The Gracie’s 32 Principles of Combat Sports Explained!

If you’ve read “Predator, Not Prey: Victory Secrets to BJJ!”, then you know that the Gracie Family’s “32 Principles” are to Grappling what Clausewitz’s On War is to Warfare. 

And what’s more, they explain a lot that goes in Striking too! 

Whether in Grappling or Striking, the 32 Principles outline the Strategic reasons for why certain Tactical moves work the way they do. 

Upon reflecting on my 1 ½ year in BJJ, I’ve reflected long and hard on the 32 Principles. I wish I had been given them the first day I hit the mats!

I can tell you right now: when you understand the Strategic reasons why you are doing a particular Tactical moves, you perform a heckuva lot better!

So because of that, I have selected 9 of these Principles to examine in detail based on my experience and research. 

The Principles as they are taught by the Gracies in the article above are included in quotations. My own commentary follows outside of quotations. 

Read on to discover more! 


“Prevention. The prevention principle is about stopping progress and disrupting your opponent’s strategy. This doesn’t necessarily mean attacking. It just means preventing your opponent from progressing.”

Guard pullers do this with Closed Guard, Half Guard, and Knee and Elbow Shields laying on the side…it’s German WWI Trench Warfare: stall the Allied Advance. 

This is the ideal of BJJ. It does not always work out in reality, as no war was ever won on the defense. 

To see this reality in action, watch “Metamoris 6” in which the offensively minded Catch Wrestler Josh Barnett utterly defeated the defensively minded BJJ Guard Player Ryron Gracie. See: 


Fork. The fork principle is similar to the kind of thinking that helps chess players put their opponents into checkmate. The fork principle is the creation of a dilemma for your opponent where they only have two options and both of them mean game over.” 

This is what the Army and Marines call “The Horns of a Dilemma”. 

Skilled grapplers do this after they have shock-and-awed your mind and it has shut down

You are desperate for an out, and either one you choose is a disaster.


“Frame. As discussed above, the frame principle is about conserving energy and increasing leverage by using your body’s frame rather than your muscles.”

This anatomically makes no sense. Your muscles contract the frame of your bones. You use your muscles for all movement. 

What they are really saying is: use leverage to your advantage, so it will be easier on your muscles. This is like Powerlifting vs. Bodybuilding and Gymnastics. 

As Tom Platz explains, Powerlifting uses easier leverage to lift heavier loads to make it easier on your muscles. Bodybuilding and Gymnastics uses poor leverage with lighter loads to work the muscle more. 

But you always use your muscles for all movement, poor leverage or good leverage, weightlifting or combat. 


Acceptance. The acceptance principle is vital to efficiency because this principle maintains that certain outcomes are extremely likely, and it teaches you to know when to yield to avoid wasting energy.”

“Life is all about finding the patterns,” said Delta Force Lt. Col. Pete Blaber in his excellent book, The Men, The Mission, and Me

Words I live by. This entire website is a database of patterns in every arena of the Confrontational Indo-European Warrior Experience. 


“Connection. This principle is about the way in which you connect with your opponent, either to control or predict their movement.”

In Grappling, you’re primarily trying to stay connected to your opponent. As Lawrence of Arabia noted, it’s the same as Conventional Warfare. 

Detachment. Opposite the connection principle is the detachment principle; it means knowing when to let go.”

In Striking, particularly for self-defense and especially when knives are involved, you are trying to stay detached from your opponent. As Lawrence of Arabia noted, it’s the same as Guerrilla Warfare. 

For specific applications to knife defense’s James’s Lafond’s audio-visual treatises on the topic here: 


Distance. This principle is about managing distance to neutralize your opponent’s ability to pace the fight or inflict damage.” 

In Grappling, when you are on the offensive trying to lay on top of somebody and keep him immobile on the ground, you want to create less distance. See the “Connection” principle above.  

In Grappling, when you are on the defensive and you are trying to get somebody from off of the top of you and trying to escape the ground, you want to create more distance. See the “Detachment” principle above. 

This is where the Horizontal Pressing comes in from my previous article, “13 Combat Survival Secrets Revealed!” 

In Striking, when you are on the offensive, you want to create less distance with your fist or your leg or your knife blade to your opponent’s head or torso or leg. See the “Connection” principle above. 

In Striking when you are on the defense, you want to create more distance with your head, torso, or leg from your opponent’s fist, leg, or knife blade! 

Especially your opponent’s knife blade…Again, see the “Detachment” principle and James Lafond’s specific explanations of it in the knife context above.


“Isolation. The isolation principle is about focusing on an individual body part of your opponent while attacking or removing that body part from the fight.”

“Overload. By dedicating a lot of your own resources to a targeted part of your opponent’s body, you can overload them.”

These principles are the core of Grappling, as I have described in detail in “Predator, Not Prey: Victory Secrets to BJJ!”. 


Well, there you have it! The Gracie’s 32 Principles of Combat Sports examined in detail!  

I have only covered the 9 of these principles have stood out to me the most in my experience. 

Have these 9 principles examined here jumped out at you in your Grappling and Striking experiences? 

Which of the other 32 Principles not examined here have made an impact on you? 

Tell me in the comments below!

Until then…

Pulp Fiction Power to you, my friends!


Richard Barrett


Written at 12:44 AM somewhere in the USA…

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