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Is Wrestling Considered a Martial Art? Definitely Yes

When martial arts are mentioned, the first mental picture that comes to mind for most people is the fighting arts of Asian regions, mostly those of East Asia. While these fighting styles are martial arts, the title is not exclusive to these types of combat. But does martial arts include other forms of hand-to-hand combat such as wrestling?

Even though it is not viewed as traditional martial art like Karate, wrestling fits into the definition of a martial art as a fighting system with codes, traditions, and a set of prescribed movements to best an opponent in combat. By this definition, wrestling is certainly a martial art! 

Wrestling is viewed by many to be a modern form of hand-to-hand combat sport that does not have much history and that it has no place being included under the umbrella of martial arts. However, this is an incorrect perception since wrestling has a long and varied history and is often taught to armed forces to incapacitate or get the upper hand against an enemy at close quarters.

Reasons Why Wrestling Is A Martial Art

A martial art is defined as a system of combat that has prescribed moves, techniques, and traditions that can be used for self-defense, law enforcement, military application, competition, and the development of the mind, body, and spirit.

Wrestling is a martial art because it is a hand-to-hand combat sport that clearly exemplified the description of a martial art, and it has application as a combat technique for law enforcement and the military as well as sport and self-defense. It also has prescribed moves and techniques.

The term martial art was originally used to describe the combat systems that existed in Europe as far back as 1550. The name stems from ancient Latin, and it means the arts of Mars, who was the Roman god of war.

Many people hold the opinion that the term martial art should be dropped in favor of a more all-encompassing name such as fighting systems to avoid exclusion. The thinking is that many of the systems included under martial arts are not martial in the sense that they were never intended to be used by professional soldiers.

Many of the fighting systems were developed by poor, rural, unarmed people as a way of defending themselves against armed marauders.

However, there are many styles and techniques that are included under the banner of martial arts that are more spiritual than physical, such as Tai Chi.

Wrestling is a hand-to-hand full-contact combat sport that has techniques that are taught to various armed forces around the world as self-defense or close quarter combat.

For these reasons, wrestling is most definitely a martial art. 

What Are The Different Wrestling Styles?

Wrestling takes many different forms, and there are styles of wrestling from many different countries that are steeped in the culture and traditions of those nations and their people.

There are many different styles of wrestling globally that have their roots in the various cultures and traditions found in the countries that they originate from. The styles developed differently to serve the various purposes and needs within those cultures.

To give an idea regarding the complexity of wrestling as a sport and as a global martial art, here are some of the styles of wrestling practiced around the world.

  • Greco-Roman wrestling. This style is practiced worldwide, and it is a wrestling style that is included in the Olympic games.
  • Freestyle wrestling. Sometimes termed scholastic or collegiate wrestling, this style is also included in the Olympic games.
  • Shuai jiao. This style includes several jacket-wrestling styles native to China. 
  • Folk wrestling. This is any traditional style of wrestling that is not recognized as an official sport but has cultural roots. This includes styles such as Kurash from Central Asia, Mongolian wrestling, Oil wrestling which is the national sport of Turkey, Ssireum, the national sport of Korea, and Scottish Backhold, to name a few.
  • Sambo. A Russian martial art.
  • Luta Livre. A wrestling style that originates from Brazil.
  • Sumo wrestling. A professional wrestling style from Japan.
  • Lucha libre. Professional wrestling style from Mexico.
  • Catch wrestling. A style developed in Britain.

As is evident from the long list of wrestling styles that come from a multitude of nations and cultures, wrestling has earned its place as a valid martial art across the globe.

Why Is Wrestling Not Seen As A Martial Art?

There is certainly no doubt that wrestling is a popular sport across the world that generates much public interest and can be as lucrative as other sporting events. But this is part of the problem with public perception about wrestling.

Wrestling is often not viewed as a martial art because it is seen more in light of a sport rather than being a fighting technique or a style that offers merit as a means of self-defense. Most other fighting styles are promoted as a self-defense activity that precludes wrestling in the public eye. 

This, however, is only a perception, and many of the large money styles such as WWE don’t do much to promote a legitimate martial art image for wrestling.  

Is Wrestling An Effective Martial Art?

Each martial art has its strengths and weaknesses, and wrestling is no different. There are techniques in wrestling that are extremely effective in subduing an opponent, but the moves may not be effective in every scenario. But that comment can be made about any martial art.

Wrestling is an effective martial art because it teaches you to read your opponent’s body language and anticipate moves. It also teaches means of effectively keeping positional control to avoid an opponent being able to pin you down. It also destabilizes an opponent’s balance and effectiveness.

Wrestling teaches not only offensive moves but also teaches defensive, evasive moves that can help you to evade an attacker in the real world.

What Martial Art Beats Wrestling?

The key to the wrestler’s advantage is that he is constantly placing his opponent on the defensive, keeping them on the back foot, so to speak. If you are facing a martial arts opponent who is an accomplished wrestler, it is usually a poor strategy to try to beat him at his own game. To vanquish such an opponent, you would need to use a fighting technique that incorporates more strikes than grappling to stay away from your opponent’s strengths.  

A martial art that keeps an opponent at a distance and incorporates strikes in its techniques will have an advantage over a wrestler and could beat a wrestler. This would include styles such as Muay Tai, Taekwondo, boxing, and Karate. It would also require that you stay out of reach of the wrestler.

The famed Bruce Lee is even quoted as stating that the hardest opponent to overcome is a wrestler because his basic intention is to crush his opponent and also to wear his opponent out by making the opponent carry the wrestler’s weight at every opportunity. 

The key to beating a wrestler is staying out of reach and using your ability to strike from a distance.

Why Is Wrestling Considered The Best Background To Transition To MMA?

MMA fighters come from many different fighting backgrounds and had experience in a variety of martial arts before turning to MMA. The foundations that these early martial arts experiences give these fighters often determine their success in MMA.

Wrestling is considered a core background for MMA because it teaches how to take down an opponent quickly and efficiently and how to avoid being taken down. Wrestlers transition well to MMA because the wrestling style allows fighters to dictate where the fight takes place. Because these techniques are key to success in MMA fights, wrestling experience is vital to continued and lasting success in an MMA ring.

The MMA has seen more champions that come from a wrestling background than from any other martial arts discipline.

Why Do Wrestlers Dominate MMA?

Does Wrestling Help In Street Fights?

Street fights are normally a combat experience where no rules apply, and anything goes. If you find yourself faced with a street fight and you have any form of formal martial arts training, you will have skills that you can use to your advantage in the street fight.

Wrestling will definitely help in a street fight because your experience will give you the ability to read your opponent, anticipate strikes, and put your opponent off balance. You will also have the speed, agility, and knowledge of how to overcome and subdue an opponent.

A street fight is always a tricky situation because of the lack of rules and fair play. If your opponent is armed with a knife or a firearm, any martial art would have difficulty in this situation, and sometimes peace is the better part of valor.


Wrestling has a long and varied history across many countries and cultures. The skills learned in wrestling are often taught to law enforcement and military personnel as a means to subdue a suspect or an enemy.

Wrestling is most definitely a martial art and an important foundation skill in many other fighting styles. It is also a core skill in the ring as an MMA fighter.