What is a Belt? From the martial arts point of view, a belt is a milestone, a marker of progress (sometimes a weapon!). I couldn’t tell you why belts became common practice for ranking in the martial arts, though I am sure someone out there could tell you. What I can tell you is that belts, or more specifically the Judo system of belts, were chosen early on in Krav Maga to recognize progression. Later, circa 1996, a patch system was added when IKMF, one of the first major Krav Maga offshoots, was formed. IKMF opted to go with the, now famous, patch system, using the ranks Practitioner 1-5, Graduate 1-5, Expert 1-5, and Master.
UTKM Ranking System
So it was that, when forming a Krav Maga school with no direct parent organization, there were 2 choices; the Belt system or the Patch system. UTKM opted for the belt system for the following reasons:
- Belts are more recognizable, globally, in the martial arts world, and are easier for people to comprehend without a detailed explanation.
- It was Imi’s original choice and we stuck with that tradition.
- We felt that the patch system comes across as gimmicky and has far too many levels, which, in our opinion, is a cash cow scheme. Though it was probably created to relate more to the target market of Police and Military members rather than the general populous.
- Belts are harder to lose and easier to pass down.
Our belts have now evolved into what you see below:
In choosing the final design we thought about Krav Maga, and how it is designed to be practical. Thus, we wanted our belts to have practical purposes beyond indicating a rank and being a symbol of UTKM. Just like our students, we wanted them to be something more. The following are possible uses for the belt (assuming you keep it with you or even wear it outside of class).
- A weapon of opportunity – Due to the hard, metal D-rings, the belt can be easily taken off and wielded as a weapon against would-be attackers.
- An emergency rescue tool – Because our belts are made of strong webbing (seat-belt material) they could be used to pull someone, hold something, or brace a limb in an emergency situation.
- A tourniquet – In a true emergency our belts can easily be used to stop bleeding, assuming, of course, you are familiar with first aid practices.
This is just a short list, as the only limit is the imagination. Like Krav Maga, our belts are meant to be practical and adaptable to the given situation, and, of course, will look stylish in the process with the UTKM branding. Who knows, perhaps our belts will literally save someone’s life someday.
Lastly, at UTKM we pass down our belts when someone earns their next belt. We adopted this from the Israeli Defence Force (IDF), where Sergeants and Officers, at various points in progress, will pass down their Beret or Pins to the soldiers who they feel are most deserving.
Every time a person earns a belt they write their name in a permanent marker on the back of that new belt. Upon achieving the next belt level they give their old belt back to the school, becoming a “lineage belt.” When the next round of tests comes for a colour for which we have lineage belts, we will give these belts, with their collection of names, to the students who we feel, for whatever reason, exemplify the qualities of UTKM students. The new belt holder adds their name to the lineage belt, and it continues the cycle. When a belt has 5 signatures/names it is retired, hung up for all to see on our Wall of Belts. (We have yet to create this Wall, as no belt has collected five names, but, when the time comes we will build with Joy!)
So, assuming there is a lineage belt to give away at the conclusion of a test consider these qualities:
- Courage & Strength – There have been cases where our students have had to overcome major challenges, be they mental or physical, to pass their test. Students have injured themselves during a test, but fought through to complete it, or were injured prior to testing but pushed through rather than rescheduling.
- Spirit & Attitude – Some students are always in class and never have excuses, no matter what is going on in their life. Or they have gone out of their way to bolster their classmates, and promote the school and what it represents.
Do you have what it takes to achieve a UTKM milestone and earn a belt from us? Even better, will you prove to us that you have what it takes to receive a lineage belt? There’s only one way to find out.