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Krav Maga

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Krav Maga

Krav Maga (קרב מגע)
Krav Maga lesson in paratrooper school in Israel, 1955
Focus Hybrid
Country of origin Israel
Creator Imi Lichtenfeld
Parenthood Boxing, Wrestling, Savate, Muay Thai, Judo, Wing Chun
Olympic sport No

Krav Maga (Hebrew: קְרַב מַגָּע , lit. "contact combat") is a self-defense system developed for the military in Israel that consists of a wide combination of techniques sourced from Boxing, Combat Sambo, Muay Thai, Wing Chun, Judo, Jujutsu, Wrestling, Aikido and Grappling, along with realistic fight training. Krav Maga is known for its focus on real-world situations and extremely efficient and brutal counter-attacks.[1] It was derived from street-fighting skills developed by Hungarian-Israeli martial artist Imi Lichtenfeld, who made use of his training as a boxer and wrestler as a means of defending the Jewish quarter against fascist groups in Bratislava, Czechoslovakia [2] in the mid-to-late 1930s. In the late 1940s, following his immigration to Israel, he began to provide lessons on combat training to what was to become the IDF, who went on to develop the system that became known as Krav Maga. It has since been refined for civilian, police and military applications.[3]

Krav Maga has a philosophy emphasizing threat neutralization, simultaneous defensive and offensive maneuvers, and aggression.[4] Krav Maga is used by [5][6][7]


The name in Hebrew can be translated as "contact combat." The root word krav (קרב) means "battle" or "combat" and maga (מגע) means "contact".

Basic principles

Krav Maga encourages students to avoid confrontation. If this is impossible or unsafe, it promotes finishing a fight as quickly as possible. Attacks are aimed at the most vulnerable parts of the body, and training is not limited to techniques that avoid severe injury; some even permanently injure or cause death to the opponent. Drills provide maximum safety to students by the use of protective equipment and the use of reasonable force.

Students learn to defend against all variety of attacks and are taught to counter in the quickest and most efficient way.

Ideas in Krav Maga include:[1]

  • Counter attacking as soon as possible (or attacking pre-emptively).
  • Targeting attacks to the body's most vulnerable points, such as: the eyes, neck or throat, face, solar plexus, groin, ribs, knee, foot, fingers, etc.
  • Maximum effectiveness and efficiency in order to neutralize the opponent as quickly as possible.
  • Maintaining awareness of surroundings while dealing with the threat in order to look for escape routes, further attackers, objects that could be used to defend or help attack, and so on.

Training can also cover situational awareness to develop an understanding of one's surroundings, learning to understand the psychology of a street confrontation, and identifying potential threats before an attack occurs. It may also cover ways to deal with physical and verbal methods to avoid violence whenever possible.


Imrich Lichtenfeld (also known as Imi Sde-Or) was born in 1910 in Budapest, Hungary and grew up in Bratislava (Slovakia). Lichtenfeld became active in a wide range of sports, including gymnastics, wrestling, and boxing. In 1928, Lichtenfeld won the Slovakian Youth Wrestling Championship, and in 1929 the adult championship (light and middle weight divisions). That same year, he also won the national boxing championship and an international gymnastics championship. During the ensuing decade, Imi's athletic activities focused mainly on wrestling, both as a contestant and a trainer.

In the mid-1930s, anti-Semitic riots began to threaten the Jews of Bratislava, Czechoslovakia. (The country was created from parts of Austro-Hungary in 1918- a result of World War l) Lichtenfeld became the leader of a group of Jewish boxers and wrestlers who took to the streets to defend Jewish neighborhoods against the growing numbers of national socialist party and anti-Semitic thugs. Lichtenfeld quickly discovered, however, that actual fighting was very different from competition fighting, and although boxing and wrestling were good sports, they were not always practical for the aggressive and brutal nature of street combat. It was then that he started to re-evaluate his ideas about fighting and started developing the skills and techniques that would eventually become Krav Maga. Having become a thorn in the side of the equally anti-Semitic local authorities, Lichtenfeld left his home, family and friends in 1940 on the last refugee ship to escape Europe.

After making his way to the Middle East, Lichtenfeld joined Israel’s pre-state Israel Defense Forces) and the Pal-Yam, as well as groups of police officers.

