Krav Maga literally translates from Hebrew to English as ‘Contact Combat’ or ‘Close Combat’. It is an efficient, yet brutal, self-defence system that utilises the body’s natural reflexive reactions to attack.
Imi Sde-Or (Lichtenfeld) first created Krav Maga in the 1940s as the hand-to-hand combat system for the Israeli army.
Imi was a strong athlete by nature, an expert in Judo and Ju-Jitsu as well as a champion boxer and wrestler. On top of this, Imi’s Father worked in the police force, training detectives, and was able to teach him police defensive tactics as he grew up.
This combination of experience in martial arts, combat sports, street fighting and law enforcement methods meant that Imi was perfectly placed to develop a training system when, due to the political situation at the time, the young Israeli soldiers were just being called-up and sent to fight, and there was simply not time for an extensive training programme.
Krav Maga is quick and simple to learn while still providing the student with a highly effective way to defend themselves. It’s not about elaborate techniques or rituals or having a ‘film-scene-worthy’ fight; it’s about defending and aggressively counter-attacking so that the threat is completely neutralised as soon as possible.
Some traditional martial arts are better designed for sporting competitions, but Krav Maga is a self-defence system, not a martial art, and has been created for real-life scenarios. Students will learn to defend against unarmed attacks such as chokes and bear hugs as well as armed attacks from knives, guns and sticks.
Unlike Imi, students do not need to be strong athletes to start Krav Maga. Fitness is incorporated into the lessons so that as they learn, their strength and endurance improve, enabling them to be physically, as well as mentally, prepared to handle an attack. There will be, and should be, physical contact and re-enactments during training as this will allow students to learn how an attack could feel and how to function during the fear, panic and stress of the situation.
The defence and counter-attacks both focus on an attacker’s vulnerable points and students are taught to use their body’s natural weapons along with everyday objects, that may be in their environment, in the most efficient way possible. Practice and repetition are key; they enable the techniques to become automatic and immediate so that students can successfully defend themselves and others even in a surprise attack.