Everything You Need to Know
The Origin of Krav Maga
Born in 1910 in Budapest, Hungary, Imi grew up in Bratislava, Czechoslovakia. Imi’s father, Samuel Lichtenfeld, joined a professional circus troupe, where he excelled in both wrestling and boxing. After developing extensive knowledge in fitness training along with wrestling, boxing, and mixed-skill fighting, Samuel joined the Czech police as a detective and led the force in arrests.
Samuel founded and ran the wrestling club and gym “Hercules,” where he trained Imi and other young competitive athletes. Imi rapidly distinguished himself as a champion in judo, boxing, wrestling, gymnastics and ballroom dancing, among other athletic pursuits. Imi also became a world-class gymnast, trained a ballet-dancing troupe, and starred as a stage show thespian in “Mephisto”.
In 1935 Imi visited Palestine with a team of Jewish wrestlers to compete in the Jewish Maccabi sports convention. Unfortunately, Imi fractured a rib during a training accident and could not compete. This accident led to Imi’s fundamental training principle emphasized in his own words: “don’t get hurt.” Imi quickly concluded that only real necessity justifies a “win at all costs” approach. These two tenets eventually fused to create Imi’s Krav Maga training approach.
Imi returned to Czechoslovakia to face increasing anti-Semitic violence. As Nazi hatred infected Slovakia, Jews were increasingly victims of near-constant violence. To protect the Jewish community from marauding fascists and anti-Semites, Imi organized a group of young Jews to protect his community. On the streets, Imi quickly learned the vital differences between sport martial arts competition and street fighting. While serving on the front lines to protect his community, Imi began to combine natural movements and reactions with immediate and decisive counterattacks.
These community self-defense activities made Imi a wanted man by the fascist Nazi occupational authorities. Nazi intolerance soon quickly reached a crescendo as the Germans began their systematic extermination of European Jewry. In May 1940, the Beitar Zionist Youth movement invited Imi to join them on the riverboat, Pentcho, bound for Palestine.
Imi steamed down the Danube through the hostile, yet unoccupied banks of Hungary, Croatia, Yugoslavia, Bulgaria, and Romania and then into the open Black Sea through the Turkish Straits. He and other refugees survived the hardships of man and nature, including a quarantine intended to starve them while marooned on the Romanian delta. Imi showed his selflessness by plunging into the water and saving a drowning child. Consequently, he developed an ear infection that would plague him throughout his journey.
Upon entering the Aegean Sea, the Pentcho’s engines failed, grounding the boat on a desolate island. Imi and three other refugees took a lifeboat and rowed for three days. Imi’s ear infection gradually worsened and became life-threatening. A British airplane spotted them and summoned a British warship to rescue them. After receiving treatment for his ear-infection, Imi enlisted in the British supervised Free Czech Legion. After exemplary military service in the Middle East, Imi was released from the British Army following the German Afrika Korp’s defeat at El Alamain in 1942. Imi was granted permission to remain in British-ruled Palestine. His friends then introduced him to the leaders of the Zionist community’s defense organizations. Although Imi escaped to Palestine, his family remained behind. They all died during the war.
Israel’s early leaders recognized Imi’s fighting abilities, innovativeness, and his ability to impart this training to others. Imi began training the Palmach (elite fighting units), the Palyam(marine fighting units), and the Hagana, which would merge into the modern-day Zahal or Israeli Defense Force. This training included fighting fitness, obstacle training, bayonet tactics, sentry removal, knife fighting, stave/stick fighting and any other military-oriented problems that required a creative solution.
In 1948 Imi became the principal authority in close-quarters-combat for the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF). He was in charge of training a disparate group of soldiers of all shapes, sizes, and abilities, many of whom did not speak the same language. He needed to develop a self-defense system that would work for not only spry eighteen-year-olds and elite fighting troops in prime physical condition, but also for middle-aged and graying reserve soldiers. He needed a system that soldiers could learn quickly, during their 3-week-long basic training. Finally, he needed a system that worked, one that soldiers could apply to any situation at any time intuitively and without hesitation.
A Fighting System that Works for All
Until the World War II era, traditional self-defense techniques left soldiers ill-prepared to defend against armed attackers. As the fledgling Israeli state formed, Imi knew its soldiers needed to learn a type of close-quarters combat that could protect them against firearms, explosives, and other modern threats. Thus, Krav Maga—the world’s most effective close-quarters combat system—was born.
As he developed the method, Imi worked tirelessly to ensure Krav Maga's success was not dependent on a practitioner’s strength or expertise in any one combative including punching, kicking, grappling or throwing. He took all aspects of a fight, both armed and unarmed, into account.
Imi had studied many different fighting styles in his youth including boxing, wrestling, judo, jiujitsu, aikido, and fencing. In 1948, Imi melded his knowledge of these various fighting disciplines together and created the complete fighting system now known as Krav Maga. The fledgling Israel Defense Forces (IDF) immediately recognized his system and formally adopted it because of it’s…
Merging Self-Defense with Close Quarters Combat
Until the advent of Krav Maga, self-defense and close-quarters combat were thought of as two distinct methodologies. Self-defense usually included situations in which a defender was unaware of an impending attack. In close-quarters-combat, two opponents are aware of the other’s respective movements and perceived violent intent. Krav Maga fuses the two disciplines into one fighting system, giving you the tools you need to defense yourself both when taken by surprise as well as when you are well aware of your opponent. In Krav Maga, you’ll learn to quickly react under any situation. You’ll learn to both neutralize an attacker as well as develop a fight strategy that may include defensive posturing, and movements, coordinated attacks and counter-attacks, and overall tactics.
