While Krav Maga may seem revolutionary, its amazing influence has been changing lives for almost 100 years. Since the 1930s, Krav Maga has been used as an effective and powerful self-defense system. This martial art was originally a form of Israeli self-defense, created by Imi Lichtenfeld in order to help members of the Jewish community protect themselves from brutal Nazi forces.
Imi Lichtenfeld was born in Budapest in 1910, but grew up in Bratislava. Imi was exposed to a wide range of fighting and fitness techniques at a very young age, all of which would help him develop the Israeli self-defense program. His father was his chief influence, serving as the chief inspector for the Bratislava police force and performing as a circus acrobat.
Like his father, Imi soon developed a knack for a multitude of skills. Training at his father’s gym, he learned boxing and wrestling. He also received numerous national and international awards recognizing his accomplishment within these two areas. As the world progressed into the terrors of World War II, Imi found his community threatened by fascists. In order to protect the Jewish people, Imi used his street fighting experience and his father’s training to form a brand new technique. It wasn’t long before Imi realized that street fighting and competitive fighting are incredibly different, and he was forced to further hone Krav Maga into an intense, Israeli self-defense system.
As Krav Maga developed, the influence of many other fighting styles manifested within the craft.
- Boxing – One of Imi’s specialities, boxing, is very apparent in the modern day teachings of Krav Maga. This is a great fighting style to practice when training in Krav Maga, as it increases agility, strengthens footwork, and helps practitioners learn to perfect their strikes.
- Savate – Also known as French boxing or French kickboxing, Savate is a traditional French martial art. Savate is similar to Krav Maga in its encouragement to use the hands and feet as weapons, but there is more focus on the footwork in Savate. Unlike Krav Maga, Savate is used for competition rather than street fighting.
- Muay Thai – This combat sport originated in Thailand, and uses a variety of stand-up and clinching techniques. Like Krav Maga, Muay Thai encourages a physical and mental discipline and prepares practitioners to make swift and efficient attacks. Also known as “the art of eight limbs,” Muay Thai focuses on a combined use of fists, elbows, knees, shins and feet.
- Wing Chun – Literally translated to “spring chant,” Wing Chun is a Chinese-based martial art and self-defense practice. It is similar to Krav Maga in that utilizes striking, grappling and hand-to-hand combat. Like Krav Maga, Wing Chun also encourages relaxation, a necessary skill in helping a victim remain calm when a predator strikes.
- Judo – Judo is a modern martial art and Olympic sport that originated in the late 1880s in Japan. The goal is competitive, as fighters attempt to throw their opponent to the ground and render them immobile. In fact, Judo is more competitive than Krav Maga, but it still emphasizes the use of various hand-to-hand combat techniques.
- Jiu-Jitsu – Originating in Brazil, Jiu-Jitsu combines martial arts, competitive combat, and self-defense. Like Krav Maga, it originally developed as a form of protection, then was passed down and honed through a variety of experimentation and practice approaches. It is also similar to Krav Maga in the idea that it can be used by anyone; Jiu-Jitsu stresses that a smaller and weaker person can successfully defend him or herself against a larger opponent.
- Wrestling – The influence of this combat sport is highly evident in Krav Maga. Imi Lichtenfeld used his own experience in wrestling to help perfect and hone the techniques of his Israeli self-defense system.
- Grappling – Grappling refers to the fighting moves used in order to achieve a physical advantage, such as escaping or submitting. In Krav Maga, grappling is necessary, as practitioners never know when they will be held in an unfortunate position. By understanding the grappling technique, victims are more apt to remove themselves from danger.