Krav Maga

Krav Maga
Krav Maga (קרב מגע)
Krav Maga logo.jpg
Logo of Krav Maga
Focus Hybrid
Country of origin Israel Israel
Czechoslovakia Czechoslovakia
(now Slovakia)
Hungary Hungary
(creator Imi Lichtenfeld Jewish born in Hungary)
Creator Imi Lichtenfeld
Parenthood Kapap
Olympic sport No
"Krav maga" lesson in paratrooper school.
Israel, 1955

Krav Maga play /krɑːv məˈɡɑː/ (Hebrew: קרב מגע[ˈkʁav maˈɡa], lit. "contact combat") is a noncompetitive eclectic self-defense system developed in Europe that involves striking techniques, wrestling and grappling. Krav Maga is known for its focus on real-world situations and extremely efficient, brutal counter-attacks.[1] It was derived from street-fighting skills developed by Imi Lichtenfeld, who made use of his training as a boxer and wrestler, as a means of defending the Jewish quarter against fascist groups in Bratislava[2] in the mid- to late-1930s. In the late-1940s, following his immigration to Israel, he began to provide lessons on combat training to what was to become the IDF, who went on to develop the system that became known as Krav Maga. It has since been refined for three applications: civilian, police and military.[3] The military version is taught to regular and special forces in Israel.

Krav Maga has a philosophy emphasizing threat neutralization, simultaneous defensive and offensive maneuvers, and aggression.[4] Krav Maga is used by IDF Special Forces units and several closely related variations have been developed and adopted by law enforcement and intelligence organizations, Mossad and Shin Bet. There are several organizations teaching variations of Krav Maga internationally.[5][6][7]



The name in Hebrew means "hand-to-hand combat". Krav (קרב) meaning "battle" and Maga (מגע) meaning "contact".

Basic principles

A key principle of Krav Maga is finishing a fight as quickly as possible and therefore all attacks are aimed towards the most vulnerable parts of the body (e.g. face, neck, groin, knee etc). Because there are no sporting rules, individuals that are trained in Krav Maga are not limited to techniques that avoid severely injuring their opponents. However training and sparring drills provide maximum safety to the students by the use of protective equipment and the use of reasonable force. For example kicking to the groin during sparring is common place but groin protection must be worn and students should demonstrate due diligence with regards for their partners' safety. Students learn to defend against all variety of attacks before engaging in full contact sparring. Students are taught to respond to attacks in the quickest and most efficient way; a common lesson taught is 'always use the nearest tool for the job'. This basically means use whichever limb is closest to your attacker at the time and whichever feels most natural. Men and women generally undergo the same drills.[7][8] It has no sporting federation and there are no official uniforms such as a gi.[8] Usual training attire consists of a t-shirt and loose fitting trousers. Krav Maga is also one of the few martial arts in which footwear is habitually worn due to it being 'reality based training'. Most organizations recognize progress through training with rank badges, different levels, and belts.[9][10]

General principles include:[1]

  • Counter attacking as soon as possible (or attacking preemptively).
  • Targeting attacks to the body's most vulnerable points such as the eyes, jaw, throat, groin, knee, etc.
  • Neutralizing the opponent as quickly as possible by responding with an unbroken stream of counter attacks and if necessary a take down/joint break.
  • Maintaining awareness of surroundings while dealing with the threat in order to look for escape routes, further attackers, objects that could be used to defend or help attack and so on.

Basic training entails a warm up, learning the essential pressure points and how to approach and control an opponent utilizing the application of force. Students learn how to execute strikes and kicks including punches, hammer fists, elbows, various kicks and knees. Students learn defenses against takedowns, chokes, bear hugs, arm bars and various other possible attacks. Training also includes learning to defend against various weapons including knives, bats, guns etc. Pressure drills are also common so that students can experience being attacked by multiple attackers. Other pressure tests include students closing their eyes and then having to react to a variety of potential threats. Fitness and endurance training is also incorporated into regular classes.

Training can also cover situational awareness to develop an understanding of one's surroundings and potentially threatening circumstances before an attack occurs. It may also cover ways to deal with potentially violent situations, and physical and verbal methods to avoid violence whenever possible.


Krav Maga was developed in the Israeli Defense Forces primarily by Imrich Lichtenfeld, and Eli Avikzar his successor as the Chief Krav Maga Instructor in the Fighting Fitness Academy.

