Krav Maga, Systems in the Sand, the Legacy of Imi Lichtenfeld (Part II)

Krav Maga, Systems in the Sand, the Legacy of Imi Lichtenfeld (Part II)

In Part One From Treachery to Triumph, A Story of Imi Lichtenfeld, we explored the development of the man who was Imi Lichtenfeld. What drove him, gave his life's direction, carved out the essence that in its existence made him who he was. Here in Part Two we retake the journey now focusing on the making of Krav Maga, its birth and its many forms.

Almost a century ago, on May 26, 1910, only 37 years after Budapest itself was born, the city marked the birth of Imi Lichtenfeld; the creator of Krav Maga.

The genesis of Krav Maga as we now know it bears no official date of birth, nor does it carry any particular pedigree. From the very on-start of its conception, it was the combative expression of Imi Lichtenfeld's cumulative experiences with human violence.

A broad band, his original experiences were first gained as an internationally accredited boxer, a champion wrestler, and a noted street fighter.

These early experiences were then hammer forged into those Imi would live as an Allied soldier fighting on the Axis battlefields of Europe. Such unique metallurgy ultimately melded these experiences with over 40 years of service as the premier Kapap instructor in the British Palestine paramilitaries, and as the Chief Instructor and Grandmaster of Krav Maga instructing in and out of the Israeli Defense Force.

These experiences however were only the seeds of what would become Krav Maga.

The four cornerstones

Krav Maga is first a concept borne upon four primary cornerstones.

  1. 1930 - Krav Maga's first cornerstone is set to earth. A simple declaration of priority; "Combine a defense based on natural movements and reactions, with immediate and decisive counterattacks". This straight forward core strategy serves as the guiding light of Krav Maga's first and foremost evolution.
  2. 1935 - Krav Maga's second cornerstone is set; "Don't get hurt". Simply stated, but absolute in its intervention, it respected the caution; "An injured combatant loses ability to carry on the fight".
  3. 1960 - Krav Maga's third cornerstone is cemented into place; "Be humble". Embracing the psychological component, Krav maga emphasizes that humility and respect, in the end prevents injury, losing face, or someone turning away from Krav Maga. It expresses an understanding that an ego based interpretation of proving oneself is not a necessary component of training, and remains one best left out.
  4. Years later - Philosophy bears the face of wisdom and fosters Krav Maga's fourth and final cornerstone; "Respect for others. Avoidance of an unjustified use of force. Modesty. Dignity. Peace-loving conduct. And a strict adherence to fair play". Together these lay Krav Maga's pathway to rightful action and a justified base of response.

These four cornerstones constitute the scale on which all future modifications an re-adaptations will be measured thus ensuring the integrity of Krav Maga

A view to a birth

Gestated from the experiences of Imi Lichtenfled he began formulating what would be Krav Maga.

  • Pre-1944 - Armed with his methods, and navigating by an approach honed in the cruel streets of Bratislava, Imi already possessed a rudimentary vision of what was to become Krav Maga.
  • 1944- With his ingenuity and combative skills a color well known, and a highly respected commodity, Yitzhak Sadeh the head of the Haganah paramilitary group recruits Imi as their head instructor of Kapap.
  • During the years of 1942 to 1948, Imi serves to train the elite units of the Haganah, Pal'mach, Palyam, and various police forces. Eyes wide, Imi broadens his vision by focusing his methods on a military application.
  • 1948 - The United Nations action the birth of the State of Israel. An act that subsequently gives cause for the Arab-Israeli Wars. Fanned by war, Imi's Kapap methods are again positioned to face the challenges of the international battlefield.
  • 26 May, 1948 - Defense Minister David Ben-Gurion enacts the Israeli Defense Force. Imi is selected to serve as the Chief Instructor to the Israeli Defense Force's School of Combat Fitness. Under this authority, Imi employs this opportunity as a veritable combat lab. With the specific goal of developing and remolding his already efficient methods, his keen mind explores not only his own knowledge and experiences, but also those of his trainees. Every morsel of this newly formed wealth is distilled and scrutinized.
  • Viewed through the lens of training soldiers, the reformation had to concede to every requirement of sex, size, shape, and ability. This new system would have to enable the young men and elite soldiers in the best of physical and mental condition, but also the greying reserve units.
  • At this time in IDF history, basic training consisted of a 3 week stint. The effective development of soldiers demands a system that could be learnt quickly. It requires a fighting capability that rapidly becomes intuitive, and can be instantly engaged without hesitation, under any circumstances. The end of this exploration is a wholly new, stand alone, system of fighting. This birth is to become known officially as, Krav Maga.

