I've trained in MMA for one and a half years and half a year in Krav Maga. I find that I don't have enough energy to train, because of work and school. My goal is not to lose reflexes and my current proficiency at doing techniques. I want to be able to defend myself in case I am attacked. I do not want to be "competition fit", but still retain a healthy workout.

I am sure that many people have the same problem: they have neither the time nor the energy to practice daily.

What would be the minimum number of sessions or time that I would need to train?

  • edited, sorry for the unclear question, thanks for reminding. I mean like still being able to defend myself in worst case, when I stopped training I wasn't even able to do some basics. I wonder if 1 class each week will still help you not lose your process. Usually when you stop for a time, most people need to learn some stuff again, you know what I mean?
    – DeathToxic
    Apr 5 '16 at 14:17
  • 1
    The time required to "remain proficient" is heavily dependent on your rank and knowledge - a white belt will have to spend far less time remaining proficient than a black belt.
    – slugster
    Apr 6 '16 at 12:17
  • Do you think it's also okay, if I do a little bit exercise at home for myself? Like using a sparring partner, I mean of course I am just an amateur, but the 2 years experience at least let me never forget the basics which I can always practice myself right?
    – DeathToxic
    Apr 8 '16 at 8:03

The thing is, you're approaching it kind of from the wrong angle. You're asking how you can reduce the number of days per week that you train so that you can just retain what you have and not lose anything. So you want the answer to be a simple "1", "2", or maybe "3" days per week. That's just not going to be easy for you or anyone else to say.

The problem is our brains and bodies don't work that way. When you learn any new skill at first, you're going to have to repeat it 100 times that day. And then you're going to have to come back to it again a day later, but maybe only do it 90 times. And then you can skip a day and come back to it the day after that and only do it 70 times. Then you can skip two days after that and come back to it and do it 50 times. And so on, until you can come back to it a month from now and only have to do it a half dozen times to retain that skill.

That's how our brains actually work. And this is what's known as the "Spaced Repetition" method, which you can learn about here:


The Spaced Repetition method can serve as the framework for figuring out the minimum time needed between training sessions to retain whatever you want to retain. It's often used to learn new vocabulary and new languages, but it can be applied to any skill in general.

It's not as simple as limiting your workouts to one or two days a week. Some of your skills will require more days training per week with less number of days resting in between. Some skills will only require training once a month. And the number of times your repeat each skill will depend on the previous times you've done it and whether or not your previous attempt was better or worse than the ones before it.

I talked about this much more in depth several paragraphs down in my answer here:

What is the most effective way to teach Jiu Jitsu

What I would do if I were you is to prioritize what skills I want to retain. Once those are prioritized, you can focus on them and determine the frequency (how many days on, how many days off) and duration (how many reps) of training.

Start with a rough guess for everything you prioritize. Write it down. Program it. Then after two workouts, you can determine if things got better, worse, or stayed the same. If things got better, you can afford to space the training out more and/or reduce the number of repetitions or duration you train. Then go back to your program and make the changes. Always update it after every workout.

Think of it like a big feedback loop. Your performance today will change the frequency and duration you program in for the next time you practice that skill. So if you go to practice your uchi-mata throw, and it has gotten worse than the last time you did it, that means you need to increase the frequency of how often you train it as well as how many repetitions you do each time you train it.

It sounds like a lot of work, and it doesn't give you a simple answer of 1, 2, or 3 days a week like what you really want. But actually, it gives you the right answer, which is the minimum effort you need to put into any skill in order to retain it.

If that answer doesn't work within your own personal time limitations, that's where you must change your prioritization. Prioritize that skill more highly, allowing you to focus on it more and spend more time on it. But that will mean that other skills will worsen, unfortunately. That's okay. It's all about your own priorities in life. Nobody has infinite time and energy to train.

Hope that helps.

