The Martial Art of Krav Maga

The story of Krav Maga as a “martial art” begins with the World War II experiences of Imi Lichtenfeld, a boxer, gymnast, and wrestler. Imi’s father, Samuel, was a chief inspector on the Bratislava police force and owner of Hercules Gymnasium, where Imi first learned and competed in combat sports or the “martial arts”. Imi won several national distinctions in both wrestling and gymnastics. But it was his experience fighting anti-Semetic gangs in Czechoslovakia that taught him the distinction between sports based martial arts such as wrestling and street combat. Later Imi would us his experiences to train military and police officers the skills he had acquired in actual combat, those same skills that saved his life and the lives of his fellow soldiers.

After serving on the battlefield, Imi continued his service as a chief instructor in the Israeli Defense Force School of Combat Fitness. And after twenty years in the military he retired and began adapting Krav Maga’s techniques for the civilian population. In 1978 he formed the Israeli Krav Maga Association, charged with spreading the techniques and principles of reality based self-defense so that “one may walk in peace.”

Today Krav Maga is the official military combative system of the Israeli Defense Force. It is designed to teach a wide range of people, young and old, men and women, fit and unfit, the tools necessary to prevail in most violent confrontations. Its concepts are simple. Its tools, brutal. And though its origins are military in nature, Krav Maga is practiced by school teachers, businessmen, movie stars, college students, husbands and wives, sons and daughters, grandmothers and grandfathers–by hundreds of thousands of people the world over.

Krav Maga remains a “martial art” only in that it concerns “the art of war.” Yet unlike more traditional forms, such as Kung Fu, Karate, Silat, and Greco-Roman Wrestling, etc., it is utterly unique in its emphasis on directness and practicality. In Krav Maga there are no competitions, no ritualized dance moves, no political or spiritual doctrines, and no extraneous traditions to speak of. Even the grading is a formality that designates one’s time dedicated to and level of expertise gained in the system.

Indeed, Krav Maga is more of a system than an art. The symbol of Krav Maga, the Kuf Mem, means little more than “contact combat,” or perhaps more appropriately “close quarters combat.” Its design represents the fluidity of a system in which new fighting tactics are introduced as the need arises, while others are discarded as they become irrelevant. Because combat is ever-evolving, in other words, new methods of addressing violent, predatory behaviors must be developed to answer the concerns of a modern world. Krav Maga’s practice seeks quick and effective solutions to worst case scenarios. For the Kravist, when the fight is on there is no time for fancy stances or balletic moves. A single moment of hesitation means the difference between life and death. For the Kravist there is but one golden rule, if you will, “to go home safe.”


If you are interested in the Martial Arts and would like to try Krav Maga then drop us an email or use the contact form. We’d love to hook you up with a free lesson in one of our Bristol Martial Arts Clubs.