In 1948, when the State of Israel was founded and the IDF was formed, Lichtenfeld became Chief Instructor for Physical Fitness and Krav Maga at the IDF School of Combat Fitness. He served in the IDF for about 20 years, during which time he developed and refined his unique method for self-defense and hand-to-hand combat. Self-defense was not a new concept, since nearly all martial arts had developed some form of defensive techniques in their quest for tournament or sport dominance. However, self-defense was based strictly upon the scientific and dynamic principles of the human body. Before retiring from the military, Lichtenfeld elected Eli Avikzar his military successor. With Lichtenfeld's blessing, Avikzar went on to strengthen Krav Maga with the addition of new techniques which maintained Krav Maga's central principles of maximum effectiveness and efficiency. Boaz Aviram succeeded Avikzar as Chief Instructor, and was followed only by a handful of others.[8] [9] An intimate account of an IDF Krav Maga "Fights" training session may be found below in the Cohen article under Further Reading.

Upon Lichtenfeld's retirement he decided to open a school and teach a civilian form of the military form of Krav Maga intending to keep most of the secrets of the system in the military, but yet teach a civilian version suitable for youth.[10] The first Krav Maga course took place at the Wingate Institute, Netanya, Israel, in 1971, under the direct supervision of Imi Lichtenfeld.[11] Some of the first students to receive a black belt in Lichtenfeld's civilian Krav Maga Association of 1st Dan, were: Haim Gidon, Eli Avikzar, Eyal Yanilov, Raphy Elgrissy, Meni Ganis, Haim Zut, Shmuel Kurzviel, Haim Hakani, Shlomo Avisira, Vicktor Bracha, Yaron Lichtenstein, Avner Hazan and Miki Asulin.[12]

In 1978, Lichtenfeld founded the non-profit Israeli Krav Maga Association (IKMA) with several senior instructors. Upon his retirement Imi has nominated Haim Gidon as his successor to be Grand Master and the president of the IKMA.[13] Lichtenfeld died in January 1998 in Netanya, Israel.[14]

When Krav Maga started to spread beyond the borders of Israel, there arose a need to found an international civilian organization. A few of Lichtenfeld's first and second generation students, among these being Arviat Zagal, Asaf Halevi, and Dan Levy, eventually formed a new, civilian, international Krav Maga federation.

Grading system

Krav Maga belt colors/patches

Most of the Krav Maga organizations in Israel, such as the IKMA (Israeli Krav Maga Association, by Haim Gidon), KMF (Krav Maga Federation, by Haim Zut) and Bukan (By Yaron Lichtenstein), as well as international KMW (Krav Maga Worldwide, by Darren Levine),[15] use Imi Lichtenfeld's colored belt grading system which is based upon the Judo ranking system. It starts with White belt, and then Yellow, Orange, Green, Blue, Brown and Black belts. Black belt students can move up the ranks from 1st to 9th Dan. The time and requirements for advancing have some differences between the organizations. In Europe the Fédération Européenne de Krav Maga (by Master Richard Douieb) and Krav Maga Academy Slovenia (by Master Karli Zaniug) also uses the colored belt grading system which is based upon the Judo ranking system.

Other organizations who teach Krav Maga in and outside of Israel like the International Krav Maga Federation (IKMF), Krav Maga Global (KMG) and International Krav Maga (IKM) use the same grading system based on a series of patches.[16] The patch system was developed by Imi Lichtenfeld after the belt system in the late 1980s. The grades are divided into 3 main categories; Practitioner, Graduate and Expert. Each of the categories, which are often abbreviated to their initials, has 5 ranks. Grades P1 through to P5 are the student levels and make up the majority of the Krav Maga community. After P5 are G1-G5, and in order to achieve Graduate level the student has to demonstrate a proficiency in all of the P level techniques before advancing. The majority of instructors hold a G level grade and are civilian instructors. However, passing the instructor's training course is a requirement, and holding a Graduate rank does not necessarily make one an instructor. The Graduate syllabus also builds on the Practitioner syllabus by focusing more on developing fighting skills. The Expert grades cover more advanced military and 3rd party protection techniques as well as advanced sparring and fighting skills. People who hold these ranks tend to teach in other sectors such as military and law enforcement in addition to civilian. In order to progress to Expert level, one has to demonstrate proficiency in all of the Practitioner and Graduate syllabi and have excellent fighting skills. Beyond Expert 5 there is the rank of Master. However, this rank is held by only a small number of individuals and reserved only for those who have dedicated a lifetime to Krav Maga and made valuable contributions in teaching and promoting the style.