Upon his retirement Imi opened a school to teach a civilian form of Krav Maga, including a version suitable for youth.[11] The first students to receive a black belt 1st Dan were Eli Avikzar, Rafi Elgarisi, Haim Zut (Haim Gidon was a student of Eli Avikzar), Shmuel Kurzviel, Haim Hakani, Shlomo Avisira, Vicktor Bracha, Yaron Lichtenstein, Avner Hazan and Miki Asulin.[12]

In 1978, Lichtenfeld founded the non-profit Israeli Krav Maga Association (IKMA) with several senior instructors. Eli Avikzar was elected to the head of rank committee and Colonel David Ben Asher was elected to the Executive Director while Imrich Lichtenfeld was elected a president 10th dan. Since Imrich at his old age was giving black belts to foreign students without Eli Avikzar's approval, Eli resigned from the association and created Krav Magen Israeli. Thereafter various civilian krav maga association were created. Lichtenfeld died in January 1998 in Netanya, Israel.[8]

When Krav Maga started to spread beyond the borders of Israel, there arose a need to found an international organization. This happened mostly because the initial Krav Maga association existing at the time was divided and not functioning efficiently, due to dissension amongst the higher graded instructors. Imrich Lictenfeld students and second generation of students of Imrich's students resulted in forming a new international Krav Maga federation with the support of his most loyal students and respected instructors, including Eyal Yanilov, Gabi Noah, Avi Moyal, and Eli Ben-Ami.[13]

Expansion to the USA

Prior to 1980, all experts in Krav Maga lived in Israel and trained under the Israeli Krav Maga Association.[14] That year marks the beginning of contact between Israeli Krav Maga experts and interested students in the United States. In 1981, a group of six Krav Maga instructors traveled to the US to demonstrate their system, primarily to local Jewish Community Centers. The New York field office of the FBI and the FBI's main training center at Quantico, Virginia saw it and expressed interest. The result was a visit by 22 people from the US to Israel in the summer of 1981 to attend a basic Krav Maga instructor course. The graduates from this course returned to the US and began to establish training facilities in their local areas.[15] Additional students traveled to Israel in 1984 and again in 1986 to become instructors. At the same time, instructors from Israel continued to visit the US. In 1985 Boaz Aviram the former Third Israeli Defense Forces Fighting Fitness Academy Chief Instructor after Eli Avikzar immigrated to the US. He started selectively training various law enforcement Individuals. Law enforcement training in the US began in 1985.[16] Many United States-based instructors have travelled to Israel to further learn Krav Maga. These instructors take the knowledge and teachings back to students who are based in the United States but want to learn from Israeli-taught instructors. David Kahn is the IKMA US Chief Instructor[17] who is based in Hamilton, New Jersey, Krav Maga Worldwide US Chief Instructor Darren Levine is based in Los Angeles, California, IKMA, Instructor Robb Hamic is based in Austin, Texas and IKM, Instructor Robert Amos is based in Indianapolis, Indiana.

Krav Maga is currently being taught as a primary hand-to-hand combat technique at some police departments in the United States.

Expansion to other countries

Krav Maga has been growing in popularity since the early 00's with more schools opening up in China, the UK, France, Spain, Germany, Italy, South Africa and a number of other European countries as well as Australia and South America. Krav Maga's growing popularity is due to a number of reasons; organizations such as the KMG, FEKM (European Federation of Krav Maga), IKMF, and TKM (Tactical Krav Maga) have been promoting it a lot across Europe and various other parts of the world. TV shows such as 24, The Simpsons, NCIS and Archer, as well as the films Taken and Enough have featured it. Krav Maga is being utilized by a number of professional organizations such as the IDF, Mossad, Shin Bet, FBI, and DEA which has led to increased popularity with civilians as well.

Krav Maga techniques

Alongside techniques developed by Lichtenfeld, Krav Maga integrates techniques from traditional Eastern European streetfighting, military combat, Kung-Fu, Karate, Boxing, Muay Thai, Judo, Aikido, Western Wrestling and Ju-Jitsu.[1][11][18] While ancient martial arts already developed ways to reach all the angles of the human body with kicks and hand strikes, Krav Maga Kicks and Hand strikes are unique in their teaching methods and actual execution that calls for most efficiency and effectiveness in their respective need for execution.[citation needed] This is a list of some of the techniques practiced in Krav Maga, according to the book The Complete Krav Maga by Darren Levine as well as the Krav Maga Dallas-Fort Worth website:

Arm techniques

Punches are highly emphasized in Krav Maga as basic strikes which are useful in almost any situation. Training in boxing is highly prized in Krav Maga (Lichtenfeld was himself a boxer at national-level).[19] Among the punches taught are the straight punch, palm heel strike, low punch, hammerfist, hook, uppercut, chop, overhand, as well as a variety of elbow strikes.

