The History of Krav Maga

Krav Maga is a comprehensive system of self defense, third party protection, and fighting skills forged in the field under real life conditions….

Video transcript

Krav Maga is a comprehensive system of self defense, third party protection, and fighting skills forged in the field under real life conditions, both in the battlefield and on the streets.

Emerging out of the needs of a persecuted, resource-strapped minority defending itself against those bent on its destruction, Krav Maga was developed through extensive experience in the war for survival, and in face-to-face confrontations.

Today, Krav Maga is an integrated system, incorporating clear logic, highly effective and systematic techniques, concepts, and principles of action, as well as unique advance training methodologies.

Throughout its development, the concepts laid down by Krav Maga’s founder have remained constant. Simplicity and efficiency, upholding the highest moral values and respect for all mankind.

Grandmaster Imi Sde-Or, founder of Krav Maga, was born Emrich Lichtenfeld in Budapest, Hungary, in May of 1910. He grew up in Bratislava, Slovakia, where his father, Samuel, was head of the city police department’s detective unit. As part of his role, Samuel was charged with training his subordinates in defensive tactics.

Under his father’s influence, Imi started training at an early age and quickly emerged as an exceptionally talented athlete.

As a teenager, he trained in gymnastics, wrestling, and boxing. By the age of 19, he was already recognized as an international champion in these fields. Later, he focused on wrestling and competed as a member of Slovakia’s national team for a decade.

In 1936, fascism begins to spread throughout Europe, bringing with it a wave of violence against minorities. Entire Jewish communities find themselves defenseless, under constant attack instigated by the authorities.

Imi, a young, proud Jewish athlete, is not prepared to put up with the humiliation and helplessness of the victims. Together with other young men, he organizes a group dedicated to the active defense of those targeted for attack. Under his leadership, the brave defenders successfully fight back, driving off the assailants using only their bare hands.

It is under these circumstances that the seeds for an effective combat and self-defense system are planted. A system nurtured and developed by Imi a few years later into what would become known as Krav Maga.

The year is 1940, and World War 2 is raging throughout Europe. Imi leaves Bratislava just moments before it is taken over by the Nazis, and he boards an underground immigrants’ boat to Palestine. After a long journey, during which he joins the Czech Legion of the British army, Imi arrives in Palestine, which at that time was under the control of the British mandate.

He quickly becomes involved in the training and instruction of Jewish defense organizations, fighting against the Arab insurgency.

With the establishment of the state of the of Israel, Imi naturally integrates into the newly established Israel defense forces. Due to his extensive experience and formidable abilities, he is nominated as the army’s chief physical fitness and hand-to-hand combat instructor. It is in this role that he begins to develop Krav Maga, and to train soldiers, officers, and instructors.

In 1964, after 20 years of service, Imi is honorably discharged from the military. He decides to organize his vast knowledge and practical experience into a system suitable for civilian application as well.

As part of this initiative, Imi opens two self-defense studios, training many students and instructors, all the while adapting and improving the Krav Maga system for civilian self-defense as well as for the needs of elite military and police units.

In 1974, at the age of 15, Eyal Yanilov begins to practice Krav Maga. Early on, he shows extraordinary talent, both as a practitioner of the system and as an instructor. He is quickly recruited by Grandmaster Imi to train other instructors, and he later takes Imi’s place teaching higher level classes.

In the early 1980s, Eyal becomes Imi’s foremost instructor and his closest disciple, as well as his most trusted assistant and advisor. After completing his studies in Electrical Engineering, Eyal starts training Israel counter-terrorist units. Along with Imi, he writes a series of books laying out the principles of Krav Maga. Considering Eyal’s substantial knowledge and experience, Imi decides to appoint him as head of the professional committee of the Israeli Krav Maga Association.

In this position, Eyal creates and upgrades the curriculum, formalizing Krav Maga as a coherent system built around principles of action and unique instructional and training methods.

In the mid-1980s, Eyal travels abroad, introducing Krav Maga to people in countries around the globe, first in the United States and then in Europe. He teaches the system to elite military and law enforcement units as well as to civilians.

In order to manage the challenge of spreading Krav Maga beyond Israel’s borders, Eyal founds the International Krav Maga Federation and serves as its Chairman and head instructor under the tutelage and support of Grandmaster Imi.

Imi regarded Eyal as family and as the natural choice for leadership of the Krav Maga system. For this purpose, Imi awarded him with the founder’s diploma of excellence, and the first ever rank of expert eight, the highest rank awarded to a Krav Maga practitioner.

Imi Sde-Or Lichtenfeld passed away in 1998 at the age of 88. To the day he died, Grandmaster Imi served as mentor and spiritual guide for Eyal Yanilov, and, together, they enhanced and developed Krav Maga.

Since Imi’s death, Eyal has taken upon himself the responsibility of leading and developing Krav Maga, and taking it to the next level. He trains instructors and staff all over the world, and has created a global infrastructure for disseminating the system.

In practice, Eyal has trained all of the world’s first generation Krav Maga instructors. At present, a team of elite instructors, the global team, is assisting him in spreading the knowledge and the system of Krav Maga to numerous countries around the world.

In addition to the many civilians training in Krav Maga centers, military and police special forces from around the world have also adopted Krav Maga as taught by Eyal and his team as their preferred hand-to-hand combat and tactical defense system.

Over the years, the global network of Krav Maga branches has increased substantially, along with the numbers of practitioners and instructors. Different offshoots developed, all training under the umbrella name of Krav Maga.

