So most Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu instructors or academies aren’t known for their takedowns. Saulo and Xande Ribeiro are very well known for their takedowns and I have been lucky enough to learn from and train with some amazing wrestlers and judoka. I started wrestling before I started BJJ and started Judo shortly after starting Jiu-Jitsu. I think for most kids and adults wrestling takedowns are better to learn, but there are pros and cons of each.
Why you should learn wrestling takedowns
I think one of the biggest advantages wrestling has over Judo is that it is meant to taught quickly to students for them to compete. High school wrestlers will join a team and in a matter of weeks have their first wrestling match. Wrestling seasons like most high school sports are quick and over in just 4 months. So while you get wrestlers who start young and wrestle year round, that is not the norm so coaches are used to getting people going quickly and the sport and teaching methods reflect that. Compare that with Judo where fundamentals usually are expected to take a lot longer, competition is put off longer if done at all. The throws are dynamic and fast and much like a golf swing, if one bit isn’t perfect, the whole thing fails. So if your life depended on you taking someone down with a double leg or a throw and you only had a few months to learn it, I would go with wrestling.
Impact on your body
Wrestling takedowns generally have a softer landing than Judo throws where you are always trying to put someone straight to their back. If you take someone down and they turn to their stomach or all fours there is no score. So repetitive falls don’t make it great on the body. Our academy has a floating floor and crash pad to help with this, but not every throw lends itself to a crash pad. Many wrestling takedowns involve single legs or double legs which are now banned in judo. The impact isn’t as big and you can often turn to your hands and knees and go with it rather than having to slap the mat in a breakfall.
There is a saying that there is nothing more dangerous than a Judo green belt. With fast throws and new students, it can be a dangerous thing to off balance someone and take them over your leg.
The stances in wrestling and Judo are very different with wrestling being more legs bent and hunched over where Judo is much more upright with hands high. Both involve quite a bit of hand fighting. A modern judo stance lends itself very well to self defense with the hands held higher and in front of the face where a wrestling stance keeps the arms low to avoid shots like single legs and double legs. The wrestler will usually lead with his forehead while the judoka has his face more upright with jaw level to the ground. This upright stance leads to learn the turning action of throw better and can also counter throws by bumping in with the hips. But using your head is such a big part of wrestling defense and I think this is a big part of passing the guard and defending yourself in BJJ is learning to use your head.
One could give the edge to judo because you the grip fighting is very similar, the grip breaks can be used by the guard player and passer. Wrestling will teach you to appreciate the underhook though which is a big part of passing the guard and playing half guard. The hand fighting of wrestling is more loose because you can’t just take a grip and hold on forever so you learn to move between dominant control ties. Many times in Judo once you get your dominant grips it is tougher to escape those grips. Plus with the rules of Judo prevent you from staying with other dominant grips for a long time (2 on 1, belt grips, two grips on the same side). These dominant grips are legal in BJJ, but minimized in modern Judo.
Wrestling Up from the Guard
Grabbing the legs hasn’t been legal in Judo for a decade and with that knowledge of defense and stance changes have affected Judo. These are a huge component of wrestling and Jiu-Jitsu. Many sweeps from the ground in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu finish in a single leg or double leg where you “wrestle-up” from your back to control the leg of your opponent and take them down. So your ability to finish a single leg or double is an ability that needs to be developed to be good on your back in BJJ. Also the ability to defend these sweeps is a must for passing. It does happen that a sequence started on the ground ends up in a judo throw such as a half guard sweep to single leg is countered by an uchi mata or someone tries to open the closed guard by standing up, the guard player tries to jump to their feet and is countered by an Osoto. But the wrestling takedowns are far more applicable to BJJ sweeps than judo.
You can be successful learning either Judo or wrestling takedowns. Judo’s upright stance will be better for self defense, the grip fighting will make you tougher to takedown and you can use those grip breaks as a guard player or a passer. However I think wrestling is faster to learn, easier on the body to learn. You will be exposed to more single legs and double legs which will be vital to not only taking people down but from wrestling up from your back. You will also learn how to use your head and underhooks will teach you to dominate the inside space.