INSTRUCTORS & LINEAGE
Founder of Krav Maga - Emrich "Imi" Lichtenfeld
Born in 1910 in Budapest, Hungary, Imi grew up in Bratislava, Czechoslovakia where he 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.
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.