Is Wrestling a Martial Art? (Here are the facts!)

Martial Arts are defined as various fighting sports or skills, of East Asian origin mainly judo, kung-fu, karate, and kendo. They are systems of combat that are practiced for numerous reasons, from self-defense to mental and spiritual development.

is wrestling a martial art

Is wrestling a martial art? 

Wrestling does not fit into the traditional definition of martial arts but it should be considered one. It is one of the five core disciplines of Mixed Martial Arts and has proven to be effective against the other martial arts discipline. Wrestling is a sport in the Olympic games and has been proven to be effective in street fights. 

Below we will look at martial arts to see if the wrestling discipline has a place in the genre. 

What is Martial Arts?

Before we can answer the question if wrestling is a martial art, we must first look at what martial arts is. 

Martial arts are systems of combat that can be used for self-defense, competition, physical development, spiritual development, and entertainment.

The term martial arts was first used in the 1550s to describe combat systems in Europe. It stems from Latin meaning the art of Mars, the Roman God of War. 

What is Wrestling?

Wrestling is a combat sport that involves grappling techniques. They include clinch fighting, takedowns, throws, grappling holds, and pins. The techniques from these moves have been incorporated into other martial arts, military systems, and combat sports.

Wrestling is the oldest form of combat. It dates back over 15,000 years. Ancient cave drawings found in Egypt and Babylonia depict wrestlers employing most of the holds still used today. 

Different Wrestling Styles 

Wrestling has many different styles from country to country around the world. The United World Wrestling (UWW) has broken wrestling down into two categories; International and Folk wrestling.

They recognize six different disciplines in all. The styles of Greco-Roman wrestling, men’s freestyle, and female wrestling are all designated as Olympic disciplines. The last three modern international styles are amateur pankration, beach wrestling, and belt wrestling alysh. 

Folk Wrestling is the traditional form of wrestling that is unique to a specific region of the world. These wrestling styles are not recognized or regulated by the UWW. Some disciplines of folk wrestling include oil wrestling and American collegiate wrestling.

Professional wrestling often referred to as sports entertainment, takes place in an elevated boxing-type ring. These matches usually rely more on the storyline and build-up to the matches rather than the physical confrontation. The outcomes of these matches are often predetermined to promote the theatrics of the match. 

Why Wrestling is Snubbed 

Wrestling is often snubbed from being considered a martial art because it is not viewed as actual fighting or a means of self-defense.

This perception may derive from the portrait of professional wrestling as a form of entertainment. This damages the legitimacy of wrestling being an actual fighting style. 

Why Wrestling is Effective

Wrestling is an effective method of fighting or self-defense because its style and techniques have been proven to be effective in subduing and controlling an opponent.

Wrestling is also an effective technique for keeping and maintaining positional control to avoid being subdued by your opponent. This will help you evade an attacker and be in the position needed to defend yourself. 

Wrestling and the MMA

Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) is the modern hybrid form that combines multiple forms of martial arts into a singular fighting style. The five core disciplines of MMA are Muay Thai, kickboxing, judo, Brazilian jiu-jitsu, and wrestling.

In the early stages of MMA, wrestlers were successful and gained respect due to their effectiveness against the traditional forms of martial arts.

There are debates on who founded the mixing of styles found in the modern version of the MMA. The ancient form of Greek Olympic combat known as pankration allowed any form of fighting. It only outlawed eye gouging, biting, and attacks on the genitalia. All the holds of wrestling and any blows of boxing could be used to subdue your opponent. 

Others Credit Bruce Lee’s mix of styles as the most similar to the combat used in MMA today. 

Wrestler to MMA Fighter

Wrestling is now seen as the best discipline to transfer to an MMA fighter today. The foundations of a wrestler give them the best experience to have future success as an MMA fighter.

Wrestling teaches how to take down an opponent efficiently while being able to keep yourself from harm. Wrestlers can control the MMA match and dictate where the match will take place. 

Wrestling techniques are still keys to success in MMA fighting and lasting success inside an octagon. The Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) which holds regular MMA matches has seen more of its champions come from a wrestling background than any other traditional martial arts platform.

Wrestling and Street Fighting

Wrestling is also a useful skill in street fights where no rules apply. It will give you the ability to control your opponent, anticipate strikes, and be able to dictate where the fight will take place. Wrestling holds can be used to overcome and subdue your opponent without giving them the ability to fight back or injure you. 

Wrestling will also give you the advantage of obtaining a better advantage during the fight to land more effective strikes and blows. Wrestling will also help physically train you and give you the stamina as well as the mental and emotional benefits of training. 

In fact, it is one of the best martial arts for self-defense.


Despite being one of the earliest recorded forms of combat, wrestling is not considered to be one of the main core of martial arts, but it should be. Many techniques from wrestling have been used in the traditional martial art fighting disciplines. 

Wrestling is one of the five main disciplines that make up the modern versions of MMA. More MMA champions have come from a wrestling background than any other martial arts discipline.