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That’s the question that has been bothering me for years. And probably like you, I have a natural bias to support my decision based on what I am… a BJJer. But in spite of that bias, I’m gonna tackle this question as objectively as possible to support my theory. So, just bear with me before you call me an idiot.
Ok, the answer to the question are wrestlers tougher than BJJers is… yes and no.
Why, you ask?
The reason that I say wrestlers are tougher than BJJers is because of the way they train and the mindset that’s ingrained (overtly and covertly) within the training. If you’ve ever been around wrestlers for any period of time, it’s easy to notice common traits they possess, regardless of whether they’re pee-wee, master/veterans level wrestler, and every level in
And what stands out in my mind about wrestlers are these common characteristics:
– They’re always aggressive on the mat
– They usually attack first
– They’re not afraid to work hard, even to point of complete exhaustion
– They’ll fight anybody, regardless of size
– They’re all a little cocky about their skill set
– They believe they can beat anyone in the world that faces them
– They don’t quit on themselves during a match and if they do, they’re destroying something as soon as the match is over
– They hate losing at anything
– They basically evaluate grapplers in two categories: you’re either tough or a punk
Now, are those characteristics that BJJers don’t possess? No, that’s not what I’m saying at all.
It’s not that BJJers can’t have that tough mindset that I’ve mentioned above because many do, especially those schools that are involved in various competitive events (e.g. BJJ Tourneys, MMA Events, etc).
What I believe is the way that BJJ has been marketed (e.g. an art for a smaller man to win against a bigger man, technique not strength, etc.) for average Joe has made it easier for the “toughness” aspect to be downplayed (or even removed) from the daily training, especially when a certain amount of people are paying to learn how to grapple as a recreational activity.
And since instructors must create friendly training environments where all students (from MMAers to couch potatoes) can train and not feel physically overwhelmed, it’s easy for an environment to evolve
where an instructor or coach has to:
– “Protect” certain grapplers from training with other grapplers
– Allow grapplers to skip certain part of the workout (e.g. warm-ups) so they won’t be too tired
– Allow grapplers to not train because they’re getting tired and don’t want to lose
– Avoid certain training situations (e.g. takedowns) for fear of injury or it’s too exhausting
– Displaying passive behavior on the mat
– Quitting during matches with impunity
And while that may be the “right” thing to do as far as business is concerned, that approach makes it easy to remove the element of toughness that’s automatically ingrained within BJJ training to make it “safer and friendly” for the potential student.
And once many students realize how demanding the training can be, they usually quit before ever achieving a purple or even a blue belt.
What’s the solution for the BJJer? Well, I think the solution lies in the question itself. I don’t really think it’s important to improve who’s tougher, but I think it’s quite obvious that we should lean towards wrestlers to learn how to engrain the tough mental mindset into grappling training, for grapplers of all ages to learn.
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