The Part-Time Grappler Experiment – Revisited

Back in 2017, I did a simple experiment to log how much training I did. At the time I blogged about what I discovered but that was looking at my training in 2016-17. So I decided that maybe it was time to revisit my experiment to see if I had learned from my past experience and to see if anything had changed to help me maximize my mat hours. Plus I discovered a new app call Marune that made the logging part much easier to do than just by using a spreadsheet alone!

Back in 2016, I was slightly disappointed with my results – of 285 hours over 216 mat sessions (BJJ and Judo) which meant I trained on average around 5½ hours a week over around 3½ sessions a week. 2016 was a highly competitive year for me and I was trying to manage between 7-8 hrs a week, which I only managed briefly on the run-up to the World Masters.

chart close up data desk

In contrast, this year I only had two main competitions yet and although I did eleven fewer sessions, (205) I did manage more mat time 315 hours overall which did surprise me. Giving me the grand average of 6 hours over roughly 4 sessions a week. So not a massive increase but an increase never the less. My peak volume was also roughly the same as last time (around 8 hours per week just before my competitions). As before I was probably conservative as I was often at the gym longer than the amount I stated but I tried to only measure the training / grappling time and not the stretching, chatting and catching up part (although this is equally important!).

So what does this mean in the scheme of things? As mentioned in my old article the only benchmark is an old article from Jiu Jitsu Magazine re part-time training which looked at how BJ Penn (the fastest legitimate black belt in BJJ history) got his black belt in 3 years. So assuming he trained full time (6hrs a day, 5 days a week) that is approx. 4680 hours to black belt. In 16-17 I calculated I had about another 14 years to go. Based on that data and my new averages I now have a revised target at the end of 2019 which is roughly 9 more years to go and a cracking way to prepare for masters 5!

Obviously, this revised target is much shorter (taking a couple of years off my previous projection) and this is obviously due to that increase mat time. So where did those marginal gains come from? Back in 2017, I looked at what took me off the mat and through revisiting those points I came up with 3 main answers.


Rest Days – Despite carrying a long term niggle I did seem less injured or ill this year (yippee!) Last time, injury / illness was the main thing that messed up my training plans. So, I did wonder if this alone was the main reason for my increased mat time. Unfortunately, I did not find anything conclusive. When I compared my spreadsheets, I found that my time off the mat for both years was similar for both rest and sick combined for both years. The key difference was in 16/17 I was forced off with injury or illness whilst this year it was an actual choice. I may have just possibly learned that missing a couple of sessions and letting things heal/ feel better is actually better in the longer term? Or this reduction might be linked to the fact I may have had more lower intensity training sessions i.e. less rolling and more drilling? Unfortunately, I can’t tell for sure as that would take a much more detailed spreadsheet to work out (mmm perhaps in the future!).

Action Shot from the Asian Open Final

Competition – As I mentioned last time comp is a great focus and motivators but they can also take away from your mat time i.e. the tapering pre-comp, comp travel, and the recovery post comp. I suspect those two fewer competitions catered for some of that time difference. Now do not get me wrong I’m not saying don’t compete. I am just saying that as an older / part-time grappler is that it will eat into your class time so do not beat yourself up too much unless you want to get ill or injured as per my last point! I plan to step back onto the competition treadmill so to speak next year so it will be interesting to see how my numbers are affected.


Valuing your time on the mat – The only obvious difference I could find was linked to a specific training session change. Since 16/17 my gym timetable changed as did some life circumstances which means I now visit my hubby’s gym every Thursday which has a longer class. Essentially, this has enabled me to increase my mat time, as those sessions are longer. One simple change that pretty much accounts for all my training increases. I know it is a bit anticlimactic but I guess there is no secret ingredient – training for longer once a week can really improve your training over a year!

Nevertheless, how can people duplicate this / how can I build on those gains? – it is not like you can constantly increase or change the gym timetable just for your own personal needs! So for me, I think my focus is on two things moving forward –

  1. Early class drilling – my biggest mat gains where when I took advantage of pre-class open mats for drilling. This is something I stopped doing as the year progressed but doing so tended to increase my mat time by an extra 30 min each week which does add up so I need to get back in the habit.
  2. Active RecoveryMinion LiftingThis really has not improved much since 2016. This year I was slightly more consistent with my gym work but whilst strength training has been important to helping me stay injury free I have discovered maintaining it on the run-up to competition is hard for me both in terms of time but also for my recovery. It is often is the first thing to go when stress (either training or life-related) builds up. So moving into the New Year I am trying to juggle my sessions again to try to find a weight day that suits better. I am also hoping the addition of Yoga that I started towards the end of the year will help with my recovery and ultimate my mat time too.

I hope you have found my geekiness and reflections useful. I am going to try to continue to track my training as I find Marune a bit like my fitness pal I found the accountability useful in terms of both kicking my bottom onto the mat but also empowering me that’s it ok to take a rest!

Feel free to let me know any tips or tricks you use to maximise the frequency and quality of your training as let’s be honest – “every little helps”!

Photo Credit –


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