What is Wrestling?

Wrestling is one of the oldest art forms in the world. It consists of two people who aim to pin one another down to the floor, putting them on their back with their shoulders down.

There are different styles of wrestling too where the objectives can vary, but all involve grappling with another person. Two popular styles of wrestling include Greco-Roman and freestyle wrestling, both are Olympic sports where competitors can compete for Olympic gold.

Wrestling has evolved a lot since its manifestation, now becoming very popular amongst young people in places such as America and Russia.

Kids are able to train in wrestling within their schools and compete against other local competitors. The art form has also become a needed skillset for mixed martial arts athletes to practise in training whilst preparing for their bouts.




The origins and history of Wrestling


Early signs of Wrestling

Wrestling is one of the oldest combat sports and art forms in the world. Many different styles have been developed across various countries.

The first reported date of wrestling as a pastime was in 3000 BCE, at the time of the Sumerians. The Epic of Gilgamesh depicts wrestling during this time as can be seen on various sculptures written in cuneiform.

This shows us that wrestling was likely present in Ancient Egypt and Babylonia, in what looked to be belt wrestling (find out more in styles of wrestling). The drawings in the tombs of Beni- Hassan also seem to represent wrestlers too.

Loose wrestling (find out more in styles of wrestling) is also thought to have been present in India from before 1500 BCE and in China from around 700 BCE.


54939672 - wrestling set silhouettes, art vector design


Wrestling in Ancient Greece

Wrestling was known to be the most popular sport amongst the ancient Greeks. All athletes would compete naked, covering themselves in oil protecting them from the sun in the summer and the cold in the winter.

There were two different contests that included wrestling. The Pankration which consisted of using both boxing and wrestling techniques and upright wrestling which was a part of the Pentathlon.

The Greek wrestling that was used in the Pentathlon is more similar to the wrestling we are familiar with nowadays. It would form the last part of the Pentathlon before a winner was crowned.

A famous Greek wrestler during this time was Milo of Croton, a student of the philosopher Pythagoras and a six-time Olympic champion.


wrestling in Ancient Rome


Wrestling in Ancient Rome

During Ancient Rome, wrestling was popular amongst soldiers and shepherds. But in 393, the Emperor Theodosius banned the Olympic games. Making wrestling less popular. The art form would then only be practised by the social elite in castles and palaces.


Wrestling in the Middle Ages

In the Middle Ages, wrestling had most success in Europe. In the early 13th century, the first recorded English match was in London.

This was believed to have been jacket wrestling. Books on wrestling started to be published in the 1500s, notably the wrestling manual by the German artist Albrecht Dürer.

The monarchy were supportive of wrestling with such famous proponents as Henry VIII, Charles II and the  French king Francis I being fans of the art.


Evolution of Wrestling

In the 1830’s wrestling would start to become popular in France. French wrestlers who weren’t able to learn and train with the best would form their own groups and travel around France to show off their skills.

They would ask the local people to try and take them down in return for a money prize. In 1848, the French showman Jean Exbroyat created the wrestlers’ circus troupe where they introduced the rule of no holds below the waist.

This came to be known as flat hand wrestling. This style evolved and spread to the Austrian- Hungarian empire, Denmark, Italy and Russia. This style went on to become Greco- Roman wrestling, which is what we now know it as today.

After many failed attempts of reintroducing the Olympics, the International Olympic Committee was finally created in 1894. Baron Pierre de Coubertin, who is known as the modern-day father of the Olympics, managed to re-establish the Olympic games in 1896.

Wrestling became a part of the first 10 sports for the first modern day Olympic games in Athens in 1896.There were no weight categories and the rules used were similar to that of Greco- Roman wrestling.

The German athlete Carl Schumann was the first Olympic wrestling champion. Defeating the English weightlifting champion Launceston, who was much bigger than him. He also won Olympic titles in gymnastics.

Freestyle wrestling was introduced into the Olympics later in 1904 in St Louis. Both styles, freestyle and Greco-roman were organised in the Olympic games in London in 1908.

Both these styles remain in the Olympics today, with people across the globe practising the Olympic styles. While these styles are the most popular, other styles such as Sumo, Pehlwani and many more prevail!

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How Wrestling spread across the world

Wrestling has been practiced in many different countries. Different styles adapt to certain rules, making each of them slightly different. But all wrestling styles include grappling techniques at the core of the art form.

