Kickboxing vs. Wrestling Differences

Kickboxing vs. Wrestling: What Is the Difference?

Kickboxing and Wrestling are two of the most diametrically opposite martial arts, yet possibly equally popular among practitioners. Both are very old and have a deep, rich history and several styles in which they are performed. Some believe, however, that they work the best when combined – especially MMA fighters. So, what are the differences between Kickboxing and Wrestling?

Kickboxing is a striking-only martial art, allowing no grappling or fighting on the ground. On the other hand, Wrestling is exactly the opposite – takedowns, grappling, and ground battle are the only options, with no striking permitted whatsoever.

The immense difference in styles between the two is why so many people choose to practice both simultaneously. If you can master both Kickboxing and Wrestling, it will make you a complete fighter. But, choosing only one or the other will also provide you with incredible combat skills, peak physical and mental condition, etc. We’ll break down the differences to help you see if you’d prefer choosing Kickboxing, Wrestling, or both, depending on your goals and motivation.

What are the differences between Kickboxing and Wrestling?

As we already mentioned, the biggest and the most obvious difference between Kickboxing and Wrestling is the fact that the former is a striking-only martial art. The latter, however, is a grappling-only combat sport. But, there is much more to it. There are differences in technique, rules, and even equipment needed.

Technique and ruleset differences

Wrestling is a martial art that is also considered one of the oldest sports in history. Dating back even before Ancient Rome and Greece, Wrestling was a discipline in the first-ever Olympic games. The goal is to subdue the opponent by using your grappling skills to perform takedowns, joint locks, and other techniques while maintaining constant control and focus.

Wrestlers use many methods to get to where they need to be. Knowing how to use your body weight, momentum, and leverage is crucial to be successful in Wrestling. It is also essential to know how to maintain control of your and your opponent’s body to keep a dominant position, from which you can then attack. 

Most of the action happens on the ground after a successful takedown – throwing your opponent down to the ground using grappling. To win a match, you have to hold your opponent on his back on the ground – it’s called pinning. Other ways to win are scoring more match points or by your opponent being disqualified.

Wrestling is more similar to Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu (BJJ) than Kickboxing, but it is physically much harder than BJJ. There’s a constant scramble, and often, there’s a lot more pain, even without striking.

Kickboxing, on the other hand, prohibits any grappling or takedowns. The referee quickly separates even clinches. You have to use only your striking to beat your opponent. There’s a focus on both kicks and punches, and the goal is to knock your opponent out or score more points at the end of the match.

Wrestling matches are almost always divided into three rounds lasting two or three minutes each, depending on the sanctioning body that officiates it. Round one begins on the feet, but if the wrestlers are on the floor when the round is over, the referee takes them back to the same position where the round ended at the beginning of the next round.

Kickboxing is set at three, five, or eight rounds, and every round begins at the center of the ring. Also, the two’s stances are very different because of the defensive scheme you have to use to defend yourself from striking, or grappling, respectively.

Equipment differences

While Kickboxing is conducted in a ring surrounded by ropes, Wrestling takes place on a specially designed mat with no railing. Different styles have different mats, but the uniformed dimensions and thickness are regulated by the International Federation of Associated Wrestling Styles (FILA).

Also, Wrestlers usually wear a singlet – a full-body compression suit with short legs and no sleeves. You will also need a special headgear that protects the ears from friction and other blows that can cause big problems for a wrestler. “Cauliflower ears” are a common repercussion of wrestling if protective headgear isn’t worn.

Additionally, it would be best to have kneepads, thin Wrestling shin guards, and Wrestling shoes that have to be lightweight and soft to provide you with comfort while fighting. Finally, you’ll need Wrestling bands that are placed around the ankles and/or wrists. One wrestler wears red bands, and the other wears green or blue, to help the referees score the match easier.

In Kickboxing, the combatants wear shorts and gloves, and professional grade Best Kickboxing Shorts can make a big difference in their performance and safety. They usually have no other equipment other than a mouthguard and a groin guard. Sometimes, practitioners wear shin guards, depending on the level of competition. Professional kickboxers avoid them because they reduce the force of impact.

