Why, at least in the United States, is wrestling not generally considered a martial art? It's arguably the single most important martial art in MMA and self defense, in addition to being one of the oldest known.

Is it because it's done in schools? Is it just taking a while for the term to catch up with society?

  • Maybe because of no pyjamas and belts in different colors? – marko Nov 2 '20 at 16:16
  • As I recall, there were some MMA contenders that had a western wrestling background. – DukeZhou Nov 5 '20 at 0:40

Television and movies give people impressions of things that are never corrected.

What is the first thing an American thinks of when they hear "wrestling"? World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE), which is definitely more entertainment, showmanship, and athleticism than wrestling or martial art. Wrestlers are enormous muscled men who jump off the ringside and hit each other with chairs. They talk smack, roar, and wear funny costumes. Kids see "pro wrestling" well before they encounter actual wrestling. Some people never learn that pro wrestling is not real wrestling. Most cannot name a real wrestler.

How about martial arts? Americans think of martial arts movies with Bruce Lee, Chuck Norris, Jet Li, Jackie Chan, and people in uniforms that look like pajamas kicking to the head while making funny noises. These are Asian or learned from Asians, and they have foreign names. Martial artists do jump kick splits to two goons at once and don't look like they are on steroids.

These caricatures look different. If someone stops to think about it, wrestling, boxing, and martial arts in the movies all train to fight. But this requires actually thinking about it.

  • Dave Bautista did a kung fu movie (Master Z) and was quite convincing in his application of wrestling moves. Choreography for sure, but I'm pretty sure a real life piledriver from Bautista, especially on concrete, would be quite lethal! – DukeZhou Nov 5 '20 at 0:43

Wrestling isn't often seen as a martial art because it has been primarily pushed as a sport - much in the same way most people don't consider archery, javelin, or shot put, as war arts, though those are clearly origins for those sports.

However, one of the benefits of having achieved mainstream status is that it is not in danger of dying out or losing a good network of skilled practitioners.

One can, of course, find subsets of wrestling which are more biased towards their combative origins (for example, some Catch Wrestling styles) which also have the same problems a lot of martial arts have - with tactics or methods that are not designed for sport, it's harder to get regular support and practice to use them, and so it becomes about specialized training.

Of course, anyone looking for combative training can easily see the direct value, whether or not it tends to get promoted as such. (Likewise, actual traditional combative arts usually are a mix of weapons, strikes and grappling, and loss of the full art is often what removes their effectiveness).


Wrestling is a martial art for sure. I think people are just caught up with the Chinese/Japanese movies as opposed to real life combat

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    I can't really say that you're wrong, but your answer does make a bald statement without much support. – Macaco Branco Aug 16 '18 at 19:40

As South Park illustrating "Wrastling" Entertainment wrestling has usurped popularity to actual grappling wrestling. Never the less. Wrestling, including those that even teach lethal finishing moves is a martial art.

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    I think the proper spelling is"Rasslin' is the correct spelling ;) – DukeZhou Nov 5 '20 at 0:38

Martial: Of, or pertaining to, war

Art: Acquisition of skill through discipline, experience, study, or observation (also, Product of human creation)

Wrestling is a sport, not a martial art.


Yes it is a martial art and yes u do train for it, problem is people don't see tv wrestling as a mma cuz it's a sport or entertainment but yes real grapple real wrestling is a MA. It is a form of war and was used as war tactics in older countries for many centuries. It doesn't matter if 2 guys r training or hundreds vs hundreds, u still train and combat each other...most mas know wrestling and most mma champs know wrestling...it don't matter if u use weapons or not, for example kung fu is a martial art to...example of MA without weapons and used as defense is wing chun, ever heard of ip man? Exactly!! Martial means a war or combat involving 2 or more people that train for it, it can be with weapons, without, solely just defensive, or whatever, I wrestled for years, won gold and state, parents knew karate and boxing and have vets in the family..and technically any military vet or current is a martial artist and some r even trained in fighting!! This comes from facts, history and tons of experience in family...now y'all know the truth!! Lmao

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    This doesn't feel like it adds much to the current answers, and feels more like an expression of opinion. Welcome to the site, but we need something a bit more substantive. – Macaco Branco Oct 31 '20 at 14:56

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