Despite not being a martial art, Krav Maga schools tend to use a belting structure. This is a relatively new concept in Krav Maga, first being used in 1968. 1Since Krav Maga is made to be learned quickly and uses the human body’s natural instincts, a belting system may seem to go against some of the core concepts of Krav Maga. Martial arts use a belting system to show mastery over certain concepts as a student progresses through training. Krav Maga uses belting structure in a slightly different way – mastery does not come through individual techniques, but through understanding different ways to use the same technique. The use of a belting system is not only a convenient way to show progression for both the student and the teacher, it also fits quite nicely into some of the major philosophies of Krav Maga.
Krav Maga is, in part, based off the idea of building blocks: a single, basic technique will be quick to learn while maintaining its effective nature. No matter what level a student trains at, these core techniques will always be the same. The complexity found in later belt levels is not from the technique itself, but from the way the technique is used. The most basic form of a technique will often be used to defend a student from unarmed street attacks. 2This single technique becomes the basic building block as its usage is expanded into more complex situations. 3More complex uses might include close quarters fighting, unarmed defense against weapons, and weapon vs weapon techniques. Black belt situations might begin to include professional security and military situations. 4While all of these situations may use the same basic technique, their circumstances become increasingly more complex. By dividing these situations based on complexity, they become more manageable for the student to learn.
In order to gain the ability to function effectively inside these complex situations, students must also gain the ability to let their training come out subconsciously. This is a hard skill to learn, and must be trained in order to be effective. Due to this, teachers will often put more complex situations – which require quick, subconscious thought – into classes for higher belt levels. While a new student may constantly and consciously analyze a situation, more advanced students will react from muscle memory and subconscious processing about their environment. 5It should be noted that a beginning student should be consciously analyzing a situation – this is a very good first step towards learning Krav Maga and is immediately better than freezing up in an attack situation.
A yellow belt student will begin with basic combatives – including how to effectively punch, kick and move inside an attack situation. They will often also learn how to deal with chokes and headlocks. The bulk of a yellow belt’s training will consider common street fighting defenses and strikes. These offer simple, but effective, examples of Krav Maga’s basic principles. 6
An orange belt will move on to more complex combatives, including how to use their yellow belt techniques in new situations. Orange belt often also covers how to defend against bearhugs and introduces the basics of fighting and defending from the ground. 7A green belt will move on to not only more complex situations, but focus much more heavily on muscle memory, immediate reactions, and subconscious perception. Coping with stressful situations and completing techniques effectively in complex situations is necessary for green belts. 8A black belt will often deal with third-party protection, blunt object and edged-weapon defenses and can include threats as complex as hand-grenades and improvised explosive devices, which come about in highly complex professional security, police and military situations. 9
While at first glance the belting system between Krav Maga and martial arts systems may look similar, their principles are quite different. Krav Maga wants its students to take and use all its yellow belt techniques through to black belt without much change in their execution – it is the situations around these techniques that become more complex. Once a student has learned the basics, those techniques will stay with them, and remain useful, all through their learning and life.
- “Eli Avikzar,” Wingate Institute, accessed January 25, 2017, http://www.wincol.ac.il/lp/kami-eli.
- David Khan, Krav Maga The Contact Combat System of the Israeli Defense Forces (New York: St. Martin’s Griffin, 2004), 25.
- Khan, Krav Maga The Contact Combat System, 31.
- Khan, Krav Maga The Contact Combat System, 25.
- Khan, Krav Maga The Contact Combat System, 146.
- Darren Levine and John Whitman, Complete Krav Maga The Ultimate Guide to Over 230 Self-Defense and Combative Techniques (Berkeley: Ulysses Press, 2007), 21.
- Levine and Whitman, Complete Krav Maga, 15.
- Levin and Whitman, Complete Krav Maga, 161.
- Darren Levine and Ryan Hoover, Black Belt Krav Maga Elite Techniques of the World’s Most Powerful Combat System (Berkeley: Ulysses Press, 2009), 7.