Do Black Belts Have to Register With The Police?

Many people either are uncertain about the answer to the following question, or are completely misinformed. “Do Black Belts in any style or system have to register their hands, bodies, or abilities with local law enforcement?” Most have heard urban legends or myths. Let’s get the answer out of the way simply and right from the beginning.

In no state or locality in the United States does anyone that has been awarded a black belt in any form of martial arts have to register themselves or any part of their anatomy with the police or any form of government. Ability or skill is not considered an illegal ‘deadly weapon’.

This is not to say that your actions may not be deemed more able to cause harm and be taken into account when determining appropriate force used for any given situation. This could result from any form of martial training.

Remember, judges and juries are people and moreover, they are usually people with little to no skill in self defense techniques or fighting tactics. The subjective nature of making judgments, even those based on the law may surprise many unfortunate enough to find themselves in a courtroom.

Your Actions Are Determining Factors According to The Law

Your perceived ability to do harm or subjective ranking in a particular martial style has no bearing on how you will use those abilities. Your choice of actions and the results of those actions are what matters.

This is also common sense as well if we just think about it. If a football or soccer team’s ability to play is so set that we know exactly the actions they will take, there would be no need to play any of the games. Yet, that is just not the case. Games turn out differently than predicted all the time.

It takes finding out how people make good and bad decisions under normal and stressful circumstances that matter. Even the super heroes in our stories and myths wrestle with the dilemma of meekness. Meekness being the ability to do, yet choosing not to for fear of overreach.


You are in a fender bender car accident. At first you are worried about those in your own vehicle and in the other car. Suddenly the driver of the other car comes out aggressively pointing and shouting.

A. You immediately jump into assassin mode, Parkour over the hood, and perform a ‘sweep the leg Johnny’ style knee attack.

Your actions are illegal and your martial arts was just used for evil. This is felony assault. You are the bad guy.

B. You control the distance between you and the aggressive driver trying to deescalate the situation. He doesn’t calm down and lunges at you. You then Parkour out of the way and sweep the leg. The driver lands on his back hard on the ground and tries to catch his breath.

Here you have used your skill properly. You are the good guy.

The potential to perform illegal acts is in all of us. Some are more capable than others for sure. Yet, until the world of Tom Cruise’s Pre-Crime unit comes about to erase our civil liberties, we are innocent until our actions show we are not.

Anyone can say they are a black belt or declare they have awarded a black belt to another. One rule I always keep. Don’t look at what people say, watch what they do. That is how you will know who they are and what creed they live by.

Martial Arts Black Belts Are Widely Known to Be Highly Subjective

Here I will not try to go into which style or system has a better claim on the title of black belt and their corresponding self defense, sport, or fighting abilities.

For an article on the best martial art for self defense, read my post here.

What matters more here is that even within a single style or system, ability to perform on resisting opponents is never standardized among students wearing the same rank. This can be clearly seen from competitions.


A Brazilian Jiu Jitsu Gi based grappling tournament is held in Las Vegas many times per year. There are several organizations, each with their own black belt qualifications and ranking certifications. Some of these tournaments are mixed between these and others are closed to outside associations.

1. Every person in the black belt division is a Black Belt in the same style with the same techniques at their command.

2. In the first round of bouts, half of the competitors are pitted individually with the other half.

3. At the end of the first round of all black belt competitors (sometimes reaching 100 people) exactly 1/2 of all of them have lost their first match and are out of the tournament bracket.

How could this be? How could a black belt go to a tournament, lose his or her first match, and be knocked out of the competition altogether?

Black belt designations even within the same system are very subjective and highly dependent on the individual student and their dedication to improvement.

With this in mind, you can see that even if we were to throw out the fact that we can’t judge what someone will choose, how successful their attempts will be cannot be uniformly predicted either. There is no standard that can be adequately established.

Without that standard, there is no way to determine how ‘deadly’ or potent a set of skills will be from one person to the next.

This is why totalitarian government takeovers usually begin with disarming the population and outlawing all martial arts practices. There is no way to control an unpredictable, armed, and trained population on those levels. So, they outlaw it all.

Intentions Plus Actions Are What Makes Ability Defensive or Offensive

Here it may help to talk about revenge vs justice. Everyone wants and deserves justice. This also encompasses retribution. Yet these are in the realm of judges and juries. It is a corporate issue, not an individual one.

What no one is entitled to is revenge. Revenge is an evil every bit as much as the wrong action in the first place. It is an action that deserves a separate instance of justice.


The law not only determines whether force is excessive or appropriate for self defense. Courts will also determine the beginning and end points of the threat responded to. Revenge begins if force is continued after the threat defended against ceases. This is a paraphrased version of an actual incident I witnessed.

A man with martial arts training walked with some friends in a parking lot at night.

Another man approached them and pulled a gun, but appeared not to even be robbing them. After he gave no demands, but continued toward the group, the martial artist saw an opening as the man waved the gun to direct his soon to be victims where to go.

The martial artists dove on the man, disarmed him and stood back up to check on his friends.

Here we would applaud the martial artist right?

It is what happened next that relates to our issue here.

