Calendar time is not mat time

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For some reason BJJ practitioners love to obsess over how much time they have spent at a given belt and about how much time it takes to earn each belt. Using a calendar to assess these things is easy, but how much sense does it really make?

Just because two people have been training for the same amount of time doesn’t mean that they have spent a similar amount of time training. On one end of the spectrum you could have a fresh parent with a stressful job that can only make it to training once or twice per week. On the other end you have a young competitor who spends all his free time in the gym, often training multiple times per day, 6 times per week. In between those extremes you have a lot of variety.

With the two extreme examples above, the difference in actual mat time could easily differ by an order of magnitude for the same timespan. Of course most people are somewhere in between and the differences are not that big, but the idea remains.

Let’s take another 2 examples that are a little less extreme. Meet Average Joe, who trains 2-3 times per week on average. He started training 6 months before Dedicated Ed joined, who trains 4-5 times per week. To simplify the math, let’s assume that all classes are one hour long.

After a year has passed Dedicated Ed ends gets promoted to blue belt and Average Joe is a little upset. After all he joined way before Ed and he thinks this is not fair.

If Joe would take a step back and look at it from a mat time perspective, it would be easy to see that Dedicated Ed accumulated about 230 hours on the mat. Even though Average Joe has been training for an additional 6 months, he is only at around 195 hours of mat time. He might be up for promotion soon as well, but it is easy to see how Ed surpassed Joe just by training a few more nights every week.

Of course it doesn’t stop at just mat time. Just because two people attend the exact same classes it doesn’t mean that they will improve at the same rate. If someone is using deliberate practice during training and studying BJJ videos during the day, he will progress much faster compared to someone who is only attending classes.

You have to find the right amount of jiu jitsu that works for you and your schedule. Everyone is different and has different priorities. There is no right or wrong. Just avoid comparing yourself to others and your journey will be much more fun.

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