For example, Sumo wrestling was popular in Japan. The roots of the art form date back to the Heian period in 794. Another example is Pehlwani. This Indian art form was popular in countries such as India and Pakistan.

The art form was created in the Mughal Empire in 1526 by combining two previous older art forms, Malla-yuddha and varzesh-e bāstāni.

These wrestling styles were all popular in their area, but not so much across different countries. Though many wrestlers would challenge one another from different styles and countries.

The famous Japanese wrestler, Antonio Inoki, was well known for challenging different wrestlers. He would visit Pakistan in the 1900s where he would face some of the best Pehlwans’ and even had a bout with the superstar boxer Muhammad Ali!

The spread of wrestling to the world, primarily the freestyle and Grego-Roman styles, was undoubtedly due to the Olympics. With the Greco-Roman style being introduced in 1896, then freestyle wrestling added in 1904, they have been a part of the Olympics ever since.

This has allowed for wrestling to grow and become a more popular art form to be practised globally. As the Olympics grew with the amount of countries and competitors involved, wrestling would become familiar to more people across the world.

These two styles are now practised in various countries, by people who dream of becoming Olympic champions.

Wrestling also became popular in the entertainment industry too. The likes of the WWE (World Wrestling Entertainment, formerly known as the WWF) became very popular in the 1980s.

Many fans enjoyed watching the fights and became engaged with the fighters who each had their own stories. Fighters would build their own large fanbases, making bouts even more thrilling when they came to face one another in the ring.

Entertainment wrestling is very different to the styles practiced in the Olympics (we will touch on this in more detail in the difference between WWE and Olympic wrestling section).

In entertainment wrestling, the entertainment  is the most important factor. Meaning many bouts are pre-scripted and written to make it as enticing as possible.

Whereas Olympic wrestling is raw, unscripted and the purpose is to find the best wrestler in each style, within a fair set of rules.


the Olympic Rings

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Modern day Wrestling

Nowadays wrestling is still popular, but not as much as it used to be.

Freestyle and Greco-Roman remain the only two styles within the Olympics. Freestyle wrestling has also allowed  women to compete since 2004.

Wrestling in the entertainment industry is still popular. The likes of the WWE still have many fans across the world who are entertained and invested in the wrestling.

However, the emergence of MMA (mixed martial arts) has seen many wrestling fans move over to the new combat sport. Wrestling is a key component of MMA, and many wrestlers transition into MMA.

Fans have taken to the new sport due to it including many different martial arts, with less rules, making it entertaining to watch. Famous wrestlers that have transitioned into MMA include  Khabib Nurmagomedov and Henry Cejudo.


two high school wrestler competing against one another

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Different styles of Wrestling

There are many different styles of wrestling that are still practised today. Usually wrestling styles are broken into three categories:


  • Belt/ jacket wrestling This consists of wrestlers wearing either a jacket or belt where they can use this to take a grip of their opponent.
  • Catch-hold wrestling- Usually wrestlers will start the bout in a hold before the contest, maintaining this throughout the bout.
  • Loose wrestling- Within this category wrestlers are able to choose any grips, throws or holds they want without breaking the rules.


We will go through some of the most popular styles:


Freestyle wrestling

 This is one of only two wrestling styles that are practiced in the Olympics. Within this form, wrestlers are allowed to use their legs for offensive and defensive purposes.

The goal is to pin your opponent’s shoulders to the mat. Freestyle wrestling was first introduced into the Olympics in 1904 in St Louis. We will go through the key rules of competition, in the competition section later on (competition).


Check out this video of Freestyle wrestling!


Greco-Roman wrestling

Greco-Roman wrestling is the other style included in the Olympics. It was the first style to be included in the Olympics in 1896 in Athens. This form forbids wrestlers from holding their opponent below the waist.

Therefore, single leg and double leg takedowns are not allowed. Greco-roman wrestling requires practitioners to use upper body techniques to pin down their opponent.


This video goes through some Greco- Roman wrestling highlights!


Collegiate wrestling (Folkstyle wrestling)

Collegiate wrestling, otherwise known as Folkstyle wrestling, is popular in America, where practitioners can compete against one another whilst attending a college or university.

The goal of this style is to pin your opponent to their back for two seconds. Wrestlers can also win by decision by having more points or win by technical superiority which is when a wrestler is winning by 15 points.

