What Is Krav Maga?


Krav Maga was initially developed as a self-defence system for the Israel Defense Forces (IDF), focusing on counter-attack, attack and threat neutralisation strategies that are practical and efficient. Due to its emphasis on real-world self-defence techniques, Krav Maga is recommended by experts in martial arts, as well as by military personnel, police officers and fighters of various styles. Beginners can immediately appreciate and benefit from the logical techniques and practical uses of Krav Maga, while advanced practitioners aim to increase their physical power and to refine and strengthen their responses to a wide variety of threats.

Krav Maga is a Hebrew phrase meaning "contact combat". The IDF, the Israel Police and security services in Israel officially train in Krav Maga, using its techniques in combat and in self- defence. Public schools and other education centres in Israel also comprehensively teach Krav Maga. 

Krav Maga began to spread from Israel in the early 1980s, becoming part of tactical self-defence training for police, security and military in nations across the world. Classes teaching Krav Maga to the public can be found internationally and can be made suitable for all ages, backgrounds and skill levels.

The skills taught in Krav Maga have been specifically adapted to respond to real-world threats. Techniques are selected for efficiency and refined when necessary; and have been proven to work in a variety of situations, including on the streets and in combat zones. Krav Maga is primarily an aggressive and direct form of self-defence.

What Makes Krav Maga Different?

There are many different forms of martial arts and combat sports. Krav Maga is neither. Krav Maga is not aimed towards achieving perfect form or at winning matches. Our focus is surviving violent encounters. 

Krav Maga is based on offering the most efficient form of defence against dangerous situations and real life threats. Physical attacks addressed in training include avoiding common grabs, strikes and chokes, as well as dealing with assailants armed with weapons. Krav Maga offers methods that may be applied in hostage situations, as well as skills for responding and protecting other people in danger.  

Training includes learning to protect in different circumstances and positions including while moving, seated, grounded or standing. Training in Krav Maga assists not only with improving skills in physical self-defence, but also with responding to the shock and stress of an attack.

Students learn how to use easily accessible weapons and items, such as pens, backpacks and chairs. At advanced levels of training practitioners practice to fight against multiple opponents, to handle confined and open spaces, or to fight in water. 

Krav Maga is not focused on learning and using specific procedures and rules for fighting. Krav Maga includes drills and exercises that will be physically as well as psychologically challenging, ensuring that practitioners are well-practiced in handling the stress of real situations. The ultimate objective in teaching Krav Maga is that practitioners will learn practical and efficient techniques of self-defence, ensuring that the likelihood of their safety in all situations is increased.

Imi Sde-Or – Lichtenfeld

The Founding Father and Grand Master of Krav Maga

The Second World War

During the mid-1930s, anti-Semitic and fascist groups started rising around Bratislava, which started to harm the Jewish community and upset the public order. Imi banded together with other young Jews and became their unofficial leader.

All the youths following Imi had backgrounds in wrestling, boxing and weightlifting and wanted to stop all the fascists that were entering the city’s Jewish quarter. Imi continued his efforts until he left the country in 1940.

Imi left for Israel, known as Palestine then, on the Pentcho. He was lucky to be on the last ship to get to Israel after the Nazi movement moved throughout central Europe.



1910-1998 The Early Years

Imrich Lichtenfeld – or Imi Sde-Or (Light Field in Hebrew) was born in Budapest in 1910 but moved to Bratislava, Slovakia where he grew up. His family respected the subjects of Central European education, sports and law and he was brought up to respect them too. Imi’s father Samuel joined the traveling circus at the age of 13, where he remained for the next 20 years, showing off his strength through weightlifting, wrestling and other events.

Imi soon became active in various sports because of his father, including swimming, gymnastics, boxing and, of course, wrestling. In 1928, Imi came first in the Slovakian Youth Wrestling Championship and then won the adult version just a year later in the light- and middle-weight categories. That same year – in 1929 – he won the international gymnastics and national boxing championships. His athletic abilities grew over the next 10 years, while he concentrated on competing and training in wrestling.



Even though Imi retired, he continued to modify and help Krav Maga grow for the civilians. His form of self defence soon became something that everyone could do – it didn’t matter about strength, size, fitness or gender. Civilians would be able to protect themselves against attacks and reduce their risk of injury. Krav Maga would work for any reason for attack.

Imi created two centers for training to help with this in two cities: Netanya and Tel Aviv.

Over 70-years-old in 1981, Imi went to the United States with high ranking instructors to show off his fighting style. This led to instructors from the USA traveling to Israel a few months later to be trained. Imi’s closest friend, Mr. Eyal Yanilov, instructed the course with the help of Mr. Reuven Maimon.

The Creation of Krav Maga

Imi started training fighters in his home from 1944 using his strengths of swimming, knife-wielding, physical fitness, defence against knife attacks and wrestling. He used experience from resisting the fascist groups while in Slovakia. He helped to train elite groups like Palmach and Hagana (groups which led to the Israeli Defense Force) and police officers.

Once the IDF was formed in 1948, along with Israel officially becoming a country, Imi was made the Chief Instructor for Krav Maga and Physical Fitness. This took place at the IDF School of Combat Fitness until 1968 when he finally retired. Hand-to-hand combat and self-defence were developed and refined in Imi’s unique style over the 20 years that he actively served.



Imi continued to supervise the training personally, even as he grew old. He would work with the highest ranking instructors and students all around the world to make sure his system developed and grew. He monitored the progress of trainees and documented the achievements, while sharing his own knowledge and letting them know his character more.

Imi Sde-Or was a teacher and a fighter as well as a great person. He died on January 9, 1998, just five hours after reaching the hospital.