Bullets, blades and batons

The recognition that cold intent arms itself with dangers greater than mere hands relentlessly occupies Imi Lichtenfeld's mind.

Maintaining his convictions, Imi believes that previous to World War II, the standard practices for hand to hand combat systems did not effectively address the reality of armed attack. He is of the opinion that soldiers who learned these methods were left precariously ill prepared for the actualities of battle. In like manner Imi believes that Israel's future guardians will unquestionably face an ever deepening range of firearms, explosives, and threats as they manoeuvre further into very veiled modern world. These soldiers would need an appropriate protection. This lacking demanded a reconsideration of Krav Maga's methods. Prompted by such convictions, Krav Maga is reformulated.

The result is an in-depth study of relevant armed and unarmedconflict. The outcome, a formulated Krav Maga, much less dependent on physical strength, or any of the other classical mainframes such as punching, kicking, grappling or throwing.

This new form of Krav Maga also possesses the capacity to defeat the diametrically opposed attacks of both surprise and those assaults where an opponent's and one's own intentions are clearly visible.

Now thus reengineered, Krav Maga is reset to instill the proficiencies of quick response under any given condition, and rapid neutralization. This combination is accomplished by modifying Krav maga's fight strategy. Revamping it to encompass movement, defensive posturing, counter-attacks, coordinated multiple attacks, and overall combat tactics.

Third party protection skills for preventing or overcoming violent attacks are identified as Krav Maga's next modification. In completion, these modifications place Krav Maga on a whole new scale. In retrospect, very few traditional martial arts having been further developed within theintroduction of competitive and sport applications lacked a defensive form. However Krav Maga is held in sharp contrast, as it is based strictly upon the scientific and dynamic principles of the human body. So, defensive study is not held with the same regard.

  • 1960 - While instructing defensive bayonet tactics to a unit of Ethiopia's Royal Police Guard, Imi realizes several of these trainees are actually trying to gut him. At the next training session, he arrives well prepared. Correction to this condition was a blunt rectification by way of an emphasised full force kick, slamming his shaken attacker to the floor. All further tests of ability, were thus avoided.

    Although rectified on site, this incident prompts Imi to target proper attitude. "Be humble" Imi would say, emphasizing that humility and respect, prevents injury, losing face, or turning away from Krav Maga. Proving oneself, it was determined, is not a positive contribution to Krav Maga.

In the simple address of attitude, the face of Krav Maga is changed. A change that proves to enhance Krav Maga's affectivity of training.

Sharing the reins

Undertaking a new score Imi Lichtenfeld's world evolves and opens its creative doors.

  • 1964 - Imi retires as Chief Instructor from the military. In doing so he returns himself to the people of Israel. To this new face, Krav Maga is again re-sculptured. This time to meet the combative requirements of police forces and ordinary civilians.

In preparation for this expansion Imi constructs a foundation. Teams of Krav Maga instructors are trained. Each new instructor receiving official accreditation from both Imi and Israel's Ministry of Education. Imi then creates two training centers, one in Tel-Aviv and the second in Netanya. Now with his system specifically formulated and backed by qualified trainers, anyone who desires the ability to survive an attack while sustaining minimal harm, will be able to acquire it.

  • 1965 - At this tme Krav Maga had no rank or grade. Achieved via a calculated influx of echelon and technique from Jigoro Kano's Judo, Krav Maga receives its fourth upgrade. For the next 3 years trainees' grades will be determined largely by their knowledge of Judo.
  • 1968 - Colored belts, gradients, and qualifying tests convert Judo's echelon system to Krav Maga's. From this point forward, tests and rank are based solely on the strength of a practitioner's Krav Maga skills.
  • 1968 - Eli Avikzar, Imi's principal student begins to learn Morihei Ueshiba's Aikido. This exposure to Aikido will later prove to be the gestation of another reinvention of the Krav Maga system.
  • 1970 -Taking another step towards entrenchment, the first State recognized Krav Maga instructor's course is launched.

