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The Fascinating History of Krav Maga, the World’s Deadliest Fighting Form

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Krav Maga, a fighting form invented in Israel, is the world’s most effective and dangerous form of combat.

Krav Maga, a fighting form invented in Israel, is the world’s most effective and dangerous form of combat.

Only One Rule: Don’t Get Hurt

To begin with, Krav Maga cannot be called a fighting form or martial art because, unlike other forms, it has no rules and restrictions, and nothing is ‘forbidden’ in it. It is a real-world defense system, and there is only one rule in Krav Maga: ‘don’t get hurt!’.

First developed for the Israeli Defence Force, Krav Maga was only created for street fighting. Unlike other forms that had choreographed and exhibitory moves, this fighting form is bare-bones and is only meant to survive the violence encountered in settings like closed street alleys, pubs, and dangerous clubs.

The principle is to quickly and efficiently inflict the maximum amount of pain possible on your opponent while self-defending yourself. Krav Maga will teach you everything that you will need to know in the most straightforward way possible to survive when the day comes.

That is what exactly makes it so dangerous and unpredictable. Krav Maga is not designed to make you a world-famous warrior. It is just designed so that you can tackle your heavier opponent by attacking him/her in the weakest points; throat, eyes, and nose. So even the most hardened person couldn’t dare to stand before you.

It is all about reacting savagely and viciously and then running away. There is no mercy, just plain survival.

There is no mercy, just plain survival.

There is no mercy, just plain survival.

The Persecution of the Jews

The origins of Jewish self-defense, ultimately culminating in Krav Maga, start with the persecution of the Jews.

In much of Europe during the Middle Ages, there were numerous instances of Jews being persecuted in most European countries. In 1096, the knights of the 1st crusade unleashed brutal massacres upon Jews in Worms, Trier, and Metz. These genocides were conducted due to unfounded accusations that the Jews carried out ritualistic murders of Christian children at Passover to obtain blood.

Again, in the 2nd crusade of 1147, the Jews were massacred in large numbers in France. The Jews were also attacked by the Shepherds’ Crusades of 1251 and 1320. The Crusades were followed by the systematic expulsion of Jews from England, France, and Austria. Most of the expelled Jews fled to Poland.

In the 14th century, as the deadly pandemic of the Black Death devastated Europe, Jews became the convenient scapegoat, with accusations flying thick and fast that they deliberately poisoned the rivers and lakes so that the pandemic could wipe out Christianity. Jewish houses were plundered, and mass murders took place in the towns of Salzburg, Braunau, Krems, and Zwettl. The plague was just an excuse as in Strasbourg itself, 900 Jews were burnt alive where the plague hadn’t yet affected the city.

Time and again, Jewish communities were systematically exterminated either due to either financial interests or religious motives.

The origins of Jewish self-defense, ultimately culminating in Krav Maga, starts with the persecution of the Jews.

The origins of Jewish self-defense, ultimately culminating in Krav Maga, starts with the persecution of the Jews.

The Jews Defend Themselves

By the late 1880s, a lot of Jews had returned to the Middle East due to increasing hostilities with other communities. These Jews settled in vast swathes of the Gulf region, creating enclosed Jewish settlements and townships. Unfortunately, they were not welcome in the Middle East either, and attacks on them continued unabated.

To prevent these attacks and to self-defend themselves, the Jewish communities grouped together in 1903 and formed the Maccabi Union, whose goal was to teach physical fitness and defend oneself with sticks and using natural topographical features like rocks and bushes lying around.

In 1907, the Maccabi Union graduated into the HaShomer, or ‘The Guard’, whose only objective was to defend Jewish communities from vicious attacks.

In 1919, a soldier and revolutionary named Ze’ev Jabotinsky formed the Haganah, a militant group specializing in self-defense techniques. The Haganah ultimately became the core of the Israeli Defence Force, later after the creation of Israel in 1948.

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The Haganah created the Kapap, the first codified version of self-defense and hand-to-hand combat techniques that finally evolved into Krav Maga, thanks to one legend Imi Lichtenfeld.

Kapap was the first codified version of self-defense and hand-to-hand combat techniques that finally evolved into Krav Maga, thanks to one legend Imi Lichtenfeld.

Kapap was the first codified version of self-defense and hand-to-hand combat techniques that finally evolved into Krav Maga, thanks to one legend Imi Lichtenfeld.

Imi Lichtenfeld, the Creator of Krav Maga

Born in Budapest in 1910, Lichtenfeld grew up in Bratislava, Slovakia. It was the 1930s, and the Jewish community in Bratislava was the target of violent anti-Semitic attacks.

Imi studied the nature of street attacks and realized that every attack can be won or defended in a matter of 10-30 seconds which he called rapid response time. It all depends on the victim’s reaction. Success is almost certain if one utilizes the response time in attacking the weakest portion of the opponent in the quickest time possible.

Imi then went ahead and streamlined the earlier kapap techniques into a series of deadly threat neutralization techniques that were not only effective but brutally bamboozled the opponent into submission.

Thus, Krav Maga was born. In the 1940s, the Nazis seized the country, and Imi became part of the Czech Legion, a group that fought against the Nazis. Imi used his Krav Maga with great effect against the Nazis, who were clueless about the brutal defenses of the legion.

After the war, he became the Israel Defence Forces (IDF) instructor, where he personally trained combat teams in Krav Maga. Soon Krav Maga became the most famous fighting technique to be exported out of Israel, gradually acquiring sizable followership across the world.

Soon Krav Maga became the most famous fighting technique to be exported out of Israel, gradually acquiring sizable followership across the world.

Soon Krav Maga became the most famous fighting technique to be exported out of Israel, gradually acquiring sizable followership across the world.

In 1967, Imi retired from serving in the military. But the evolution of Krav Maga did not end there. In fact, it is the only fighting form in the world that is constantly evolving and adding new techniques every day.

The early Krav Maga took inspiration from the traditional Japanese, British, and American martial arts techniques. Later on, it took some techniques from South African Blacks during the Apartheid era.

Krav Maga experts in the 21st century are now embracing and adopting ancient styles from Muay Thai, Silat, Filipino, and Russian martial arts to adapt to an era where new challenges require evolved solutions. Simply put, Krav Maga is designed to suit the needs of a fast-changing world and be nimble accordingly.

Today’s Krav Maga has become so much of an amalgamation of forms, techniques, and tricks from various cultures that it can no longer be called “Israeli” Krav Maga at all. The history of this glorious fighting form is still being written every single day.

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Sources

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2022 Ravi Rajan

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