(FAQs) Frequently Asked Questions

What is krav maga?
The generic name krav maga is derived from two ancient Hebrew words, krav translated as “combat” and maga translated as “contact” to form the combination “contact combat.” Krav maga is used every day by the men and women of the Israeli defense and security forces. Krav maga’s origins were developed by a Czech, Imi Lichtenfeld, in the late 1930’s to protect his community against anti-Semitic violence. Krav maga is recognized by the Israeli Ministry of Education as the leading method of self-defense.

In developing the self-defense system, survival in any situation was foremost in Imi’s mind. Accordingly, krav maga relies on a person’s natural instincts and reflexes for self-defense. Awareness and mental conditioning are integral to krav maga training. Krav maga’s philosophy is never to do more than necessary, but to react with speed, economy of motion, and the appropriate measure of force. Speed is paramount and one is taught to strike instinctively at the human body’s vulnerable parts. Krav maga is dynamic and constantly evolves as situations require. The system is battle-tested and street-proven.

Most important, krav maga emphasizes that there are no rules on the street. If a situation is dire, the defender must do whatever is necessary to overcome the threat. This may include multiple strikes to the groin, throat, and kidneys, a finger planted into an eye, shouting into an attacker’s ear, or a head butt or a bite to the neck. Because of this philosophy, krav maga is not suited for tournaments and must be practiced under controlled conditions. A student appreciates the simplicity and universal application of krav maga immediately. Krav maga uses the concept of retzev, Hebrew for “continuous motion” to complete a defense.

Krav maga uses the same building blocks from the simplest defenses to the most advanced techniques including empty-handed defenses and disarms against bladed weapons, firearms, hand grenades, and even rocks. Krav maga is world-renowned for its disarming techniques against assailants posing a threat with handguns, rifles, knives and edged weapons, sticks and even rocks. The system also incorporates subduing techniques that can de-escalate or escalate a situation quickly such as the proper way to grab, and – if necessary – break an attacker’s finger to gain control.

Imi designed krav maga for people of all shapes, sizes, and physical abilities regardless of age. While krav maga was designed to teach soldiers to become proficient in hand-to-hand combat tactics in a short time, the same is true of krav maga’s civilian adaptation. Krav maga is well received within law enforcement and military circles. Numerous law enforcement agencies and military branches all over the world train their men and women in krav maga.

For more information on krav maga and its founder, Imi Lichtenfeld, in either English or Hebrew, please visit www.kravmagaisraeli.com and click “Founder.”

What is the Israeli Krav Maga Association (IKMA)?
Krav maga founder Imi Lichtenfeld established the non-profit Israeli Krav Maga Association (IKMA) in 1978 to promote krav maga throughout the world. After Imi’s retirement in 1964 as the military’s chief instructor of physical training and self-defense, he focused on adapting his system to provide both professional security agencies and ordinary civilians – men, women, and children – with solutions to avoid and/or end a violent encounter. Haim Gidon, the highest-ranking individual in the world at 10th degree black-belt, heads the organization as Imi’s appointed successor. The IKMA sponsors worldwide programs and courses are available at the Association’s main training facility in Netanya, Israel. More information in both English and Hebrew can be found at the IKMA’s website: www.kravmagaisraeli.com.

Who was Imi (Emerich) Lichtenfeld?
Krav maga Founder Imi (Emerich) Lichtenfeld (1910-1998) was born in Budapest, Czechoslovakia and later resided in Bratislava. Imi’s father, Samuel Lichtenfeld, joined a professional circus where he excelled at wrestling and boxing. After developing extensive knowledge in fitness training along with wrestling, boxing, and mixed-skill fighting , Samuel joined the police as a detective and had the leading arrest record. Samuel also opened the gym “Hercules” where Imi began his training. Imi rapidly distinguished himself as a champion in judo, boxing, wrestling, gymnastics and ball room dancing among other athletic pursuits.

