Krav Maga literally means "Combat – Contact" or "Close Quarter Combat".
Krav Maga has no single "founder" and no official beginning. It is the product of the needs of the times and the efforts of many instructors over the years, each adding and modifying based on his skills and experience.
The roots of modern Krav Maga began with the need for self-defense in the land of Israel. The Jews living here were regarded as weak and helpless. They were considered fair targets by Bedouin Arabs and other Muslims who did not care for them.
The Arabs did not respect weakness and refereed to the Jews as "Walid el mita" - The child of death. Jewish blood was considered cheap. The Jews lived in their own quarters, scared and at the mercy of others. Often they hired Arabs to protect them.
The Jews emigrating to Israel from around the world, coming home to their ancestor homeland, found this situation shocking, intolerable and unacceptable. They began to "adjust" to the Middle East.
In 1903 the Maccabi Union was formed to teach Jews physical fitness and strength. They wanted to end the era of "Walid el mita". They soon began training with sticks (early Kapap) but the goal was rifles, live weapons.
In 1907 a group was formed called "HaShomer" - The Guard, with the purpose of defending Jewish settlements. From this point, and even before this, is a constant exploration and evolution of hand-to-hand self defense techniques and strategies. This process continues even today.
In 1919 Ze'ev Jabotinsky founded the "Haganah" - Defense, for the purpose of defending Jews against the increasing Arab attacks.
Various instructors are instrumental in developing what would become known as Kapap and eventually Krav Maga.
In January 1941 a self-defense course takes place, the chief instructors are Maishel Horowitz, Menashe Harel, Gershon Kofler, and Yitzhak Shtibel. This is a key point in the organized development of Israeli self-defense.
In Czechoslovakia in the 1930's Imi Lichtenfeld, an expert in boxing and wrestling, together with other Jews forms a Jewish self-defense group. He was influenced by his father, Shmuel, a detective and Defensive Tactics instructor with the local police force. Shmuel Lichtenfeld was known as a tough officer with a reputation for arresting the most violent criminals.
Young Imi grew up in a tough area and had to deal with fascist thugs, violent gangs and anti Semites. On the street he learned to distinguish between sporting techniques and real life self defense.
Imi Lichtenfeld began to incorporate techniques from different styles to form an effective approach to self defense to enable the Jewish community to defend itself against Fascist militias.
When Europe became unbearable for Jews, Imi left. He eventually ended up in the Land of Israel in 1942, then controlled by the British. Israeli self-defense was already well in the process of development, he joined this on-going process.
He joined the "Hagana" (Defense, in Hebrew) the defensive force founded by the legendary leader Ze'ev (Vladimir) Jabotinsky in 1919 for the purpose of defending Jewish settlements from Arabs.
Jabotinsky was one of the great Jewish leaders of that century. He foresaw doom for European Jewry and urged them to relocate to the Land of Israel (aliya). He founded the Betar youth movement and the Herut (Freedom) political party. Future Prime ministers Menachem Begin and Yitzchak Shamir were among his disciples.
Jabotinsky, or Jabo as he was known by the Jewish masses, was not only a great leader and speaker, he was also a writer and a poet. He wrote in many languages; text books on Hebrew language, novels , and poems . His works inspired his generation and the those that followed. One of his most famous articles was, "Jews; Learn to Shoot!" Jabotinsky formed the Zion Mule Corps as part of the British army in World War One, and he himself enlisted as a private.
While Jabotinsky was the philosophical force behind Jewish military revival, others were the hands-on Krav Maga Instructors.
Lichtenfeld's talents were noticed and he was assigned to join the unarmed combat instructors team. Eventually he became a Kapap instructor and was among those who trained the Palmach and Palyam. He is credited with a shifting of emphasis from use of the stick to the greater incorporation of Jujitsu.
When Israel became a state in 1948 all the pre-state militias joined together to form the IDF. Imi was recruited into the staff of the IDF physical training school were he was one of 11 Kapap instructor.
Krav Maga includes techniques form judo, jujitsu, karate, Western Boxing and elements of wrestling. With the establishment of the State of Israel Krav Maga was adopted as the official fighting style of the Israel Defense Forces and the Israel Police Force.
In 1964 Lichtenfeld retired from the IDF and opened a private Krav Maga club. With this he becomes the first to offer Krav Maga to civilians, although in Israel nearly all civilians serve in the military and thus already have some Krav Maga training. His fame comes from his initiation of the development of Civilian Krav Maga. This is a process still going on today with many branches.
Krav Maga is free flowing; all styles of punching, kicking, chokes, take-downs are employed with the aim of neutralizing the enemy in the shortest amount of time possible.
Unlike competitive martial arts, where limits are placed on the type of techniques used or the areas targeted, Krav Maga has no limitations. Groin shots, eyes, throat, face, are all fair game. Therefore Krav Maga does not hold competitions and does not seek to be represented in the olympics . The danger to the participants would simply be too great.
Krav Maga is designed for self-defense, combat, and worst case scenarios. A major part of the training involves the ability to handle such stressful situations, both physically and mentally.
The style is easy to learn and apply. Krav Maga chooses simple movements that are natural to the body, based on instincts that are already established within us.
Perhaps the most unique aspect of Krav Maga is the emphasis on aggressiveness, sticking to the goal no matter what, even when it is hard, even when you feel you have nothing left, and a no compromising attitude towards the enemy. Our goal is to neutralize the enemy; the specific technique does not matter.