It is similar to freestyle wrestling, but with differences such as not being allowed to lock your hands, unless you are trying to pin or take down an opponent. Also, there are more moves from bottom position within Folkstyle wrestling.


Check out this collegiate wrestling final!



Pehlwani is a form of wrestling that is popular in countries such as India and Pakistan. As stated before, the style was formed in the Mughal Empire in 1526 by combining two previous older art forms, Malla-yuddha and varzesh-e bāstāni.

The style includes pins, throws, locks and submission holds. The goal of Pehlwani is to pin your opponent’s shoulders and hips to the ground. Practitioners can also win by knockout, submission or referee stoppage.



This video shows a Pehlwani wrestling match!



Sumo wrestling is a Japanese form of wrestling, dating back to the Heian period in 794. This wrestling style differs a lot to the previous styles as the goal is to push your opponent out of the marked circular ring.

If an opponent touches the floor with anything other than their feet, they lose too. Practitioners usually are big individuals who weigh in the heavyweight range.


Here is a video of a Sumo wrestling match!

Other styles include:

  • Dumog– A Filipino wrestling style
  • Gilma a wrestling style based on a popular sport played by the Vikings
  • Mongolian wrestling The goal of this style is to get your opponent to touch their upper body, knee or elbow to the floor
  • Schwigen a wrestling style practised in Switzerland
  • Yağlı Güreş A Turkish oil wrestling style

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Basic fundamentals of Wrestling

With there being many different styles of wrestling. There are still fundamentals that are vital within them all.

The sole purpose of wrestling is being able to pin your opponent down to the floor in some way, using techniques and skills to show that you are the better wrestler.

All styles will require you to know these fundamentals when you train:


Wrestling Stance

This is very important when it comes to wrestling. The stance serves as the base to everything. With a good stance you will be able to perform techniques effectively and correctly.

Usually, a good wrestling stance will consist of your knees being slightly bent, allowing you to defend your opponent’s attacks, and for your own attacks too. One leg should be in front of the other.


Wrestling Takedown

This serves at the purpose of wrestling. To pin your opponent down. All styles will want you to be able to ground your opponent from an upright position. Being able to learn different techniques and skills to help you do this, is vital to being a successful wrestler.


Wrestling Defence 

Defence is highly important in wrestling. As when you are pinned down to the ground by your opponent, you will lose the fight. Therefore, being able to defend your opponent’s attempts to pin you down to the ground is crucial.

By being able to learn these fundamentals (in line with the ruleset of the wrestling style you practise), will help you to have a good foundation when it comes to wrestling.

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Difference between the WWE and Olympic Wrestling

Many people get confused with professional wrestling organisations such as the WWE and wrestling at the Olympics. Both are referred to as ‘wrestling’, but as we have touched upon this before, both are very different…

Organisations such as the WWE are solely built for the purpose of entertainment. They create storylines for their wrestlers to create hype and make their bouts highly anticipated.

By doing this, they pre-write and script performances to make it as entertaining as possible for the fans.

Whereas Olympic wrestling is a combat sport. Competitors go into bouts having to figure out ways to defeat their opponent. Entertaining the fans is not the priority. Their priority is to win by any means necessary (within the rules of course).

This can make bouts seem less entertaining for those who are watching that do not fully understand the sport. With the WWE they regularly include crazy stunts such as putting people through tables, to keep the fans engaged in the action!

The WWE will include high action drama and is usually performed at a very fast pace, making it so people stay engaged and keep watching.

Whereas Olympic wrestling is much more strategic and tactical, being slow at times as the competitors try to figure out ways in which they can gain the upper hand.

Both require competitors to be in great shape and need a lot of training. Constantly drilling the techniques and moves so that they can perform their best when fighting.


a professional wrestler in the ring

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Is wrestling fake?

This is a very popular question that people had when WWE first became popular. Though the question is not as big as it used to be, people still are not sure what the answer to this is.

The answer depends on what type of wrestling you are talking about. As we now know, there are many different types of wrestling. The styles used within the Olympics are different to the wrestling styles used in the WWE.

Olympic wrestling is completely authentic, with competitors having to figure out their own ways to victory.

This question is mainly aimed at organisations such as the WWE. As stated before, WWE bouts are entertainment based, with pre-written storylines to make the action as captivating as possible.

