Krav Maga, the Israeli form of self-defense, is without a doubt one of the deadliest forms of martial arts being practiced today. It has taken a lot of concepts from Jujutsu, Aikido, Boxing, Judo, Wing Chun, Muay Thai, and others. The system of Krav Maga belts even stems from the same system in Judo.
If you are getting into Krav Maga then one of the first things you would want to understand is the belt system. This is the structure you will follow as you advance. Students will always keep their eyes on the next belt above their rank, always keeping sight of the next goal they need to achieve.
This ranking system has done well in Judo and Karate and it has done well too in Krav Maga. Because of this ranking system students do everything in their power to master the art and achieve the next rank possible.
Krav Maga Belts and Ranking System
The Basics of the Krav Maga Belt Structure
As mentioned above, Krav Maga takes its inspiration from Judo. Judo was the first martial art that utilized the concept of belts to rank its practitioners, from beginners to expert. However, traditional Judo only used two colors: white and black.
When Judo reached Europe things began to change. Western Judo schools added more colors to achieve the goals listed above. Now their students knew exactly where they stood in terms of experience and skill and they had a goal they could visibly see.
Krav Maga adapted this Western Judo style and now generally uses seven belts and three main categories (identified by a patch on the uniform):
- Practitioner Level 1: White Belt
- Practitioner Level 2 and Level 3: Yellow Belt
- Practitioner Level 4 and Level 5: Orange Belt
- Practitioner Level 6 and Graduate Level 1: Green Belt
- Graduate Level 2 and Level 3: Blue Belt
- Graduate Level 4 and Level 5: Brown Belt
- Expert Level 1 to Level 5: Black Belt
There is also a category above Expert which is known as the Master level. Very few have reached this level and usually the people who have dedicated their whole lives contributing or developing the future of Krav Maga.
Advancing to the Next Belt
Moving from one belt to the next requires several things:
- Mastery of certain techniques
- Completion of syllabus
The amount of time it takes to move from one belt color to the next depends from school to school. In general, however, it normally takes 1-2 years to move up within the Practitioner category and no less than 2 years in the Graduate category.
In order to qualify to wear the Green and Blue belt and officially became a Graduate, a Practitioner must not only pass a test showing mastery of all the Practitioner skills and techniques but must also complete a syllabus proving he or she has learned everything within the Practitioner level.
This test could be written or be a verbal test in front of a panel of instructors.
Graduates and Instructors
Civilian instructors are often Graduates wearing brown Krav Maga belts. These are the people who have passed the instructor examination, meaning all instructors are Graduates but not all Graduates are qualified instructors.
People who have advanced to the Expert category and now wear black Krav Maga belts are so advanced that they normally teach military institutions and law enforcement academies. These are the instructors that teach the Israeli soldiers how to fight using advanced war combat skills of Krav Maga instead of the traditional techniques used for competitive sports.
Masters of Krav Maga, who also wear honorary black belts of a slightly different design, normally do not teach per se but instead run their own school. Very few have reached this level and are normally the first few followers of the art since it officially began in the 1940s.
Reaching the Black Belt
One other thing about getting the black belt and advancing to the Expert level of Krav Maga is the fact you have to be invited. Where the other belts only required students to be in a belt level for a certain amount of time and then to pass a few skills test to advance, the black belt is an invitation-only deal.
This means that the only people who have moved on from the brown belt in Krav Maga are people identified by the martial arts society to truly be considered as experts. These students are invited to become black belt holders because they have shown dedication, loyalty, time, and skill in the art.
In most Krav Maga schools, the level of black Krav Maga belts is divided into 9 dans or degrees. These 9 degrees are then divided into five levels. Moving from one level to the next also requires invitation to be valid.