Krav Maga organizations in the United States, South America and Europe such as Krav Maga Worldwide, Krav Maga Alliance, National Krav Maga Association (NKMA), United States Krav Maga Association (USKMA), Krav Maga Street Defence, South American Federation of Krav Maga, European Federation of Krav Maga, Hagana System and Krav Maga Academy Slovenia (KMAS) also use a belt ranking system like that of the IKMA, KMF and Bukan. Although there are some subtle differences, the various organisations teach the same core techniques and principles.[17] More recently, non graded street-fight oriented applications of Krav Maga, such as Urban Krav Maga, have been developed.


The Israeli Defense Force held its first ever Krav Maga tournament in May 2013.[18]

Further reading

  • Imi Sde-Or (founder) and Eyal Yanilov (head instructor) How To Defend Yourself Against Armed Assault, Dekel Publishing house, 2001. This book is the first one published out of the only three books that were written by the founder (Imi) and his closest assistant (Eyal). It has been translated into 10 languages, including: Japanese, Spanish, Czech, Hungarian, German, Dutch, French, Polish and more…
  • Aviram, Boaz. Krav Maga - Use of The Human Body as a Weapon; Philosophy and Application of Hand to Hand Fighting Training System. US: Lulu Enterprises, 2009. ISBN 978-0-557-24846-9, ISBN 0-557-24846-9.
  • Ben Asher, David. Fighting Fit. The Israeli Defense Forces Guide to Physical Fitness and Self Defense. New York: Perigee Books, 1983. ISBN 0-399-50624-1.
  • Cohen, Einat Bar-On. (2011). "Once We Put Our Helmets On, There are No More Friends: The "Fights" Session in the Israeli Army Course for Close-Combat Instructors." Armed Forces & Society 37, No. 3: 512-533.
  • Kahn, David. Krav Maga: an essential guide to the renowned method for fitness and self-defence. London: Piatkus, 2005. ISBN 0-01-303950-4.
  • Levine, Darren. Complete krav maga: the ultimate guide to over 200 self-defense and combative techniques. Berkeley, Calif.: Ulysses, 2007. ISBN 1-56975-573-6.
  • Philippe, Christophe. The essential Krav Maga: self-defense techniques for everyone. Berkeley, Calif.: Blue Snake, 2006. ISBN 1-58394-168-1.
  • Master Ofir. HAGANA SYSTEM: Self Protection Academy Founded by Ofir. Paris: Editions Amphora 2012.
  • Lo Presti, Gaetano. Krav Maga" YouCanPrint, 2013. ISBN 8891103357 - 9788891103352


  1. ^ a b Poulomi Banerjee (2009-01-28). "Contact combat: Self-Defence classes to stay safe".  
  2. ^ Hodsdon, Amelia (2005-02-08). "Get your kicks with Israeli tricks".  
  3. ^ "The mother of all fightbacks".  
  4. ^ "All change on the buses".  
  5. ^ Jim Wagner and Maj. Avi Nardia. "Inside Israel". Black Belt Magazine. Archived from the original on 2010-05-11. Retrieved 2009-12-31. 
  6. ^ Judy Ellis (1998-05-04). "Choke! Gouge! Smash!".  
  7. ^ Ryan, Rosalind (2002-08-23). "J.Lo's fitness fad and Salma's 'sweaty' hobby".  
  8. ^ "About Krav Maga". IKMF UK. Retrieved 2013-03-05. 
  9. ^ "Founder of Krav Maga". Retrieved 2013-03-05. 
  10. ^ Gonzalez Jr., Arturo (1976-11-15). "It's Called 'Kosher Kungfu' but Imi Lichtenfeld's New Martial Art Is a Deadly Affair".  
  11. ^
  12. ^ "Emrich Lichtenfeld (sde-or)". K.A.M.I. - Krav Magen History. Retrieved 16 July 2013. 
  13. ^ "About The Israeli Krav Maga Association". KravMagaIsraeli. Retrieved 2012-05-17. 
  14. ^ Bob Riha, Jr. (2005-02-24). "Krav Maga teaches practical self-defense in tough workout".  
  15. ^
  16. ^ "Grading System". Retrieved 2013-03-05. 
  17. ^
  18. ^ "Elite soldiers fight it out in IDF’s first-ever Krav Maga tournament".  
  19. ^ Allan Stevo (2011-06-23). "The Martial Arts / Self-Defense Style Invented in Bratislava". Retrieved 2013-03-05. 

External links

  • Israeli Martial Arts Gurus Duke It Out For Real
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