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A Primer to Martial Arts: Part II (Grappling Arts)

Here's part II of the primer on martial arts! In case you missed part I, click here first! Parts III and IV are also available in the links and on the sidebar on the right!

Grappling Arts


Like I said in part I, grappling arts are generally about redirecting force or subduing an opponent without direct strikes to the body. I tend to think that there are two branches within grappling arts: wrestling and redirecting. Like many things in life, there are those who may disagree with me, but it has been useful for me in helping to understand how to mentally classify where a style can fit for my own purposes.

(Mostly I just want to be as badass as Vladimir Putin)

What can a grappling art do for me?

Grappling arts are great for everyone in the sense that everyone has weak little pathetic joints. My karate sensei loves teaching us basic joint lock techniques because he can show us how easily you can drop an opponent with a simple wrist lock. He also has said that in his experience, men's tend to be easier to joint lock and subdue due to relatively less-flexible joints— your mileage may vary, but my experience suggests this is often true.


In joint locking, a 100 pound person can subdue a 200 pound person because joints are generally equally vulnerable. In striking, while the 100 pound person can win, they have a larger disadvantage in my opinion because mass x acceleration = force, and force = pain.

Brazilian Jiu-jitsu


Brazilian Jiu-jitsu (BJJ) was pioneered by a Brazilian man by the name of Carlos Gracie, whose descendants are still its most important namesake today. In order to demonstrate the effectiveness of the style, I'll use a story:

When Royce Gracie entered into UFC, BJJ was a relative unknown in the world of martial arts. By beating opponents larger and stronger than him, and netting himself 11 submission wins, Gracie demonstrated that the future of what became modern MMA would require some kind of "ground game" (grappling). Since then, nearly every successful MMA fighter has had to become skilled in grappling. One of UFC's top fighters today, Georges St. Pierre, has "jiu jitsu" literally tattooed on his chest.


Unfortunately, due to its reputation in MMA, BJJ has also suffered the flood of meatheads wishing to become the next UFC superstar. That said, there are some amazing schools out there that have great, strong international communities and fantastic support structures because of its popularity.


Upsides: incredibly effective style that has proven itself many times over, large group of practitioners worldwide (access to great tournaments and classes), relatively low impact on the body

Downsides: You have to be okay with lots of body contact. Get ready to huggle! Also, meatheads, meatheads everywhere.




Judo is, like BJJ, a relatively modern martial art. Judo has a significant focus on takedowns and pins, whereby the practitioner tries to subdue the opponent and force them to submit through a joint lock or a choke. Strikes and thrusts are taught, but they are only used in kata, which are pre-determined simulated fights.

Judo has three main types of techniques: throwing, grappling, and striking. Judo has had a significant competitive aspect at its core since its founding, and is a major Olympic sport (like TKD) with codified rules and regulations. It also has some top-tier representation in MMA today:


Ronda Rousey, who is one of the best women fighters in UFC today, is an Olympic bronze medalist in Judo, and it shows. (I discuss further about Rousey and how she's portrayed and her comments about Fallon Fox in MMA in part III, when I discuss how she's portrayed, but let's leave it to here for now.)

Upsides: Large worldwide presence, easy to find great teachers, relatively few UFC wannabes (for now...)


Downsides: can be hard on the joints, taking falls only gets harder as one gets older



Aikido is an interesting art in that it is probably the only one that I know of that has a serious focus on not harming the opponent beyond what's necessary. Aikido is also relatively less strength-dependent because it focuses on utilizing the attacker's energy against them. And because it has a large focus on joint locks, it can be used quite readily to take down much larger opponents with relatively less physical force.

There are criticisms that aikido has issues with the applicability of its practice techniques in reality, and some say that the ROI is way too steep. That said, I have a friend who is a 3rd degree black belt, and she was mugged outside of her car. She, not even thinking about it, threw the attacker over the hood of her car and on to the passenger side. The attacker ran away dazed and confused. The techniques can be applied in reality. It's just a matter of investment.


Upsides: relatively little physical strength required, generally very supportive organizations

Downsides: Some criticisms of teaching techniques, long return on investment


Grappling arts can be seen as great alternatives or supplements to striking arts, and can often be less strenuous on the body than striking arts. And like my striking article this is by no means exhaustive! There are other grappling styles, including Western wrestling and Shoot wrestling.


Furthermore, thanks to the popularity of UFC, grappling styles like BJJ and judo have seen a significant increase in popularity, meaning greater access to classes and events!

Other Posts:

1. Striking Arts

3. Women in martial arts, including a look at women in martial arts media (film, TV, etc.)


4. How to choose a martial art, including how to not choose a McDojo

5. (Just added!) Styles not covered here, including kendo, krav maga, and Chinese martial arts


Thanks again!

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