The Krav Maga martial art was created by the Israeli government as a form of self-defense and close-quarters combat training for military & law enforcement.
Krav Maga is regarded to be one of the most effective,holistic, and practical fighting systems ever invented.
The foundational planks on which the Israeli-born martial art are predicated are utilitarian movements, natural reactions, and continuous adaptations to changing circumstances.
The belt system works a bit different than most other martial arts, so in this post, I’ll talk about the Krav Maga belt system and the 11 dans to the black belt.
Those who practice this unique form of self-defense are not only exercising physically when they do so, for Krav Maga requires just as much mental fortitude as it does physical strength.
The philosophy of Krav Maga is to respond quickly to threats with economy of motionand an appropriate measure of force; practitioners are never to surpass what is necessary, regardless of the situation.
That being said, if a situation is in fact dire, a Krav Maga practitioner must do whatever is necessary to overcome and neutralize the threat.
Popular and proven defense tactics include: multiple and consistent strikes to the groin, throat, and kidneys, a finger plant into an eye socket, violently shouting into an attacker’s ear, a monstrous head butt, breaking an attacker’s elbow, severing an attacker’s Achilles tendon using an ankle lock, a strong bite to the neck, or choking and subduing an assailant into unconsciousness.
Read more on the gear you’ll need in our Krav Maga equipment blog post
In this post we'll cover:
- 1 How does the Krav Maga belt system work?
- 2 How much time does it take to become a Krav Maga black belt?
- 3 History of the Israeli-born Martial Art –
How does the Krav Maga belt system work?
Despite the fact that belts are visually absent in most Krav Maga classrooms, advancement through Krav Maga is measured using a six-level belt system. The sixth belt level, a blackbelt in Krav Maga, has its own substructure comprised of five dans:
- Yellow KM Lv. 1
- Orange KM Lv. 2
- Green KM Lv. 3
- Blue KM Lv. 4
- Brown KM Lv. 5
- Black KM Lv. 6
The blackbelt KM has five dans:
- KM Blackbelt Dan 1
- KM Blackbelt Dan 2
- KM Blackbelt Dan 3
- KM Blackbelt Dan 4
- KM Blackbelt Dan 5
Those who successfully complete KM blackbelt dan 5 have achieved the highest degree of proficiency in Krav Maga.
Progression through the belt system takes a considerable amount of time, commitment, and effort, especially since training becomes incredibly more difficult and challenging as you ascend.
How much time does it take to become a Krav Maga black belt?
When you’re first starting out with a new sport, you may not immediately think about getting a black belt. If you want to get in to it a bit more casually, here’s the complete guide to get started with Krav Maga. Some do however, so here’s a rough timeline.
It takes about 42 months minimum to get to Black KM level 6 of Krav Maga. After that, there’s a minimum requirement of 5 years per Dan level in the blackbelt system. So that’s a minimum of 15 years to go from Dan 1 to Dan 5, the highest class.
Below is a breakdown of the belt system, arranged in order of how each individual belt would be received.
Yellow KM Lv. 1 –
A minimum four months of training, which typically equates to forty completed classes, is required in order to be eligible to take the KM1 belt test.
If you train an average of two to three times a week, it takes approximately four months to receive a KM Level 1 belt (KM1).
Throughout this training period, emphasis is put on the development of fundamental techniques: students will learn proper Krav Maga fighting stances and movements, different kinds of punches, kicks from both standing and ground positions, elbows, knees, and how to protect oneself against punches, chokes, headlocks and wrist grabs.
When it comes time to take the KM1 belt test, all belt-seekers must demonstrate an understanding of techniques; moreover, it’s imperative that they be able to perform these techniques under stress.
Belt-seekers will also be tested on their understanding of Krav Maga foundational principles.
Click here for an enumerated list of KM1 test requirements.
To watch a KM1 test demonstration, click the video below:
Orange KM Lv. 2 –
If you’ve successfully completed your (KM1) belt, you can expect to train for an additional six months and attend a minimum 60 classes before you are eligible to test for your KM Level 2 (KM2) belt.
