This has been all over the place recently.
Starting your sparring rounds on your knees.
It has been called ineffectual, a waste of time and a bunch of other things by extremely high caliber grapplers who I respect and, frankly, agree with.
If a round must start on the mat, then it should be positional. Some person at an advantage, another at a disadvantage.
I understand the value of starting on the mat from an instructor’s standpoint. It saves mat space when there is a big class, and cuts back on injury potential. However, for the competitor it is important to know takedowns and takedown defense because that is where all competitions and, even more importantly, combative situations start.
Whether a person identifies as a guard puller or passer, the takedown is a crucial aspect of our art and should be addressed.
There are two (relatively) major sports that people tend to draw their takedown skills from: Wrestling and Judo.
I wrestled for years. I started in seventh grade and wrestled through my freshman year in college. Having that base when I began BJJ put me a few steps ahead of the rest of the guys in my beginner divisions, especially in no-gi. It gave me good body awareness, taught me how to put myself in a position to use my hands, head and hips to control another person. I also learned the basic physics of taking someone down, and how to do it with balance and control so as not to be taken down myself.
Having said that, for a person who does not have that experience, it would be smart to find someone in your BJJ class who has wrestling experience. Chances are you will find at least one mid to high level wrestler or former wrestler in class that has that knowledge and is willing to share it. These mini lessons can take your game to another level. We all have seen people with zero wrestling experience prior to taking BJJ win on a blast double with seconds left because they have this knowledge now.
Wrestling can be very effective in no-gi, but once we put the kimono on there are so many ways to neutralize the majority of wrestling takedowns. This is where Judo comes in to play. Judo is much more prevalent than wrestling as far as classes and schools go, and much easier to find a place to learn. It might be smart or more cost effective to find a classmate that has judo experience and go about the learning the same as we discussed above, but if a person has the time and money to dedicate a few hours a week to learning this very important aspect of grappling, then they will be miles ahead of the rest when they step on the mat to compete.
Just like with BJJ, developing these skills will take time and practice. A person cannot expect to be a master of a double leg or uchi mata after a one hour lesson. The reality is this takes a long time. If this is an important part of your game, you will find time to make it work.
I do not underestimate the importance or effectiveness of being able to pull guard. My guard is serviceable for a big guy. My bread and butter is my top game. I want to drive all 350 lbs of me through my shoulder into your jaw and make your life hell for a little while. The best way for me to get there starts with a takedown.