History of Krav Maga

Imi Lichtenfeld, the founder of Krav Maga, originally developed the system for the Israeli Military as an effective method of close-quarter combat. The Israeli Defense Force (IDF) needed a close-quarter combat system that was easy to learn, easy to remember under the stress of combat, and would be effective regardless of a person's age, gender or physical strength. Imi Lichtenfeld with his reputation as an experienced fighter and trainer was asked by the IDF to develop a system that would meet their requirements and could be taught to every IDF soldier. He started by creating a no-nonsense fighting system that was based on the body's natural reactions. Drawing upon his personal experience as a fighter and combat veteran he then selected the simplest and most effective techniques to form the foundation of his system. From there he developed a system of instruction that would revolutionize martial arts training. The system he developed, Krav Maga, has been combat tested and proven to be combat effective time and time again by the soldiers of the IDF. Krav Maga since its development in 1948 remains the standard combat system taught to all Israeli soldiers to this day and stands as a testament to the genius of its founder Imi Lichtenfeld.


After Imi Lichtenfeld’s retirement from the IDF in 1964 he moved to Natanya Israel where he opened his own gym where he taught people of all walks of life the system of Krav Maga. As time progressed Imi Lichtenfeld adopted a belt ranking system and established the instructors certification courses, encouraging his instructors to teach his unique system of self defense to law enforcement, military units, and those involved with executive security. In 1978 Imi Lichtenfeld along with his high ranking students formed the International Krav Maga Association (IKMA) to assist in preserving and promoting the system of Krav Maga. During this time he always maintained close relations with the IDF which recognized him as the father of Krav Maga. In 1998 Imi Lichtenfeld died at the age of 87.  Today his teachings and spirit survive through the art he dedicated his life to developing, Krav Maga.


Over time, a number of instructors broke off from the IKMA in order to form their own organizations and pursue developing the art of Krav Maga according to their understanding of the principles as established by Imi Lichtenfeld. Sadly this has led to much infighting among different Krav Maga organizations each claiming to possess the true Krav Maga; however, a close examination of each Krav Maga organization reveals that the major differences between them have more to do with politics, money, and egos than with tactics or strategies.


In addition to the plethora of Krav Maga organizations that have formed over the years, there have also been a number of IDF instructors that have retired from the military and formed their own Krav Maga organizations. Many of these instructors were military combat instructors who taught at Wingate, Israel's elite training facility for special units of the IDF. These instructors often have little or no ties to Imi Lichtenfeld's IKMA; however, they are recognized in the Krav Maga world as some of the leading experts in the system.


Today Krav Maga is taught and practiced by different people all around the world. Military units like the system's no-nonsense approach to combat; law enforcement agencies like the fact the system can be learned in relatively a short amount of time cutting down on training costs; and civilians like it because it is simple and effective. Born in the hostile environment of the Middle-East, and battle tested and combat proven by the Israeli Military, Krav Maga continues to increase in popularity around the world as the most effective system of self defense.