Krav Maga Early Beginnings

Imi Lichtenfeld

The development of the martial art that would become known as Krav Maga began with a man called Imi Lichtenfeld. He was a Slovakian Jew who spent his early life perfecting his prowess in a number of sports. These included boxing, wrestling and gymnastics. He won a number of championships including the Slovak Youth Wrestling Championship and awards in national boxing.

The Need to Protect Oneself

During the mid 1930’s there were a number of violent riots Bratislava, Czechoslovakia. These riots were carried out by two groups:

  • National socialists
  • Antisemites

Imre was caught up in the fighting and use his sporting skills to defend Jewish neighbourhoods. Imre was a great boxer and gymnast. However he soon began to realise that the skills he had learnt were not practical enough during street fights. Martial art sports are based on rules that each opponent is required to follow. Real life fights are much more brutal and have no rules.

For this reason Imre decided to develop his own unique form of fighting style. It would not be sport but a martial art used only when necessary and designed to cause as much damage and stop the fight as quickly as possible. This is where Krav Maga was born.

The fighting style incorporated some aspects of other martial arts but stripped away others. It has developed into one of the most brutal and violent fighting styles in world. Eventually Imre was forced to flee as attacks on Jews became more frequent. He settled in what was then Mandatory Palestine. It was here that he defended other Jews from attacks from Palestinians.

He began training paramilitary fighters with Krav Maga. The fighting style continued to evolve and expand to different dangerous circumstances. One of the most common training scenarios was how to defend oneself while unarmed from a knife attack.