Krav Maga / The Creator

The Creator

Imi Lichtenfeld (Z''L)

O Criador

A humanist is the one that, because of the environment he has been exposed to, is interested in the future of humanity. He does not rest on the conquered laurels for himself and avoids the inertia and self-indulgence, and states that anyone can transcend the environment with courage, because, in other words, you have freedom of choice. Imi, in his lifetime fought in wars and saw all the faces of violence.

Faced enemies, led battles and showed that we all have the option to pull through a fight, whatever it may be. He taught men how to use their own body, turning them into unbeatable soldiers. The effectiveness of his lessons is amazing and his work is recognized worldwide. His creation becomes the philosophy of defense of the State of Israel and elite military units around the world apply his techniques. Teaching the civil forces returns autonomy to the ordinary citizen, showing that everyone is able to defend his/her own integrity in any situation of violence in daily life. Imi created, made and donated to humanity his example, his attitude, his lessons and his strength.

"Be good enough to avoid the conflict."
"Natural and simple answer to complicated situation."
"Minimum movement of defense against maximum movement of attack."
"Do it: but do it right."
"React in proportion to need."

Who had the privilege to live with Imi, heard phrases like these. He used to sit with students in a cafeteria called "Ugati" in the city of Natanya, Israel, and he would talk for hours about Krav Maga and its techniques.  Imi believed in the essence of human beings, and that everyone could have their lives improved by the correct path of life. A person who had the greatness to hear differences and disagreements as small and insignificant issues front a hierarchy of values where the coexistence of good interpersonal relationship is first and foremost should be preserved. He faced life with simplicity, received all willingly and always had a message to convey. Who sat next to him, could understand immediately that he was a different person, enlightened, and with great strength of mind.

His posture and attitude to face the situations that life provided him show the path that led him to create his work. Go beyond; confront injustice, threats, weapons, war and death. And teach people how to do it too. And he did not stop there. He focused on reaching even further, creating disciples who would create other disciples, ensuring that the techniques of survival would reach out to as many people as possible, and thus continue in future generations.

Born in 26 of may of 1910 in Budapest, which was located at the center of Austro-Hungarian Empire, Imi was raised in Bratislava, the capital city of Slovakia.

His family education was based in sports, law and medicine. His father, Samuel, was the chief of the local secret service and was known as the agent who caught the most criminals. Besides this, he was also an instructor for grappling techniques in the secret police.

With his father s incentive, Imi practiced many different sports. Between 1928 and 1929, he won many European wrestling championships and in that year he became a boxing champion.

In the following decade, Imi focused his training as a wrestling athlete and instructor, winning many medals in national and international competitions. Ever since the mid-thirties, life in Bratislava was not the same anymore. Fascist groups slowly won political ground, therefore, changing the life in that country. Imi then became the leader of a resistance group that fought the Fascists groups. Between the years of 1936 and 1940, he participated in countless missions and violent confrontations, being alone or in a team. Imi and his colleagues fought hundreds, thousands of enemies in a cruel and unfair war. All of these events and personal experiences resulted in the strengthening of his body and spirit, preparing him for the events yet to come, and planting the seeds that germinated, resulting in the creation of Krav Maga.

Imi no auge como atleta

In 1940, Imi left his homeland, his family and friends and boarded the last ship that managed to flee from the Nazis. It was nothing more than a simple raft, called "Pentcho", which was adapted to transport hundreds of people who left Europe with Israel as their final destination. The stories of this raft and its passengers became famous, and were described in the book "The Odyssey", written by John Birman.

The "Odyssey" of Imi lasted 2 years, during which, in many occasions, he jumped in the water to save the lives of passengers or a valuable bag of food in the frozen Danube River. These "adventures" gave him a strong ear infection that almost led him to death. After an explosion at the gas tank of the ship, which happened near the coast of the Greek Islands, his help was requested. After four days and nights of great effort, Imi was taken in a terrible health condition to Alexandria, where he underwent many surgeries.

Recovered, he joined the Czech Army that fought together with the British Army. And it was in this way that he fought in the middle-east, in combats in Libya, Syria, Lebanon and Egypt. In the year of 1942, he then retired from the army and received a license to live in Israel, where a new phase of his life would begin.

His arrival in the State of Israel meant for Imi only one more step in his path. But without him noticing, this "small" step would be a landmark that would influence and guide the story of the Jews in the State of Israel. Already at this time, in mid-1942, there were defense movements, based in three groups: Haganah, Hetzel and Lehi. They fought to assure the survival of the people in that region, mostly against the "Fedanin" attacks, which were gangs of Muslim criminals who pillaged, kidnapped and killed with cruelty, not for need, but just for fun. In the Haganah defense group, which was the largest organization among the three, Imi met some of his old colleagues and pupils from the Austro-Hungarian Empire. They readily introduced Imi to the Haganah chief, Yitzhak Sadeh, who immediately appointed Imi as the one responsible for physical conditioning

Imi privately taught the elite groups of Haganah and Palmah, and among these the "P.A.L.I.A.M.". This last one, years later, became the base for the creation of the elite groups of Israeli Armed Forces. With the creation of the State of Israel, Imi joined the "Tzahal" and became the head instructor of physical conditioning and Krav Maga. This work began only in the army, and later spread to the school of physical conditioning of all the Armed Forces. During the following 20 years, Imi improved his special technique of self-defense and face-to-face combat.

He personally trained the best warriors of the top elite teams of the Israeli Armed Forces. These were people that with technique, aptitude and courage, changed the destiny of operations and wars that would happen there. Retired as an instructor of Tzahal, he adapted and customized the Krav Maga technique for the civilian world, making it efficient and accessible to any human being, the strong or the weak, man or woman, young or old.