With the advent of remolding the method, instructors are charged with refitting the system to address the professional fields of law enforcement, executive protection, security specialists, and of course, ordinary civilians. This refit provides them with a reliable system to avoid or end a violent conflict.

To add proximity and access, Krav Maga instructors were encouraged to embed themselves as professional instructors within their available military, security, and police units. Civilian instructors also take measures to increase their availability to the civilian population. This development opens Krav Maga to greater exposure and increased accessibility.

  • May 1st 1971 - Krav Maga's first Black Belt. Personally granted by Imi Lichtenfeld himself Eli Avikzar becomes the first recipient of the first Black belt in the history of Krav Maga.
  • 1971 - Having left to further his study of Aikido in France, a Brown Belt certified Eli returns home to Israel, and to a very receptive Imi. In their personal laboratory they stitch together Eli's aikido methods and counter defenses, adopting them into Krav Maga. This remodelling constitutes Krav Maga's sixth transformation and its final rebirth under the steerage of Imi Lichtenfeld.

Further change would now come under the well versed hands of Eli Avikzar and Haim Gidon, blessed by an overview by Imi. For Krav Maga, Imi's future holds greater attention to its advisory and promotion.

  • 1972 - Israel's Wingate Institute for Physical Education and Sports "School for Trainers", a world-renowned training center for Israeli national and Olympic athletes under the auspices of the Israeli Ministry of Sport and Education, offers the first civilian Krav Maga course. Through this portal Krav Maga will now officially access a whole new world.
  • 1974 - Imi retires from actively teaching and passes administrative responsibility of the Krav Maga training center in Netanya to Eli Avikzar.
  • 1976 - Eli joins the permanent force of Israeli Defense Force, as head of the Krav Maga section. Here Eli continues to evolve Krav Maga within the IDF.
  • 1977 - In further pursuit of Aikido, Eli goes to Germany where he achieves the rank of Black Belt in aikido under the European Aikido Federation. Never far from the heart, Eli returns home again, to Israel and to Krav Maga.
  • October of1978 - Imi's focus again changes. After receiving numerous awards, with aid of his senior students and the devotion to promote Krav Maga throughout Israel, the Ha Agudah L'Krav Maga Yisraeli or the Israeli Krav Maga Association (IKMA) is established in his hometown Netanya. The association is to provide a suitable base for the promotion and dissemination of Krav Maga; throughout Israel and now throughout around the world.

At this same year Imi appoints his senior student Avi Moyal as IKMA Chairman.

  • 1979 - Eli grants black belts to trainees Avi Avisidon and Eyal Yanilov thus appointing his first two instructors.
  • 1981 - Eli, Imi, and a team of trainees travel to the U.S. for a 45-day performance tour.
  • 1983 - The journey results in the first ever American group to undertake a 3 week Krav Maga instructors training course, the first to train on Israeli soil.
  • 1984 - The first IKMA Black Belts ever granted to non-Israelis. The Israeli Krav Maga Association awards Black belts to two American trainees, Allen Feldman and Darrin Levine.
  • 1985 - The first IKMA 8th Dan is awarded to Eli Avikzar by Imi himself.
  • Over the coming years, the IKMA continues to expand. More Krav Maga schools were opened. Reinforcing the IKMA's intention of spreading Krav Maga throughout the world.
  • 1985 - Eli returns to the U.S.A.. As a representative of the Isreali Krav Maga Association, he has been charged to speak before of the United States Department of Police.
  • 1987 - Los-Angeles police department becomes the first U.S. police department to undertake training in Krav Maga. The course is taught by none other than Eli Avikzar himself.

In the same year, Eli recreates Krav Maga transforming it into a new form parallel to Krav Maga. This new form comes to be known as Krav Magen.

