Krav Maga literally means “Combat – Contact” or “Close Quarter Combat”.
The roots of modern Krav maga began in Czechoslovakia in the 1930’s with Imi Lichtenfeld, an expert in boxing and wrestling. He was influenced by his father, Shmuel, a detective and Defensive Tactics instructor with the local police force. Shmuel Lichtenfeld was known as a tough officer with a reputation for arresting the most violent criminals.
Young Imi grew up in a tough area and had to deal with fascist thugs and local violent gangs, as a direct result of which he learned on the street to distinguish between sporting techniques and real life self defence.
Imi Lichtenfeld began to incorporate techniques from different styles to form an effective approach to self defence to enable the Jewish community to defend itself against Fascist militias. This would later form the basis of Israeli Krav Maga training.
When Europe became an impossible place to stay, Imi left and eventually ended up in Israel, which at that time was controlled by the British.
Early Krav Maga training
He joined the “Hagana” (Defence, in Hebrew) a defensive force founded by the legendary leader Ze’ev (Vladimir) Jabotinsky in 1919 for the purpose of defending Jewish settlements from Arabs.
Jabotinsky was one of the great Jewish leaders of that century. He foresaw doom for European Jewry and urged them to relocate to the Land of Israel. He founded the Betar youth movement and the Herut (Freedom) political party. Future Prime ministers Menachem Begin and Yitzchak Shamir were among his disciples.
Jabotinsky, or Jabo as he was known by the Jewish masses, was not only a great leader and speaker, he was also a writer and a poet. He wrote in many languages; text books on Hebrew language, novels , and poems . His works inspired his generations and the those that followed. One of his most famous articles was, “Jews; Learn to Shoot!” Jabotinsky formed the Zion Mule Corps as part of the British army in World War One, and he himself enlisted as a private.
While Jabotinsky was the philosophical force behind Jewish military revival, Lichtenfeld was the hands-on krav maga instructor.
Lichtenfeld’s talents were noticed and he was assigned to teach unarmed combat. Krav Maga includes techniques from judo, jujitsu, karate, western Boxing and elements of wrestling. With the establishment of the State of Israel, Krav Maga was adopted as the official fighting style of the Israel Defence Forces and the Israel Police Force.
Krav Maga is free flowing with all manner of punches, kicks, chokes, throws and take-downs being employed with the aim of neutralizing the enemy in the shortest amount of time possible.
Unlike competitive martial arts, where limits are placed on the type of techniques used or the areas targeted, Krav Maga has no limitations. Groin shots, the eyes, throat and face, are all fair game. Therefore Krav Maga does not hold competitions and does not seek to be represented in the Olympics as the danger to the participants would simply be too great.
Krav Maga is designed for self defence, combat, and worst case scenarios. A major part of the training involves the ability to handle such stressful situations, both physically and mentally.The style is easy to learn and apply. Krav Maga chooses simple movements that are natural to the body, based on instincts that are already established within us.
Krav Maga is taught to all units of the Israeli Defence Forces, the amount depends upon the unit. As a result such nearly everyone in Israel has some Krav Maga training, and depending on the unit, knife and gun disarms are also taught. All training involves strict discipline, aggressiveness and a warrior mindset while also focussing on control, timing and technique, the combination of which, ultimately, results in an extremely effective system.