The downed man then spewed expletives at the martial artist. In retaliation, he kicked the downed man and held him down with one foot.

When the police arrived, both men were arrested. The first for assault with a deadly weapon. The martial artist for assault and battery on the downed man.

In the eyes of the law, revenge has no place. The law was constructed correctly. It is not an individuals right to exact revenge. Revenge has no place in justice. And justice is in the public, not private realm.

Why is this important when determining why a Black Belt isn’t required to be registered with the police? It is much more important what a person does than how capable at it they are. Just because a person failed at murder doesn’t mean they didn’t try to commit murder. They just failed at it.

The ability to crush someone with bare hands is undoubtedly in the capabilities of power lifters and some body builders. Should their way of life be registered and monitored? No, not at all. They should only be controlled on an individual basis by the justice system if they, like others that break the law, step over the line into illegal actions.

Simply being a retired special forces operative, firearms instructor, power lifter, or Black Belt in a martial art no more makes you a risk of violating the law than a young man with many young fit friends is at risk of being a rebel leader of a coup attempt. Errant actions with bad intent are what can do that.

Some Weapons Are Considered Inherently Deadly, But Ability and People Are Not

If you have ever seen the tools of a carpenter, without knowing beforehand that they were for woodworking, the conclusion could be made that these were the tools of a serial killer.

Some look as if they could be used as torture devices. Are these considered deadly weapons that have their sale, purchase, and possesion regulated? No, of course not. But there are things that are regulated in this way.

Switch blade knives are one such weapon. It has been deemed (and I am not weighing in on whether or not with good reason) to have no other use, but to be used as a concealed weapon against another person.

Another example of this is a shotgun that has had the barrel sawed off near the hand grip. The thinking is that it reduces its range to the point that the only use could be against a person at point blank range.

Labeling these weapons as deadly and illegal is because they have in the eyes of the government trying to keep the peace no other use, but violence against other people. This can not be said about martial arts skill or people in general.

Incarceration is sometimes used for people that demonstrate themselves as a problem for a peaceful society. Yet, we don’t incarcerate all people. This is reserved only for those using their freedom to hurt others.

The same can be said for martial arts skill. Those that use this skill to hurt others should be stopped. Those using it for self defense, the defense of others, or to stop crime should be allowed the freedom to pursue as much expertise as they wish.

There is no place for regulation of martial arts or its practitioners in a free society. This is one of the main reasons Black Belts don’t have to register in any way with local, state, or federal governments.

Martial Arts Skill Can Not Hurt People, People Hurt People

All people have the potential to be a burden on society. All have the ability to break laws and cause harm to others. Even the oldest, sickest, and weakest among us have to capacity to do evil in some way to someone.


If you have ever visited or worked in a retirement community, nursing home, or memory care unit, you will undoubtedly have seen something similar.

An elderly man sat in his bed and yelled for a healthcare worker. When the lady arrived and approached he began swinging at her with his hand. She caught his hand, but ate one or two smacks before controlling him.

There were other times he would throw disgusting things at nurses and used inappropriate language repeatedly.

In all honesty, any of those workers in that thankless situation could literally end the man’s life with their bare hands. He was very old and frail. They all knew what he was capable of and usually were well prepared for it.

He was bitter, scared, and angry. His choice on how to deal with that made him the bane of the staff’s existence. Other residents felt similar feelings, but did not act the same way. His choices and actions are what made him deviant, not his ability to cause harm.

The tools, weapons, or abilities we use to do this really don’t matter. The evil is ours alone. Inanimate objects or training simply make our good or bad intentions easier or harder to accomplish.

The evil is our own.

There is no more deadly man made object available to the general public than an automobile. It is literally a speeding missile waiting to crush and explode.

We see them kill every day intentionally and unintentionally. Is the automobile at fault. Anyone being honest will answer, no.

In truth, there are some martial arts that are much more deadly than others. Some are predicated on the idea of doing the least damage possible. Some have as their goal to cause the absolute most amount of damage by whatever means necessary.

Either in the hands of an evil person can kill or maim given the right circumstances. Likewise, in the hands of a good person with right intentions, they could literally save lives.

Regulating every person for the simple fact that a small percentage may use a common skill to do harm is unreasonable. Freedom is worth the risk that we will have to deal with those abusing its power. We who are strong are here to stand against those who seek to do evil to the weak.

The Black Belt Registration Takeaway…

Hopefully this brief informative and explanatory attempt at answering our question helps you not only know, but understand why. Black Belts are not required to register with local, state, or federal law enforcement for many reasons that rest on many levels.

It is a question of intent and freedom that is at stake. When our civil liberties which include self defense are imposed upon because some may abuse the freedom, more is lost than a specific right. Truth is sacrificed for the convenience of the ruling authorities. And truth… well that is everything.

Mathew Booe

Mathew Booe is a father of four, husband to Jackie since 1994, retired international competitor with over 50 wins, an international seminar instructor, a master instructor of hundreds of Little Ninjas each week, and the one bringing you the great content like you just read. Sign up for the newsletter to hear about his upcoming books before they are released to the public.

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