HISTORY OF KRAV MAGA
Israeli Krav Maga originated as a basic hand-to-hand combat and physical fitness system that was designed to be taught quickly and retained with minimum follow up training. It evolved out of the techniques that were already being taught to the Hagganah and Palmach (Jewish guerilla forces fighting in what would become Israel) by Imi Lichtenfeld before the IDF (Israeli Defense Forces) was even founded. It focused on a small number of techniques that were aggressive, simple,
and appropriate for the basic soldiers needs, including the targeting of vulnerable body parts and plenty of rifle based combatives. It’s focus on intensity and aggression not only helped toughen the raw recruits, but it also served to condition their bodies, making them physically and mentally tougher and preparing them to face a numerically superior enemy that already had them surrounded. Because time and resources were scarce, the original iteration of Krav Maga was necessarily brief, consisting of a two week course that was added into basic recruits training and overseen by Imi himself along with several of his hand picked instructors as well as a junior Instructor cadre that received their training certification through Imi at the prestigious Wingate Academy in Netanya, Israel. The vast majority of these junior Instructors were chosen because of their athletic prowess or prior achievements in combat sports such as Judo, Karate or Wrestling. These instructors were not operational in the sense of combat operations; they were a dedicated instructor cadre whose only job was to train recruits.
When Imi retired from the military he wanted to expand Krav Maga into a full martial art and educational system for civilians. He chose his top student Eli Avikzar to replace him as the top KM instructor in the IDF, and in the early 1960’s, Imi opened his first school in Netanya, Israel to train civilians in his newly expanded Krav Maga curriculum. While Krav Maga grew out of the military and is still highly influenced by these roots, it truly blossomed as a civilian system. Several of Imi’s first Black Belts, such as Eli Avikzar and Ralphy Algrissi also held black belts in Judo and Aikido, and these arts continued to influence the development of Krav Maga throughout the 1960s. Krav Maga in civilian life was never “watered down”. In fact, its civilian evolution is quite the opposite of “watered down”, as it allows the students to learn more techniques and principles in order to cover a wider variety of threats. Krav Maga, since it’s inception has been intended to serve as a blueprint, constantly evolving to better deal with constantly evolving threats. What was never intended to change, were the principles of Krav Maga.
These principals are based on several simple concepts, including simultaneous defense and attack, controlling the enemy and the enemy’s weapons, the utilization of constant, linear attack angles, and training from a position of disadvantage. If you are watching a Krav Maga demonstration and it looks like a dance, or contains several overcomplicated movements that require exceptional athleticism, walk away, because that’s not real Krav Maga. Over the last several years, there’s been a flood of Krav Maga Instructors that use the name Krav Maga, but do not teach the system according the basic tenets set forth by Imi.
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