Prospective KM2 belt-holders are expected to perform at an intermediate level, which means that they will continue to hone and reviewtechniques practiced in KM1, while also learning additional
- punch defenses
- kick defenses
- and defenses against advanced chokes, headlocks, and bearhugs.
As per usual arrangement, students must be able to show that they’ve firmly grasped the concepts and techniques required to pass the KM2 belt test; furthermore, they must be able to demonstrate this understanding under stress.
Click here for an enumerated list of KM2 test requirements.
To watch a KM2 test demonstration, click the video below:
Green KM Lv. 3 –
The next intermediate-level belt in the system is the KM Level 3 (KM3) belt. Students who practice two to three times a week can expect to be test-ready in nine months; it is also required that they attend 90 classes before they are eligible to take the KM3 belt test.
Training primarily focuses on strikes, protection against strikes, and self defense. It is also during this round of training where you will begin to learn sophisticated techniques that involve defending against weapons such as knives, guns, and sticks.
Click here for an enumerated list of KM3 test requirements.
To watch a KM3 test demonstration, click the video below:
Blue KM Lv. 4 –
After successful completion of the KM3 belt test, students will begin preparation for the KM Level 4. (KM4) belt test.
Preparing for the KM4 belt test is a nine to twelve month endeavor, one that is more rigorous and demanding than any of those which have been completed up to this point.
Students in pursuit of a KM4 belt are required to learn punches and kicks, additional defenses against punches and kicks, perfected defenses against knives, guns, and sticks, as well as strategic ground fighting techniques.
Click here for an enumerated list of KM4 test requirements.
To watch a KM4 test demonstration, click the video below:
Brown KM Lv. 5 –
The brown KM Lv. 5 (KM5) belt is the second highest belt in the Krav Maga belt system, which means that students who pursue it are only practicing the most advanced moves in the curriculum:
- ground fighting
- self defense
- all weapons defenses
- and third party protection.
Black KM Lv. 6 –
There are five blackbelt dans, or sub-levels, in the Krav Maga system. As a matter of tradition, blackbelt tests are given and taken exclusively in Israel, and the first is typically administered by three senior blackbelts (3rd dan or higher).
The principle distinction between a black belt and a brown belt is not the quantity of techniques knownby the wearer, but the expertise in which they are applied.
Today’s black belt certification standards are more extensive and demanding than they were when the system was first founded, which means that modern blackbelt examinations assess more materialthan they did in the 1980’s and 1990’s.
Additionally, students’ knowledge of Krav Maga foundational principles are assessed more thoroughly in blackbelt training than they are in the traditional curriculum.
The Israeli Krav Maga Association (IKMA) requires that all belt-seekers train vigorously for nine to tenyears (or more) before they are eligible to take the 1st dan blackbelt test.
Some students will take less time than others to master techniques, especially if they show exemplary capabilities and understanding.
Blackbelts certified by IKMAare predicated and awarded on skill, technique, and understanding of foundational Krav Maga principles; development of capabilities within the system are what allow students to ascend, notpolitical patronage.
KM Blackbelt Dan 1 –
The amount of material that students must know and apply correctly in order to successfully pass the blackbelt dan 1 test (BD1), according to IKMA standards, is enough to fill up seven single-spaced pages.
Specifically, knowledge regarding 49 individual blackbelt topics, as well as a student’s understanding of the entire preceding curriculum (yellow belt through brown belt), are what will be assessed on examination day.
Students must also demonstrate proficiency when executing techniquesfrom both the left an right outlet stances.
Finally, a student has to be able to effectively defend against a plurality of attacks from both the right and left sides. And within each individual topic, there are more than 150 techniques and variations.
KM Blackbelt Dan 2 –
Students pursuing this level of proficiency are expected to know nine single-spaced pages of material and 52 topics; within each topic are 220 techniques and variations.
