What is Krav Maga



Krav Maga is a self-defence system developed by the Israeli army. In Hebrew, it literally means "contact combat".

Although it integrates elements from a number of combat sports and martial arts such as boxing, judo, wrestling and jujitsu, Krav Maga was, from the very beginning, rooted in real life situations.

It is not a sport but a simple and effective fighting system designed for self-protection.

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OVERVIEW


Krav Maga was developed in an environment that showed no mercy so it emphasises taking the aggressor down as quickly as possible and escaping safely.

There are no rules and no limitations.

It relies on instinctive movements, practical techniques, and realistic training scenarios which makes it one of the most efficient self-defence system in the world.

All military and police offices in Israel are trained in Krav Maga. Its simplicity and functionality led a number of military and law enforcement units around the world to use Krav Maga (or a variation) as their main close-quarter hand combat method.

In the USA, the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), the United States Marine Corps (USMC), the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), among others have all integrated Krav Maga as part of their training. Krav Maga is now practiced in over 30 countries around the world.

The Krav Maga symbol consists of the Hebrew letters K and M surrounded by an open circle because the system is open to improvement by adding techniques, exercises, and training methods.


Krav-Maga-Logo



THE PRINCIPLES OF KRAV MAGA


With its focus on real-world situations, Krav Maga philosophy rests on the pragmatic approach of “this is the problem – what is the solution?".

It emphasises brutal counter-attacks based on simultaneous defensive and offensive maneuvers with continuous motion ("Retzev") in order to stop the assault and neutralize the threat as quickly as possible.

The premise of Krav Maga is that:
  1. you can only rely on yourself if attacked
  2. there will be multiple aggressors
  3. they will be bigger and stronger than you
  4. there are no rules in a street fight (aggressors are not following some sportsman’s code of chivalry, they're trying to hurt, maim, or possibly kill you).

This leads to a number of principles:

1- Avoid confrontation or finish the fight as quickly as possible


The safest option is always to avoid violence but if not possible, you need to neutralise the threat as quickly as possible.

This overarching goal governs all the other principles of Krav Maga.

The longer a fight goes on, the more likely you're going to get hurt so it's important to counter-attack as soon as possible (or even attack pre-emptively) in order to turn the tables quickly, disengage and get back home unharmed.


2- Understand your surroundings and the psychology of a street confrontation


Situational awareness along with a good understanding of the dynamics of a street confrontation can go a long way in keeping you safe because it allows you to identify potential threats before an attack occurs.

Good awareness of your surroundings while dealing with the threat will help you to localise escape routes, to spot further attackers, or weapons of opportunity.


3- Techniques should be kept as simple as possible and rely on the body's natural reflexes


Your fine motor skills degrade when you're experiencing an excessive level of stress. This can lead to the "freeze" reaction which is part of the "fight, flight or freeze" response.

To avoid technical block, motor skills deficiency and "freeze" responses, defences should rely on the body’s natural reflexes. Similarly, to ensure maximum effectiveness and efficiency, techniques should make sense from a bio-mechanical point of view.

Krav Maga was designed so that it could be put to use as soon as possible and regardless of size, gender, body type and physical condition. It was developed in an environment where the Israeli military could not devote many hours to hand-to-hand combat training for their personnel.


4- Use the body’s natural weapons as well as ordinary objects


Your body comes with a number of weapons you should know how to use: the fists, obviously, but also the elbows, the knees, and the feet. Any improvised weapon such as a belt or a bottle can also tip the scales in your favour.


5- Exploit the human body’s most vulnerable spots


You should never try to match an aggressor strength ("they will be bigger and stronger than you"). Instead target their weaknesses and focus on the body's most vulnerable points, particularly soft tissues, such as the eyes, the throat, the face, the groin, etc. Many counterattacks involve eye gouging, groin attacks, and strikes to the throat.


6- A good defensive action doesn't go without an offensive motion


That's the principle of simultaneous defense and attack which goes hand in hand with the principle of continuous motion ("Retzev").

Your goal is to disrupt the attack and simultaneously counterattack to surprise your aggressor. "Retzev" is a continuous series of aggressive defensive and offensive movements with sustained forward pressure which aims at overwhelming the attacker.


THE HISTORY OF KRAV MAGA


The origins of Krav Maga can be traced to pre-World War II Eastern Europe. The system’s creator, Imi Lichtenfeld, was born in 1910 and raised in Bratislava (Slovakia). He was a renowned boxer, wrestlers and gymnast, winning several national and international championships in the late 1920ies.


