Greco Roman Wrestling vs Jiu Jitsu – Martial Arts Compared!

Last updated on 21.02.2022 by

Greco Roman Wrestling and Jiu Jitsu are two grappling martial arts that have a lot in common and many differences. They are both proven effective and practiced throughout the world.

Let’s see how they match up as we do a comparison of Greco Roman Wrestling vs Jiu Jitsu! We’ll go through the history of each grappling and compare their similarities and differences.

What is Greco Roman Wrestling?

Greco Roman Wrestling is a style of wrestling that was developed some time in the 1800s. It was based on old styles of folk style wrestling that were the main type of wrestling practiced within Europe.

In Greco Roman style wrestling, you can only take your opponent down with takedowns/throws from their hips and up.

Some people have described Greco Roman Wrestling as no-gi Judo – as both sports prioritize takedowns and prohibit leg grabs.

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The History of Greco Roman Wrestling

According to United World Wrestling, the Greco Roman style was developed in the 1800s. The person credited for developing this style was a French soldier named Jean Exbrayat.

Early on, Exbrayat performed his style of wrestling at French fairs. Jean called this style of wrestling “flat hand wrestling” or “French wrestling.”

One of the first rules that Exbrayat established in his wrestling style is there were no holds allowed below the waist. Also, no submissions were allowed that would hurt the opponent.

This style of wrestling would become popular throughout Europe. The term Greco Roman Wrestling was later coined by the Greek wrestler, Basilio Bartoletti.

Bartoletti used this name, because the style was said to be similar to wrestling performed at the ancient Greek Olympics. Truth be told, it didn’t actually resemble ancient Greek wrestling, but the name stuck and the sport grew in popularity.

The sport became widely popular and was included in the very first official Olympic games in 1896 Olympic Games held in Athens, Greece. The sport has been included in every summer Olympics since 1904.

Greco Roman Wrestling Today

Greco Roman wrestling is one of the most practiced styles of wrestling in the world today – particularly within Eastern European countries and Russia, who produces the best Greco Roman wrestlers. Greco Roman Wrestling and Freestyle Wrestling are the only two styles of wrestling that are official Olympic Sports.

Today, Greco Roman style wrestling is practiced around the world.

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Greco Roman Wrestling vs Brazilian Jiu Jitsu – Similarities and Differences

As grappling arts, Brazilian Jiu JItsu and Greco Roman wrestling share lots of commonalities, in addition to quite a few differences:

Similarities between Greco Roman Wrestling vs Brazilian Jiu Jitsu

Greco Roman Wrestling and BJJ share three specific similarities between one another. Those include:

  1. Both are grappling martial arts.
  2. Takedowns are taught within both styles.
  3. No striking is taught in either sport or allowed in competition.

Winning Objectives

These two styles of grappling have very different objectives for winning in their competitions. Here are the winning objectives of both BJJ and Greco Roman Wrestling.

Winning Objectives of Greco Roman Wrestling

There are two ways to win a match in Greco Roman Wrestling. Those methods include pinning your opponent or scoring the most points during a match.

  • Pins: Holding your opponent on their back with both of their shoulders down for one to three seconds. This is called a “win by fall.”
  • Points: Takedowns and ride time in a dominant position. This is called a “win by technical superiority.”
    • If one competitor gets an 8 point lead over the other, they are automatically declared the winner.
    • Otherwise, the competitor with the most points at the end of the match wins.

Winning Objectives of Brazilian Jiu Jitsu

In Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, there are also two different ways that you can win a match. Those methods include landing a submission or scoring the most points within a match

  • Submissions: Strangulations or joint locks.
  • Points: Points in BJJ are earned by takedowns, sweeps, passing guard, or getting to a dominant position including mount, back mount, and knee on belly.


Rules of Greco Roman Wrestling

Here are the official rules of Greco Roman Wrestling:

  • No holds below the waist are allowed.
  • No leg trips of sweeps are permitted.
  • No strikes of any kind are allowed.
  • Each round is separated in three segments(60 seconds on the feet and two 30 second segments on the mat)
  • The wrestler that scores the most points in the neutral position will be granted the on top advantage.
  • If the wrestler on top scores no points, the wrestler on the ground is awarded one point for defense. After this sequence, the wrestlers switch positions to give the other wrestler an opportunity to score 
  •  If neither competitor scores, the referee then flips a coin to determine which wrestler gets top position.

