The official Israeli selfdefence system

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© Copyright 2001 Matt Cheung. Wudang Martial Arts Center, Some content used with permission of Krav Maga Association of America, Inc.

the official israeli self-defence system









A self-defense system called Krav Maga™ also called the official Israeli self-defense system was created by Imi Lichtenfeld about forty years ago. Idea of Krav Maga is to teach anyone, regardless of age, physical prowess and experience how to defend themselves against a variety of attacks.

Because of Krav Maga's effectiveness, Krav Maga has gained acceptance in many of the world's best military and para-military organizations. This style has been accepted into the training programs of the Special Operations Battalion of the Military Police of Rio de Janeiro, the municipal guard of that same country, the G.I.G.N. of France, the FBI, the L.A. SWAT teams and the Beverly Hills Police Force.

As mentioned, Krav Maga ("Contact Combat" in Hebrew) is the official self-defense and fighting system used by the Israeli Defense Forces (I.D.F.), Israeli Police and Security Services. It is also taught in institutions associated with the Israeli Ministry of Education, and since 1964, Krav Maga has been taught to civilians all over the world.

After development and refinement during years of conflict, Krav Maga emphasizes easy learning techniques that have been battle-tested in real, life threatening confrontations. Krav Maga is different than most other martial arts systems (but not all) because there are no rules in Krav Maga. All things that are available is accepted and any attack and defense combination is welcomed to the art.

Most of the techniques themselves are combat-oriented versions of techniques borrowed from martial arts such as jujutsu, aikido, boxing, karate and judo as well as a number of lesser known but equally effective martial arts systems.

Krav Maga was developed in an environment where the Israeli military could not devote many hours hand to hand combat training for their personnel. Therefore, the Krav Maga system was created with great importance placed on bringing students to a high level of skill in a relatively (comparing some traditional arts) short period of time. There are no katas or rules in the system. As it is said anything goes when you are fighting for your life.

Students of Krav Maga will learn kicking and punching techniques that emphasize quick speed attacks to vital areas such as the groin, eyes and throat. Low kicks to the knee may be also used. Defenses against armed multiple attackers are thought and students learn also basic weapons such as knife, short staff and bayonet rifle to include in their repertoire. Defenses against different types of submission holds like full nelsons, chokes, bear hugs and lapel grabs will be thought so that students have at their knowledge which way to respond to an attack.

While learning starts from basics, students rapidly progress to full speed sparring,where wear protective equipment is used to cushion blows and protect the vital areas. This type of training allows examination of technique, and introduces the student to a small sampling what real attack situation may be like.

As Krav Maga is a survival system dealing with personal safety issues in the context of defending against both armed and unarmed attackers. It is considered to be a modern, highly refined, street fighting system, designed to be utilized against muggings, street attacks, and sexual assaults. Emphasis is placed on using exactly what is appropriate and needed to the situation.

Initially designed to give the Israeli Defense Forces a centralized self-defense system,Krav Maga today has blossomed in popularity due to its realistic focus on personal protection techniques and its casual but simultaneously serious environment.

" So you may walk in peace."

History of Krav Maga and its Founder imí Lichtenfeld

The history of Krav Maga is linked to the development of the state of Israel's military forces and life of the founder, Imi Lichtenfeld. As told, development of the state of Israel and the need for the Israeli military to protect its country in one of the worlds most hostile areas, gave base for creating Krav Maga.

Imrich Sde-or (Imi Lichtenfeld) born in Budapest in 1910, Imi grew up in environment where sports, law and education were respected. Imi was encouraged by his father to engage in a wide range of sports, including martial arts. Imi's father, Samuel, a circus weightlifter and wrestler, worked later also at the police forces and actually served for many years as Chief Detective Inspector.

As the prove of Imi's physical talents, Imi won the Slovakian Youth Wrestling Championship in 1928, and in 1929 the adult championship (in the light and middle weight division). That year he also won the national boxing championship and an international gymnastics championship. Little bit later Imi's athletic activities focused mainly on wrestling, as a contestant and a trainer.

In the mid thirties, atmosphere in Bratislava started to change. Fascist and anti-Semitic groups rised, with their meaning to upset the public order and harm the city's Jewish community. Imi was involved with groups of young Jews whose aim was to distrupt the anti-Semitic activities that were also supported by some political powers. Imi became the uncrowned leader of a group of young Jews, most of them with a background in boxing, wrestling, and weightlifting. This group attempted to block the anti-Semitic bands from harming Jewish community.

Between 1936 and 1940, Imi was involved with many forcefull protests to the current political powers and was forced to fight in streetbrawls and confrontations. It was in these fights Imi understood the difference between streetfighing and competition fighting.

