differences between bjj and submision wrestling

Submission Wrestling or submission grappling is another name for no-gi BJJ although submission wrestling tends to encompass other grappling arts such as sambo and catch wrestling etc. into the mix. For example, the first and most prestigious submission wrestling championship in the world is the ADCC and the idea was to bring together grapplers of all styles to see which style came up on top. And while BJJ players definitely dominated the tournament (and still do), there are notable exceptions of non BJJ practitioners who have done very well at the tournament such as Mark Kerr, the ‘Smashing Machine’ and more recently, the Russian wrestler Rustam Chsiev.

So it can be said that no gi BJJ is a subset of submission wrestling although many people use the term interchangeable. That said, BJJ is traditionally practiced in the gi and in today’s article we will look at the main differences between BJJ and submission grappling. We will break it down into two categories: techniques and rulesets.

BJJ & Submission Wrestling – The Differences


More Leg Locks

BJJ & Submission Wrestling – The DifferencesIn submission grappling the heel hook reigns supreme. Since this is totally banned in most gi tournaments (with the exception of Gracie Worlds), many gi-only practitioners do not have the knowledge required to apply and defend against this devastating move. And since reaping is also banned in most gi tournaments, they lack the requisite knowledge of the entries and control positions as well.

More Front Chokes

grappling vs bjj
While the gi collar makes for some really cool and effective chokes, they also hinder many chokes; namely the guillotine and its variations. There is a reason that most fights in the gi that are finished with chokes are finished with gi chokes; not only are gi chokes available the gi also makes no gi chokes harder to get.

More Scrambling / Easier Escapes

Maintaining dominant positions against a sweaty opponent in no-gi (especially if they have opted to go shirtless as well) is many times more difficult than in the gi. Not only does the gi create the friction necessary for greater control; the gi itself can be utilized in all sorts of creative ways to increase the control, a common example being wrapping your opponent’s lapel underneath their far shoulder and feeding it to your cross face hand.

Rule sets

bjj and submission wrestling
Reaping Allowed

The most major criticism of IBJJF tournaments, and gi tournaments in general; is the no reaping rule. Despite the fact that more people than not (at least online) favor allowing reaping, at least for higher belts, at this point in time you will mostly find reaping only at tournaments without the gi.

Wider Variety of Submissions

With the knee reap being allowed comes a wider variety of submissions such as heel hooks and hip locks. Further, Eddie Bravo’s famous submission hold; the Twister, which is a spinal crank is banned in all gi tournaments and only allowed in submission wrestling ones. And while there are no unified rulesets for submission grappling as a general rule, unless you are competing in an IBJJF no-gi tournament; there will be a wider variety of submissions permitted.

Usually no Advantages

Another prominent criticism in gi tournaments are the use of advantages; as a result many smaller tournaments, which tend to follow IBJJF rulesets in the gi divisions, typically do away with advantages altogether when it comes to the no-gi divisions.