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[EXPLAINED] 7 Best Martial Arts With Grappling

Reading Time: 8 minutes

Many martial arts include grappling as one of their core practices.

This refers to the act of taking hold of your opponent at close range and locking them into a position that’s difficult to escape.

Grappling can be incredibly useful for self-defense when used correctly.

However, you may be wondering which grappling martial arts are the best ones to learn.

More importantly, which grappling martial arts are the most effective.

Let’s take a look at the best martial arts with grappling.

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Top 7 Martial Arts With Grappling

We’ll take a look at the criteria for choosing the best martial arts with grappling below, but here are my top 7 martial arts with grappling:

  1. Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu
  2. MMA
  3. Krav Maga
  4. Muay Thai
  5. Sambo
  6. Judo
  7. Wrestling

Choose from any of these martial arts and you’ll be very dangerous in any grappling situation.

But let’s look at what you need to consider when choosing a martial art with grappling.

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Choosing The Best Martial Art With Grappling

Many martial arts include grappling in their curriculum, but most aren’t very effective.

This is because many of these arts don’t practice against a resisting opponent, so you’re never really prepared for a hostile situation.

Here are the factors you need to consider:

  1. Firstly, does the martial art provide opportunities for live training against a resisting opponent?
  2. Does the martial art practice realistic techniques developed through consistent sparring?
  3. Does the martial art provide options for getting your opponent to the ground without putting yourself at risk?
  4. Has the martial art been tested in competitive, full contact situations?

Ensuring you’re training an effective martial art is something you need to consider before you start training, or you’ll waste your valuable time and money.

Let’s look at each of these martial arts in more detail to make your decision a little easier.

I’ve also included my favorite in the conclusion.

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Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu

Grappling in Jiu-Jitsu
Credit: Timothy Eberly

What Is Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu?

Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu is a martial art derived from Judo.

It’s primarily a ground-based fighting style that uses angles, pressure, and leverage to control and disable opponents.

BJJ has quickly spread across the world and is practiced by people on every continent.

It owes its popularity to the success of the early MMA fighters who specialized in Jiu-Jitsu, who were virtually unbeatable.

All MMA fighters today train BJJ, or they simply couldn’t compete.

Many fighters also come to MMA with a background in Jiu-Jitsu, these fighters can often be very difficult to beat.

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How Do Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu Fighters Use Grappling?

Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu places a heavy emphasis on grappling.

There has traditionally been very little focus on takedowns, but many Jiu-Jitsu schools have started implementing this into their curriculums.

Practitioners can perform joint locks, strangles, chokes, and more to bring their opponent into submission or to tap out.

Many Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu fighters win their fights with their backs on the ground.

This may seem like a bad position to be in, but for many, it’s where they’re most comfortable fighting.

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Grappling in MMA
Credit: Daniel Lloyd Blunk-Fernández

What Is MMA?

MMA combines fundamentals and techniques from various other martial arts.

Hence the name, Mixed Martial Arts.

This fighting style is usually done under controlled environments and is more of a sport than it is a martial art.

MMA fighters are also very skilled at protecting themselves, both in the octagon and in the streets. 

Some of the core moves in MMA include strikes, ground fighting, and grappling.

Usually adopted from only the most effective, and proven martial arts.

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How Do MMA Fighters Use Grappling?

Many MMA fighters beat their opponents using different grappling styles.

In fact, many would consider grappling to be more important than striking in MMA fights.

The ability to control and submit an opponent in a grappling situation significantly reduces your chances of being injured by strikes.

However, simply learning one martial art with grappling isn’t enough in MMA.

To be effective you need to use techniques from martial arts that have proven themselves in a competitive setting.

MMA grappling takes its cues from grappling techniques found in martial arts like Judo, Sambo, Wrestling, and Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu.

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Krav Maga

Grappling in Krav Maga
Credit: GQ Magazine

What Is Krav Maga?

The term “Krav Maga” is Hebrew for “contact combat”.

This martial art originated in Israel and is frequently taught to the Israeli Army.

It places a lot of emphasis on defending yourself against armed attackers.

Since its inception, Krav Maga has been embraced by law enforcement institutions across the world like SWAT teams and the FBI.

Krav Maga was designed to be an effective self-defense fighting style for fighters of any age, size, or shape.

It teaches you how to utilize your natural instincts and counter attacks in various scenarios.

Usually with fast movements and aggression, targeting vulnerable areas on an attacker.

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How Do Krav Maga Fighters Use Grappling?

Grappling is an important part of Krav Maga.

Fighters are usually taught to avoid being on the ground for more than a few seconds at a time.

However, they’re also taught to use different ground fighting techniques in the event that their opponent has pinned them down.

This includes techniques to escape if the opponent has mounted them or pinned their hands to the ground.

Some key Krav Maga grappling techniques include hip throws and single or double leg takedowns.