Simply written, yes the results can be viewed as fake because wrestlers know who will win before the bout. But many times, wrestlers will have to work together and include some of their own moves to keep the fight going if moves are forgotten.

There is still a lot of skill and patience used in WWE wrestling.

Organisations like the WWE are not seen as contests where the best wrestlers perform and compete. It is more so entertainment for people as they can become more invested in the wrestlers stories and enthralled with action packed fights.

We can see the answer depends on what wrestling you are referring to when asking the question! All types of wrestlers will still need to train thoroughly to get to the top, whether than be in the WWE or Olympic wrestling.

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What equipment do I need when starting Wrestling?

Going to your first wrestling session wearing a t shirt and shorts will be fine (our range coming out soon that is perfect for this)! You will want to wear something that is comfortable as you will be moving a lot in training.

It is best for you to wear clothing that isn’t too loose as you won’t want your clothing to catch onto anything.

Many wrestlers also like to wear training tights under their shorts when training. Usually during training, you will be allowed to wear your own suitable clothing. However, in many wrestling competitions, it is compulsory to wear a wrestling singlet.

This can be seen in the Olympics as wrestlers wear either a red or blue singlet. This is also worn in Collegiate wrestling, wearing colours representing your school. If singlets are required they will most likely be provided by the place you train at.

But to get started in wrestling, a t shirt and pair of shorts will be fine!

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Olympic Wrestling

Wrestling is most popular as a competitive sport. With there being so many styles, we will look at the most popular forms that are a part of the Olympics, Greco-Roman and freestyle wrestling.

Both are very similar in terms of the format of the contest, the scoring and the ways to victory. Where these two styles differ is within the ruleset.

We will go through the rules of each style and how the bouts are scored.

Competitors will all fight within their weight category and be required to weigh in prior to their bouts. All must wear a wrestling singlet.

One will wear red and the other will wear blue to allow all to distinguish who is who. All competitors will also be required to wear wrestling shoes which are specific to the sport.

Helmets are optional too for wrestlers, some competitors are recommended to wear them for health reasons.

Both styles use the same scoring system:


  • Takedown (2-5 points)- This is when a competitor is able to ground their opponent from a standing position. The number of points varies depending on the technique and gratitude of the takedown, with 5 points being the most a wrestler can get.
  • Exposure (2 to 3 points)- This is when a wrestler exposes a competitors’ back to the ground for a few seconds. Depending on how long this was for, they can receive up to 3 points for this.
  • Reversal (1 point)- When a wrestler is in a defensive position, they can reverse into an attacking position to gain a point.
  • Escape (1 point)- When a wrestler is in a defensive position and moves into a neutral position. They can get a point for escaping.
  • Penalty (1- 2 points)- Any points a competitor gets for their opponent breaking the rules.
  • Out of bounds (1 point)- If your opponent leaves the area, you are awarded a point

With Greco- Roman wrestling each round is broken into 3 sections. The first minute will start off normally with both competitors standing. Then the following 30 seconds will be in the ‘Par Terre’ position, where both competitors will be on the ground.

One wrestler will be on top, giving them the advantage. The last 30 seconds will be the same position, but the roles are reversed, giving the other competitor the advantage this time. Check out this video that explains the rules of Greco- Roman wrestling:


Rules of Greco- Roman wrestling:

  • Bouts last for 3 rounds, being 2 minutes each.
  • Holding below the waist is illegal
  • Leg trips, kicks and knee strikes are also not allowed

For Freestyle wrestling the rules are similar. The key difference to Greco-Roman wrestling is that Freestyle wrestlers are allowed to attack the legs and use trips to take their opponent down.

Here are some key rules:


Rules of Freestyle wrestling:

  • A leg scissor move to the head, neck or body is not allowed
  • If a wrestler is deemed passive, a shot clock will start- if no points are scored the opponent will receive a point


This video goes through the rules of Freestyle wrestling:


The ways to victory for both Greco- Roman and Freestyle wrestlers is:


  • Pin/fall- If a wrestler is able to pin down their opponent’s shoulders to the ground they will win.
  • Technical pin- When a wrestler is able to gain a points advantage over their opponent. In Greco- Roman this is 8 points and in freestyle wrestling this is 10 points.
  • Decision- If no winner is announced judges will determine who is the winner by looking at the points total for each fighter.
  • Default- If a wrestler is injured and is no longer able to continue, the opponent will be awarded the victory.
  • Disqualification- If a competitor ha.s continued to break the rules, they can be disqualified by the referee and will lose the bout

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Why train in Wrestling over other martial arts?