Leg techniques

While Krav Maga does use kicks, it focuses on efficient, low-risk kicks. The main focus is on low kicks. More advanced and risky kicks are taught at high levels, but use of them is discouraged. They are primarily taught so that practitioners are able to recognize them in case they are facing an opponent with a background in kick-heavy martial arts. Leg techniques that are taught include the front kick, round kick, side kick, back kick, heel kick, slap kicks, axe kicks, various knee strikes, and sweeping.

Head strikes

Krav Maga uses all of the tools available, including the head.

Defense techniques

Krav Maga practitioners are taught to go from defending to attacking as quickly as possible, and most blocking techniques are designed to facilitate this. They learn how to defend against both kicks and punches, as well as learning how to defend against attacks from any angle.

Throws and takedowns

Throws are not covered much in Krav Maga, because the system stresses staying off of the ground. Some techniques that are taught include the wristlock, one and two leg takedowns, the hip throw, and the one arm shoulder throw.


While Krav Maga stresses staying off the ground at all costs, it accepts that you may eventually have no choice but to fight there. Students are taught the best positions while on the ground, how to throw certain kicks while on the ground, arm bars, triangle choke, and guillotine. They're also taught to defend against punches while mounted, chokes, headlocks, and what to do if their wrists are pinned.

Gun, knife and stick defenses

Krav Maga details many ways to remove and defend yourself against many common weapon threats. These Krav Maga Techniques include: Gun defense techniques, Knife defense techniques, and blunt striking weapon, such as a stick. This, however, varies with various scenarios at hand.

Current usage

All Israel Defense Forces soldiers, including all Israeli Special Forces units,[7] learn Krav Maga as part of their basic training. Further, Krav Maga is the defensive tactics system used to train the Israeli Police,[9] Israeli Intelligence and all Security Divisions. Krav Maga is also taught to civilians, military, law enforcement and security agencies around the world. The Norwegian Military and the Swedish Army both use Krav Maga in close combat training for urban warfare. Krav Maga is part of the Commando course of the German Army. Schools can be found everywhere from Australia and the UK to South Africa. The International Krav Maga Federation in Netanya north of Tel Aviv trains some of the world's top bodyguards, who use Krav Maga as a trade fighting art since it includes several exercises in evacuating a VIP through a hostile crowd. Also, the tactics for dispatching several opponents quickly is vital for personal protection agents.[9][20] Krav Maga is also being deployed in the Palestinian territories, particularly for its versatility, where Israeli soldiers adapt it for crowd control purposes.[citation needed]

Krav Maga has further been refined for different organisations and the skillsets required for their disciplines. More specific applications exist for the army (attack orientated), the police (tailored more towards threat neutralization) and self-defense for civilians.

Additionally, the civilian curriculum for Krav Maga in the U.S. has branched out into distinct styles: a more American curriculum may focus on fitness and cardio workouts whereas its Israeli counterpart emphasizes understanding the dynamics of the hostile environment, focusing on the psychology of street confrontation, efficiency (in dealing with multiple attacker scenarios) and threat neutralization.

Grading system

Because Krav Maga does not have a single, universally accepted governing body, the requirements for promotion and training vary from federation to federation and school to school.

Most of the Krav Maga organizations in Israel, such as the IKMA (Israeli Krav Maga Association, by Haim Gidon), KMF (Krav Maga Federation, by Haim Zut) and Bukan (By Yaron Lichtenstein), use Imi Lichtenfeld's colored belt grading system which is based upon the Judo ranking system. It starts with White belt, and then Yellow, Orange, Green, Blue, Brown and Black belts. Black belt students can move up the ranks from 1st to 9th Dan. The time and requirements for advancing have some differences between the organizations.

