ANTI-SEMITISM HONES HIS SKILLS
Although Imi had some training, he began to hone his skills as a fighter as he tried to protect himself and his friends in Bratislava. During the 1930s, many people were already fighting with the Jews and terrorizing their communities as well. As he fought for protection, he quickly learned the difference between fighting for sport and fighting on the street, which began to form the ideas for principles of Krav Maga in his mind.
THE MOVE TO ISRAEL
Since Adolph Hitler and the Nazi regime had turned Europe into a battlefield, it became quite dangerous for the Jews by the end of the 1930s. In Imi’s homeland, his fighting to protect his neighbors and family soon became greatly disliked by the authorities in the area and he was forced to leave Bratislava. After a few years, he eventually arrived in what was then known as Palestine, and is today known as Israel.
Roots: Defining the past and determining the future
The founder of Krav Maga was Imi Lichtenfeld, who was born in Hungary. He grew up in Bratislava and was an experienced athlete. He earned a variety of different awards—both nationally and internationally—for wrestling, gymnastics, and boxing. All of this experience would later lead to his development of Krav Maga.
AN INFLUENTIAL FATHER
The greatest influence in the life of Imi was his father. Samuel was an officer in the police department as well as an instructor in self defense. Samuel served for 30 years in the police department and was known for an impressive record of arrests. When he wasn’t on the job he was teaching self defense to policemen in the area at his local gym named “Hercules.” All his experience in self defense training and as a police officer would later affect his son.
The History Channel's series "Human Weapon" filmed an episode on Krav Maga. This clip is dedicated to the history of Krav Maga and is accurate in the description. Overall, the episode was fantastic and should inspire you to begin or continue your training!
TRAINING AN ARMY
Once in Israel, Imi quickly became part of the Haganah, which was a militant organization that was seeking to make Israel an independent state. After joining, he started to teach the soldiers some basic techniques for self defense. Later, after the state of Israel was formed in 1948, Imi was asked by the government of Israel to come up with a system of fighting and self defense for the military. This system became the system of Krav Maga, and Imi soon became the military school’s Chief Instructor. During his time in the army, Imi continued to refine and develop Krav Maga and trained instructors and soldiers his system of hand-to-hand combat.
KRAV MAGA BECOMES AVAILABLE TO ALL CITIZENS IN ISRAEL
While for many years Krav Maga was only used by those in the Israeli military, after Imi retired from the military he began to adapt this system for people involved in everyday living. He came up with solutions for women, children, and men who may find themselves in an encounter that was aggressive. Imi, along with his qualified instructors, helped to teach Krav Maga to civilians all across Israel.
KRAV MAGA BECOMES POPULAR OUTSIDE ISRAEL
While for many years Krav Maga was only used in Israel, it eventually became popular throughout the world. The Krav Maga Association of Israel—which was headed up by Imi—along with the Ministry of Education in Israel held an international instructors course in 1981 for Krav Maga. There were 23 delegates from cities across the United States. Imi himself supervised this course, even though he was then 71 years of age. One of the delegates from the U.S. who was part of the course (due to his history in boxing and martial arts) was Darren Levine. Levine was one of the few who actually passed the course, and during the six weeks time that the course was held, Levine and Imi became friends.
After Levine finished the instructors’ course, he came back to the U.S. and began to teach Krav Maga as an elective at Heschel Day School. The class quickly picked up in popularity and was added into the program for physical education at the school. During the summer of 1982, Imi traveled to Los Angeles and spent time with Levine, providing him with even more instruction in Krav Maga. For each summer after that visit until the time of Imi’s death, Levine would go to the country of Israel to train, or Imi or another instructor would come to the U.S. to continue his training. Finally, in 1984, Levine earned his black belt as well as his instructor’s teaching certificate. After this, Krav Maga really began to take off in the U.S.
KRAV MAGA TODAY
Today Krav Maga is continuing to do well across the U.S. and in other countries as well. Krav Maga Worldwide Enterprises was developed in 1999, and their goal is to expand Krav Maga throughout the U.S. as well as around the world. Eventually their goal is to have a training center for Krav Maga in every single major city around the country. In the U.S. today, many law enforcement and military personnel are trained in Krav Maga, including U.S. Marshals, the FBI, the Coast Guard, CIA, and members of Homeland Security.