In 1935 Imi visited Palestine with a team of Jewish wrestlers to participate in the Maccabi games but could not participate because of a broken rib that resulted from his training while on route. This led the fundamental krav maga precept, “do not get hurt” while training. Imi returned to Czechoslovakia to face increasing anti-Semitic violence. Imi organized a group of young Jews to protect his community. On the streets, Imi acquired hard won experience and the crucial understanding of the differences between sport fighting and street fighting. He developed his fundamental self-defense principle: “Use natural movements and reactions” for a defense combined with an immediate and decisive counterattack. From this evolved the refined theory of “simultaneous defense and attack” while “never occupying two hands in the same defensive movement.”

Imi arrived in Israel after serving with great notoriety in the Czech Legion. Israel’s early leaders immediately recognized Imi’s fighting prowess and innovativeness. Imi began to train Israel’s first fighting units the Palmach, Palyam, and Hagana in military close quarters combat. This training included fighting fitness, bayonet tactics, sentry removal, knife fighting, stave/stick fighting and any other military oriented problems that required a creative solution. After retiring from the Israeli Defense Forces in 1964 as chief instructor for physical fitness and hand-to-hand combat (which became recognized as the system “krav maga”) Imi established the Israeli Krav maga Association (IKMA) in 1978 to promote krav maga throughout the world for both civilians and law enforcement. Imi focused both on teaching professionals and adapting his system to provide ordinary civilians – men, women, and children – with solutions to avoid and/or end a violent encounter. Haim Gidon, the highest-ranking individual in the world at 10th degree black-belt, heads the organization as Imi’s appointed successor. (For more about krav maga founder Imi Licthenfeld please visit www.kravmagaisraeli.com and click “Founder.”)

Who is Haim Gidon?
Grandmaster Haim Gidon, (10th dan and IKMA President) is a member of krav maga founder Imi Lichtenfeld’s first training class in the early 1960’s. Along with Imi and other top instructors, Haim Gidon co-founded the Israeli Krav maga Association (IKMA) which he now heads as President. In 1995, Imi nominated Haim as the top authority to grant 1st dan krav maga black-belt and up. In an IKMA ceremony, Imi awarded Haim Gidon 8th dan and stated 9th and 10th dans “were to come” designating Haim as the highest ranking krav maga instructor. (Video clips of the ceremony are available at www.kravmagaisraeli.com). Imi approved of Haim’s adding extensive groundwork modified weapons defenses and other additions/improvements to the krav maga system.

Haim Gidon is also a committee member of the Wingate (Israel’s national sports institute) professional committee representing the self-defense style of krav maga. Haim Gidon, as President and Grandmaster of the IKMA, has taught the Israeli Police defensive tactics for the last thirty years to Israel’s security and military agencies.

Who uses krav maga?
Krav maga is used every day by the men and women of the Israeli defense and security forces. Numerous international military, security, and law enforcement agencies also employ krav maga. In addition, krav maga has thousands of civilian practionners around the world.

How does krav maga differ from other martial arts or fighting styles?
Krav maga is complete fighting system. The only rule is that there are no rules. In its military capacity and highest levels of learning, krav maga teaches not just defenses against armed and unarmed attack, but how to initiate an attack. An IKMA krav maga practionner is as comfortable in a ground confrontation as standing confrontation. (Note: a practionner does not necessarily want to be situated on the ground during a confrontation for several reasons including the threat of multiple attackers. Nevertheless, the reality is that many fights to end up on the ground.)  Imi designed krav maga to be learned in a short time, and, equally important, to be retained. Krav maga does not emphasize traditional katas or choreographed routines. Instead, krav maga relies on retzev or “continuous combat motion” to complete the defense. Krav maga’s spiritual side is embodied by civility and good citizenship.

Does the IKMA curriculum incorporate groundsurvival?
Yes, the IKMA incorporates extensive groundwork tailored to the krav maga philosophy of quickly disabling or neutralizing an opponent. In other words, a krav maga practitioner does not necessarily intend for a “submission” or “tap out” from an opponent as common in sport fighting. A krav maga practionner will execute a joint dislocation or worse to end to the confrontation. (On this and related points, use of force and legal issues are important considerations. A defender must not exceed “reasonable” force or use excessive measures once the threat ceases to be a danger. Use of force issues vary considerably and it is incumbent for a defender to know what is legally acceptable.)