Other organizations outside of Israel like the International Krav Maga Federation (IKMF), Krav Maga Global (KMG), and International Krav Maga (IKM) use the same grading system based on a series of patches. The patch system was developed by Imi Lichtenfeld after the belt system in the late 1980s. The grades are divided into 3 main categories; Practitioner, Graduate and Expert. Each of the categories, which are often abbreviated to their initials, has 5 ranks. Grades P1 through to P5 are the student levels and make up the majority of the Krav Maga community. After P5 are G1-G5, and in order to achieve Graduate level the student has to demonstrate a proficiency in all of the P level techniques before advancing. The majority of instructors hold a G level grade and are civilian instructors. However, passing the instructor's training course is a requirement, and holding a Graduate rank does not necessarily make one an instructor. The Expert grades cover military and 3rd party protection techniques as well as advanced sparring and fighting skills. People who hold these ranks usually specialize in military and police instruction. In order to progress to Expert level, one has to demonstrate proficiency in all of the Practitioner and Graduate syllabus' and have excellent fighting skills. Beyond Expert 5 there is the rank of Master. However, this rank is held by only a small number of individuals and reserved only for those who have dedicated a lifetime to Krav Maga and made valuable contributions in teaching and promoting the style.

Krav Maga organizations in the United States and in Europe have developed their own grading system, which follows a belt system. Although their system has fewer grades than the above patch system, the syllabus covers the same core techniques and principles. Although there are some variations depending on the organisation, the belt ranking system mostly follows this order: Yellow, Orange, Green, Blue, Brown, Black (dans 1 – 5), Red/White (dans 6 – 7), Red (dan 8)[citation needed].


There are numerous organizations around the world today teaching variants of Krav Maga. Since the death of its founder, competing claims to his legacy have arisen. Some organizations and individuals claim to be the sole heir while others contend it is an "open" art which should not be owned by any person or group. Many of these organizations are currently led by Lichtenfeld's former protégées. One organization, KMG (Krav Maga Global - led by chief instructor Eyal Yanilov) claims successorship based on the close relationship that Eyal Yanilov is said to have had with the founder. Eyal Yanilov received a letter confirming him as the founder's closest student and successor from Yoav Arad, the founder's own son in December 2010. Other organizations include: the IKM (International Krav Maga - led by Grandmaster Gabi Noah), IKMA (Israeli Krav Maga Association - led by Grandmaster Haim Gidon), IKMF (International Krav Maga Federation - led by chief instructor Avi Moyal), EKMA (European Krav Maga Academy - led by chief instructor Luc Van Laere), SAFKM (South American Federation of Krav Maga - led by Chief Instructor Kobi Lichtenstein), Krav Maga Worldwide (led by chief instructor Darren Levine), WKMA (World Krav Maga Association - led by Chief Instructor Alex Paris), IIS (Israeli Imi System) based in Canada and led by International Krav Maga Expert & Chief Instructor Thierry Cimkauskas, FEKM (Fédération Européene de Krav Maga [European Federation of Krav Maga] - led by chief instructor Richard Douieb), IKI (Israeli Krav International Led by Moshe Katz based in Israel), not all of these organizations fundamentally teach the same techniques and principles. Some never learned all the techniques and were exposed to some of the techniques or even none. Some are linking their Israeli Citizenship and Prior Martial Arts experience to the name Krav Maga. Some were legitimate students of Civilian Krav Maga linked to Imrich Lichtenfeld, but have chosen to change and adopt variety of mixed martial arts that do not have the basic principles of Krav Maga. Since Lichtenfeld's death there has not been much change in the techniques of the system although some of the organizations have slightly different approaches to the way they teach. There is another federation called Commando Krav Maga led by Moni Aizik. CKM is not related to Krav Maga but is a renaming of Moni Aizik's "Combat Survival" system which derives from judo and jiujitsu.[citation needed] There is also a side system called Krav Magen created by the first black belt of Krav Maga, Eli Avikzar. Pure Krav Maga - Self Defense Mastery(TM) is a new organization founded by Boaz Aviram, Eli Avikzar's successor in the Israeli Defense Forces Fighting Fitness Academy who strive to promote Intensive Self Defense Training to anyone that needs it. Boaz Aviram was the Third in Lineage of Israeli Defense Forces Krav Maga Chief Instructors after Imrich Lichtenfeld and Eli Avikzar.