  • 1987 - Eli retires as the Chief Krav Maga instructor. Up to this point in time, Eli had personally trained somewhere in the vicinity of 80,000 male soldiers and 12,000 female soldiers

Possessing the rare pedigree of being the last head instructor to have studied directly with both Lichtenfeld and Avikzar, Boaz Aviram becomes the third person to hold the position.

In the years post Eli's military retirement the Krav Maga's role of within the Israeli army continues to evolve as it does to this day.

  • Eli Avikzar retires from the Israeli Krav Maga Association with Imi's blessing and founds K.A.M.I. - the Israeli Krav Magen Association. Today, K.A.M.I. has over 40 branches within Israeli. It stands approved by the Israeli Ministry of Education as the recommended method for schools, and authorized by the Wingate Institute, the Wingate College, "Na'amat" women's organization, and P.E. teachers.
  • 1994 - Awarded his 8th Dan IKMA Black Belt, Haim Gidon was nominated by the Israeli Krav maga Association's General Assembly of Members and Instructors, as the Grandmaster of the IKM system. To this nomination Haim Gidon stands today presiding over the IKMA Gidon System.
  • 1999 - Haim Gidon is awarded his 10th Dan IKMA Black Belt.
  • 16 May 2004 - Eli Avikzar passes away in Netanya

Today and tomorrow

As the winds of change continue to morph and mend the landscape, Krav Maga remains true to its dynamic nature, evolving in never ending adaptation to the inclinations of the world.

  • The Wingate Institute for Physical Education and Sports remains to this day the ultimate authority for martial arts in Israel.
  • The Israeli Defense Force has held an annual internal "best of the best" Krav Maga competition since May 2013
  • To this day Krav Maga is the official style of the Israeli Defense Force, the Israeli Security Forces, the Israeli Police department and Military Police, and the Anti-Terrorism Forces.
  • Krav Maga, in true form with Imi's national design, remains to this day an integral part of elementary and high school education for Israeli youth, and a national form of self-defense.
  • IKMA Grandmaster Haim Gidon now a 10th Dan IKMA black belt continues to carry on Imi's dream to empower all Israeli citizens, providing them security as they tend to their daily life in sometimes dangerous and violent surroundings.
  • IKMA Grandmaster Haim Gidon, , having received authorization directing from Imi, remains to this day the sole possessor of the only right to grant 9th and 10th Dan IKMA black belts.
  • Grandmaster Gidon continues to enhance and develop all aspects of the self defense system.
  • Currently there are several splinter groups whose founders have origin in the IKMA who now practice their own interpretation of Krav Maga. With no intention to accredit or discredit these individual interpretations, none have received accreditation from either IMKA nor KAMI. As such they remain unsanctioned. The single exception to this is KAMI itself. The Israeli Krav Magen Association, with the direct blessings of Imi Lichtenfeld, was founded external to the IKMA, and remains the sole organization to achieve this honor.

Krav Maga in a nutshell

Krav Maga's Fundamentals:

  • Aggression
  • Neutralization
  • Simultaneous defensive and offensive maneuvers.

Krav Maga Four Basic Principles:

  1. Be aware of everything that is happening around you.
  2. Simultaneously change from defending to attacking as quickly as possible, including performing both at the same time.
  3. Use items around you as weapons.
  4. Do as much damage in as little time as possible.

Krav Maga Tactics and Strategies:

  • Maintaining situational awareness during threat to realize escape and evasion routes, assess potential secondary attackers, to identify objects that could be brought to bear, and other such concerns.
  • Pre-emptive attack or Immediate counterattack.
  • Simultaneous attack and defence
  • Targeting the most vulnerable points of the body. E.g. the eyes, neck or throat, face, solar plexus, groin, ribs, knee, foot, fingers, liver, etc.
  • Maximum effectiveness and efficiency in order to a rapid neutralization of an opponent

Karv Maga Supplemental Training, may also cover;

  • How to development and employ situational awareness to maintain an understanding of one's surroundings
  • Learning to understand the psychology of a street confrontation
  • How to identify potential threats prior to an attack occurs. It may also cover
  • How to deal with verbal threat in order to deter a physical conflict
How to deal with physical threat in order to deter a physical conflict

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