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The 32 Principles: A Review

(Originally published September 20, 2021)

A lot of folks have been asking me about Gracie University's 32 Principles program.  I own the first eight principles and have had some time to digest them, so I thought I'd take some time to give it a review here.

The 32 Principles (32P for short) is a digital product that you access through Gracie University Online.  If you have access to Gracie Combatives or any of their other courses, the user interface is exactly the same with one exception.  They allow you to download copies of the videos.  This feature is really nice for me because I travel from time to time, and it's nice to be able to watch the videos when I don't have access to the internet.

The videos are high quality.  It's easy to see all of the details and hear the instruction.  Ryron and Rener are some of the best instructors out there, and they break everything down for you Sesame Street style.  I always enjoy watching them teach.  They're informative and fun!

So on to the meat of it.  What do they teach on these videos?

Well, for this first installment there's an eight minute intro, and a two hour mini masterclass on principle centered learning.  Then there are videos for each of the eight principles.  And lastly there's a four minute Outro video.

The principle videos are anywhere from a little over 20 minutes to just under an hour.  They give you a definition of the principle.  Then they demonstrate the principle using some techniques from their online curriculum.  I feel like they do a very through job of this.  There's no way you're coming away from one of these videos without understanding exactly what the principle is that they're trying to communicate.

Next they talk about research objectives.  This is a new concept in video instruction.  They actually give you homework.  Your mission, should you choose to accept it is to look for the principle while sparring for at least the next few weeks.  

It's the old Reticular Activation System (RAS) concept.  You know how right after you buy a new car, you notice that same model all over the place?  It's like everyone else went out and bought the same car.  But of course they didn't.  You just happen to notice them more because you just bought one.  It's the same thing with the principle.  The idea is that after studying it, you'll see it all over the place.

Your research objectives are to find nine examples of the principle in action.  Three examples of the principle should be in what they refer to as, “As-is” Techniques, existing Gracie University techniques that already incorporate the principle.  

Three examples of the principle should be in what they refer to as, “Enhanced” Techniques, existing GU techniques that you enhanced with the principle. 

And three examples of the principle should be in what they refer to as, “Discovered” Techniques.  These are non-GU techniques (self-discovered or learned elsewhere) that utilize the principle.

Of course if you're not a GU student, or don't have access to any of the GU curriculum, I'm sure this would be just as effective using whatever curriculum and techniques your instructor happens to use at your academy.

In the final section of each video Ryron and Rener talk about how you should conduct a sparring exercise for the given principle. The top priority of course should be the inclusion of the Principle discussed during the video, with ample time spent after the session to discuss and dissect the implications of the principle throughout the roll.

Overall, I like the process that they've laid out for their 32P program.  I feel like this is a useful endeavor that would benefit just about anyone as long as they have the discipline to see it through.

After watching the first principle myself, I went to the gym and managed to concentrate on the first principle, connection, for the majority of my first roll.  After that I'll be honest.  I was over it.  Yep, there's connection all over the place in Jiu-Jitsu.  And while dividing it up into three purposes of connection (prevention, prediction, promotion) was interesting, it just wasn't enough to hold my interest throughout all but the first roll of the evening.

Even though my limited attention span didn't allow me to use the product the way it was intended, I still feel the information was useful and enjoyable.  I like hearing about how different people think about Jiu Jitsu.  And I'll probably give their "research" methodology another try at some point.  I geek out over this stuff.  

Bottom line, should you buy this or no?

Well, it depends.  I feel it bears pointing out that they originally intended this as their purple to brown belt course, but then decided to market it for everyone.  

If you're a brand new white belt with limited funds, I'd say your money is better spent elsewhere.  It seems like they're marketing this as if it's the only thing you need.  I think it was Rener who said words to the effect of, if he had to start all over again and learn Jiu Jitsu from scratch, and had to choose between all the techniques of their curriculum or their 32 principles, that he'd choose the 32P.

Hats off to Ryron and Rener because really do think they are awesome, but I would have to respectfully disagree.  If you gave me the 32P as my intro to BJJ, I wouldn't have known what to do with it.  I feel like you need to understand the basic framework and fundamentals of BJJ first.  Then the principles can help you.  

If you're a brand new white belt and have to choose between the 32P and say, Gracie Combatives, I'd say choose Gracie Combatives.  It's a brilliant intro to the fundamentals, and it's not like you're not getting any principles of Jiu Jitsu in that course.  It's chock full of them even if they don't explicitly spell them out for you.  

If you have enough money to get both Gracie Combatives and 32P, then you might consider getting both.  But start watching and learning Gracie Combatives first!  Then you'll have a framework with which you can better absorb the 32P.

If you've been doing BJJ for awhile, have a firm grasp on the fundamentals, and are interested in principle centered learning, I'd say give the first eight principles a shot and see if it's for you.

Good luck and happy training.  Hope that helps.


- Big Mike


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