Krav Maga’s Founder: Imi Lichtenfeld

ImiLichtenfeldEnlargedKrav Maga was developed in the 1930s by Imi Sde-Or (Lichtenfeld).

Imi was born on May 26 1910 in Budapest and grew up in Bratislava. Through Imi’s father, he had an unusual upbringing which shaped the person he was to become. His father was a chief inspector on the Bratislava police force, the owner of a local gymnasium, a self-defence instructor and a former circus acrobat. With his father’s encouragement, Imi become an award-winning athlete with expertise in a wide range of sports, including swimming, boxing, wrestling and gymnastics.

Growing up in Bratislava, Imi was active in defending his Jewish neighbourhood and quickly realised that sport had little in common with real life-threatening situations and he began developing a system of practical self-defence techniques. Imi drew on his athleticism and knowledge of a range of martial arts and fighting systems to create a system designed specifically to provide effective solutions for real-life dangers.

By 1944, Imi had arrived in Palestine and been recognised for his fighting abilities. He began training fighters in physical fitness, swimming, wrestling, use of knives and defences against knife attacks. During this period, Imi trained several elite units of the Hagana and Palmach as well as groups of police officers. In the late 1940s, Imi was appointed the Chief Instructor for physical fitness and close quarters combat in the Israeli Defence Forces and his system became the fighting system of choice now known as Krav Maga. Over the coming years, the techniques and tactics Imi devised were constantly being tested on the battlefields of the Middle East which lead to a more and more efficient system of self-defence.

In 1964, Imi retired from the Israeli military and began adapting Krav Maga to civilian needs so that it could supply solutions to ordinary men, women and children who might face an aggressive encounter.

Since then, his system has been adopted by specialist military corps, law enforcement agencies and third party protection units around the world, and over the last few decades it has also enjoyed a surge in popularity for civilian, women’s and children’s self-defence training around the world.

During his lifetime Imi strived to perfect and proliferate Krav Maga around the world. The principles formulated by Imi and his contemporaries still form the basis of Krav Maga today. It was Imi’s hope that Krav Maga would give each person to the knowledge and skills so that ‘one may walk in peace’.

Imi described the system of Krav Maga as follows:

“The concept of the art is based upon the simplicity of movement and conservation of energy. The system of Krav Maga is without compromise, and it is efficient. It does not have rules or codes of sportsmanship, because abiding by rules in a real situation is limiting to the practitioner. The practitioner must learn to target the most vulnerable parts of his opponent in order to neutralize him the quickest way possible and prevent him from doing damage. The fundamental motives of the art are: don’t get hurt, be humble, and conduct yourself appropriately (with dignity). Reach proficiency so that you won’t have to take lives. In other words, the first thing that a practitioner must do is attempt to avoid the confrontation, however, if he is being attacked, he must respond with a minimum of equal force, and with a minimum of equal impact, in order to neutralize the threat and extract himself from danger.”

Imi passed away on 9 January 1998 at the age of 88.