Defense tactics regarding stick vs. stick, knife vs, knife, and stick vs. knife combat, are emphasized heavily throughout this training period.
Students are also required to be familiar with specific weapon techniques in order to protect themselves against experts in takedown/ground-fighting tactics.
When it comes time to take the blackbelt dan 2 test (BD2), at least three examiners (one 4th dan and a minimum two 5th dans) must be present in order to administer the 2nd dan examination.
Individuals looking to take the BD2 exam must have at least five years of instructional experience in dan 1 before they are eligible.
KM Blackbelt Dan 3 –
Another seven, single-spaced pages of material, including 30 topics and 120 techniques and variations, are required in order to receive the dan 3 blackbelt (BD3).
This level specific blackbelt dan is of critical importance because students will review elements of the entire preceding curriculum, including every type of situation where one is confronted by multiple attackers.
Third dan topics include:
- lethal force applications (military/security establishment)
- defenses against military/lethal force applications
- advanced law enforcement team work
- VIP protection
- defending against professional attack dogs
- advanced vehicular confrontation scenarios
- weapon deployment and room entry and clearing.
On examination day, there are at least two or more 5th dan examiners overseeing the test, sometimes Grandmaster is present as well.
Individuals looking to take the BD3 exam must have at least five years of instructional experience in dan 2 before they are eligible.
KM Blackbelt Dan 4 –
The 4th dan’s curriculum emphasizes proficiency in advanced military and security applications. Scenarios relating to urban warfare are of primary focus; advanced teaching and instructor techniques are developed and practiced as well.
Individuals looking to take the BD4 exam must have at least five to six years of instructional experience in dan 3 before they are eligible.
KM Blackbelt Dan 5 –
Students looking to take the blackbelt dan 5 test (BD5) may only do so upon receiving an invitation by the grandmaster. Teaching development and mastery are of critical importance in this final sub-level of the Krav Maga blackbelt system.
Students will learn how to effectively run instructor courses, and they will as well learn advanced belt testing capabilities.
History of the Israeli-born Martial Art –
Krav Maga has been practiced as a powerful and effective self-defense system since the 1930’s, which means that this revolutionary martial art has been around for almost a century.
Krav Maga was first practiced by Israeli men as a form of self-defense against antisemitic Nazis; Nazis who would roam around in gangs and terrorize innocent and defenseless civilians in Jewish communities.
Imi Lichtenfeld is the founder of Israeli Krav Maga, the practical martial art which has since become a global phenomenon.
While he was growing up, Lichtenfeld learned wrestling and boxing in his father’s gym. Imi soon realized that fighting techniques used in sports were incomparable to those needed to win in a real fight.
With this realization in mind, Lichtenfeld developed a more practical method of fighting that would incorporate a variety of martial art styles, including Judo.
He also had the advantage of training with British Allied Forces, who were the first to pioneer a similar form of self defense training 50 years prior.
Lichtenfeld traveled to Israel in 1944 and began training students in fitness, swimming, wrestling, and a variety of knife-related combat situations. It was Lichtenfeld who was in charge of training the Haganah paramilitary organization.
In 1948, after the state of Israel was founded, Lichtendelf was appointed the Chief Instructor for Physical Fitness and Krav Maga at the Israeli Defense Force’s School of Combat Fitness.
Thirty years later, Lichtendelf would officially establish the Krav Maga Association (KMA), from which point he began to globalize the interest in Krav Maga.
Krav Maga didn’t originally start as a martial art, it was simply a system utilized for training Israeli combat soldiers. It became very popular in the 1980’s, at a time when virtually everyone was obsessed with Tae Kwon Do.
Adopting the Tae Kwon Do business model, many instructors of Krav Maga began to open up studios, to which the reception was very good for the beginning years.
Krav Maga is truly an art form. Watching a dan 5 blackbelt in Krav Maga perform in a variety of combat situations is an amazing sight to see; practitioners operating at that level are artists in every sense and meaning of the word.