There are many fighters like BJ PENN and Demian Maia that got their BJJ black belt in short period. Many say BJ Penn received it after 3 years of training - on Wikipedia they mention Demian Maia got his black belt after training 4 years and 7 months. What are their training schedule and how did they manage to receive their black belts in such a short period?
BJ Penn and Demian Maia
The training results of BJ Penn and Demian Maia cannot be replicated at will. Some people just have natural gifts. Luck also plays a factor, as does physicality, especially as relates to avoiding injury.
Without discounting the tremendous amount of hard work that he put into training, BJ Penn was bestowed with natural physical talent. Combining that with full time training, as in multiple times a day for at least five days a week, he was able to advance quickly. Note that BJ also had a little haphazard BJJ training from a TKD instructor who was also a BJJ blue belt. I believe that TKD instructor is current BJJ black belt competitive monster Keenan Cornelius' father, Tom Callos, who has talked in interviews about training with BJ in the early days.
Demian Maia had some early exposure to judo, but it's unclear what exactly made him able to advance so quickly. Some people just do.
The best way to advance quickly in BJJ, as with any skill, is to train frequently. The top players in the art today train full time: multiple times a day, at least five days a week. They train at schools with world champions and copious sparring partners. They sacrifice many other elements of their life. They train hard, they spar with everybody, they think about the sport constantly, they analyze top-level matches, and many of them do strength and conditioning to keep themselves injury-free and in top condition.
The only real way to get better at anything, and especially Brazillian Jiujitsu, is to train more. That's the only answer.
The reason Demian Maia, BJ Penn, Kid Dale etc got their black belts in a few years, is because they trained 2 or 3 sessions a day, 6 days a week at their prime for competitions etc. You can not only pack a lot of years of training into your time that way, but this constant, intense focus, can really help you see.
The other reason they advanced quickly is the quality of instruction and training partners they had. It is much easier to get better quickly at Brazillian Jiujitsu when all your training partners are really good black belts. White belts spazz, they're not very good to train with because they don't know what they're doing; that's okay, they're whitebelts, they're in survival-mode, but when you constantly have to worry about not getting accidentally elbowed, or somebody cranking an arm because they have no clue, you cannot train properly. Black belts who can tell you exactly when to move where at every position are much more useful training partners.
They also likely made sacrifices in their daily life to train so much; after 3 trainings a day, you don't want to do social things with all your non training friends. Sometimes they won't understand and you'll drift apart. Those are sacrifices you might have to make.
And no doubt they were a little talented to boot.
But the key here is, it doesn't matter how long it takes to get a black belt; if you do it right you're going to be grappling for the rest of your life; what does the color of the belt you wear right now matter? It doesn't, just focus on being a better training partner, competitor, student and person, be diligent and study at home.
I wouldn't compare yourself with BJ Penn unless you're a kid who can train several hours every day without fail. I think you need to evaluate why you are training in BJJ. If you are training to get your belts as quick as possible then I suggest you stop training as this is not the best mentality to have. BJJ is not something you will get instant gratification from, you will not learn everything in 3 years, you will not get your black belt in that time either. The average time scale for someone to attain the black belt level is 7/8 years of consistent training. However, even at that level I know guys who feel they have just started learning.
I should point out here there are no quick fixes for BJJ, you can't download a video or buy a box set that will tell you the secrets to getting a black belt.
The formula for getting a black belt is to train consistently every week and have fun. Those guys who train just to get belts and win medals are the ones who drop off very quickly.
If all you care about is belts then I would give up now. It's the man not the belt that matters.
A quick way to gain a blackbelt in BJJ is
basically to train in you Dojo at least 4 times a week with your sensei(the one awarding the belt) present.
Compete in events representing your school/dojo and win
Pay for it
Ok now i will explain why. 1 and 2 is self explanatory. It is important the you train hard and be seen training hard. In the end when you are up for evaluation, it will all come down to how often you are seen participating. Bringing pride to the school will further increase your chances.
And as for 3,rare cases, where progression can be achieved with donation. If this is the case, I would advise you not to continue there.
So yeah, in a nutshell, train hard / compete hard and be seen doing it.
Getting a black belt in BJJ within 4 -5 years is basically a rare thing. Most ppl get it around 10 yrs if they are consistent.
If you want to advance quickly, train six days per week. That's all I have to say. And practice at home whenever you can't train. Find ways of training in impossible places, even on vacation in hotels, just for an hour a day. Constantly training will ENSURE you advance at MAXIMUM speed. That doesn't mean however, that you need to be a world champion. Plus, if you advance too quickly, you might not master the moves you are currently learning.
It's better to master your current moves first. THEN move on to the next thing.
If you train six days a week though, you may not have the body type or build to train that much. Some people don't. Train as much as you can, given whatever your medical condition is. If you can train six days a week, train six days a week. If you have slightly lower muscle tone, that's fine. You don't have to be a world champion to do well with martial arts. Then just train four days a week instead.
Just DON'T try to find an excuse to train ONE day a week and never practice. Then you'll NEVER get good.