Strengths and Weaknesses of 5 Popular Grappling Arts

By Tony Salzano

Part of being a complete martial artist is knowing how practitioners of other styles think, train and fight. This article will provide an introduction to five popular grappling arts — Brazilian jiu-jitsu, judo, sambo,shootfighting and wrestling — and clue you in as to how you might defeat people who train in them.

Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu

The basic strategy of the Brazilian jiu-jitsu stylist is to mount or submit his opponent — by outlasting him, if necessary. He’s almost always superbly conditioned aerobically (to endure a long fight) and muscularly (to prevent the buildup of lactic acid in the muscles when clinching for eternity). He generally is very patient, slim and smart, and often described as “unbelievable on the ground.”

His weaknesses include the fact that he usually trains and fights while wearing a uniform. Without it, he has no extra “handles” on his opponent and loses the ability to execute many chokes. His standing techniques, including takedowns and striking, are often weak.

Secret: Overpower him in the first moments of a fight. Don’t stay in his guard. Use techniques that are illegal in his type of competition: low strikes, groin attacks, etc. Whatever you do, don’t try to beat him at his own game, for then you will be the underdog.

Judo

The strengths of the judoka include throws, chokes and joint locks. Therefore, his basic strategy revolves around throwing his opponent to earn points and, if possible, making him submit.

His weaknesses are most easily exposed by strikes. Also, competitive judo is one of the more “lopsided” methods of fighting in that it has strict rules (no tackles, neck locks, strikes or leg locks; and the referee can make the players break and stand up). The judo practitioner spends an eternity practicing throws, but he often neglects other critical aspects of a real fight.

Secret: Beat him with strikes or “dirty tricks.”

Sambo

The strengths of a sambo stylist lie in his locks first and his throws second. He’s usually very strong and tough. His basic strategy is the same as that of the judoka — takedown and submission — but because he spends most of his time practicing locks, his takedowns may not be so refined.

Secret: Beat him by using tactics that are illegal in his art. When he shoots in, you can use this very brief opportunity to strike the face and go for a front face lock. If he doesn’t shoot, keep a fist in his face. Remember that the sambo practitioner is not used to blocking punches.

Shootfighting

shootfighter is almost always superbly conditioned, knowledgeable and clever. This makes him very tough. You must be in great condition to face this type of fighter. If you tire first, he wins. His basic strategy is to straighten a limb — thus exposing a weakness — and lock it.

One shortcoming is that the shootfighter competes under rules such as no closed-hand strikes to the face. That can impart a false sense of security and may cause him to fight in a relaxed, almost casual manner. This prohibition of punching also can lead him to develop a habit of resting while in his opponent’s guard. In a no-rules fight, he’ll get punched if he does this.

Another weakness is that the shootfighter may be used to grabbing the ropes to bail himself out of a sticky situation. However, some proponents argue that this rule forces the shootfighter to learn how to apply locks more quickly than other stylists — so his opponent doesn’t have time to grab the rope.

Secret: Beat him at what he does not practice (i.e., punches to the face) by using a frenetic, “go-ape” style. This can thwart the shootfighter’s usual pace.

Wrestling

Bruce Lee said the hardest guy to beat is the wrestler, whose basic strategy is to crunch his opponent, flatten him and pop something — if he knows how to fight. (If he’s a sport wrestler, he may lack finishing holds and may not strike well.) The wrestler likes to ride his opponent to tire him out. This is effected by making the opponent carry the wrestler’s weight.

The wrestler’s biggest strength lies in making his opponent perpetually “think defense.” It’s usually suicidal to try to out-wrestle him, since wrestling is all he does.

Secret: Be in better condition and do something he doesn’t know. For example, back up constantly and kick his legs as Marco Ruas used to do in the UFC. Or keep your fist in his face, as Benny Urquidez advocates. Always remember what master grappler Gene LeBell says: “The best way to beat any fighter is to do something illegal in his own game, something he doesn’t know.”

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