  • this theory is very interesting, if I rethink my 2 years experience there were actually moments where this is true. btw. do you maybe know, if allergy or something like asthma can harm my condition? like pollen allergy in spring. I recognized I got pain in the chest and heavy breathing, and I usually don't have that even in the lessons...wonder if this could be a reason why I feel like dying every lesson
    – DeathToxic
    Apr 7 '16 at 6:39
  • 1
    Allergies and asthma, flus, colds, over-training, under-training, stress in your life, etc. all have an effect on your athletic performance and your mental functioning (emotional state, motivation, focus, etc.). No doubt about it. It's something everyone goes through on occasion. Asthma in particular can just drain all of your energy. And time off from working out will cause a reduction in performance both physical and mental. It will take some time to recover. If it's a chronic condition, then that's something you just have to take into account when you program your training... Apr 7 '16 at 17:27
  • ... For asthma, I'd look into doing all you can to avoid the triggers and get properly medicated (see an asthma specialist doctor (MD)). Also, I have a friend who swears that her asthma is triggered in part because of her lactose intolerance and possible other food allergies. You say you have other allergies. Maybe you should see an allergy specialist first. They might be able to tell you if you're allergic to certain foods or something in your environment (cat dander, etc.). Also, invest in an air cleaner device with HEPA filter. Put one in every room of your house, especially where... Apr 7 '16 at 17:31
  • ... you sleep or spend the most time in. Also, if you work in an office, put one there. It's going to help you immensely during allergy season. Apr 7 '16 at 17:32
  • my asthma is not chronic, it's actually just over certain things like now the allergy in the spring you easily get where I live. But it makes me even look like I am just too weak. Usually if I practice I can go over my limits(this is why I like any kind of fighting the adrenaline gives it to me). but when I have asthma it literally sucks my energy level out like nothing. and I can just push to my limits. and my limits are at the moment very small. I said to myself now, I try to practice 2 a week, if I can't go I may do a little bit home training, do you think it's okay to exercise for myself?
    – DeathToxic
    Apr 8 '16 at 7:59

Boxing (Western) is a great way to get and stay fit. You say you don't have much energy, but you need to push your cardio-vascular fitness to build that back up (also, eat right). The punching fundamentals of boxing translate well to self-defense and are simpatico with most other fighting skills you may pick up. As an added bonus, boxing gyms are usually not hard to find in most areas.

Edit: The question has been edited to the degree that my response no longer seems relevant.

  • just a question, does boxing include parring or is it just blocking and doging?I mean if I train without gloves, blocking is not pretty effective and I usually like to do it either without gloves or with small gloves like these from MMA
    – DeathToxic
    Apr 8 '16 at 8:01
  • Boxing does incorporate parries. They are a combination of pushing an incoming punch out of line, while moving ones body into position for a follow-up attack. This is usually done with the outside hand parrying, the inside hand held up to guard from an outside punch (e.g. left hook), while you are also stepping forward and inside to position yourself for a follow up with a counter attack to their unprotected flank. There are many other variations taught, and a good couch will emphasize parrying over blocking in most situations. Also, most gyms aren't going to let you spar with grappling gloves
    – Zen_Hydra
    Apr 8 '16 at 14:32

Unfortunately, there is no clear answer to this question. The minimum amount of practice you need depends upon many factors which vary from individual to individual:

  • Other activities - If you play a sport like soccer, you are more likely to retain things like reflexes. If you are well known for having a mind like a steel trap, you are more likely to retain fixed action patterns associated with martial arts. If your life is spent sitting in a desk chair, and you find your mind fuzzy more often than not, you will likely require more training than others. What does your job require you to do?
  • Desired combat readiness - There is no one magic line to be drawn between "combat ready" and "not combat ready." Every situation you come across is unique. Some will be easier to defend with a given martial art than others. "Combat ready" on the streets of a rural town is very different than "combat ready" in a warzone. Do you live in Deluth or Los Angeles or New Orleans? Each sports its own variants on "combat ready."
  • Build - A massive muscled individual may require less training to remain ready than one who has less muscle and must use that muscle more efficiently in a combat situation. This is simply a factor of margins: a more muscled individual has more margin in many situations before they become compromised (there's situations where the opposite is true, but you get the idea)
  • Sensitivity - The more sensitive you are to how your body works, the sooner you'll detect something which is starting to fall apart, giving you a chance to tailor your regime to work with those particular skills.
  • I'm an IT-specialist, just in apprenticeship. It requires a lot more than just doing a "normal" job. Gotta do many things after work too. Like school lessons, projects which I am only allowed to do at home and a lot of homework. So basically I don't even have time, I just take it. So I was wondering if this is even still worth it...
    – DeathToxic
    Apr 6 '16 at 10:14

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