Wrestling is one of the oldest and most popular sports in the world. In fact, just about every culture in the world has a history of some type of wrestling. Here in the United States, we practice folkstyle wrestling in our high schools and colleges. However, folkstyle is not a style practiced really anywhere else. It is, however, pretty similar to what the rest of the world knows as freestyle wrestling. Of course, there are some major differences. So what are the differences between folkstyle and freestyle wrestling?
The biggest differences between folkstyle and freestyle wrestling are the points system as well as a few differences in rules and goals. Freestyle wrestling is a worldwide sport that is part of the Olympic games, whereas folkstyle is only practiced in the United States.
If you live in the United States folkstyle wrestling is the type of wrestling that was likely a sport at your local high school or college. It is also known as scholastic and collegiate wrestling. Freestyle wrestling on the other hand is one of the two Olympic wrestling styles along with Greco-Roman Wrestling.
What Are The Differences In Rules Between Folkstyle And Freestyle Wrestling?
When it comes to the differences between folkstyle and freestyle wrestling much of it has to do with the ruleset. Both have a somewhat similar goal which is to either win by pin or by points. There are of course subtle differences when it comes to pinning in folkstyle and pinning in freestyle wrestling. In addition, though both styles have a point system, there are differences in how the points are awarded.
When it comes to pinning your opponent in folkstyle wrestling you must hold your opponent to their backs for two seconds. In freestyle wrestling, you only need to hold your opponent on their back for one second. One of the major differences between folkstyle and freestyle is that folkstyle is more about control. Freestyle is more focused on exposure points.
Differences In The Points System
When it comes to the point system there are some general similarities, however, how points are rewarded is much different. For example both folkstyle and freestyle wrestling award points for taking your opponent to the ground. However, all takedowns in folkstyle are only worth 2 points no matter what kind of takedown you execute.
In freestyle wrestling, you can be awarded anywhere 1-5 points depending on the takedown. For example, a takedown with no back exposure would only be awarded 1 point, whereas a high amplitude throw might award them 5 points. This would be a throw that picks the opponent completely off the mat and controls them so that their feet go over their head as they land.
When it comes to near fall there are some differences in the point structure as well. In folkstyle wrestling, you can earn 2-4 points depending on how long the near fall is held. A wrestler can score two to four points by turning their opponent’s shoulders to the mat and hold them at a 45-degree angle or less.
In freestyle wrestling, a wrestler can earn exposure points by putting their opponents back to the mat for 2-3 seconds. There are other small differences in scoring between the two as well. For example, folkstyle awards more points than freestyle when a wrestler achieves a reversal.
Other Differences In Rules
There are other rules such as a wrestler cannot lock their hands on their opponent’s torso or legs unless you are pinning or doing a takedown in folkstyle wrestling. In freestyle, you are allowed to lock your hands when riding your opponent. There are also differences in the takedowns that are allowed between the two.
You cannot do the suplexes and heavy slams in folkstyle where in freestyle they are more heavily awarded. The goal of the defensive wrestler in folkstyle is to escape and the goal in freestyle is simply to not let your back get exposed. All in all, they are very similar and one can easily learn to transition between the two with just a little bit of practice.
Similarities Between Folkstyle And Freestyle Wrestling
There are a ton of similarities between folkstyle and freestyle wrestling. This is why it is so easy to transition between the two. In fact, one of the reasons they are similar is because they come from the same parent art. Both folkstyle and freestyle wrestling were heavily influenced by catch wrestling.
Catch wrestling was a much more brutal style of wrestling than both folkstyle and freestyle wrestling. In fact, there were no points in a catch wrestling match. Instead, you had to win either pinning or submitting your opponent. Catch wrestling had a whole arsenal of brutal submission holds.
In fact, many of the submissions known in BJJ today were practiced by catch wrestlers first. Most of the submissions were very painful and by many people’s opinions too dangerous. These would include things such as heel hooks, neck cranks, and spine locks.
To make this growing sport more accepted by people in the United States for high schools and colleges they made a much safer and less brutal wrestling style. They took out the submissions and other more dangerous techniques and added a point system. This was basically the start of folkstyle wrestling. Of course, folkstyle had more influences than just catch wrestling but catch wrestling was the biggest.
