Notes from Teleconference: "Should We Wear Belts?"


August 30, 2011

“Should We Wear Belts?”


This is a written summary of our business teleconference.  Future teleconferences will be recorded (the recording just didn’t take for this one).

There were approximately 30 attendees from all across the country, with some lively participation.

There were two main topics:

  • Wearing belts in class – the possibility that it improves attendance and retention by giving visual representation of goals.
  • Mixed-Level Curriculum – Alliance HQ has created new monthly checklists based on a mixed-level curriculum



Jeremy Stafford of Simi Valley Krav Maga presented some interesting data about his recent switch to belts in classes.

  • He introduced belt-wearing in January 2011.
  • Since then he has seen a 95% increase in his class attendance
  • His attrition has plummeted to almost 0%
  • He sees students eager to train for their next belt
  • He lines students up in belt order, and he sees friendly competition to see who is the “top dog”
  • He has not seen an increase or decrease in new signups
  • Jeremy uses three-month “stripe tests” on portions of the curriculum to give students a sense of progress.  He just uses electrical tape on the belts to make the stripes “because he’s just ghetto like that.”

John Gabriele of West Coast Krav Maga in Temecula, California switched to belts around 2003.

  • Prior to belts, he had about 100 adult Krav Maga students and his attrition was high.
  • He switched to belts and saw his retention improve immensely. He has 275 adult students now.
  • John uses a 3 month test system as well.  He actually has gradients of each color, such as light green, dark green, etc. and gives out a new belt for each new achievement.
  • John mixes level 1 and 2 in his Beginner class.

Shawni, representing Elite Training Center in Redondo Beach, said they switched to belts approximately two years ago.

  • Prior to the switch, they had about 150 adult members
  • Currently, they are at 650 members!
  • Although they made other changes as well, she attributes the success in part to the belt program.

A few speakers expressed concern over the image of Krav Maga as a non-traditional self defense system. They worried that switching to belts went against the non-traditional image.

Another speaker was concerned that his students often wear shorts, and belts would look silly with shorts.

Several alternatives were proposed, such a t-shirts, wrist bands, etc. The most succinct response came from Shawni at Elite Martial Arts, who said, “Belts work.  Why try something else just to be different, when we know they work?”

Jeremy of Simi Valley Krav Maga said that he was very resistant to belts, but he has seen the results in his school.

Sam Pike of Memphis asked John Whitman why Krav Maga in the U.S. had gone away from belts, since we used to wear them.

John Whitman replied that, back in the early 90s, we wore belts, but as we grew and tried to break away from the image of “kids martial arts,” we stopped wearing them.  John suggested that it was possible that time had passed. These days, thanks to the UFC and systems like Krav Maga, martial arts are once again an adult activity, so perhaps we can relax the anti-traditional stance a bit.

The post-conference reaction seemed very positive, with a number of affiliates considering switching to a belt system.


That curriculum has been uploaded to the Affiliate section of the website, and you can find a complete explanation there.  Thanks!!

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