Krav-maga-Imi-Lichtenfeld


The origins of Krav Maga


In the mid-1930s, fascist and anti-semitic groups began to harass and assault the Jews of Bratislava. Imi Lichtenfeld organized a group of boxers and wrestlers who took to the streets to defend their community against the growing numbers of nazi thugs.

Imi quickly learned, however, that the aggressive and brutal nature of street fighting was quite different from competitive combat sports. It required a different mindset and different techniques.

Typically, street assaults were surprise attacks and the outcome would be determined within a few seconds. The looser would get extra kicks to the head and torso causing serious injuries.

The re-evaluation of his ideas about violence led him to put more emphasis on quick threat neutralisation. It also led him to develop the skills and techniques that would become the foundations of Krav Maga.


World War 2


Like many Jews fleeing the Nazi persecution across Europe, Lichtenfeld decided to leave in 1940. The ship he boarded was supposed to take him to Palestine which he had visited in 1935, but the derelict vessel sank in the southeastern Aegean Sea.

Imi was eventually picked up by a British ship on its way to Egypt where he joined the Czech legion which was under British command. During his time with the British military, he was engaged in operations mainly in Libya. He was also acquainted with the Fairbairn's system of hand-to-hand combat. Without doubt, Fairbairn's approach to fighting ("Gutter Fighting") strongly resonated with Imi.

"Get tough, get down in the gutter, win at all costs... I teach what is called ‘Gutter Fighting.’ There’s no fair play, no rules except one: kill or be killed” - W. Fairbairn

Lichtenfel eventually reached Palestine in 1942 where he was recruited by the head of the Haganah; a paramilitary organization that had been set up to defend the Jewish settlements. This organization later became the core of the Israel Defense Forces (IDF).


"Face-to-face combat" (Krav Panim L'panim)


In 1944, Imi began training Haganah soldiers, including elite units such as Palmach and Palyam, in various fields such as physical fitness, swimming, wrestling and hand-to-hand combat.

At the time, this training was called Kapap (an acronym for Krav Panim L’panim "face-to-face combat").

In the early years, Kapap was not a system per se, but a mixture of rigorous physical conditioning, boxing, judo, jujutsu, karate, knife and stick fighting, firearms and explosives training, radio communications, wilderness survival training, combat first aid, etc...

Ultimately, the fighting style would be renamed Krav Maga.

Until the 1950ies the terms Kapap and Krav Maga were used interchangeably. Since the 60ies the term Kapap has only been used to describe the training method of the early days or within certain units such as Sayeret Matkal or Yamam, that require more than basic hand-to-hand combat training.

Until the late 1990ies, the Kapap combatives system was kept only for the use of Israel's special elite units. Then, Lieutenant Colonel Chaim Pe'er (who trained and graduated in Krav Maga under Imi Lichtenfeld) and Major Avi Nardia founded the International Kapap Federation.

Nowadays, Kapap (a.k.a Lotar) and Krav Maga are two different, albeit closely related, fighting systems. Both have their roots in the historical Kapap.

Although Krav Maga has become the most well known Israeli martial art, it has never been the only one.


Krav-Maga-Classes



The Israel Defense Forces (IDF)


When the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) were formed following the creation of the State of Israel in 1948, Imi Lichtenfeld became chief instructor at the IDF School of Combat Fitness.

There, for 20 years, he developed and refined his hand-to-hand combat system. To bring each soldier to adequate level of Combat experience in the very little training time allotted, Imi was forced to streamline his teaching and design a system that would be suitable for any male or female soldier.

"The Shortest and the Fastest way is the best" - I. Lichtenfeld

Imi acted as the IDF Krav Maga Chief Instructor from 1948 to 1976. His long time student and first black belt Eli Avikzar succeeded him in this role as Chief Instructor at the Fighting Fitness Academy (which certifies IDF Krav Maga Instructors). Under Eli's guidance, the system became more professional and, proving its efficiency in fighting units, it also became more widely accepted.

Eli continued to develop Krav Maga within the IDF until his retirement in 1987.

In 1980 Boaz Aviram, Eli's assistant, became the third person to hold the position of Krav Maga Chief Instructor at Fighting Fitness Academy. He was the last IDF head instructor to have studied directly under Imi Lichtenfeld.

