White belt in martial arts class
Duncan Graham

A lot can happen in a White Belt Minute… some good, some bad, but all 100% worth every moment of struggle.

Things can go from bad to worse. You escape the choke just to be viciously arm-barred. Don't even get me started on that camouflaged kimura grip. You think you are passing guard, but you don't close your elbows tight enough, and then suddenly your shoulder is going the other direction, and your body is not in your control any longer.

You think you are finally getting somewhere, then quickly lose it all, in a White Belt Minute.


You realize it's one thing to learn a move and a completely different thing to actually do it when you need to. Grips grab ungraciously, shutting down every idea you ever had. If you can even remember one. Desperate times call for desperate measures, and no one is more desperate than you. While you choke on your own Gi, you choke on the new understanding that you are totally ineffective in all of your frenzied fury.

There are countless close calls in a White Belt Minute. Can you even survive the whole 60 seconds? Maybe not, at first. You will question yourself 1000 times or more, think of every excuse, then throw yourself into the moment and give it everything you've got. Seconds tick by, but it feels like ages.

An eternity goes by in a White Belt Minute. You live, you die, and you are reborn again. Baptized in bruises and sweat, it's both terrifying and amazing as you realize the limitless ways in which you can and WILL be submitted. Treacherously inventive. You battle through the thoughts that yell at you to QUIT! YOU CAN'T DO THIS! GIVE UP NOW! You quiet the urge to panic or puke under pressure.

You challenge yourself and survive through adversity in a White Belt Minute. You lose control, you realize your weakness, and you question yourself. But because of that, you learn self-control, become mentally stronger, and find the answers you need so that your elbows are tight next time, and they can't get that kimura on you.

A White Belt Minute can seem like forever when you are trapped in time and pinned under pressure. But add up enough of those moments, and you create the beginning of the story of your Jiu-Jitsu journey.

Looking back on a White Belt Minute, I remember the perseverance it took to survive it, the determination to drill and to practice until I got better, and the absolute triumph I felt when just one thing went right. I will never forget the feeling I felt when I passed guard for the first time successfully, discovered my love for the guillotine and other vicious chokes, and when I realized how much my mentality and physicality began changing for the better.

It all started with a White Belt Minute.

I recall Floyd Burk who is also a regular writer and contributor to Black Belt Magazine once asked for my input on article he had in the works entitled 'The Aging Martial Artist'.

Specifically he wanted to know the biggest change in your martial arts ability that you've noticed over the years? (Answer could be physical, philosophical, strategic, etc..)

Because judo is so physical, many of the moves I can no longer do because of prior injuries and trying to avoid future ones, (after 60 it takes much longer to recover). So my role have gravitated towards being involved in running the judo organizations, promoting large events, refereeing, developing future leaders, as well as providing wisdom that comes with age and experience.

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Photos Courtesy of ONE Championship

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