Founder of Krav Maga

Emrich Lichtenfeld was a Hungarian-born Slovakian martial artist who founded the Krav Maga self-defence system.

As a young man, Lichtenfeld was a successful boxer, wrestler, and gymnast since his youth. In 1928, he won the Slovakian Youth Wrestling Championship, and in 1929, the adult championship in the light and middleweight divisions. That year, he also won the national boxing championship and an international gymnastics championship.

In the late 1930s, anti-semitic riots threatened the Jewish population of Bratislava. Together with other Jewish boxers and wrestlers, Lichtenfeld helped to defend his jewish neighborhood against racist gangs. He quickly decided that sport has little in common with real combat and began developing a system of techniques for practical self-defense in life threatening situations.

Because of his renowned fighting ability, Lichtenfeld was targeted by the local police is Bratislava, and he was forced to flee with a group of other young Jewish men and women. He was the only member of his family to survive the Holocaust. He eventually found his way to pre-state Israel in 1942. He began training fighters in his area of expertise in 1944. After the 1948 War of Independence, he was absorbed into the Israeli Defence Forces (IDF) where he remained for a long career as Chief Instructor of Physical Fitness and Hand to Hand combat (Krav Maga). During that time he developed and refined his unique method for self defense and hand o hand combat. He retired from the military in 1964, and began to adapt and modify Krav Maga to meet the needs of police forces and ordinary civilians. To disseminate his method, he established two training centres, one in Tel Aviv and one in Netanya. He trained and accredited teachers of Krav Maga, who were also accredited by the Israeli Minister of Education.

He developed his fundamental self-defense principle: “use natural movements and reactions” for 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”. The one rule in Krav Maga, is to not get hurt.

His method was formulated to suit everyone – man and woman, boy or girl, who might need it to save his or her life or survive an attack while sustaining minimal harm.

Lichtenfeld created the International Krav Maga Federation in 1995. He died in Netanya in 1998.

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One thought to “Imi Lichtenfeld 1910-1998”

  • Bob elder

    Great story!

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