In the case of Lee Allan from Focus Judo Club in Galashiels, it took seven years.
His journey began when he took his son, Jay, down to the local Judo club in 2005.
After spectating for two weeks he was on the mat himself training with the seniors. He then became hooked and began the long process of going through the grading system, which starts at a red belt then goes from yellow to orange in the club environment, then competitively through green, blue and brown before he had the chance to compete for his black belt.
After four years of competing as a 1st Kyu brown belt, Lee entered the national grading at "The Dojo" in Alloa three weeks ago and secured his final points to earn him one of the most highly regarded honours in Judo - 1st Dan Black Belt.
Lee told the Border Telegraph: "Judo is a very hard martial art to learn and very tough as a sport too.
"Competitive Judo is generally a young man's game so, as I started at 34 it became an uphill struggle for me as I rose through the grades.
"I have excellent coaches and they kept me on the right track and made sure I didn't give up. I also started training with the Scottish Masters at Ratho and recently with Kenka Judo Club in Edinburgh, which helped me prepare for my last grading.
"Finally achieving this grade means a lot to me and now makes all my hard work worthwhile."
Lee also thanked his coaches, Tam Hardie (5th Dan), Stuart Gordon (3rd Dan) and James Hunt (2nd Dan), who he attributes his recent success.
Lee now plans to concentrate on developing his coaching skills and hopefully progress to the next level of the UKCC coaching program.
If you would like to try judo, whether you're a child, a teenager or a 41-year-old like Lee, you can find them at the Focus Centre in Galashiels on Monday nights.
Judo has something to offer to all ages and abilities, whether it is an interest in martial arts, self-defence or general fitness. Their first session in 2013 is on Monday, January 7. Further details at www.focusjudo.org