Grappling is a multidisciplinary sport/art that consists of many different areas and methods of attack. Starting from standing, there are various ways to engage and then ground an opponent, and then once the encounter goes to the ground, there are different modalities of attack once there. This has given way to a variety of different grappling arts, including Judo, Brazilian jiu-jitsu, catch wrestling, Sambo, and many others. A recent rivalry that has been brewing is the classic “wrestling vs Brazilian jiu-jitsu.”
Currently, all but one UFC champ tout backgrounds in wrestling. As a result, some in the wrestling community have proclaimed that wrestling is superior to BJJ. Similarly, catch wrestling is slowly but surely growing in popularity, and catch wrestlers far and wide love talking about how catch is superior to jiu-jitsu.
As a jiu-jitsu competitor, I pull guard in most of my matches because I’d rather invest the energy that I would invest in dictating where a match goes to trying to pull off the most spectacular submissions I can contrive. Instead of spending a good portion of each match on my feet where my likelihood of getting the tap is low, I want to get the match to the ground and deal with it there. That being said, I wrestled in high school, and for the past two years, I’ve quietly spent hundreds of hours learning catch wrestling from Sean Daugherty.
Daugherty, a fighter in UFC 2 and Pancrase, spent time training out of the Lions Den camp run by Ken Shamrock. He is also considered by many to be an authority on catch wrestling. One of Daughtery’s students and long-time friends is Joel Bane. Bane is the creator and founder of Snake Pit USA, which is one of, if not the biggest catch wrestling organizations in this country and trained directly under Billy Robinson.
Both Daughtery and Bane hold black belts in Brazilian jiu-jitsu and spend a lot of time working on fusing the two arts. I had an opportunity to chat with them about their perspectives on the catch vs BJJ argument, and their answers may surprise you:
For starters, I was interested in what Sean and Joel view as the biggest similarities between the two arts
Sean Daughtery: “Both use leverage and science in employing techniques…it is a misconception that Catch as Catch Can (CACC) gives up technique over brute force.”
Joel Bane: “The big similarities between the two arts in my opinion, are the obvious, basic submission technique similarities and the end goal. Although the names will differ with specific holds, the basic submission techniques (unless watered down) are quite similar as they are in most grappling arts. Now by end goal, I mean subduing your opponent or adversary.
Catch-as-Catch-Can is defined as “by any means available” in Webster’s dictionary, but you can find pretty much the same rules in many advanced skill level divisions in BJJ based tournaments. Therefore we now see more technical similarities, especially now with BJJ adopting leg locks since the advanced rules have leaned towards more aggressive submissions.”
Of course, the two arts have significant differences, and I was interested in what those differences are from the perspectives of these two highly regarded instructors.
Daughtery: “Top Control vs Bottom Guard CACC is more of a non-stop pain compliance to open up submissions…ADD/Always Do Damage… techniques in CACC are often considered ‘hude’ in BJJ”
Bane: “The big differences are the presence or lack of takedowns, the perspective on positions and the concepts revolving around achieving the submission. Takedowns: BJJ has lacked takedowns as a separate art since it’s conception. Carlos & Helio Gracie as well as a few others, were well respected for studying the takedowns in Kano Jujitsu (later known as Judo) but as far as the art of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu itself, little practicality exists within the self-defense based takedowns without what would now be referred to as pure Judo.
As the father of Freestyle & Folkstyle Wrestling, Catch Wrestling has an arsenal of takedowns. These takedowns often differ from their amateur counterparts in that they retain submission awareness at all times. Many are also nearly identical as the ones found in Judo but with the obvious grip differences.
Position: In Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu the bottom positions are considered dominant at times. When it comes to Catch Wrestling, we want truly dominant positions, meaning top control. The positions off the back still exist but the concept here is not always the same. I personally teach “confident off your back not comfortable on your back” even if I’m guest instructing a BJJ class. The submissions you find in the BJJ Guard exist in the Catch Body Scissor but the position is not quite the same.
Many submissions are withheld from the BJJ student from the get go. That’s not a knock on BJJ, it’s just a different methodology. In BJJ the common adage is “position before submission.” In Catch the term “submission from any position” is used often but does not mean giving up everything for a potential hold. Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu often relies on the chance your opponent will make a mistake and you will then have your opening for the sweep or submission. In Catch Wrestling nothing is based on your opponent making a mistake. If they want to beat themselves that’s fine but there is no assumption that they will ever make one. Pain induced by RIPs (rubbing induced pain) rides, and wrestling transitions are used to force reactions and cause entanglements. It is also used as a distraction to snag something else nearby.”
A common question I hear asked is, why precisely do catch and BJJ have a rivalry to begin with?
Daughtery: “There shouldn’t be animosity between the two arts…I was once closed-minded…but Joel helped me see the light. Mitsuyo Maeda was also a Catch Wrestler…
Catch as Catch Can helps cross training BJJ practitioners by offering a certain mental and physical toughness that is often lacking in BJJ. BJJ offers CACC practitioners a level of patience and passive techniques that help older and busted up grapplers like Joel and me have longer careers. It’s hard to tell why the rivalry at this point… I’m not a fan of rivalries of any sort… I like cooperation over competition.”
Bane: “Honestly, I don’t get it. At Snake Pit U.S.A. we don’t just consider ourselves ambassadors of Catch Wrestling, but we are a proud part of the Grappling and Martial Arts community. Any animosity in our organization is not welcome or tolerated against any other martial artists or arts. It can only be detrimental to the resurgence of Catch itself.
Catch Wrestling offers a great opportunity to fill in any voids you may encounter in BJJ. Mainly in the takedown, ground control & wrestling transition aspects. Unlike the Amateur forms of Wrestling, Catch Wrestling was devised with submission awareness infused throughout all transitions and takedown techniques.
BJJ is obviously an extensively well proven and legitimate Grappling art. However, depending on your personal preference of course, it may not be quite as useful in regards to bolstering your Catch Wrestling. I’m not saying that it cannot help, that would be arrogant and absurd, but many claim it helps teach you how to fight OFF your back better than any art. Realistically speaking, there is no better sport/art in the world that focuses on the absolute criticality/importance of getting OFF your back more than wrestling. Combine that mentality with the similar and seemingly endless surplus of submissions from the back and you have a well rounded & complete grappling art.”
If you are a Catch wrestler who doesn’t respect BJJ, why? And if you are a jiujiteiro who spends no time on the principles of scientific wrestling, why? These principles have allowed competitors like Josh Barnett, Kazushi Sakuraba and many more to defeat the highest level opponents available to them.