About the Israeli Martial Arts

To understand Israeli martial arts you need to understand a little of their history and why the art was developed.  From here you may then be able to understand why it must also continue to evolve.

Israeli Martial Arts has a history that started in the 1940s. During this time the Jewish people were under attack from several sectors and as such they were forced to defend themselves, not so much for their culture or life style, but simply to survive. For these reasons you will find that any genuine Israeli Martial Arts organisations will not use belts and do not bow to their opponents. This art was developed for "real life" survival, not for sport. We have far too much respect for our opponents to lower our eyes.

There are many famous people and others who aren't so famous who contributed to the history of the Israeli martial arts but probably the most recognised is Imi Lichtenfeld. Imi grew up in Bratislava. As a successful boxer and wrestler who competed at national and international levels. Imi, along with other boxers and wrestlers were able to defend their Jewish neighbourhoods against fascist gangs in the anti-Semitic riots of the 1930’s. He quickly realized that sport has little in common with real combat and began developing a system of techniques for practical self-defence in life threatening situations. In the 1940s, after serving in the Czech Legion Imi changed his name to Imi Sde-Or, a direct translation of his surname into Hebrew, and moved to Israel where Israel’s early leaders immediately recognized Imi’s fighting prowess and innovativeness. Here he began to train Israel's first fighting units the Palmach, Palyam, and Haganah, the then forerunners to the IDF in military close quarters combat, or as was termed then Kapap meaning Krav Panim El Panim - Face To Face Combat. The training included fighting fitness, bayonet tactics, sentry removal, knife fighting, stick fighting, and any other military-oriented problems that required a creative solution. After the establishment of Israel in 1948, he became the Chief Instructor of Physical Training in the Israel Defence Forces and it was during this time that his system came to be called Krav Maga.

The road to the development of Israeli martial arts has been a long bloody road, filled with the deaths of many of those who helped to develop it. The knowledge gained in developing the Arts of Kapap and Krav Maga came from not only the experience of successful operations against terrorist attacks, but many times it came by making tragic mistakes. For these reasons it is said that the lessons learnt in the Israeli Martial Arts are written in their blood but it was after these mistakes occurred that better techniques were developed to avoid making the same tragic mistakes again and this is why the Israeli Martial Arts are about evaluation and evolution.


Today the weapons of warfare and self-defence have evolved from earlier techniques and strategies. For example before gunpowder there were spears and bows and arrows, today we have suicide bombers and terrorists ready to sacrifice all for their believes. Who knows what may exist tomorrow and what future threats may develop.


"If you want peace, prepare for war" Imi Lichtenfeld... "Krav Maga: How to Defend Yourself Against Armed Assault"


For some time now Krav Maga has become a buzz word in the self-defence community. Instructors and clubs recognise that the name alone attracts students looking for an effective and easy to learn self-defence system and as such, particularly over the last year the "British this" and the "Association of that" along with the "Federation of all being" have formed in an attempt to officialize their clubs and to give credence to their systems. In the world of martial arts and self-defence there is a great deal of illusion and fakery. Even the various Federations and Associations born in Israel argue amongst themselves with regards to each others qualifications to teach Krav Maga and as such irregardless of paying £5.00 or £50.00 all students should check the qualifications of A) their instructors, B) their clubs and C) their Federations/Associations. Recently during a conversation about our next trip to Israel a new student told how he was gutted to had just missed out on some Krav Maga Training in Transylvania. I had to remind the student Krav Maga does not come from Transylvania, or for that matter Poland or Europe. It comes from Israel, If you want to train Krav Maga go to source, if you cant go to source then make sure your club or instructor does!

In the Israeli martial arts it is said 'It is better to remain a student of reality than a master of illusion.