The Israeli Krav Maga Association
Krav Maga founder Imi Lichtenfeld established the original non-profit Israeli Krav Maga Association (IKMA) on October 22, 1978, to promote Krav Maga throughout the world. In 1964 after Imi’s retirement as the military’s chief instructor of physical training and self-defense, Imi focused on adapting his system to provide both professional security agencies and ordinary civilians – men, women, and children – with solutions to avoid and/or end a violent encounter.
After Imi’s passing in 1998, Grandmaster Haim Gidon, now, the highest-ranking individual in the world at 10th-degree black-belt, currently heads the IKMA as Imi’s appointed successor and President. Haim was a member of Imi’s first training class in the early 1960’s, and along with Imi and other top instructors, co-founded the IKMA. In 1995, Imi nominated Haim as the top authority to grant 1st dan krav maga black-belt and up.
David Kahn has trained extensively under Grandmaster Gidon and serves as the IKMA’s United States Chief Instructor. David is the only American to sit on the board of the IKMA. He is responsible for coordinating U.S. activities along with Rinaldo Rossi, Don Melnick, and Chris Eckel.
The IKMA sponsors programs worldwide. Every July, the IKMA sponsors a 15-day instructor certification course. Imi and Haim’s hometown, Netanya, Israel serves as the hub of krav maga learning and development. All courses are taught at the IKMA main facility at 21 Ben-Zion Street. Training classes in the United States are held at the IKMA training centers in Hamilton and Cherry Hill, New Jersey.
Who Uses Krav Maga?
Krav Maga is used by the men & women of the Israeli Defense Force and the Israel Police. In addition, numerous international law enforcement, military, and security enforcement agencies utilize Krav Maga. Krav also has thousands of civilian practitioners around the world.
How Does Krav Maga Differ From Other Fighting Styles?
Krav Maga is a complete fighting system. The only rule is that "There Are No Rules!" In its military capacity and highest levels of learning, Krav Maga teaches not only defense against armed & unarmed attacks, but also how to initiate an attack. (On this and related points, use of force & legal issues are important considerations. A defender must not exceed “reasonable” force or use excessive measures once the threat is neutralized. Use of force issues vary considerably, and it is incumbent for a defender to know what is legally acceptable.) Finally, Imi designed Krav Maga to be learned in a short period of time, and equally important, to be easily retained. Krav Maga does not emphasize traditional kata or choreographed routines, but instead relies on retzef/ retzev or, “continuous combat motion” to complete a defense. Krav Maga’s spiritual side is embodied by civility and good citizenship.
Does Krav Maga Require Uniforms or Specific Attire?
Cultural norms, the environment, & geography will often dictate the clothing one wears. As such, Krav Maga is designed for use in the course of daily life. Unlike other arts, where a gi or kimono is typically worn, our students usually wear athletic or tactical apparel. Traditional gi pants with a rank belt & Krav t-shirt are however acceptable.
Does Krav Maga Use a Belt Ranking System?
Yes, Krav Maga uses the following belt ranking system:
White belt, Yellow belt, Orange belt, Green belt, Blue belt, Brown belt, & Black belt Levels 1-10
Does Krav Maga Incorporate Weapons Defenses?
Yes, Krav Maga is world-renowned for its weapons defenses, including threats from blunt impact weapons, edged weapons, & firearms.
Does The IKMA Curriculum Incorporate Ground Survival?
Yes, the IKMA incorporates extensive groundwork tailored to the Krav Maga philosophy of quickly disabling or neutralizing an opponent. In other words, a Krav Maga practitioner is not necessarily aiming for a “submission” or “tap-out” from an opponent, as is common in sport fighting. A Krav practitioner will instead seek to execute a joint dislocation or worse, to end to the confrontation. An IKMA practitioner is as comfortable in a ground confrontation as they are in a standing one. (Note: The aforementioned notwithstanding, one does not necessarily want to be situated on the ground during a confrontation for several reasons. Key among these is the threat of multiple attackers.) Nevertheless, the reality is that many fights do end up on the ground.
Does Your Academy Teach Anything Other Than Krav Maga?
Yes. We believe that what makes Krav Maga unique among other combat arts, is its ability to constantly adapt & evolve according to the situation. That said, we offer training in basic and advanced firearms, OC & CS chemical spray, & Taser EID's. Additionally, we offer AHA & Red Cross First-aid/ CPR and Yoga Alliance certified yoga classes.
What Covid-Precautions Does Your Location Follow?
IKMA Atlanta takes the safety of our students seriously! The following safety protocols have been and continue to remain in place through the duration of this ongoing pandemic.
• Temperature checks are conducted on all students upon arrival.
• All students & instructor(s) must wash their hands before the start of each class.
• Hand-santizer is provided for use during class.
• Face masks are utilized in all common areas, while inside the facility or using restrooms.
• Class sizes are intentionally being kept small, (5-6 people), to help minimize exposure.
• Most of our classes are held outdoors in an open-air environment, weather permitting.
• All equipment is cleaned and sanitized at the end of each training session.
• Those students who feel unwell or whom have been in contact with an infected individual, must forgo all training during a two week isolation period!