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Krav Maga Grading System

Brief History

In 1964 after completing his military service Imi Lichtenfeld initially started teaching civilians in military shirts then later adopted Judo uniforms and the Judo belt system. So for a period of about 20 years in the early days of Krav Maga the grading system went from White belt for beginners through to Black belt levels for seniors and red and white belts for high ranking instructors.

In 1987-8, after Imi nominated Eyal Yanilov (Chief Instructor IKMF) as head of the Professional Committee of Krav Maga and after years of development and growth in the system’s curriculum, Eyal, with Imi’s guidance, revised the grading levels in line with the new curriculum. The names of the grades were changed and the Judo uniforms began to be replaced with T-shirts, sweatshirts and martial arts trousers.

This was the basis of the current grading system. At this time some of the instructors, including Imi himself, stopped wearing belts and the judo uniforms worn previously.

In the mid 90’s with the further spread of the system the grading system was changed again, in line with the continued development of the curriculum and the patch system as symbols of rank was introduced. This way of depicting rank was seen as more appropriate for a system such as KM, given that it is not a martial art but was developed initially in the Israeli Defense Forces to deal with the reality of today’s combat and street confrontations.

Grade Level Insignia

The grading system for (Civilian) Krav Maga is divided into four major categories. The first three are Practitioner, Graduate and Expert. Each of these is further divided to 5 levels, each with a specific curriculum and requirements. Grading tests to pass from one rank to the next contain technical, theoretical and tactical subjects covering self-defense and fighting skills. The highest category of grades is the Master levels of which there are three.

Those at Practitioner level are Krav Maga students while those at Graduate level tend to be Instructors, if they have undertaken the Instructor training course. You can also have students at Graduate level. Expert level denotes high ranking Instructors, who generally have graded in Israel and tend to be Instructors in the other Krav Maga disciplines such as Law Enforcement or Military. From scratch it takes in general about 3 years for a student to work their way through the Practitioner levels and another three for the Graduate levels. Students at Graduate level are not automatically instructors, they must also undertake and pass the Instructor course.