Rocks and sand is your padding for throws and takedowns. It should also be dearly noted that there is not the same quick and immediate relief from injuries that come from a doctor here in the western world. Needless to say, these grapplers are very brave.

Like sumo, the object of this grappling style is take your opponent to the ground or force your opponent out of bounds. Senagalese wrestlers use rituals before their matches because they believe it increases their “luck.” They also perform rigorous strength training for their grappling art. Reference: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Senegalese_wrestling

Tigel Wrestling

Tigel Wrestler performing lateral drop

This is an Ethiopian style of grappling. Tigel Wrestling is much like the Greco Roman style of wrestling except trips are not only allowed but encouraged. It’s clearly explainable why wrestlers are almost always takedown experts as nearly every form of them involve taking the opponent to the ground in a swift manner. Takedowns in this style are a little different. Rather than using leverage over your opponent by grabbing the legs, Tigel wrestlers start their takedown by setting up a trip and then using the leverage created to do a throw.

Sambo and Combat Sambo

Sambo is a Russian grappling martial art that deserves a place way up their when it comes to self defense capabilities. Combat Sambo is even often compared to MMA because of its allowance of strikes along with submissions. This stuff is no joke, and not to be taken lightly.

In fact, Sambo is a mixed martial art of its own containing remnants of Judo, JuJitsu, freestyle, and catch wrestling all involved scattered around this grappling martial art.

In sambo you only have twenty seconds to submit your opponent after you start attacking for it. If you can’t finish with a submission you have to stand back up on the feet.

If the opponent is able to defend properly after the takedown making the other competitor unable to start a submission both competitors stand back up on the feet.

Realistically, the biggest difference between Sport Sambo and Combat Sambo is the involvement of strikes. Sport Sambo has more than one type with different rulesets

Sambo Point System

  • Throw 4 Points
  • Footsweep 2 or 1 points
  • Pins 2 or 4 points (20 seconds for 4 points)
  • 3rd calling of stalling is 1 point
  • 4th calling of stalling is DQ

There’s just too many grappling martial arts to cover…

As I wrote this article I even learned a lot of things I didn’t know before. The biggest factor about grappling that I learned is that there are literally hundreds of different types of grappling out there. It truly blew my mind.

I realized how ridiculous it would be to put them all in one article. If I were to list each and every grappling style I would have written a very large book I will write more articles about the different types of grappling martial arts in the future.

Feel free to leave a comment. If there are any other types of grappling arts you would like to see in a future article please comment the styles I haven’t brought to light yet!

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Jonathan Schalberg

I'm Jonathan. I've trained BJJ for 4 years and I wrestled for 5. I want to share my passion for this martial art and also help you guys sift through the crap and avoid the jiu jitsu junk and get the good bjj gear you desire. I will be doing reviews on products that I think are good and companies who are trustworthy so you guys don't get ripped off again.

2 thoughts on “Types of Grappling Martial Arts: List of all the Grappling Arts

  • February 25, 2019 at 11:36 pm

    You could write about Scottish back hold wrestling and Chinese Shuai Jiao.

    • March 9, 2019 at 2:54 pm

      I’ve heard of Chinese Shuai Jiao and it was actually going to go in the next article about all the different grappling types out there. I’ve never heard of Scottish Back Hold Wrestling. I’ll totally look into that. Thanks for the comment and the tip. Appreciate ya!


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