Grappling refers to the gripping, handling and controlling of an opponent without the use of striking, typically through the application of various grappling holds, choke holds, and counters to various hold attempts. Grappling forms an important part of both ground fighting and standing clinch fighting. Sports that use grappling include Judo, Wrestling, Brazilian jiu-jitsu, and mixed martial arts.

FILA uses the term grappling interchangeably with the sport of submission wrestling.


Grappling is a mode of fighting used by many different martial arts around the world. It is not a distinct martial art, but rather, similarly to striking, a collection of techniques and strategies aimed at defeating an opponent. The degree to which grappling is utilized in different fighting systems varies. Some systems, such as Amateur wrestling, Submission wrestling, Judo and Brazilian jiu-jitsu are exclusively grappling arts, and do not allow striking. Many combat sports such as Shooto and mixed martial arts competitions, put much emphasis on grappling, while still retaining striking as part of the sport.

It is however forbidden to grapple in many martial arts and combat sports; usually for the sake of focusing on other aspects of combat such as punching, kicking or Mêlée weapons. Opponents in these types of matches, however, still grapple each other occasionally when fatigued or hurt; when this occurs, the referee will step in and restart the match, sometimes giving a warning to one or both of the fighters. Examples of these include Boxing, Kickboxing, Taekwondo, Karate, and fencing. While prolonged grappling in Muay Thai will result in a separation of the competitors, the art extensively uses the clinch hold known as a double collar tie.

Grappling techniques and defenses to grappling techniques are also considered important in self-defense applications and in law enforcement. The most common grappling techniques for self-defense taught are escapes from holds and application of pain compliance techniques.

Stand-up grappling

Stand-up grappling or sometimes clinching (in judo called tachi-waza, 立技, "standing technique") is arguably an integral part of all grappling and clinch fighting arts, considering that two combatants generally start fighting from a stand-up position. The aim of stand-up grappling varies according to the martial arts or combat sports in question. Its nature can be defensive such as in Aikido or offensive such as in Judo or Wrestling. Defensive stand-up grappling concerns itself with pain-compliance holds and escapes from possible grappling holds applied by an opponent, while offensive grappling techniques include submission holds, takedowns and throws, all of which can be used to inflict serious damage, or to move the fight to the ground. Stand-up grappling can also be used both offensively and defensively in combination with striking, either to prevent the opponent form obtaining sufficient distance to strike effectively, or to bring the opponent close to apply, for instance, knee strikes such as in Muay Thai.

In combat sports, stand-up grappling usually revolves around successful takedowns and throws. In Judo a fight is over if one of the judoka score an ippon, and in some sports such as Glima, the fight is over once one of the opponents has fallen down.

Ground grappling

Ground grappling (called ne-waza "ground technique" in Judo) refers to all the grappling techniques that are applied while the grapplers are no longer in a standing position. A large feature in most martial arts and combat sports featuring ground grappling is positioning and obtaining a dominant position. A dominant position (usually on top) allows the dominant grappler a variety of options, including: to attempt to escape by standing up, to obtain a pin or hold-down to control and exhaust the opponent, to execute a submission hold, or to strike the opponent. The bottom grappler is on the other hand concerned with escaping the situation and improving his or her positioning, typically by using a sweep or reversal. In disciplines where the guard is used, the bottom grappler may also be able to finish the fight from the bottom by a submission hold.


When unskilled fighters get embroiled in combat, a common reaction is to grab the opponent in an attempt to slow the situation down by holding them still, resulting in an unsystematic struggle that relies on brute force. A skilled fighter, in contrast, can perform takedowns as a way of progressing to a superior position such as a mount or side control, or using clinch holds and ground positions to set up strikes, chokeholds and joint locks. A grappler who has been taken down to the ground can use defensive positions such as the guard, which protects against being mounted or attacked. If a grappler is strong and can utilize leverage well, a takedown itself can be a form of attack—the impact to the head can render some opponents unconscious. On the other hand, grappling also offers the possibility of controlling an opponent without injuring them. For this reason, most police staff receive some training in grappling. Likewise, grappling sports such as judo have been devised so that their participants can compete using full physical effort without injuring their opponents.

It should be noted, however, that heavier fighters - those with limited mobility, that is - use grappling to either pull their opponent close enough for a powerful hit or throw their opponent with enough force to temporarily cripple them.

Grappling is called dumog in Eskrima. The term chin na in Chinese martial arts deals with the use of grappling to achieve submission or incapacitation of the opponent (these may involve the use of acupressure points). Among the styles of Tai Chi Chuan, the Wu style is known for its internal or "soft" style grappling (see pushing hands). Some Chinese martial arts, Aikido and some Eskrima systems practice grappling while one or both participants is armed. This practice is significantly more dangerous than unarmed grappling, and generally requires a great deal of training.

Types of Grappling

Some of the more well known systems of pure grappling are Brazilian jiu-jitsu, Russian Sambo, Judo, Freestyle wrestling, Folkstyle wrestling, and catch wrestling.

In these arts, the object is either to take down and pin the opponent, or to catch the adversary in a specialized chokehold or joint-lock which forces him or her to submit and admit defeat. There are two forms of grappling that dictate pace, and style of action: with a gi and without. The gi form is known for its emphasis on grips using the gi, while the "no-gi" form emphasized body control of the torso and head. The use of the gi is compulsory in Judo and some sections of Brazilian jiu-jitsu competition.

See also


  • Gracie; Renzo, Gracie, Royler; Peligro, Kid; Danaher, John (2001). Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu: Theory and technique. Invisible Cities Press. ISBN 1-931229-08-2.

External links

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