Grappling, in martial arts, refers to any method of fighting that involves gripping your opponent as opposed to striking your opponent. For instance, wrestling involves grappling techniques while Muay Thai typically does not (unless you consider the clinch used in that sport).
Submission grappling focuses mainly on ground fighting. Submission grappling involves not only grappling but the use of submission holds including joint locks and chokes. Joint locks may include various armlocks and leglocks. For instance, an arm bar submission involves hyperextending the elbow joint. Chokes are usually “blood chokes” involving the constricting of the carotid arteries in the neck restricting blood flow to the brain and leading to unconsciousness. Submission grappling can be gi or no-gi. In gi grappling, competitors may grab their own and their opponent’s gi to gain an advantage. In no-gi grappling, a shirt and shorts are the common uniform.
FILA (The International Federation of Associated Wrestling Styles) now sponsors submission grappling as one of its wrestling styles. Brazilian Jiu Jitsu (BJJ) is probably the most popular form of submission grappling. The International Federation of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu sponsors many contests including the World Jiu-Jitsu Championships. NAGA (The North American Grappling Association) sponsors many grappling and BJJ tournaments as well. The ADCC (The Abu Dhabi Combat Club) sponsors The World Submission Fighting Championships allowing grapplers from any grappling discipline to compete against one another in one the most celebrated grappling competitions in the world.
I come from a high school wrestling background. When I began to learn about submission grappling I found it very interesting. One the first forms of submission grappling I learned about was Brazilian Jiu Jitsu. I found some similarities between wrestling and BJJ and many differences. Wrestling and BJJ both involve grappling, proper positioning and leverage.
In wrestling, the ultimate goal is to “pin” your opponent by pressing his shoulders to the mat. However, in BJJ it can actually be advantageous to be on your back and there is no penalty for it. Both sports have a hold referred to as an armbar. In wrestling, an armbar involves using your opponent’s arm as a lever to force him to his back. But, an armbar in BJJ is something entirely different. In BJJ, an armbar hyperextends the arm at the elbow joint.
In wrestling, one has takedowns, escapes, reversals, and pinning combinations. In BJJ, one has takedowns, sweeps, passes, and submissions. Thus, the terminology is somewhat different. The goal in submission grappling (e.g. BJJ) is to get your opponent to “tap” (i.e. give up).
Many forms of grappling and submission grappling exist.
Some forms of grappling include:
- Brazilian Jiu Jitsu (BJJ)
- Sambo (a.k.a. Sombo)
- Catch-as-catch-can wrestling (i.e. Catch wrestling)
- Japanese Jujutsu
BJJ, Sambo, and catch wrestling all involve the use of submissions. BJJ seems to employ more armlocks and chokes. On the other hand, Sambo and catch wrestling appear to employ more leglocks. Sambo and catch wrestling practitioners seem to have a penchant for manipulating their opponent’s ankle joints via Achilles locks, toe holds, and heel hooks.
Professional wrestling actually descended from catch wrestling. Professional wrestling actually used to be “real” and not just scripted entertainment. Grapplers like Martin “Farmer” Burns, Frank Gotch, Karl Gotch, Ed “The Strangler” Lewis, Billy Robinson, Lou Thesz, and Judo Gene LeBell were the real deal and experts at submissions. On a humorous note, in a Bugs Bunny Cartoon called Bunny Hugged, Bugs defeats a wrestler called The Crusher.
Some modern day grapplers that carry on the catch wrestling tradition:
- Erik Paulson
- Josh Barnett
- Kazushi Sakuraba
- Tony Cecchine
- Matt Furey
Wrestling and judo both involve gripping and clinching to throw or take down an opponent. In addition, wrestling involves much grappling on the ground.
Aikido and Japanese jujutsu seem to employ a variety of wrist locks and arm locks.
Mixed martial arts competitions (e.g. UFC, PRIDE, Shooto, Pancrase) employ many submission grappling techniques. For instance,former UFC Lightweight Champion B.J. Penn has a black belt in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu.
You can see grappling techniques employed in various movies and television shows including Air Force One, Under Siege 2, Fist of Legend, The Protector, The Rebel, Sherlock Holmes, Iron Man 2, Boondock Saints 2, Bobby Z and Walker Texas Ranger to name a few.
Grappling is mentioned in two ancient works of literature: The Epic of Gilgamesh and Beowulf.
Some people argue that grappling arts are good for self-defense.
Many grappling and submission grappling techniques can be found in videos and articles online.