Blaming the civilian schools of Krav Maga for a declined in quality in the system, Aviram who further tested techniques in real situations, later founded Pure Krav Maga. His work, which he systematically documented, is based on a highly structured training method. The focus is on (real life) reaction time and efficient sequential execution.


Krav-Maga-Training-Lichtenfeld


The Israeli Krav Maga Association (IKMA)


After he finished his active duty, Imi Lichtenfeld began adapting and modifying Krav Maga to police forces and civilian needs.

The first Krav Maga course for civilian took place at the Wingate Institute in Netanya, Israel, in 1971, under the direct supervision of Imi.

Among some of the first students to receive a black belt in the civilian curriculum were: Haim Gidon, Eli Avikzar, Eyal Yanilov, Richard Douieb (France), Raphy Elgrissy, Haim Zut, Kobi Lichtenstein, Yaron Lichtenstein, Miki Assulin (GB).

In 1974 Imi retired from teaching and handed Eli Avikzar the training center in Netanya.

In 1978 the "Federation for Krav Maga and Self Defense" was created with the assistance of Imi's top students: Barak Yehoshua (Head of the Professional Committee), Tsvi Morik (Secretary), Haim Zut, Eli Avikzar, Rafi Algrisi, Haim Gidon, and Oskar Klein.

Eli Avikzar was elected to the head of rank committee and Colonel David Ben Asher was elected to the Executive Director.

The name of the organization was changed to "Israeli Krav Maga Association" (IKMA) in 1980.

Under Imi, components from several traditional martial arts were incorporated into Krav Maga training: Judo in 1965, and later in the 1970ies, Aikido under the influence of Eli Avikzar, and more groundwork by Haim Gidon.

Imi and his senior instructors worked together to improve the system by incorporating techniques from other martial arts and combat sports, counter-defences and modified weapons defences (particularly knife defence techniques).


Krav-Maga-Weapon-Training


Eli Avikzar (1947-2004)


Eli Avikzar trained with Imi from 1964 to 1974 and received the first black belt (IKMA) from the founder in 1971.

That same year he also received a black belt in Judo and later received his Aikido brown belt in France and a black belt from the European Federation in 1977.

He was awarded 8th Dan in Krav Maga by Imi in 1985.

As the IKMA head of rank committee and chief instructor, Eli himself awarded black belts to many individuals including Avi Avisadon, Eyal Yanilov, Haim Gidon, and Boaz Aviram.

Striving for perfection, Eli Avikzar was able to extract the essence of training techniques and methods from the various Martial Arts he'd learned.

Particularly preoccupied with efficiency, Eli used Imi's teaching and principles as stepping stones to further developed and refined Krav Maga.

Discord with Imi led Avikzar to resigned from his position at the IKMA. In 1987 he founded the "Krav Magen Israeli”(KAMI) which he directed until his death in 2004.

Avi Avisadon, who was Eli's assistant at the Fighting Fitness Academy and then served as the Head of Krav Maga at the Israeli Navy commando, became KAMI's Chief Instructor.


Krav-Maga-Training-Avikzar-Lichtenfeld-Aviram


Beyond the borders of Israel


In 1981, a group of senior instructors traveled to the USA to demonstrate their system. The first Krav Maga training seminar outside Israel was directed by Eyal Yanilov.

With the emergence of the second generation of instructors came internal conflicts over the management of the organization and differences in opinion over the efficacy of techniques. This led to the creation of a number of splinter organizations all claiming to teach the true Krav Maga!

In 1994 Haim Gidon was elected as IKMA president.

With the development of Krav Maga on the international scene, arose the need for an international organization. In 1995 the International Krav Maga Federation was founded by a number of Imi's students such as Avi Moyal (the actual IKMF chairman), Eyal Yanilov and Gabi Noah.

Imi Lichtenfeld died in Netanya, Israel, on January 9, 1998 at the age of 87.





KRAV MAGA ORGANIZATIONS


Until the 1980ies, the organisation of Krav Maga was quite simple. The IKMA, presided by Imi Lichtenfeld, was the governing body.

When the system started to spread outside Israel and dissensions within IKMA grew bigger, numerous organizations, affiliated or not to the IKMA, appeared.

Many of Imi's students started their Krav Maga schools and in many cases created their own organizations.

Like any other form of martial arts, the original system has now been subject to change, modernisation and in some cases bastardisation.

Here are the main Krav Maga organisations:





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