Got Takedowns? Champion Kendall Reusing On Why You Need Standup

One of Gracie Barra’s most active and successful competitors as of late is Prof. Kendall Reusing of Gracie Barra Newport Beach. Prof. Kendall is especially well known for her dominant takedown and top game and this week she shares some of her expertise on takedowns with you, the Gracie Barra blog readers.
“I was taking what worked and leaving what didn’t and adjusting what needed to be adjusted..”
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GB: Prof. Kendall, why do you feel that it is important for jiu-jitsu competitors to develop a strong takedown game when they see many competitors simply pulling guard in tournament matches?
Prof. Kendall: I think it’s important to be comfortable in both positions. It’s important to be a comfortable pulling guard but it’s also important to understand how to take your opponent down for the times when that becomes necessary. I think that especially for competitors who, for example, may find themselves down with 20 seconds to spare at the end of the match and they’re both on their feet and they need 1 or 2 points to win. They may not have time to pull guard and set up a complicated sweeping sequence. This is where they are going to benefit from understanding takedowns and how to fire that off quickly when necessary.
On the other hand, if you are a top player who likes to take people down, of course, you need to understand how to play guard in case you get swept. So both are very important. That’s why I say takedowns are extremely important and so you know how to defend because you understand the mechanics of how they work.
GB: How did you develop your own takedown game for jiu-jitsu? Did you start in wrestling?
Prof. Kendall: My takedown game – when I was younger (I started training judo at the age of 7) and when I was 12 I started training in wrestling. I wrestled all throughout high school and college and I wrestled internationally. I wasn’t doing as much judo and jiu-Jitsu at that time. Then when I came back to jiu-jitsu, when I was 18, I started to implement that judo and wrestling in the jiu-jitsu that I was doing. I had to modify it and change it so that it was applicable. I was taking what worked and leaving what didn’t and adjusting what needed to be adjusted. That’s really where my takedown game came from, those years of international wrestling.
GB: What are the most significant differences between wrestling for submission grappling / Jiu-Jitsu and pure sport wrestling? What adjustments did you have to make?
Prof. Kendall: I would say that the major difference between wrestling and jiu-jitsu or submission grappling is just the positional awareness because in wrestling we don’t have submissions. So many times when you are going to finish a takedown in wrestling, if you do the same thing in jiu-jitsu, you might end up you getting guillotined, getting triangled or omoplata’d, Kimura’d. There’s a lot of things that we don’t have to think about in wrestling because the goals are different.
We just have multiple forms of grappling and combat sports including judo, that have different goals in mind and different tactics to get to those goals. So when you are using skills from one to the other, you have to take the same technique but adapt it to a new goal and tactic, and ruleset. That’s really what I’ve been able to do in the last few years, which is why I was really excited to release the video giving a shortcut to takedowns for jiu-jitsu instead of learning just straight wrestling.
GB: What is your best advice for a competitor who has relied on pulling guard and wants to level up their competition takedown game?
Prof. Kendall: My best advice for someone who is a guard player who wants to implement takedowns into their game is to start very very basic. Like if that person were teaching someone how to play guard, they would start with the fundamentals. The same thing with takedowns.
It’s very important first and foremost to learn how to move and how to stand and how to hand fight or grip fight if you are in the gi. A lot of people don’t take the time to do this. Then they go and learn the best double leg ever, but they are never going to be able to implement that double leg if they are not able to get into the right position or if they are busy getting taken down. So making sure that you have a really solid base with your stand-up, your movement patterns, your hand and grip fighting, and THEN starting by picking one or two favorite takedowns. Learning when and how to implement those so that you start to see some success. As you start to see some success, you can add on from there. But movement is the most important thing because your techniques will not matter if you can not apply them.
GB: If someone wants to find out more about your takedown strategies how can they find out more information?
Prof. Kendall: My takedown approach is very aggressive. Chaining attacks to the head, the back, and the legs altogether. Really when you are chaining attacks together for the head, the back, and the legs it’s kind of like the triangle of takedowns. One defense is going to lead to the next offense. We are always going to be able to find an opening if we are attacking those 3.
That is the major thing that I go over in my new instructional from BJJ Fanatics called Jiu-Jitsu Accelerator: Mastering No-Gi Takedowns. You know a lot of the takedowns are applicable to the gi as well. This is the most comprehensive takedown instructional on the market. Everything that you need to know from stance, movement, all the way to leg attacks, judo attacks, front headlock attacks, defense, and things of that nature.
That really gives you an insight not just into my game, but a game that is applicable to you based on your size, your ability, and the things that you want in your game.
See also on GB Blog: Winning in Jiu-jitsu and in Life with Prof. Jefferson Moura (Part 2)
Writer: Mark Mullen, Gracie Barra Black Belt