History of Krav Maga

Krav-Maga-Logo_smKrav Maga (pronounced ‘krahv muhGAH’), means ‘contact combat’ in Hebrew. It is the official defensive tactics system of the Israeli military. The system is simple, practical, instinctive, and aggressive. Because the techniques mimic the body’s natural instinct, they are easy to learn and easy to remember under stress.

The seeds of the unique Krav Maga Self Defense System were planted back in the late 1930’s in Bratislava, Czechoslovakia by a young man named Imi Lichtenfeld. Imi was a natural athlete, holding European championship titles in a variety of sports, including boxing, wrestling, and gymnastics. It was from his father, however, a famous and highly respected police detective and trainer, that Imi learned street fighting skills that he would use to save his own life and those of his neighbors on the rough streets of Eastern Europe.

Prior to World War II, Imi was fortunate enough to escape from Eastern Europe. He arrived in the Middle East and began fighting for the independence of Israel. Shortly after the formation of the fledgling State, Imi was handpicked by the government to create a practical, highly effective self defense and hand to hand combat system for the military.

Imi developed a hand-to-hand combat system that could be taught to soldiers of all ages and abilities, and that would be easily remembered by battle-weary troops without the need for follow-up training. Aware of the differences between sport competition and street survival, Imi developed the Krav Maga System, originally known as krav panim el-panim (which means ‘face-to face combat’).

In Israel, every soldier going through boot camp learns some basic and advanced Krav Maga, with specialized units learning more advanced techniques. Due to its incredible effectiveness, Krav Maga has since spread to the civilian population and is now taught throughout Europe, Scandinavia, Canada, Japan and the United States. 

Krav Maga’s History in the US 
In 1981, Darren Levine brought Krav Maga to the United States from Israel after being invited to participate in the first International Krav Maga Instructor’s Course offered to candidates from outside Israel. The course was sponsored by the Israeli Ministry of Education and supervised by Grandmaster Imi Litchtenfeld.

Upon returning to the United States, Darren began teaching in the Los Angeles area. In the late 1990’s, Krav Maga’s popularity exploded due to the work of Darren and his peers and students. Presently, Krav Maga is taught to thousands of civilians and hundreds of law enforcement and military agencies across the country.