Does krav maga adhere to a belt or ranking system?
Yes, krav maga uses a belt ranking system as follows:

  1. White belt
  2. Yellow belt
  3. Green belt
  4. Blue belt
  5. Brown belt
  6. Black belt dans 1-10

Does one require previous self-defense training?
No, krav maga is designed for people to learn self-defense and advanced fighting skills regardless of previous self-defense training or who have no self-defense training at all. Krav maga’s overriding philosophy is to do “whatever works.” While krav maga emphasizes several basic techniques and advanced applications of these techniques to neutralize a dangerous situation, there may be no absolute or correct answer. The system is flexible in its thinking, true to its modern combat evolution. Techniques are constantly modified, revised, added and discarded as real-life encounters are taken into account and analyzed.

Does krav maga require uniforms or specific attire?
No, krav maga is designed for people to learn self-defense and advanced fighting skills irrespective of previous self-defense training. Krav maga’s overriding philosophy is to do “whatever works.” While krav maga emphasizes several basic techniques and advanced applications of these techniques to neutralize a dangerous situation, there may be no absolute or correct answer. The system is flexible in its thinking, true to modern combat’s evolution. Techniques are constantly modified, revised, added and discarded as real-life encounters are taken into account and analyzed.

How are krav maga classes run?
Krav maga classes are generally one hour to one and one-half hours. Special seminars can run up to five hours in length.

Class will begin with stretching and warm-ups. Retzev or “continuous motion” combatives will follow.  Instructors will demonstrate techniques for the appropriate belt levels full speed and then break-down the technique into its component parts. Students will then practice the techniques. If a particular question catches the instructor’s attention, class will temporarily halt for the instructor to provide further clarification and explanation.

Do classes incorporate full contact fighting?
Yes and no. Krav maga, because of its nature, must be practiced under controlled conditions. Because striking at the body’s vulnerable parts is krav maga’s underlying counterattack principle, caution must be applied when using the techniques especially to the groin, throat and eyes. However, controlled sparring with protective gear and groundwork is an integral part of the krav maga curriculum. Advanced students regularly participate in “fighting classes.” Krav maga instructors emphasize two paradoxical training rules: (1) there are no rules in a fight and (2) one must not injure oneself or one’s partner when training.

Does krav maga distinguish between training men and women?
No, Imi designed krav maga for people of all shapes, sizes, and physical abilities regardless of age or sex. The same krav maga techniques, with minor modifications, are taught to both men and women. However, the emphasis placed on certain techniques is can be different. Size and strength are factors a defender – male or female – must take into consideration. This is especially true where reach is a determining factor. Often women are confronted with a predatory attack, which brings the attacker in close. As a result, “infighting” or elbows, knees, eye-gouges, and, if necessary, bites are encouraged. In addition, some women are reluctant to use their knuckles for striking and instead may feel more comfortable, for example, using a palm-heal. Several krav maga ground-fighting techniques also address sexual predation or other dangers women may face and are specially adapted.

Is it appropriate for children to learn krav maga?
Yes, krav maga is recognized by the Israeli Ministry of Education as the leading method of self-defense. The IKMA runs extensive training programs for children. Basic krav maga movements are taught combining physical fitness training along with civic virtues.

Does krav maga require uniforms or specific attire?
No, krav maga does not require traditional martial arts attire. Athletic shoes, preferably not running-type shoes, are suggested along with athletic attire. Most krav maga practionners like to wear a krav maga shirt for class spirit and uniformity. In Israel, IKMA shirts are usually worn along with white or black gee pants. Male participants should wear protective athletic supporters and some students choose to use mouth guards.

Does krav maga incorporate weapons defenses?
Yes, krav maga is world renowned for its weapons defenses including threats from edged weapons, blunt weapons, firearms, and even micro explosives.