The International Krav Maga Federation, which was founded as a sports association, could barely meet the various changing needs of the times, and it became impossible neither to develop Krav Maga within the IKMF, nor to preserve the moral and professional spirit outlined by Imi.

Therefore, Eyal decided, along with others, to harness his vast experience in Krav Maga, close to 40 years in the field, and founded Krav Maga Global, the KMG.

KMG is the vehicle for Eyal and his team to disseminate and promote Krav Maga in an ethical, unique, and uncompromising manner. Activities in various countries and close contact with those in the field enable tactical and technical growth and development, suitable for each location and particular set of circumstances.

Today, years after the passing of Grandmaster Imi, Krav Maga Global carefully supervises the professionalism of its instructors, and the quality of instruction at all levels. Insistence on the highest moral and professional standards preserves the spirit and original path of Krav Maga’s founder.

P1 Lecture/Theory I

B. Ready Stances and Movements

  1. The meaning of starting positions and the ready stance (AKA "outlet stance")
  2. Passive and semi-passive stances
  3. The general ready stance
  4. Techniques of moving in various directions from the ready stance
  5. Finishing modes -- 3 options: move away; scan the area; get equipped

C. Straight Strikes

  1. Palm-heel strike (first straight strike to be taught with left / right hand)
  2. Closing the fist and punching
  3. Straight left punch (to chin)
  4. Straight right punch (to chin)

Notes: Punches are first practiced from a semi-passive stance;
later from a general ready stance. Practitioner should understand
principles of attacks and proper way to make a fist.

D. Elbow Strikes

  1. Horizontal elbow strikes:
    1) inward; 2) sideways; 3) backward

E. Hammer Strikes

  1. Vertical:
    1) forward; 2) downward; 3) backward
  2. Horizontal:
    1) sideways; 2) backward

F. Kicks

  1. Knee strike -- upward
  2. Regular (front) kick with the ball of the foot / instep (to low or higher targets)
  3. Stomp kick -- downward
  4. Stomp kick backward - at knee level (foot position between a side and defensive back kick)

Note: Kicks should be taught first from the passive stance, later from other stances.

G. Combinations Using Learned Attacks

  1. Short combinations (with simple 2-6 strikes / kicks)

General Note: Emphasize recoiling in all attacks (especially straight punches and regular kicks).

H. Outside Defenses

  1. 360° outside defenses - with simultaneous counter-attack from a passive stance (against slaps and later against defined punches)
  2. 360° defenses as above, with finishing mode - multiple counter-attacks; move away; get equipped
  3. Defending against knife attacks - underhand hold (upwards / oriental) or overhand hold (downwards / regular / ice-pick) holds; simultaneous defense and counter-attack/s, then fast retreat

I. Inside Defenses Against Straight Punches from a Semi Passive Stance

  1. Inside defense -- with sending (vertical) palm sent diagonally forward
  2. Inside defense and counterattack - forcing the opponent's hand down (1.5 rhythm)

J. Leg Defenses Against Regular Kick

  1. Inside defenses (deflection) against a regular kick - using the shin of the front leg

K. Defending Against Front Chokes

  1. Timeline (Distance; see Section R: "Simulation and Tactics")
    • Avoidance -- move away
    • De-escalating -- verbal
    • Preventing I (don't get grabbed) - kick and/or punch
    • Preventing II (don't get grabbed) - defenses
      1.1 Preventing III (don't get grabbed) - educational block
  2. Release; pluck with 2 hooked palms and counterattack with knee/shin and/or punches
    2.1 Variation -- pluck with one hand; simultaneous counter
    with the other

K. Dealing with Falls

  1. Get up from the ground
    1. Forward, with attacks
    2. Fast disengagement
    3. Into a ready stance
  2. Forward soft break-fall (towards a wall; from a standing position; if needed, from knees)
  3. Forward roll - right shoulder for right-handed practitioners

L. Releases While on the Ground

  1. Release from a front choke; assailant kneeling by the defender's side - pluck, push and insert knee; push and kick

N. Using Common Objects as Self Defense Weapons

  1. Identifying and categorizing the use of common objects for self-defense, such as: shields, clubs, stones, sharp-edge weapons, small objects, rope and liquids.
  2. Using common objects of the shield type - such as a chair or bag.

O. Training - Watching, Awareness, Prevention

  1. Observing attacks being initiated, from a realistic distance
  2. Same as above, but also foreseeing and imagining possible reactions

P. Returning Attacker (defend -- attack -- defend)

  1. Following the defender's initial defense (a choke release; 360 defenses) and counter-attack, the opponent is still able to return and attack again, launch a circular attack (360)

Q. Simulation and Tactics

  1. Timeline (Distance) -- against an attacker attempting a front choke. See section L above.

1. Reaction Games / Fighting Games

  • Snatching a coin from open palm; touching/hitting games; pushing games; "rooster fighting"; etc.

2. Attacks and Defenses

  • Starting Position - Attacks are first done from a passive or semi-passive stance, later from a general outlet stance / ready stance; and then attacking to various directions.
    Later, practice to various heights, in retreat or while advancing, as well as from other positions, such as sitting or lying down.
  • Outside Defenses -- Against straight punches sent from the front or off-center when defender's hands are "crossed".
  • Shadow Sparring -- Footwork and positioning with basic attacks, defenses, counterattacks and combinations.

3. Four Against One

  1. Push with 2 hands or grab to choke (1 attack every 2 seconds)

Note: One can start with the "zombie" game, hands are straight.

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