Rules of Brazilian Jiu Jitsu

BJJ has different federations with different rule sets, but here are the basic rules that most share.

  • No striking. 
  • No leaving the mat to escape submissions.
  • No stalling. If stalling persists, points will be deducted and competitors may even be DQ’d
  • No grabbing the inside of your opponent’s sleeves, rash guards, or shorts.
  • Advantages are awarded for near points like almost sweeping or submitting an opponent.
  • Matches are won either by submission or points.
  • If a match ends in a tie, the referee then decides the winner of the match.

Point Systems

Greco Roman Wrestling Point System

  • Takedowns: 2-5 Points(Based on technicality, cleanliness, and control.)
  • Reversal: 1 Point
  • Exposure: 2-3 Points (The amount of time a wrestler is on his back and based on technicality and execution.)
  • Penalty: 1-2 Points (Awarded when a wrestler takes an unforced timeout or commits an illegal move. Penalty points are awarded to the non-penalized competitor.)
  • Out of Bounds: 1 Point (Given to the competitor who remains in bounds when a wrestler steps out of bounds.)

Brazilian Jiu Jitsu Point System

  • Mount/Back Mount: 4 Points
  • Guard Pass: 3 Points
  • Takedown: 2 Points 
  • Knee on Belly: 2 Points
  • Sweeps: 2 Points
  • Advantages: secondary points tallied for near scores.(Near subs, takedowns, submissions, sweeps, etc.)


From a glance, the obvious difference between Greco Roman wrestling vs Jiu Jitsu are each of the style’s uniforms. Here are the uniforms worn by each style detailed below.

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Greco Roman Wrestling Uniform

The uniform in Greco Roman wrestling consists of:

  • Singlets(Spandex Wrestling Uniform)
  • Wrestling Shoes
  • Headgear(Optional)

Brazilian Jiu Jitsu Uniform(s)

You already know that there are two different uniforms in Jiu Jitsu, depending if you’re doing gi or no-gi. What these uniforms consist of is:

Other Key Differences

To go along with the differences already detailed, here are three more distinct differences between BJJ and Greco Roman wrestling.

Different Philosophies

These two grappling arts have two vastly different philosophies from one another. Greco Roman wrestling has the philosophy of using force to keep your opponent on their back and stay on top. Brazilian Jiu Jitsu’s philosophy is more about technique, leverage, and working both from on top and off your back in guard.

Greco Roman Wrestling is trained as a sport

Greco Roman wrestling is trained more as a sport than a martial art like Jiu Jitsu is. It is more sport oriented and focused on that rather than self defense.

Some BJJ schools have moved fully into the BJJ-as-sport modality, but it is still common to see self-defense taught in Jiu Jitsu gyms.


The biggest difference between the two is that submissions are taught within Jiu Jitsu and not in Greco Roman. Only upper body takedowns and top control are taught within Greco Roman.

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How do you win in Greco Roman Wrestling?

In Greco Roman Wrestling, you win matches by either pinning your opponent with both shoulders on the mat or scoring the most points.

How do you score points in Greco Roman Wrestling?

You score points in Greco Roman Wrestling by either landing takedowns or ride time. Ride time is the amount of time you hold your opponent in a dominant position before they escape.

When was Greco Roman Wrestling invented?

According to historians, Greco Roman Wrestling was invented in the 1800s by a French soldier named Jean Exbrayat. Later a Greek wrestler named Basilio Bartoletti adopted the style and coined the term Greco Roman Wrestling.

What’s the difference between Greco Roman Wrestling and Freestyle Wrestling?

The main difference between Greco Roman Wrestling and Freestyle Wrestling are the types of takedowns allowed in each style. In Freestyle Wrestling, you can take an opponent down from their head to toes. Greco Roman Wrestling only allows upper body takedowns from the hips and up.


Greco Roman Wrestling has a long and storied history that is quite a bit different from Brazilian Jiu Jitsu. Although the sports are quite different, learning Greco Roman style wrestling can be extremely beneficial to your Jiu Jitsu game, particularly in no-gi grappling. 

We definitely recommend that you take the time to learn different Greco Roman Wrestling techniques that will improve your Jiu Jitsu.

Greco Roman Wrestling Interesting Facts