The Last Resort: Taking Away the Belt

Taking away a martial arts belt is a LAST RESORT! Here's 4 Steps to avoid it.

While we all hope every martial arts student immediately adopts a Black Belt Mindset, some students take more patient instruction than others.

Have you ever struggled with what to do when an upper-level belt displays unacceptable behavior?

Have you ever had a student outright disrespect you or an instructor during class?

It can be unclear what to do in this situation. You must teach respect as a core value and have consequences in place for disrespectful behavior.

Read on below to find out how to discipline your students and how to effectively implement the “Last Resort” strategy if all else fails.

First of all, your student worked hard and had to display discipline and respect to earn their belt in the first place. Do not lose your cool and take away their belt right off the bat.

Once a student learns that they can lose their belt just to earn it back, they are no longer afraid of losing it. That means taking away the belt is a one time use disciplinary measure, so use it wisely.

By taking away their belt, you run the risk of completely demoralizing the student, destroying their confidence and motivation entirely. Loss of the belt is a consequence your students should know is a possibility if they fail to follow your school’s training creed.

Luckily, just the threat of losing a belt can be used effectively to deter a student from ever reaching that point.

Keep the Last Resort in your toolbox and maintain its effectiveness by only deploying it in the most serious situations.

You might be wondering what you can do if you can’t take away the belt. There are many other, less severe options. Follow the steps below, in order, to correct the student’s behavior before taking away their hard earned belt, an important symbol of their dedication to training.

Step 1: Casual Check-In Chat

Pull the student aside after class to check in. Let them know that the behavior is unacceptable and ask them to correct it. Get inside their mind and do not approach this conversation aggressively in anyway.

Remind the child why they are learning martial arts and educate them on the benefits of training. Empower the child to take control of their journey. They may have had a bad day at school, be going through troubles at home, or simply lost focus during class.

Remind them of your school’s core values and then inspire them. Let the student know you are there for them, to coach and support them throughout their training as well as their life. Make sure to point out any positive behaviors you have seen.

End the conversation with big smiles and ample high fives. Clarify the behaviors you expect to see next class and let them know they can do it! Send the child home with the confidence that they will do better next class.

Reminder to student:

“If this behavior continues we will have to consider taking away your belt until it improves.”

Did you have an amazing motivational talk with the student only for them to return next class with the same behaviors, or worse? It’s time to move onto Step 2.

Step 2: Talk to the Parent

Bring their parent into the loop. Tell the parent specifically what behavior is causing a problem.

Does the child speak out in class or refuse to do the drills? Be as clear as possible. Some parents can get defensive so approach this conversation tactfully.

Just as in Step 1, communicate the positives alongside the behavior issue.

Ask the parent to have an open discussion with their child.

Parents and Instructors are a team. Together, they can develop a strong character in any child.

Reminder to student:

“If this behavior continues we will have to consider taking away your belt until it improves.”

// Tip:

Maintain communication with the parent throughout all steps. They want to see their child succeed just like you and can offer insight on what will motivate the student.

Step 3: Think Sheet

Give the student a Think Sheet to complete, giving them a chance to reflect on their behavior in class and who they want to be as a martial artist.

Sections in this worksheet can include; a description of their current behavior, a task to write out your school’s training creed, and a plan for how they intend to behave in the future.

Reminder to student:

“If this behavior continues we will have to

consider taking away your belt until it improves.”

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Step 4: Extra Exercise

This is only one step away from the "Last Resort"...and for good reason.

At Unparalleled Martial Arts, we don’t believe exercise should be used as a disciplinary method if it can be avoided.

You work hard to instill a love of physical fitness in your students. Using fitness as a consequence will give them a negative concept of exercise, leading to less intrinsic motivation.

If you do get to this step, make sure to tailor the extra exercise to the age and ability level of each student. After the exercise session, have a stern, compassionate chat with the student similar to the talk from Step 1.

Reminder to student:

“This is your last chance to correct your behavior

before we have to take away your belt.”

// Tip:

If your school awards stripes on each belt,

take away a stripe before taking away the entire belt.

This tactic can be used after Step 4 to avoid reaching the last resort.


If previous steps have been unsuccessful in motivating the student, it is time to take decisive action. Do not take the belt away from the student in front of the entire class. This can be embarrassing and traumatizing for a child.

Some may argue that taking it away in front of the class adds to effectiveness...this is not the case.

Martial Arts is an individual journey.

Something as serious as losing a belt should be between the student and you, their Master or Sensei.

When you take it away, remind the student of the previous attempts to correct their behavior and work with them to create a solid plan for earning their belt back. They need to know you still believe in them and will support them even if they are struggling. Ask them what they need from YOU to help them have the courage to earn it back!

// Tip:

After a student loses a belt, encourage them as much as humanly possible. Give them ways to earn it back such as cleaning the dojo, attending extra training sessions, or writing an essay on your school creed. You can get creative with these assignments and think critically about what will work on a case by case basis.

Need a fun way to display your school’s belts and remind students what they are working towards!? Wooden belt displays look great on your gyms wall and motivate students by showing them what they’re working towards!

Leave us a comment below and let us know what disciplinary steps your school implements before taking away the belt!

Unparalleled Martial Arts Design:

As martial artists, our service creates physically, mentally, and emotionally strong youth. You must make sure your program builds these types of students. Then, simply let the results speak for themselves. As parents in your community learn about the Unparalleled Kid's Program at your gym, you will enjoy boosted sales and soaring retention rates.

The martial arts industry is constantly evolving! Other programs are already upping their game by offering more structured activities. Will you hustle and push your team to deliver valuable, multi-dimensional programming and character development each day?

Unparalleled Martial Arts has a dedicated

team of Specialists ready to help!


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