For this purpose, he opened two training centers, one in Tel Aviv and the other in Netanya. In this "opening" process to the civilian world, he selected a small group of his best students to be responsible for the Krav Maga in the future. In 1978, he founded the Krav Maga Association in Israel.

Imi Lichtenfeld was, until his last days, an advisor and counselor of the Israeli Defense Forces. Besides that, he also trained the more experienced black-belts in Krav Maga and was always present at meetings and seminars with people from all around the world in Israel. He supervised and personally transmitted his experiences, discoveries and the practical meaning of his creation: Krav Maga.

In a "Merit Award" official letter, the chief of Israeli Defense Forces wrote that ever since the time of Haganah and Palmah, including all years of Tzahal, the capacity to fight and Imi's personal potential were the pillars of quality of the Israeli warrior, and there wasn't anyone more accountable for this result, for this conquest than Imi Lichtenfeld.

This letter also states that the quality of Krav Maga is a result of the humanitarian values of Imi, which are structured on simplicity, objectivity, self-control, maximum security in training and combat, honesty and respect with the opponent, even when he is an enemy.

Imi e Mestre Kobi

In a letter written by the Minister of Education and Culture, Zvulum Amer, he recognizes the importance of the preparation of the Israeli youth to face daily violence. For this reason, the Ministry of Education supports the teaching of Krav Maga in all schools.

The Ministry then thanks Imi for the creation of such an effective technique with a "blue and white" merit award's. "Blue and white" is a term used for those who honor their country, for they are the colors of the Israeli flag.

The Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin (Z''L) declared in a letter that Imi Lichtenfeld is the synonym of "turning an Israeli soldier or commander able". And both are evidence of the Tzahal s operations success.

To the grief of the entire Krav Maga Family, Imi Lichtenfeld passed away in 9 of January of 1998.

But his work is alive. His dream of crossing borders has already reached more than 40 countries. Those who never met him personally or never faced the horrors of war that he did, embrace their way of life. His words of wisdom and simplicity are still widespread in classrooms around the world. The option to be autonomous, breaking barriers, defend itself from any threat; if you don't know the way, enjoy Krav Maga.

as, de defender-se de qualquer ameaça; se ainda não sabe qual o caminho, conheça o Krav Maga.


The Creation of Krav Maga - WHY BY IMI, WHY IN ISRAEL?

The sprouting of Krav Maga was the natural result of the fusion of two stories, Imi's story and the story of the State of Israel.

The vision, capacity and commitment of a natural-born leader in a war scenario, with people suffering and fighting for their lives; a minority surrounded by enemies, who insisted in continuing to fight, in continuing to survive.

From a very young age, in his family scope, he learned the importance of being active in society. His father, a dedicated policeman and combat instructor of the secret police, did not measure efforts to accomplish his mission. He received a medal for being the inspector who effectuated the most arrests in his country. The definition of right and wrong, the duty, and the satisfaction in helping a fellow man were basic values for his development.

Família Krav Maga

As an athlete, he sought to surpass the limits of his body. As a fighter, he concluded that all the existent techniques of defense and combat were not enough for the needs of the streets. Gym or ring techniques were of no value in a real-life confrontational situation.

Many times, while following his father to work as combat instructor, he would suggest a slightly different movement, adding a detail here, another one there. He was always heard by his father, who tested his suggestions. The results of these small suggestions became evident in the daily work of the police, increasing efficiency and decreasing risks. The movements became shorter and instinctive. The time necessary to prepare an agent to operate in a real battle was reduced.

During the 30s, with Fascism and Nazism growing in Europe, the streets became more violent with the passing of time, and life had to be defended in bloody confrontations almost in a daily basis. Sometimes having to face tens of enemies at the same time, being many times alone in this, facing a reality where many were hurt, many died, and few survived. He became the leader of resistance groups that only had their own body as their weapon, and the stubbornness of not being worn down as fuel.

The Middle East during the 40s was dominated by the British Mandate, who established categorical and harsh rules, using force to control the region. They manipulated the groups who lived there, in this way provoking discordance between them.

The English forbade the ownership or use of any type of weapon in the territory, which at the time was called Palestine. Violence was reigning, mainly due to the actions of the "fedainim". They pillaged, raped and killed with utmost cruelty the local population and whoever had arrived recently from Europe, those who had managed to escape from Nazi Europe and who were once again in the position of being dominated, of being defenseless from the violence of this disturbed time in the history of humanity.

Several groups were organized to defend the population, without any weapons or contingent, but with bravery. This was the scenario Imi found upon his arrival in Israel, and at this time he had already accumulated years of experience in battles. This experience led him to the mission of preparing, in a very short time, defense groups to face well-armed and numerous enemies, ensuring the survival of a suffered and consumed people, but who was willing to fight. When it came to battles, Imi already had experienced everything, from the techniques tried out in his youth, the techniques taught by his father and used by the private policy of his native country, the confrontations against the Nazis in Europe, the wars with the British Army, etc. His knowledge was based in life and death reality, without the protection of rules. He knew what worked in practical terms, and slowly, taking into consideration the natural and instinctive movements of his body, he sought to take advantage of them for defense techniques, making them faster, simple and short. This principle was the distinguishing characteristic that guaranteed the efficiency of the method in the battlefields.

The accepted challenge was successful. The people survived, won their independence, formed a country, and were able to defend themselves from all outside conquest attempts, even though being surrounded by enemies, even against terrorist threats, which is the evil of the new century. The Tzahal (Defense Forces of Israel) has a world-wide recognition for its results, having its history initiated in the defense groups trained by Imi, who, until his last days, was an advisor and counselor of this powerful military institution.