Similarly, they did the same thing with freestyle wrestling to make it a better fit for the Olympics than catch wrestling. Many people do not know this but catch wrestling was actually in the early modern Olympic games. However, it was simply too brutal for the world to accept. So basically they tamed down catch wrestling and came out with freestyle wrestling.
Like with folkstyle wrestling, they took out the submissions and some of the more dangerous techniques. Also like folkstyle, they also added a point system. Since both folkstyle and freestyle were heavily influenced by catch wrestling there are some natural similarities. They are some obvious differences but all in all, they have a lot in common.
Should You Learn Both Folkstyle And Freestyle Wrestling Or Just One?
If your goal is to one day wrestle in the Olympics you might wonder why you should even consider learning folkstyle wrestling. After all, folkstyle wrestling is not an Olympic sport. On the other hand, if you just want to compete in school then you might not see the need to learn freestyle wrestling. That is assuming that you are going to school in the United States.
If you want to compete in the Olympics and live in the United States then you should definitely still learn folkstyle wrestling. So much of what you will learn in folkstyle will transition into freestyle wrestling. In fact, just about every American freestyle gold medalist in the Olympics started out with folkstyle wrestling.
One could argue that they should just replace folkstyle wrestling in high schools and colleges with freestyle wrestling. Personally, I would hate to see that happen because folkstyle wrestling is such a great style. It is also part of our history here in the United States. But I don’t want to go off on a tangent here so I’ll get back to my point.
Which is that for now, folkstyle wrestling is the style we learn here in the United States in school and often from youth. So if you are going to be going to school you might as well take advantage of the free training and competition you will get from school wrestling programs. Heck if you’re really good it might even send you to college one day.
In addition, folkstyle is just a great style to learn and it does easily transition into freestyle. That said, what I think would a good idea is to learn freestyle wrestling in between folkstyle seasons in school. This way you can learn and get better at both styles. So do folkstyle during the wrestling season and freestyle in your offseason.
Folkstyle Vs Freestyle Wrestling For MMA And Submission Grappling
Today of the biggest growing sports in marital arts is no-gi submission grappling. Personally, I think this is the future of grappling sports and both folkstyle and freestyle wrestling have a lot to offer this sport. Today instead of thinking about how I can be the best BJJ player or wrestler, I think about how I can be the best grappler. All grappling styles have something to offer to the world of grappling sports and MMA.
Both folkstyle and freestyle have unique skills that are crucial for being a great mixed martial artist. Of course, I realize that most of you are not interested in becoming a UFC star. That said, learning the skills of martial arts is still valuable. Whether this is simply for self-confidence or even self-protection. Both styles have unique skills that will make you a better martial artist.
Folkstyle wrestling puts more emphasis on control and wrestling on the ground. This is a very important skill to learn if you want to learn MMA. One of the biggest advantages you can have in MMA is the ability to control your opponent. You can capitalize on this control by either using ground and pound techniques or executing a submission.
Freestyle on the other hand has a larger variety of takedowns that can be very effective in MMA. I should also note that for MMA you should also learn the skills from Greco Roman wrestling as well. This clinch-based style will come in handy when in close contact with your opponent or in the clinch. At the end of the day, the better wrestler gets to choose whether the fight stays up or goes to the ground.
That said, if you want to learn MMA you need to become an overall better grappler. This would include learning all the most effective techniques from all the grappling styles. You need good takedowns, control, and of course submissions. This is why fighters like Khabib Nurmagomedov are so effective in the octagon. He has an overall well-rounded grappling game that makes him nearly impossible to beat.
The biggest differences between folkstyle and freestyle wrestling are the rules. There are small differences in how a wrestler is awarded points and certain techniques they can use. That said, both folkstyle and freestyle wrestling has a lot in common. This is understandable since they were both influenced by catch wrestling.
At the end of the day, both styles are great and worth learning. This is especially true if you want to compete at the international level or in MMA. Learning both will make you a better wrestler, grappling, and even a martial artist.