5 Martial Arts That Don’t Use Belt Ranking Systems

Regian Eersel Sinsamut Klinmee ONE Friday Fights 9 96

In most traditional martial arts, belts are used to measure a practitioner’s skill level, but with some established disciplines, belt ranking systems aren’t always used.

Take Muay Thai, for example, which will be on full display in the main event of ONE Fight Night 11 on Prime Video on Friday, June 9. On that night, two-sport ONE World Champion Regian Eersel defends his lightweight Muay Thai crown against Dmitry Menshikov in Bangkok, Thailand.

Before the striking spectacle unfolds at the ultra-iconic Lumpinee Boxing Stadium, let’s look at five martial arts that don’t use belt ranking systems, starting with the aforementioned Muay Thai.

Muay Thai

Tawanchai PK.Saenchai throws a kick on Jamal Yusupov at ONE Fight Night 7

Muay Thai is the oldest martial art to come out of Thailand and dates back to the 16th century.

The all-striking discipline teaches traditional aspects like honor and integrity, but it lacks a belt ranking system, allowing most students of any level to freely practice with any other student. 

It’s not out of the ordinary for novice practitioners to take a Muay Thai training vacation to Thailand and work alongside Thai superstar and ONE Featherweight Muay Thai World Champion Tawanchai PK Saenchai at the esteemed PK Saenchai Muaythaigym in Bangkok.

Mixed Martial Arts

Demetrious Johnson Adriano Moraes ONE Fight Night 10 52

Due to the plethora of fighting styles embedded in mixed martial arts, such as boxing, kickboxing, Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, and wrestling, it’s impossible for the sport to use a belt ranking system.

While many have entered MMA from various sporting backgrounds, mixed martial arts continues to pit the best against one another. This meshing of skill has led to the creation of modern-day greats such as ONE Flyweight World Champion Demetrious Johnson, who just beat top-ranked Adriano Moraes for the second time.


Regian Eersel tags Arian Sadikovic with a kick at ONE 156

Kickboxing is another striking sport that doesn’t employ a belt ranking system. So, even the greatest practitioners will never receive a black belt in the martial art. 

Much like Muay Thai, the striking discipline revolves around mastering individual techniques as a mode of progression, leaving the levels in the hands of the participants themselves.

Eersel, who will defend his ONE Lightweight Muay Thai World Title for the second time on June 9, is also the ONE lightweight kickboxing king and the perfect example of someone who has mastered the art without needing to prove it with a belt ranking.


Anatoly Malykhin clashes with Reinier de Ridder at ONE on Prime Video 5

As mixed martial arts evolves, wrestling has become the centerpiece of the sport and, much like many of the arts in MMA, it doesn’t have a belt ranking system.

In its place are global competitions, which have developed some of the best athletes ONE has seen in former ONE Heavyweight World Champion Brandon Vera, ONE Interim Heavyweight World Champion Anatoly Malykhin, and ONE Strawweight World Champion Jarred Brooks.


Xiong Jing Nan fires away at Ayaka Miura at ONE: HEAVY HITTERS.

Much like wrestling, boxing advances its students in a similar way.

While belts are not awarded to participants, athletes make their way through the sport by first mastering the fundamentals and then learning how to use them in a myriad of ways. 

It’s no surprise, then, why promotional stars like ONE Strawweight World Champion Xiong Jing Nan has such good hands, but will never lay claim to a belt ranking in boxing.

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