Jiu-Jitsu is known to be the hardest system in which you can earn rank. This is due both to the long time periods of training between ranks and the need to actually demonstrate your skill through the actual application of your techniques. As with any endeavor that has some sort of hierarchy, everyone always wants to know how to get to the top of the hierarchy as quickly as possible. In Jiu-Jitsu, this leads newer students to ask a plethora of questions. Among the most common questions is, “How often should I train?”
When a student asks me about training frequency I always have to take a moment to answer. My immediate response would be to say, “Train as often as possible.” However, after almost 30 years of training and watching people train several arts, I know this is not the right answer. Don’t get me wrong. If you’re a school kid that would be running the streets and getting into trouble, you should be on the mats at every opportunity. Not only will this keep you out of trouble, but it will also give you the skills to live your life in a healthy and positive way after school. But not every student is a school kid. In fact, many are just the “Average Joe.” They are middle-aged, have jobs, wives, kids, and other life commitments. So I’m not sure that telling a person like this to train every single day is doing them a favor!
Those who know me might be seeing that statement as a bit hypocritical right now. I basically lived on the mats from the age of 16 to present. Even today, I’m on the mats more days than I’m not (even at home). Ask my wife, she’ll tell you! The difference is, however, I started training martial arts when I was 6 years old. So asking me not to be on the mats is like asking me not to walk or speak. It’s so much a part of who I am, a part of my culture and my being that I would lose my identity without it. But this isn’t true of most students. For most students, it’s a passionate hobby. You will never hear me say that jiu-jitsu or martial arts is a “hobby” of mine. But I also understand that, for most, it is just that.
Master Pedro Sauer tells his students often, “Just keep training and you will eventually be a black belt.” Since the black belt, for most students, is their ultimate goal, my job is to make sure they just keep training. I understand that when a student says they want to earn black belt, what they really mean is they want to train for a very long time. So it’s important to balance jiu-jitsu into their lives, not overwhelm their lives with it; and certainly not jam it down their throats. So when a person asks, “how much should I train,” I have to step back and translate what they’re actually saying.
What is actually being said is, “How often should I train so that I stay motivated, see progress, and it doesn’t mess up my personal life?”
So, in my opinion, the sweet spot is 3 days/classes per week. 2 classes is ok, but 3 really is optimal to fulfill the average student’s goals. Once you start going over 3 days per week, you’ll see that the students start having family troubles…often with their spouse. The fastest way to lose a student is for them to have family troubles.
One day a week doesn’t usually garner much growth for the student. For this reason, I don’t even do a 1 day a week tuition program. That is, you pay for 2 days/week or you pay for unlimited. This is to guide my students into that sweet spot for training.
Four days a week is also ok, depending on commitments. I find for someone who is married with no children, this doesn’t seem to pose much of an issue. But once kids come into play, you will see that number becomes difficult to manage for most people; myself included (wife and 2 young children).
Five or more days is for athletes or competitors only. This makes up a small portion of the gym and these people tend to be more prone to injury and burn out. So you’ll need to keep a sharp eye on them to be sure they don’t try to do too much too fast. I’ve recommended to more than one student that they take a day or two off for this very reason. I’ve also lost students because I didn’t recognize the signs soon enough.
In the end, the key is to slowly integrate jiu-jitsu into your life. 3 days of training per week will do this. By the time you hit brown and black belt, you won’t be able to imagine your life without jiu-jitsu and that’s the ultimate goal. Beyond all the medals you may win. Beyond the belts you’ll wear. Beyond all the gi you will go through. Your goal should be to train for the rest of your life. 3 days per week is a nice fit to meet that goal!
Now, go train. I’ll see you on the mats.
Bill Jones is a black belt under Master Pedro Sauer and the owner/operator of Top Level Martial Arts. He has been training martial arts since 1985.
Visit his website