In popular culture

Animated spy Archer revealed in the episode Training Day that members of his organization practice Krav Maga rather than Karate (which Archer calls "the Dane Cook of martial arts"), learning from an ex-Mossad instructor.[21] Sam Fisher of Tom Clancy's Splinter Cell video game and book series is an expert of Krav Maga. In the Season 1 episode of How I Met Your Mother entitled Return of the Shirt, the character of Ted Mosby is attacked by his girlfriend using Krav Maga when he dumps her on her birthday. In the Season 8 season premiere of The Office (U.S. TV Series), Dwight is shown participating in a training session of Krav Maga while he describes his summer. Niko Bellic, the playable character of the videogame GTA IV, uses Krav Maga moves when fighting, especially its counter attacks and also with knives and bats. In Alias, Season 5, character Will Tippen says he's taken some Krav Maga classes after taking out an assailant. In the 21st episode of the 2nd Season of Numb3rs, the character Megan Reeves reveals that she teaches Krav Maga at the YMCA.

See also


  1. ^ a b c "Contact combat". Telegraph. Retrieved 2010-05-20. 
  2. ^ Hodsdon, Amelia (2005-02-09). "Get your kicks with Israeli tricks". Guardian (London). Retrieved 2010-01-01. 
  3. ^ "The mother of all fightbacks". Daily Telegraph (London). 2005-10-22. Retrieved 2010-05-20. 
  4. ^ "All change on the buses". BBC. Retrieved 2010-01-03. 
  5. ^ "Inside Israel". Black Belt Magazine. Retrieved 2009-12-31. 
  6. ^ "Choke! Gouge! Smash!". Time. 1998-05-04.,9171,988284,00.html. Retrieved 2010-01-01. 
  7. ^ a b c Ryan, Rosalind. "J.Lo's fitness fad and Salma's 'sweaty' hobby". Daily Mail (London). Retrieved 2010-01-01. 
  8. ^ a b c "Krav Maga teaches practical self-defense in tough workout". USA Today. 2005-02-24. Retrieved 2010-01-01. 
  9. ^ a b c "Fight Club". Haaretz. Retrieved 2010-01-02. 
  10. ^ Kelbie, Paul (2005-09-13). "Israeli self-defence system takes off in Britain". The Independent (London). Retrieved 2010-01-01. 
  11. ^ a b Gonzalez Jr., Arturo. "It's Called 'Kosher Kungfu' but Imi Lichtenfeld's New Martial Art Is a Deadly Affair".,,20067113,00.html. Retrieved 10/10/11. 
  12. ^
  13. ^
  14. ^
  15. ^
  16. ^ Krav Maga Global History
  17. ^ [1]
  18. ^ Levine, Darren; John Whitman (2007). Complete krav maga : the ultimate guide to over 230 self-defense and combative techniques. Berkeley, Calif.: Ulysses. p. 2-6. ISBN 978-1-56975-573-0. 
  19. ^ Martial arts of the world: an encyclopedia, page 306-313, ABC-CLIO, 2001, edited by Thomas A. Green
  20. ^ "Feeling a bit defensive . . .". The Times (London). 2005-01-29. Retrieved 2010-01-02. 
  21. ^ Havrilesky, Heather (2010-01-13). ""Archer": The spy who shoved me". Retrieved 2010-01-20. 

Further reading

  • Aviram, Boaz Krav Maga - Use of The Human Body as a Weapon; Philosophy and Application of Hand to Hand Fighting Training System US:, 2009 ISBN 978-0557248469 ISBN 0557248469
  • Ben Asher, David. Fighting Fit. The Israeli Defense Forces Guide to Physical Fitness and Self Defense

New York:Perigee Books, 1983 ISBN 0-399-50624-1

  • Kahn, David Krav Maga: an essential guide to the renowned method for fitness and self-defence. London: Piatkus, 2005 ISBN 0013039504
  • Kahn, David Advanced krav maga: the next level of fitness and self-defence. London: Piatkus, 2009 ISBN 0749928336
  • Levine, Darren Complete krav maga: the ultimate guide to over 200 self-defense and combative techniques. Berkeley, Calif.: Ulysses, 2007 ISBN 1569755736
  • Philippe, Christophe The essential Krav maga: self-defense techniques for everyone. Berkeley, Calif.: Blue Snake, 2006 ISBN 1583941681
  • Stevo, Allan Krav Maga: A Self-Defense Style Developed in Bratislava. Accessed June 23, 2011 on 52 Weeks in Slovakia.

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