Wrestling involves pinning, choking, and making someone fall to the ground. The same features are involved in judo. What is the difference between judo and wrestling?

3 Answers 3


Jacketed vs jacketless wrestling

The other answers detail the differences in legal techniques, rules, and scoring and how these explicitly and more subtly influence the style of the sports, but one neglected point is the effect of attire.

Judo is jacketed, whereas most other forms of wrestling wear limited or skin-tight outfits. Ability to grip their clothing vastly changes the opportunities for and most efficient means of controlling your opponent. As such, in judo a lot of focus is spent on getting a good grip on your opponent's jacket (while standing, and also their trousers while in ne-waza) and preventing them from having a controlling grip on your own, as this is the starting point for setting up a technique.

The traditional judo grip for executing a technique is gripping the collar/lapel and sleeve, but many others are common:

Grip Example
collar/lapel and sleeve enter image description here
belt enter image description here
both sleeves enter image description here
the back of the jacket (either over or under the arm) enter image description here
same-side grip enter image description here

In contrast, in order to throw your opponent in non-jacketed wrestling, you generally need to control their arms and upper body via under- or over-hooks:

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Shared techniques

Note that in grips that do not require you to hold the opponent's clothing, there is significant overlap in techniques, e.g

Judo Wrestling
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double-leg takedown
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Wrestling disciplines by uniform

There is something of a gradient in terms of attire in different forms of grappling:

Uniform Martial Art
Jacket, belt (and trousers) Judo
Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu
Shuai jiao
Central Asian Folk Wrestling (Alysh, Kurash, etc.)
Partial jackets Collar and elbow
Cornish wrestling
Belt/loincloth Mongolian belt wrestling
Trousers Oil wrestling
Skin-tight clothing Greco-Roman wrestling
Freestyle wrestling
Collegiate wrestling
Catch wrestling
No-gi BJJ
  • It would be good to summarize that the difference between Judo and Wrestling (or any type of grappling) is the set of rules. Rule dictate the goals and available techniques.
    – Paul
    Commented Jul 31, 2019 at 17:06
  • 1
    @Paul "The other answers detail the differences in legal techniques, rules, and scoring and how these explicitly and more subtly influence the style of the sports..." Commented May 3, 2020 at 17:24

Fundamentally, they are both combat sports that involve grappling and pinning. However, the rules result in different focuses in technique. In Judo, your points are based on the performance of a throw from a specified list of allowable techniques, and of subsequent control of your opponent. In Wrestling, you win by pinning your opponent, or forcing them out of the ring. Thus, Judo tends to be more upright, so as to demonstrate the throw, and tends to show a very specific action and response; Wrestling involves going to ground much more rapidly to avoid being forced out of bounds, and involves a more fluid exchange of holds.

Beyond that, you also have other cosmetic differences, which also affect technique, such as the choice of outfits (gis versus singlets).


Wrestling may be one of many forms of wrestling: folk, Greco-Roman, freestyle, catch, submission, sumo, etc. Because there are so many styles of wrestling, it's difficult to make blanket statements about them.

Judo refers to Kodokan Judo, which was founded in Japan by Jigaro Kano in the late 1800's. I am not aware of any other system that uses the word judo. Even Brazilian jiu jitsu, though descended from judo, does not call itself judo.

There are four ways to win a judo match:

  1. throw
  2. pin (currently 20 seconds)
  3. choke
  4. arm lock


To score in judo, you must land the opponent on the side or back. If they land on their stomach, you get nothing. In wrestling, a takedown is usually scored if you get behind the opponent on the mat.

In current competition judo, you cannot grab the opponent's legs. Shooting in to grab a leg is a common wrestling attack in many styles.

Throwing in judo ends matches quickly. Under current rules, you can win in one throw, and two throws ends a match. In many forms of wrestling, the match will continue to the ground after a throw. Although this can also happen in judo, throws will often end matches before contestants can continue to the ground.


A judo pin must currently be 20 seconds to end a match. The pin need only have one shoulder on the mat, in contrast to some forms of wrestling where both shoulders must be on the mat. Many judo pins would score wrestling points for back exposure but not qualify as wrestling pins because both shoulders are not on the mat.

In judo, there must also be control; it is not sufficient to have the opponent's shoulders on the mat. This allows you to fight safely from the guard position in judo, where you may have back exposure that would result in your opponent scoring in wrestling.

20 seconds is a long time compared to only a few seconds in folk, freestyle, or Greco-Roman wrestling. This gives judo players more incentive to learn to escape from pin or near-pin positions rather than only on not getting into them.

Matwork in judo continues only as long as the referee determines a player is making progress. You will often see judo players stall in the turtle position (all fours with head down facing the mat) after a failed throw attempt, with the expectation that the referee will stand them back up. I have never seen a style of wrestling that willingly gives the opponent back control in this position. A major part of some forms of wrestling is getting out of this kind of position, after the opponent has scored a takedown.


Many forms of wrestling do not allow chokes. The judo gi also can be used to apply chokes.

Arm lock

Many forms of wrestling do not allow arm locks.

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