IMI LICHTENFELD (Z"L)

The creator of Krav Maga

A humanist is a person  who, because of the environment to which he was exposed, is interested in the future of humanity. He is the one who does not rest with the laurels he has won for himself and who fights against inertia and self-indulgence. He states and defends that anyone can transcend the environment with courage, because, in other words, they have freedom of choice.

Imi, during his entire life, fought in wars and knew all the faces of violence. He faced enemies, led battles and showed that we all have the option to survive the fight, whatever it may be. He taught simple men how to use their own bodies, turning them into unbeatable soldiers. The efficacy of his teachings surprised him and his work is recognized worldwide. Its creation has become the defensive philosophy of the State of Israel and of elite military units around the world. The teaching to civilians gives back to the common citizen the autonomy, showing that anyone is able to defend himself from any situation of violence in daily life. Imi idealized, realized and donated to mankind his example, his posture, his teachings and his strength: Krav Maga.

Be good enough to avoid conflict.

DO: BUT DO IT RIGHT.

SIMPLE AND NATURAL RESPONSE TO COMPLICATED SITUATION.

REACT IN PROPORTION TO THE NEED.

MINIMUM OF MOVEMENT OF DEFENSE AGAINST MAXIMUM MOVEMENT OF ATTACK.

Who had the privilege or the opportunity to get to know him , heard phrases like these. He used to sit with his students in a coffee shop called “Ugati” in Netanya, Israel, and could explain for hours about Krav Maga and his techniques. He believed in the essence of the human being, and that everyone could have their lives improved by the right way of life. He saw life with simplicity, welcomed everyone with an open heart and always had a message to transmit. Whoever sat next to him noticed immediately that he was a different person ;enlightened, and with great strength of mind.

Imrir Lichtenfeld (Sde-or) (Z “L), was born on May 26, 1910 in Budapest, at the time considered the center of the Austro-Hungarian empire.

His father, Samuel, was a detective of the local secret service and self-defense and immobilization techniques instructor of the secret police, being awarded and known as the detective who most arrested dangerous criminals. Imi, often accompanied his father, suggesting movements and techniques that, when used by the police, worked with great efficiency.

 His uncle was a physician and this allowed him access to books and knowledge about the human body. Encouraged by his father, Imi began to practice various forms of sports and in 1928 and 1929 he won several European Greco-Roman wrestling championships. In 1929 he became boxing champion. His formation was based on the law and the sport.

From the mid-1930s, life in Europe was no longer the same. Step by step, fascist and Nazi groups gained space and transformed the country`s life. Street clashes, persecutions and death were the new reality.

In this scenario, Imi became the leader of a small resistance group that fought  against fascist groups. Between the years 1936 and 1940, he participated in numerous and violent confrontations, alone or with a  team. Imi and his companions faced hundreds, even thousands of enemies, in a cruel and unequal war. All these events and Imi`s personal experiences resulted in the strengthening of his body and spirit, preparing him for the events that were still to come, and planted the seeds that germinated in the creation of the Krav Maga.

In 1940, Imi left his homeland, family and friends and boarded in the last boat that managed to escape the Nazi clutches in Bratislava. It was nothing more than a simple ferry called “Pentcho,” which was adapted to transport hundreds of people leaving Europe on their way to Israel. This Odyssey of Imi, from Bratislava to the Promised Land, lasted two years.

Before arriving in Israel, Imi fought in the Middle East,fighting in battles in Libya, Syria, Lebanon and Egypt, integrating the  Jewish brigades fighting alongside the British Army. Until in 1942, in recognition for the services provided to the English Army, he received permission to enter Israel, where he would begin a new phase of his life. There, he soon became in charge for the physical preparation and hand-to-hand combat of the Haganah, one of the groups fighting for the protection of the local community and for the independence of Israel. Gradually, Imi made alterations in the movements and the training system of the Haganá, making the movements shorter and objective, adding traumatic blows and inserting his philosophy of defense in the training of men. Thus was born the Krav Maga.

With the creation of the State of Israel in 1948, Imi enlisted in the “Tzahal”, Israel Defense Forces (IDF), becoming the chief fitness and Krav Maga instructor . His techniques were tested, evaluated and then adopted as the only defense philosophy of the country.

He personally trained the best warriors of the best elite groups of Israeli armed forces; people who, with the technique, skill and courage changed the destiny of the operations and wars that would take place there. In 1963, out of the active role as a Tzahal instructor, he took the Krav Maga techniques to the civil world, proving that they are efficient and accessible to every human being, the strong, the weak, the man, the woman, the child, or the elderly.

With this aim in mind, he opened two training centers, one in  Tel Aviv and another in Netanya. In 1978, he founded the Israeli Krav Maga Association. So, Imi selected a small group among his best students, who would become in charge for the Krav Maga in the future.

In an official letter of ” Merit” ,the Chief of Staff of the Israeli Armed Forces wrote that, since the time of Haganah and Palmach, through all Tzahal years, Imi’s warfare ability and personal potential were the foundations of the quality of the Israeli warrior, and no one else was responsible for this result, for this achievement, than Imi Lichtenfeld. In the same letter it is said that the quality of Krav Maga is a result of the humanitarian value of Imi, which is structured in simplicity, objectivity, self-control, maximum safety in training and combat, honesty and respect towards the opponent, even though he is an enemy .

In a letter written by the Minister of Education and Culture, Zvulum Amer, the importance of preparing Israeli youth to face daily violence is recognized, and for this reason, the Ministry of Education supports the effective teaching of Krav Maga in all schools. The minister thanked Imi for the creation of such an efficient technique, qualifying it with the “blue and white” merit. “Blue and white” is a term used in Israel for people who honor the country, and are the colors of the flag of Israel.

Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin (Z”L) stated in a letter that “Imi Lichtenfeld” is synonymous of “making a capable Israeli soldier or commander,” these two being a sign of the success of Tzahal’s operations.

Therefore, we realized that Imi’s path was marked by numerous conflicts, but in all of them, Imi always sought respect for human life. For his students, he always tried to convey the sense of family, the importance of truth, the power of commitment.

His greatest commitments were made in simple conversations, drinking coffee , at Ugati Cafeteria, where, in his last 20 years of  life, he made his most important decisions, entrusted to his students the most important missions, and made the Krav Maga become known all over the world.

Sadly, Imi Lichtenfeld (Z “L) died on 9 January 1998.