Krav Maga Organizations

Until the 1990ies, the organisation of Krav Maga remained quite simple. The Federation for Krav Maga and Self Defense -renamed Israeli Krav Maga Association (IKMA) in 1980- presided by Imi Lichtenfeld, was the governing body.

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

Page content
  1. Main Krav Maga Organizations
  2. Why are there so many Krav Maga Organizations?
  3. List of Krav Maga Organizations and Systems Worldwide
  4. Whicht Krav Maga Organization is the Best?
  5. Some References

Main Krav Maga Organizations

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

After Imi's death in 1998, many of his students started their own Krav Maga schools and some created their own organizations.

Although there are different Krav Maga Organizations in the world, most of them can be traced back to the origins of Krav Maga and its founder.

The main Krav Maga organizations have been established by direct students of Imi, mainly the first generations of instructors to whom he awarded their black belts:

Krav Maga Organisations - Urban Fit & Fearless

Why are there so many Krav Maga organizations?

Like any other form of martial arts, the original system has now been subject to changes, modernisation and in some cases bastardisation. Very much like Kung Fu -there are several hundreds different styles of Kung Fu- Krav Maga comes in more than one flavour.

After the first generation of Imi's instructors had trained their own students to black belt level, Krav Maga organisations splintered into even more secondary systems.

Internal politics and personal fall-outs have often been the cause these splits, but often also, it was disagreements on technical aspects (e.g. what's efficient, what should be in the curriculum) that led to the creation of variety of schools.

The worldwide success of Krav Maga has also been a factor in the multiplication of Krav Maga organizations.

It's true that some martials artists who had some training in Krav Maga, added the name to their school for marketing purposes. This led to lots of dispute and resentment.

In this context, many organizations claim to teach "pure Krav Maga", "as Imi handed it out" and many "Masters" claim to be the rightful heirs to Imi Lichtenfeld (see New York Times article "Battle Royale Over Rightful Heir to Israeli Self-Defense Discipline").

It's important to keep in mind that "Krav Maga" means "contact combat" (i.e. "hand to hand combat") so, like "Kung Fu" which means "martial arts" in Chinese, Krav Maga is a loose term.

So, in a way, there's no reason why a legit Krav Maga instructor who wants to complement the curriculum with elements from other martial arts couldn't say he's teaching Krav Maga.

This happened a lot in recent years when instructors decided to add elements from Brazilian Jiu Jitsu to improve ground fighting (which is very weak in Imi Lichtenfeld's original Krav Maga).

After all, Krav Maga ethos has always been to adapt to new situations and integrate whatever techniques would make it better.

The situation gets even more convoluted as Krav Maga is also taught in the Israeli military (IDF) whereas most of the so-called "legit" organisations are civilians.

So a number of Israeli soldiers such as Itay Gil, Idan Abolnik or Ron Engelman, among others, created their own Krav Maga system arguing that the civilian versions were just sweeten, ineffective, styles designed to entertain desperate housewives in Los Angeles.

To be fair, anyone who's been Krav Maga instructor in the IDF can legitimately say he's teaching Krav Maga. It all started as a military thing after all.

The thing, though, is that in Israel, any Israeli citizen over the age of 18 has to join the army for about 2.5 years (it was 36 months for men before 2015), so that's a lot of potential Krav Maga instructors. And most actual instructors have served in the IDF.

The most troubling aspect of the story, though, is the surprisingly high number of (self-proclaimed) "Masters" and "Grand Masters" that can be found in Krav Maga organisations. That and the common claim that they are Imi Lichtenfeld's only true heirs. Also that they teach the only "true" or "authentic" Krav Maga.

As far as I'm concerned, I stay clear of these pointless debates and disputes. I make the distinction between what I call "Classic Krav Maga" which is the civilian style derived directly from Imi Lichtenfeld's system and taught by the main Krav Maga organizations (IKMA, KAMI, IKMF, FEKM, KMW, KMG, SAFKM, etc) and the other styles including military systems such as Protect Krav Maga (PKM), Kalah System or Krav Maga Defence Institute (KMDI).

List of Krav Maga Organizations and Systems Worldwide

This part is taking a lot of time researching the lineage of each organization. So it remains a work in progress.

Please feel free to points to any mistake you could spot.


Europe - UK

Europe - France

Americas - United States

Americas - Brazil

  • BUKAN School of Krav-Maga, founded in Isreal in 1977 by Yaron Lichtenstein who was a student of Imi Lichtenfeld. Yaron received his black belt from Imi in 1978 and moved back to Brazil in 2002.
  • South American Federation of Krav Maga (FSAKM). Founded in 1990 by Kobi Lichtenstein who received his black directly from Imi Lichtenfeld in 1983. In 1989, Kobi was tasked by Imi with the development of Krav Maga in South America where he arrived in 1990.

Africa - South Africa

  • Kalah System, founded in 2013 by Idan Abolnik who served in the Golani unit of the IDF and later in Israeli security and Intelligence divisions. Abolnik became famous (or infamous) for his live rounds / blades training videos.

Asia and Pacific Islands

Which Krav Maga Organization is the Best?

Well, it depends what you're looking for.  

In an effort to preserve the "original” style, some Krav Maga organisations have made no attempts to make it evolve further (or even update it) beyond the 1960ies.

Some other organisations more focused on self defence have retained the ethos and philosophy or Krav Maga but have technically added to the style a lot.

Ultimately, it also will be down to the instructor:

  • Is your instructor knowledgeable about bio-mechanics?
  • Does the instructor explain technics clearly and make sense? 
  • Is your instructor physically involved in the training (and not just "here")? 
  • Is your instructor mindful of every student specific circumstances?
  • Does your instructor advocate and teache conflict avoidance and de-escalation?

Some References

Aviram, Boaz (2009) Krav Maga - Use of the Human Body as a Weapon: Philosophy and Application of Hand to Hand Fighting Training System.

Green, Thomas A. , and Joseph R. Svinth (2010) Martial Arts of the World: An Encyclopedia of History and Innovation, Volume 2. ABC-CLIO.

Kahn, David (2004) Krav Maga: An Essential Guide to the Renowned Method--for Fitness and Self-Defense. St. Martin's Griffin.

Katz, Moshe (2016) Footsteps from Judea: My Journey in Krav Maga and Life. CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform.

Kershner, Isabel (2017) "Battle Royale Over Rightful Heir to Israeli Self-Defense Discipline". New York Times, Dec. 30, 2017.

Levine, Darren, John Whitman, and Ryan Hoover (2009) Krav Maga for Beginners: A Step-by-Step Guide to the World's Easiest-to-Learn, Most-Effective Fitness and Fighting Program. Ulysses Press.

Lo Presti, Gaetano (2015) Imi Lichtenfeld - The Grand Master of Krav Maga. Youcanprint.

Sde-Or, Imi, and Eyal Yanilov (2001) Krav Maga : How to Defend Yourself Against Armed Assault. Dekel Publishing House.

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