To tell the story of wrestling is to tell the story of human history and prehistory. The art at Beni Hasan stands as one of the most referenced points for wrestling being the oldest sport as is often claimed. The Chinese legends regarding shuai jiao place it as having been used by the Yellow Emporer’s army in 2697 BC. Wrestling goes by many names throughout history and across the globe, but the basis always remains the same. FILA has a book available as a free PDF called The Roots Of Wrestling for a pretty well researched history of the sport.
I think everyone who does any martial art ends up believing that theirs is the best. Sam Harris makes a pretty good case for why he thinks BJJ is the dog’s bollocks. The notion of “live training” and being able to practice with full resistance isn’t actually unique to grappling, but it is inherent. The big thing that separates grappling from striking is the ability to control without damaging. Grappling provides a framework for a sliding scale of force. You can bar the movement of a joint and use that to make a person move as is seen with the old bouncing techniques borrowed from jujitsu (“the devil’s handshake” – ude hishigi te gatame, “the bouncer’s come-along” – ushiro hiji nage), or you can just as easily use the joint lock to simply do damage. That control is not without cost – in order to entangle someone’s limb you tie yourself up to some extent as well. After all, it’s very hard to pin someone when you’re no longer on top of them.
My goal isn’t to try to convince you that grappling is the beat-all-end-all martial art. My goal is simply to expose you to some of the rich history and provide for you a couple of examples of why people do it. People come to grappling from many backgrounds for many reasons, but at the end of the day what keeps people coming back is purely the love of the sport.