No shoes are allowed in Kickboxing because of the striking nature of the sport. However, if you do opt to wear shoes, you will not be allowed to use any kicks in the match.

Which is better for self-defense: Kickboxing or Wrestling?

Depending on the situation, both Wrestling and Kickboxing can be very useful and effective for self-defense. However, each covers only a single segment of the fighting game, so they usually work the best when combined. That is why MMA fighters tend to learn both – you’ll become a complete fighter and be able to defend yourself from any attack.

With that being said, if you have to pick one or the other, Kickboxing has a slight edge when it comes to self-defense. You learn how to react quickly on your feet when an attacker is heading towards you and beat him with both force and precision. 

A hard low kick is something that people without training can’t handle most of the time, and it can be the quickest and easiest way to incapacitate your attacker. The problem occurs if somebody attacks you unexpectedly or from behind the back, taking you down to the ground. With Kickboxing only, you won’t have any skills to help you defend yourself on the floor, so that can put you at a disadvantage.

That’s the situation where Wrestling will suit you much better. It may not seem like it when you’re battling somebody that lacks skill on the ground like you, but it’s extremely hard to maintain control and position when battling down on the floor. Wrestlers know how to lunge in for a takedown and avoid strikes, and take the fight down on the ground, where they are second to none.

So, a wrestler who has those skills will easily take control of the fight, even if taken down or attacked unexpectedly from the back. When you get the position you wish, there is a lot you can do to incapacitate your opponent, even without striking. However, in a street fight where there’s a matter of life and death and no rules, you’ll be able to assume the position, take control, and use ground striking to obliterate your attacker.

Hence, to answer whether Kickboxing or Wrestling is better for self-defense, the answer is – it depends on the situation. Both are effective when defending yourself from different attacks, but they usually work best when combined. The biggest downside to Wrestling and self-defense, though, is the fact that it will be very hard – almost impossible – to defend yourself from multiple attackers.

Which one should you choose: Kickboxing or Wrestling?

People usually don’t understand just how hard and intense Wrestling is. It is still a lot less popular than Kickboxing because people usually want to learn how to strike efficiently instead of grappling. But, that doesn’t mean Wrestling is inferior to Kickboxing.

When choosing between the two, ask yourself what your motives are. If you want to get in peak physical condition or shape, both can work just fine, but Wrestling is a lot more physically demanding. If you aren’t in a good physical condition but still wish to learn self-defense, try checking Krav Maga out. It’s different from both Wrestling and Kickboxing and is designs specifically for self-defense.

Battling in Wrestling is constant. There’s no squaring off, no working from a distance, no passivity. If you relax only for a split second – you’ll lose. So, if you’re looking to get in shape, Wrestling will get you there a lot faster, although Kickboxing requires peak conditioning as well.

The choice should also be obvious depending on which of the two you prefer personally: striking or grappling. But, don’t be fooled – no striking doesn’t mean wrestlers experience fewer injuries or less pain. If you’re thinking about choosing Wrestling just because you think you’ll avoid taking damage that way, think again.

Finally, if you plan to choose one or the other simply for self-defense, you should yet again turn to the one you prefer style-wise. If you prefer striking, choose Kickboxing. If your weapon of choice is grappling, choose Wrestling. 

Ultimately, if you wish to be a complete fighter, then you can combine the two and have both your stand-up and ground game up to the same level. That way, no attacker can compete with you, and you can rest assured that you will be able to defend yourself, no matter what the situation is.

Furthermore, being fully equipped for your preferred choice of martial arts is key. That’s why you’re wrestling or kickboxing, wearing high-quality gear like the Best Kickboxing Headgear is an aspect you shouldn’t overlook. Going on to kickboxing, you might benefit from checking out a comprehensive guide to find the best cost-effective equipment.

Gianluca Martucci, Gianluca Martucci is a personal trainer and an athletic trainer.
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Gianluca Martucci

Gianluca Martucci is a personal trainer and an athletic trainer. Since he was a kid, he has been a big fan of Martial Arts and Combat Sports: from Wrestling and now MMA to Karate and Kung Fu, for this reason he specialized in workouts for martial artistis. Our testing and reviewing method.
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