THE HISTORY OF KRAV MAGA
(26.5.1910 – 9.1.1998)
Emrich "Imi" Lichtenfeld, the founder of Krav Maga (‘contact combat’), was born in 1910 in Budapest, Hungary. The family moved to Slovakia, where Imi’s father, Samuel Lichtenfeld, a former circus acrobat, joined the police force and also taught self-defense classes. Encouraged by his father, Imi also took classes and was quite successful in gymnastics, swimming, boxing and wrestling. In 1928 and 1929, Imi was Slovakia’s junior wrestling champion and national champion, respectively. In the mid-1930s, anti- Semitism was gaining force and attacks in Bratislava increased; Imi, along with other Jewish wrestlers and boxers, helped defend Jewish neighborhoods. However, he quickly realized that he needed to supplement his wrestling skills with functional street fighting techniques, and began to develop a system for practical self-defense in life-threatening situations
In 1940, Imi fled Slovakia, reaching Palestine in 1942. He worked with the Haganah and the Palmach to train soldiers and police units in the techniques he’d developed in Bratislava, including physical training, swimming and face-to-face combat and defense training. After Israel declared independence, Imi joined the Israeli Army (IDF) and was appointed the Chief Instructor for Physical Fitness and Krav Maga at the IDF School of Combat Fitness. During this time, he refined his system and, after retiring in 1964, he began teaching civilians.
At his newly established training center in Netanya, Imi taught Jujitsu and gymnastics, as well as the Krav Maga method. Over the years, the method was further developed and improved. The Krav Maga principles include ‘do what you can do but avoid injury’ and ‘use the easy way’. Within this system, Imi was able to create techniques that can be used by a wide range of people.
In 1971 Imi granted the first Black Belt in Krav Maga to Eli Avikzar, his most talented student. Avikzar continued to develop Krav Maga (now known as Krav Magen) and later founded KAMI, the Israeli Krav Magen Association.
Emrich "Imi" Lichtenfeld died on January 9, 1998 at the age of 87, in Netanya, Israel.