Catch Wrestling vs BJJ is a question that bothers many for years. Especially after some catch wrestlers like Sakuraba gave many problems to Gracie Family or Josh Barnett to many other BJJ practitioners. So, which art is better, BJJ or Catch Wrestling?
Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu is the Gentle art, the art of control, a grappling martial art… There’s lots of art to Jiu-Jitsu and to a certain extent, it makes sense. However, when you look at BJ in a more realistic manner, something else emerges. A BJJ match seems like utter chaos at first. Once you realize that you’ll see that this is where art probably ends. Because as romantic as it sounds, BJJ is not as artistic as Aikido. Thank God for that. What Jiu-Jitsu is all about, in essence, is dominating someone against their will. And the cherry on the cake is submitting them. All the artsy mumbo-jumbo aside, BJJ is all about submissions. But how does it fare submission-wise against other similar arts? The battle of the day is Catch wrestling vs BJJ submissions.
Why Catch wrestling vs. BJJ? Well, once you finish this article, you’ll realize that there’s hardly any better submission grappling system than Catch wrestling. Unless maybe BJJ. So it is prudent to do a Catch wrestling vs BJJ debate and see which art is more submission savvy. For anyone looking to become a submission machine, the answer is obvious. Pick up principles from both and merge them in a brutally efficient submission system. But, first things first.
Catch Wrestling History
Catch wrestling is the predecessor of American Folkstyle wrestling and Olympic Freestyle wrestling. It was a pastime of British miners and dock workers after a hard day of labor. They would wrestle for fun and even bet small amounts on the winner. The name Catch stems from the phrase “Catch as a catch can”. In essence, it means “catch me if you can”.
Historically, British sailors that traveled the globe between the 15th and 19th century picked up various grappling moves from different cultures. Every return to Britain meant that more techniques were added to the melting pot of Catch wrestling. Thus, one of the oldest and certainly very effective, submission grappling styles was born.
As the British emigrated to America, they brought catch wrestling with them and it soon turned into a national sport. People at carnivals would challenge a catch wrestler as part of the show. looking to win some cash. Catch wrestlers had to be ready for any kind of opponent, so they focused on submissions instead of pins. Moreover, they preferred quick and painful submissions, rather than positional ones.
Catch Wrestling Explained
In terms of a ruleset, Catch wrestling favors submission holds over anything else. There are no points as any match must have a clear winner. The only way to win is to either submit the opponent or pin them to the ground. Submissions are acknowledged by either tapping or yelling “enough”. One very interesting fact is that no chokes are permitted unless otherwise agreed upon by both wrestlers. This is very important as it demonstrates how effective catch wrestling joint locks are.
In the old days of catch wrestling, grapplers themselves defined the rules prior to a match. The norm was no time limit, and usually, the first to hit 3 falls conceded the match. Furthermore, there were no illegal holds or locks, anywhere on the body. On top of brutal submission, mostly on the limbs, Catch has a very proficient throwing section. The throws have a goal of causing as much damage as they can, instead of only taking the fight to the ground. In terms of a catch wrestling vs BJJ debate, the former certainly wins in the brutality and aggressiveness departments.
Another aspect worth mentioning is conditioning. Wrestlers nowadays are famous for their immaculate conditioning. Their predecessors, catch wrestlers, were just as conditioned, if not more. Catch wrestling bouts have no time limit and can end up lasting for hours. Despite the goal of a fast submission, wrestlers needed a huge gas tank as well.
Catch Wrestling vs BJJ
So, lets finally put Catch wrestling and BJJ head to head. Rules differences aside, submissions play a huge role in both styles. That said, both styles have a very different approach to submissions. To translate the mindset of these grappling martial arts is to say that BJJ motto is “position before submission“, while Catch wrestling motto is “submission before position“.
Catch wrestling has one goal in mind – finish as fast as possible. The nature of the sport is such that points don’t really play a role. So, instead of grappling for hours, the goal is to finish quick. The trouble is that the opponent has the same goal as you. That’s why catch wrestling submissions are as aggressive as they can get. Position plays absolutely no role in submission hunting in Catch. The point is to get the tap, even if it is by a move you invent on the go. This makes it extremely effective, but also quite easy to get out of.
In BJJ, the position plays a major role. The positional control provides security and ample time to sink in a submission. As a result, submissions in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu are much more technical and reliable. The problem is, setting up a submission this way requires a lot of positional adjustments which an opponent can counter.
As opposed to catching wrestling, BJJ submissions are more secure but take longer to set up. What BJJ can learn from Catch wrestling is how to develop more brutal and quick submissions. Catch wrestlers thrive at causing discomfort as opposed to controlling an opponent. While control is important, especially in a points system, so are effective submissions. Catch wrestling has them in abundance and they fit perfectly to Jiu-Jitsu. For a complete BJJ game, this aspect of submission grappling is essential. Otherwise, if you’re not focused on submissions and you’re only focused on position and control it’s just Aikido on the ground.
A great resource for a Catch wrestling and BJJ hybrid are Neil Melanson’s DVD sets. Neil Melanson is one of the best grappling Coaches in the world, so make sure to check them out.
Final Words on BJJ vs Catch Wrestling
In this article we tried to avoid the usual “proves” and statements that many BJJ and Catch Wrestling guys will say.
BJJ-ers will usually come with something like: “if catch wrestling is that good how come more catch wrestlers don’t win ADCC”?
The answer from catch wrestlers will usually be that rules favor BJJ guys.
After that Catch people will come with ideas how working from your back doesn’t work on the streets, how BJJ lacks throws and takedowns etc. It’s actually an unnecessary never-ending debate.
At the end of the day, both martial arts are great and they produced many great fighters. They’re actually the same martial arts with different ruleset and a different mindset. The best thing you can do for yourself is to fulfill your main art with another one. Taking the best from both is the key to your grappling knowledge and progress.
The only real thing that makes difference is that a lot more people train BJJ nowadays. There are a lot more tournaments, a lot more competitions, videos, instructionals etc… That means the much faster evolution of the sport of Brazilian Jiu-jitsu.
So if you ask yourself which martial art should I train, BJJ or Catch wrestling, and your main intention is to compete, BJJ should be your choice. Otherwise, try both and train what you like and what you enjoy more. You won’t be wrong by choosing any of these two great grappling martial arts.
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