Did you know that Imi Lichtenfeild awarded only ten black belts to students that he personally trained from the beginning to black belt? One of the things that awed me when I first started training in Krav Maga was how difficult it was to receive a black belt. I was amazed to see how tough the training was, how tough the testing was and the fact that you had to be invited (and at the time could only test in LA) was totally different than anything I’d ever seen. For years there were a total of only four or five people testing for black belt per year! When I tested in 2003 I was one of only thirty or so black belts in the nation.

I am ashamed to say that the martial art I came from had a different system. The asian martial arts used to be respected. A black belt in “Karate” back in the sixties and early seventies was feared! We now have six year old black belts…not a lot to fear. Our gym was all about getting the kiddies in the door and making them like what we were teaching. Games, black belt clubs, high fives and calling kids “sir” is what made a gym owner money. If the kid came to class and took every test (and we couldn’t flunk them on a test…that would be bad for their self image) they would be a black belt in under three years. Almost guaranteed! Looking back I am ashamed that I listened to the “experts” in the field instead of to my own common sense. In about ten years time in our martial arts gyms we must have tested 50 people for black belt. I know of instructors who have hundreds of black belts…just in their one gym. Wow. Please look up the system and book INSTRUCTOR REVOLUTION by Kelly Muir if you have kids and want to see how a martial art should be taught!

One of the many things that I respect about BJJ is how difficult and what a long journey it is to achieve a black belt. Students are in the art for years before they are even considered. Then, there is no test. The black belt master who is promoting them just one day hands them a black belt. This sounds like the way it probably was with all martial arts hundreds of years ago.

Testing a group of four for second degree black belt a few weeks ago brought this topic to mind. I have been teaching Krav Maga since 1998 and have promoted exactly eight black belts. Matt Kissel, John & Sue Burton, John Lovins, Scott Howard, Terri Rosen, Jason Holt and Aaron Jannetti. Eight. I probably have ten others who could test at our gyms in Ohio but that’s the point. You have to be mentally and physically prepared for the test. It takes month to get your body ready for it. It has been described as “running a marathon with people beating on you the whole way”. There just aren’t that many people willing to put themselves through it. But I can tell you one thing, at the end of that test you are considered a bad ass! BE SAFE!

To read about what one of our black belt tests was like go to:


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