These can be used in combination with kicks to keep your opponent off you until you get up.

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Muay Thai

Grappling in Muay Thai
Credit: Wade Austin Ellis

What Is Muay Thai?

Muay Thai is a popular martial art that is practiced all over the world.

It originated in Thailand and is actually the country’s national sport.

Muay Thai is commonly referred to as “Thai boxing” or the “Art of 8 Limbs”, and has many things in common with kickboxing.

However, it also includes additional moves such as elbow strikes, knee strikes, and kicks.

Muay Thai is primarily a striking martial art, but it has standing grappling techniques that are great for keeping yourself safe in close combat situations as well as effectively getting your opponent to the ground.

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How Do Muay Thai Fighters Use Grappling?

A large portion of Muay Thai is centered around short-fighting, holds, and throws.

In the sport of Muay Thai, throws often score a fighter the most points.

And these often happen from a clinch or grappling situation.

Muay Thai fighters often fight in close combat, avoiding further ranges where they risk being punched or kicked.

Trained fighters can switch between striking and grappling seamlessly.

From the clinch, they’re able to use various trips and sweeps to get their opponent to the ground and prevent an attack.

The combination of these fighting techniques makes Muay Thai a top grappling martial art.

If you want to learn a boxing style with a heavy emphasis on grappling, Muay Thai is the way to go.

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Grappling in Sambo
Credit: TutorialsPoint

What Is Sambo?

SAMozashchita Bez Oruzhiya or Sambo is a martial art that originated in the Soviet Union.

The name translates to “self-defense without weapons”.

Sambo was created using a combination of techniques taken from wrestling and Judo.

It was designed to help fighters end a fight as quickly as possible.

It’s useful in both formal fight settings as well as in street fighting.

Khabib Nurmagomedov, one of the best fighters to enter the octagon had a background in Sambo.

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How Do Sambo Fighters Use Grappling?

Sambo includes many grappling techniques taken from other martial arts.

This includes headlocks, leg locks, wrestling takedowns, Judo sweeps, and most other joint locks, strangles, and chokes you’d see in BJJ.

These techniques can be useful in many fight settings when you need to disable your opponent quickly and keep yourself out of harm’s way.

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Grappling in Judo
Credit: Freepik

What Is Judo?

Judo is a martial art that originated in Japan and was practiced by the Samurais.

It’s the art of taking opponents from a standing position to the ground and using quick submissions like armlocks to beat an opponent.

Judo is practiced all around the world and is even a dominant sport in many schools.

Its rise to popularity has resulted in Judo becoming a regular fixture in the Olympics, attracting athletes from all around the world.

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How Do Judo Fighters Use Grappling?

Judo employs a wide range of throws, sweeps, trips, and submission techniques.

These techniques all involve grappling in a standing position, ultimately leading to grappling on the ground where submissions happen.

Although Judo places less emphasis on grappling on the ground than BJJ for example, it’s still a very effective martial art for defending yourself against an attacker.

In fact, as I mentioned before, BJJ which is primarily a grappling art was based on techniques adapted from Judo.

This is a great martial art to learn, and it’ll definitely make you dangerous.

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Grappling in wrestling
Credit: Olympics

What Is Wrestling?

Wrestling is probably the oldest martial art on this list.

Some believe wrestling to be as old as 20,000 years, practiced by some of the most prominent cultures in human history.

Including the Sumerians, Egyptians, Greeks, French, and many more.

Wrestling was one of the first martial arts to be included in the Olympic Games, and it’s still going strong to this day.

It’s even become one of the main fighting styles used by MMA fighters because the control you’re able to achieve with wrestling is incredible.

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How Do Wrestlers Use Grappling?

Wrestling is mainly a grappling sport.

Wrestlers employ throws, trips, and takedowns to get their opponent to the ground.

Once on the ground, wrestlers use their superior grappling skills to control their opponent, getting their back to the ground and keeping it there.

Unlike BJJ, wrestling is a fighting style that dominates from the top position and involves almost no defensive or offensive options when you’re flat on your back.

However, wrestling is still a crucial skill to learn for control and has the best options for getting an opponent to the ground.

So much so that BJJ and MMA fighters make it one of their most practiced fighting styles.

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What Is The Best Martial Art For Grappling?

Each of the martial arts mentioned above excels in different ways.

MMA and Sambo are great for self-defense in street fight settings.

Krav Maga is useful for younger and smaller fighters who wish to protect themselves against larger opponents.

Wrestling and Judo are age-old martial arts that have even proven useful in battle.

Each of these styles places some emphasis on grappling.

However, I’d say Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu is the best martial art for grappling.

BJJ is essentially the science of grappling and contains the most grappling techniques of any other martial art on our list.

So consider enrolling in a Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu if you want to improve your grappling skills and dominate your next fight.

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