Krav Maga is a self-defense system developed in Israel. It was initially developed to teach military conscripts. Practitioners shy away from calling it a martial art style because it does not subscribe to the ideals that conventional martial art forms subscribe to. It is a fighting technique that has evolved over the past 70 years. It can be applied in combat situations and in situations that may befall a normal person on the street. The system of Krav Maga is meant to be simple, but very effective and intuitive. Today, it is taught to Israeli officers and other law-enforcement agencies globally. It has been translated from the battlefield to the ordinary streets where it is taught as a martial art for self-defense.
History / Origins
The words “Krav Maga” come from the fusion of two Hebrew words: “Krav”, which means “battle” and “Maga”, which means, “contact”.
The person credited with creating Krav Maga is the Jewish Czechoslovakian Imi Lichtenfield. He used this blend of Jujutsu, Boxing, Wrestling and gymnastics to survive the mean streets of Czechoslovakia. Imi wanted to do something to alleviate the Jewish persecution, and in 1942, he moved to Israel to join the Jewish Haganah (a Jewish paramilitary group) to protect Jews living in Palestine as well as those who were returning to Israel. The Military leaders noticed Imi’s fighting style and asked him to teach it to other military personnel.
When Israel gained its Statehood, separate Israeli fighting forces were combined into one group, but Imi continued teaching his brand of martial arts which was and is still known as Krav Maga.
Krav Maga has become an international phenomenon. It is a form of martial arts that is taught to law-enforcement officers, and civilians alike. It is not only being taught in many gyms across the globe as a self-defense art, but also in the training academies of SWAT, FBI, CIA and some branches of the U.S military. Aspects of Krav Maga can be adapted to suit any kind of practitioner. Krav Maga can be deadly, but a lot of people gravitate towards it because it improves fitness and strength and gives practitioners a sense of power in knowing that they can defend themselves against attacks.
To understand Krav Maga one has to know the history of the Jews in Israel. They were always regarded as peaceful and therefore weak and helpless against the often, volatile Bedouin Arabs. In addition to the uneasy relations with Arab neighbors, there was a global wave of anti-Semitist sentiments that drove world wars. With all that in mind one can understand why an entire nation had to be militant and adopt a serious military style-like self-defense that was simple, yet deadly, like Krav Maga.
The Arabs often referred to Jews as “Walid el mita” – the child of death because Jewish blood was not considered to be valuable. With fascism on the rise and rising anti–Semitic sentiment, Jews all over the world felt threatened. Imi Lichtenfield took it upon himself to advance his own training to develop a real-life self-defense martial art form. This would be different from methods used by groups like the 1907 Hashomer and Ze’ev Jabontinsky’s Haganah whose main form of combat style was stick fighting or Kapap.