» Imi Lichtenfeld

Founder Imi Lichtenfeld

Founder Imi Lichtenfeld (Sde-Or), (1910-1998) is krav maga’s founder. Imi was born in Budapest, Hungary and later resided in Bratislava, Slovakia. Imi’s father, Samuel Lichtenfeld, joined a professional circus where he excelled at wrestling and boxing. After developing extensive knowledge in fitness training along with wrestling, boxing, and mixed-skill fighting, Samuel joined the police as a detective and had the leading arrest record. Samuel also opened the gym “Hercules” where Imi began his training. Imi rapidly distinguished himself as a champion in judo, boxing, wrestling, gymnastics and ball room dancing among other athletic pursuits.

In 1935 Imi visited Palestine with a team of Jewish wrestlers to participate in the Maccabi games but could not participate because of a broken rib that resulted from his training while on route. This led the fundamental krav maga precept, “do not get hurt” while training. Imi returned to Czechoslovakia to face increasing anti-Semitic violence. Imi organized a group of young Jews to protect his community. On the streets, Imi acquired hard won experience and the crucial understanding of the differences between sport fighting and street fighting. He developed his fundamental self-defense principle: “Use natural movements and reactions” for a defense combined with an immediate and decisive counterattack. From this evolved the refined theory of “simultaneous defense and attack” while “never occupying two hands in the same defensive movement.”

Imi arrived in Israel after serving with great notoriety in the Czech Legion. Israel’s early leaders immediately recognized Imi’s fighting prowess and innovativeness. Imi began to train Israel’s first fighting units the Palmach, Palyam, and Haganah in military close quarters combat. This training included fighting fitness, bayonet tactics, sentry removal, knife fighting, stave/stick fighting and any other military oriented problems that required a creative solution. After retiring from the Israeli Defense Forces in 1964 as chief instructor for physical fitness and hand-to-hand combat (which became recognized as the system “krav maga”) Imi established the Israeli Krav Maga Association (IKMA) in 1978 to promote krav maga throughout the world for both civilians and law enforcement. Imi focused both on teaching professionals and adapting his system to provide ordinary civilians – men, women, and children – with solutions to avoid and/or end a violent encounter. Haim Gidon, the highest-ranking individual in the world at 10th degree black-belt, heads the organization as Imi’s appointed successor. (For more about krav maga founder Imi Lichtenfeld please visit www.kravmagaisraeli.com and click “Founder.”)