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Krav Maga

The man,The Legend, The History - Imi Lichtenfeld
(The creation of Krav Maga)

Imrich ("Imi") Sde-Or* is credited with opening the first public school for Krav Maga and is a big reason that Krav Maga is what it is today. He was born in 1910 in Budapest,  Hungarywhich at the time was one of the centers of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. He grew up in Bratislava, the capital of Slovakia, in a home where sports, law, and Central European education were equally respected. Samuel Lichtenfeld, Imi's father, was undoubtedly quite a unique figure. At age 13 he joined a traveling circus, and for the next 20 years engaged in wrestling, weightlifting, and various demonstrations of strength. For him the circus was also a school, where he met people involved in a wide variety of sports, including some quite unusual ones. These people taught Samuel what they knew - including various martial arts.

With his father's encouragement, Imi became active in a wide range of sports. He first excelled in swimming, and subsequently in gymnastics, wrestling, and boxing. In 1928, Imi won the Slovakian Youth Wrestling Championship, and in 1929 the adult championship (in the light and middle weight division). That 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 thirties, conditions began to change in Bratislava. Fascist and anti-Semitic groups appeared, determined to upset the public order and harm the city's Jewish community. Imi became the un-crowned leader of a group of young Jews, most of them with a background in boxing, wrestling, and weightlifting. This group attempted to block the anti-Semitic bands from entering the Jewish quarter and wreaking havoc there. Thus, between 1936 and 1940 Imi took part in countless violent......

A story has been told, that one time,  Nazi hooligans  came  into the university hitting and punching Jews. Suddenly a young man showed up and confronted them by hitting  and biting them and then disappeared as quickly as he had appeared. The story spread and  one name stood out above the crowd.  "Imi". In  1940, having become a thorn in the side of the anti-Semitic  local authorities as a result of his activities, Imi left his home, family, and friends and boarded the last immigrant ship that succeeded in escaping the Nazis' clutches. The vessel was an old riverboat named Pentcho, which had been converted to carry hundreds of refugees from Central Europe to the land of Israel (then called Palestine). The gripping story of the Pentcho and its passengers is told in detail in the book Odyssey by John Birman (published by Simon & Shuster, New York, 1984). Imi's private odyssey aboard that ship and after wards, which was filled with thrilling episodes, took about two years. At one point on his journey, thr ship hit a rock.  Imi went with a small boat looking for help and eventually was found and taken by the British to Egypt. There Imi he had several surgeries as he got an infection on his face that caused paralysis.

He was asked by Yitzchak Sade to help the "netotim" in the hagana (one of the para-military groups, that operated in Israel prior to the founding of the state and creation of the IDF) and teaching them self defense . In 1944 Imi   arrived in Palestine and began training fighters in his areas of expertise: physical fitness, swimming, wrestling, use of the knife, and defenses against knife attacks. During this period, Imi trained several elite units of the Hagana and Palmach (striking force of the Hagana and forerunner of the special units of the IDF), including the Pal-Yam, as well as groups of police officers. In 1948, when the State of Israel was founded and the IDF was formed, Imi 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. Imi personally trained the top soldiers.

During his service he married Ilana and adopted her child as he did not have his own child he always said: I do not need children, you are my sons "(his students).

After he finished his active duty, Imi began adapting and modifying Krav Maga for civilian needs. The method was formulated to suit everyone - men and women, boys or girls, who might need it to save their lives or survive an attack while sustaining minimal harm. To disseminate his method, Imi established two training centers, one in Tel Aviv and the other in Netanya. Among his students was Yitzchak Rabin. (Former PM of Israel, assassinated by a Jewish fanatic in 1994)

Even during his last years, Imi continued to personally supervise the training of those who had attained high ranks in Krav Maga, and to spend time with the instructors in Israel and abroad. Imi monitored the trainees' progress and achievements, captivating them with his unique charisma and imparting them with his lifelong lexicon of knowledge in Krav Maga and self defense.

Imi, a teacher, a warrior and a great human being, passed away in the early morning hours of January 9th 1998. Thus the legend was dead but not his legacy.

What is Krav Maga?


Krav Maga is a practical and tactical system which teaches how to prevent, and overcome all kinds of violence and attacks. Krav Maga prepares individuals for situations that may require self-defense for one’s self or loved ones as well as develop situational awareness to help avoid such situations from the beginning. Krav Maga was developed in Israel, under realistic and demanding a conditions.

Krav Maga is a horizontal system with a unique and logical approach. It is easy to learn and retain, with easily performed natural and intuitive movements.  It is very practical to use under stressful conditions as the moves are built off the normal untrained reactions that people generally have. The moves also use the quickest simplest movements and often use aggression and surprise to both simultaneously defend and attack at the same time.

Krav Maga prepares Individuals to function in all circumstances and scenarios, in all combat and fighting environments, according to their needs and risks they may face on the job or in life. Krav Maga helps individuals develop tactical, physical and mental awareness and encourages constant growth and improvement.

Krav Maga is NOT a martial art; it is a mentality and a SELF DEFENCE system. There are no competitions. It is meant for real life and teaches you how to survive all situations so that you can go home to your family.


And lastly, it is the simplest, most effective form of self defense in the world!

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