Probably the most common question I get asked is “how many times a week should I train to make progress?” As with most questions the answer is “it depends”.
Once a week: If you are just starting grappling you can definately pick up a few things training even once a week, particularly if you already practice another martial art. Additionally there are lots books, videos and/or internet information that can learn from on days that you aren’t training.
If you are a seasoned grappler who has become too busy to hit the mats as often as before you too may be reduced to training once week. But let me reassure you that training once a week is much, much, much better than not training at all.
With once-a-week training you’ll maintain at least some of your timing and conditioning, and will be much further ahead when you can return to your previous level of training. Of course if you can augment your weekly training session with some cardio or strength training so much the better.
Twice a week: Twice a week is enough for most recreational grapplers to maintain their skill level. You can even make some improvements training only twice a week, especially if your training is focused and you are able to do some conditioning on your days off. There have been times in my life when hitting the mats twice a week was about all I could pull off; by focusing my training I still managed to make improvements in some areas.
Three times a week: If you can train 3 times a week consistently you will make good progress. Once again, any studying, conditioning or cross-training you do on your days off will likely accelerate your learning so long as you avoid overtraining.
Four or more times a week: Now we are getting into the territory of the serious practitioner, competitor and/or professional fighter.
Training this intensely may include conditioning sessions, sparring sessions, cross-disciplinary training and two-a-day sessions. These guys pretty much just eat, sleep and train.
At this intensity quality and quantity of rest/recovery becomes important because overtraining is a constant danger. For more information on this see my article on overtraining and how to avoid it.