The history of Krav Maga is at once both bitter and triumphant. Born in the streets of Nazi controlled Bratislava in the mid 1930’s, it has since grown to be one of the worlds most effective and devastating fighting systems. As fascist and anti-semitic movements were on the rise across Europe, a professional young Jewish athlete by the name of Imrich (Imi) Sde-Or (Lichtenfeld) led a group of young Jews in protecting the Jewish quarter from anti-Semitic gangs. It was here that the reality of sports versus real-life violence became abundantly clear to Imi. After years of violent clashes, and with the Nazi domination of Europe increasing, Imi fled to then Palestine (later Israel) in a journey that was to last almost two years.
After recovering from a life threatening ear infection he picked up during his journey, Imi joined the Czech legion, under the command of the British army during World War II. Upon release in 1942, he began training the new Israeli military fighting units – the Palmach (elite), the Palyam (marine), and the Hagana, which would later merge into the modern-day Zahal (Israeli Defense Force, IDF) as well as police. By 1948 Imi had become chielf instructor for physical fitness and Krav Maga (“contact combat”) for the IDF.
Imi was tasked with training up the military of the newly formed state of Israel. Since he was training soldiers as only a very small part of their overall curriculum, he needed a system that could be learned as fast as possible, regardless of the students background, and that could be applied under the most stressful conditions. Since Imi’s childhood had been spent learning a variety of fighting styles including boxing, wrestling, judo, jiujitsu, aikido and fencing, he was able to combine the most effective parts of each and disregard the “padding”. Krav Maga was born! Although the curriculum at this time was very narrow, it was suitable for the military applications for which it was devised. As the system began to be adapted for civilians in Israel, a more comprehensive syllabus was devised.
As Krav Maga began to spread outside of Israel, a more efficient, professional organization was needed. There was dissension amongst the leading instructors and offshoots were beginning to emerge. To address this, Imi formed the new IKMF federation keeping it’s most loyal and respected instructors and students. Among these was Master Avi Moyal, current chairman of the IKMF and a very highly respected gentleman amongst all branches worldwide.
IKMF then set about devising the new curriculum, which was personally approved by Imi at the time of foundation. As an open system, there are changes occasionally made to curriculum and improvements to various techniques, all of which are handed down to IKMF branches from the headquarters in Israel. Today, IKMF has successfully branched out and kept active throughout the world, and works hard to maintain it’s standards.