In 1940, pursued by the government, Imi left his home and boarded the Petchko, the last immigrant ship to escape the Nazi clutches. His efforts to find a new home took two years. Later he proceeded to volunteer for service in a Czech military unit of the British armed forces. The unit served during World War II in Lebanon, Syria, Libya, and Egypt.This combat experience led him to further refine his skills.

When discharged in 1942, he requested and was allowed to immigrate to Israel. After noticing Imfs extensive self-defense skills, Imi was recruited by Isaac Sadeh, the commanding officer of the Haganah in 1942. Later Imi began to teach Kapap (hand to hand combat) and physical exercise to the most elite special forces units of the Haganah, Palmach, and Palyam.

Gign Karate Judo

In the mid-1940's, Imi worked with the Israeli Defense Force (IDF), teaching its members physical fitness, swimming, wrestling, use of the knife and defense against knife attacks. During this period, firearms were outlawed and in very scarce supply. They were hidden away from the British and only used for special missions. The fact that firearms could not be used had a great influence on the development of the style.

In 1948, when the State of Israel was founded, Imi became the chief instructor for physical fitness and Krav Maga at the IDF. For the next twenty years, Imi worked with the IDF, developing and refining his method for self-defense and hand-to-hand combat. After retiring from active duty from the IDF in the 60*s, Imi began adapting the style for civilian use. He established two schools, to Netanya and in Tel Aviv.

The work in the following years and up to today, was to design the system to confront every day attacks and street confrontation problems. Imi further refined his techniques to be used for civilian needs.

One result of progression was Krav Maga's use of belts. At first Imi didn't want to use belts in training, because it was a millitary system, but trying to get recognition from other martial artists he designed a belt system based on the Judo and also started training in Judo gT s.

Later Imi desided that belts shouldn't be a part of the system because it originally did not have any reason to use belts and the use of belts did not have any realistic or practical meaning in the system. So the system of grades was kept, and the belts was replaced with a system of Practitioner/Graduate/Expert levels. The Krav Maga training suits today consist of black pants and white t-shirts. Some countries still uses the belts in the curriculum, but not in training.

Images Krav Maga Shirts

Imi and his senior instructors formed the first Krav Maga Association in 1978, and in 1995 the International Krav Maga Federation was formed in Netanya, to help spread system to around the world.

After years of training, many changes was made to the system both technically and visual, but Imi never forgot the basic lines of the system: simplicity, effectiveness and realism.

Imi Licthenfeld died on Jan 8th 1998, at age 88.


It can be said that the Krav Maga is not a martial art, but rather an art of self-defense. Using the student's size, strength and abilities, the attacker's own force is used against him, as is often the case in many martial styles. The movements are designed on basic body movements, making their use easier, more reflexive and more effective in self-defense situations. The sequences of moves are short, designed for real life situations, with no rules,and trained to the level of reflex action.

Krav Maga was formulated to fit everyone -- man or woman, child or adult -- to protect themselves in case of attack. Krav Maga is designed specifically for self-defense. The philosophy is based on the idea that while the practice of self-defense may not be compatible with every personality, ignoring the need for self-defense will not make you safe from violence.

Krav Maga is comprised of two main parts: self defense and hand to hand combat. Self defense is the foundation of Krav Maga.

Students learn to defend themselves against hostile actions, to avoid injury, and to quickly overcome their assailant. Krav Maga defenses address a wide variety of aggressive acts, such as punches, kicks, chokes, bearhugs, headlocks, grabs, as well as defenses against multiple assailants and assailants armed with a firearm, edged weapon, or blunt object. Students apply the relevant Krav Maga principles and techniques in a multitude of situations, even in unfamiliar or adverse circumstances, such as dark surroundings; from a sitting or lying position; with limited freedom or movement; or under extreme stress and/or fatigue.

Hand to hand combat constitutes a more advanced and sophisticated phase of Krav Maga which teaches how to neutralize an opponent quickly and effectively. It embodies elements related to the actual performance of the fight: tactics, feints, powerful combinations of different attacks, the psychological dimensions of the fight, and learning how to use the environment to your advantage.

In addition, Krav Maga incorporates specialized training methods to not only challenge students physically, but to also instill into the student a special mental discipline meant to strengthen the spirit and to develop the ability to deal with violent confrontations under high stress. These training methods have been used in Israel's most elite units and have proven themselves in real fighting.

The goals of Krav maga training are: courage, emotional stability, patience and respect. The student learns these principles through workouts, practice and the development of their skills.

As with many martial systems, the intent is to remove the student from the need for violence, while preparing them to meet it when violence occurs.

The main principles of Krav Maga

- Avoid injury

- Take advantage of natural reflexes

- Act in the minimum time required

- Using human body's vulnerable spots

- Use of the body's natural weapons and all objects that may be close at hand

- No Rules

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