All martial arts are similar in the respect that they teach you ways of defending yourself and how to control both the mind and the body.

Wrestling is regarded as one of the oldest sports…ever! Not just combat sports, but sports in general. It has been around for a very long time with many people over the years trialling and testing the best grappling techniques to use.

This make wrestling a very effective martial art to learn as all the techniques have been tested and proven to work well.

Due to there being no strikes thrown, wrestling is also great for kids to start too. In places such as America, wrestling is provided within the school system. Making it much easier for kids to partake in and practice.

For countries where wrestling is not a part of the school curriculum, there are many clubs you will be able to find that provide wrestling classes.

Through training in wrestling, your child will be able to develop more confidence that will transcend beyond their wrestling practise and into everyday life.

Safety is also the number one priority for children when training in arts like wrestling. The teachers will make sure all children are safe. They will wear the necessary safety equipment such as helmets during training and competition.

With wrestling being an Olympic sport, many people still want to pursue it as a career. Being an Olympian is a dream for many people. Wrestling is able to provide this with two styles, Greco- Roman and freestyle wrestling.

Whatever style you practised beforehand; wrestlers will be able to transfer their skills into one of the other styles. Winning an Olympic medal is one of the greatest honours a wrestler can receive.

This goal provides practitioners with great motivation to aim high and become an Olympian through wrestling!

Due to the rise of MMA, wrestling has also become popular too. Many wrestlers are able to transfer their skills over into mixed martial arts as well. Over the last few years, many wrestlers have shown that this was possible.

With the likes of UFC champions such as Kamaru Usman and Khabib Nurmagomedov coming from wrestling backgrounds. People see wrestling as a great foundation to learn to later transfer into MMA.

Grappling is very important in MMA and having these skills before starting is a great benefit. Wrestling is viewed as one of the most important components of mixed martial arts.

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What are the benefits of Wrestling?

There are many benefits of training in wrestling. We will go through some of the key benefits:


  • Learn how to defend yourself- Wrestling will teach you the art of being able to defend yourself and how to attack when needed using various grappling techniques. It is a great art to learn for your own self-defence.
  • Improve your strength and stamina- By training in Wrestling regularly, you will definitely see both your strength and stamina improve. Wrestling can be tough as it is a whole-body workout, but the benefits from this will be massive!
  • Improve the confidence you have in yourself!- Wrestling will be tough when you first start. It will take time to get used to it, as it is a hard art form to learn. But once you start committing to training and get the hang of it, you will see a huge improvement in your ability. This will provide you with more confidence in yourself, which can be spread throughout your life outside of training.
  • Improve your mental health- Regular training can help to reduce stress and uplift your sprits by providing you a way of expressing yourself through the martial art. It can help combat depression and anxiety by releasing endorphins.
  • Diversity of different styles- As we have mentioned a few times now, wrestling has many different styles within it. This gives you a variety of choice when it comes to picking the right style for you.
  • Builds character- Wrestlers are known for both their physical and mental toughness. This comes from years of training. Through failures in practice and not giving up. You will develop this strong character that will be of use to you in anything you do. Wrestling shows you that you are much more capable of what you think you can do!

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How to get started and find a Wrestling class!

Anyone can start Wrestling, no matter how old or fit you are. Finding a Wrestling class is a simple process! Make sure to check online for nearby Wrestling schools in your area, as most will have an online presence.

Contact the school (if they have contact details) if you have any questions you want to ask. Find out which session you would like to attend by contacting them if possible. If not, then just turn up and see how the class is for yourself!

After going to a few classes and trying the different styles within Wrestling, it may not be for you. Don’t worry, there are many other martial arts out there! Be sure to check out our ‘MARTIAL ARTS…WHAT ARE THEY?’ post to gain a good understanding of other popular martial arts too!

If you have any questions on this post, the MILITAR MINDSET, martial arts in general or any other enquiries feel free to contact us.

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We have gone through Fencing in this post. In our next few posts on the Martial Arts Series, we will cover other individual martial arts. Make sure you subscribe to our blog to keep up to date with the latest posts!

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