Krav Maga was developed in Czechoslovakia in the 1930s by Imi Lichtenfeld, also known as Imi Sde-Or (Sde-Or–”Light Field”–a calque of his surname into Hebrew). He first taught his fighting system in Bratislava in order to help protect the local Jewish community from the Nazi militia. Upon arriving in the British Mandate of Palestine, Lichtenfeld began teaching Kapap to the Haganah, the Jewish underground army. With the establishment of the State of Israel in 1948, Lichtenfeld became the Chief Instructor of Physical Fitness and Krav Maga at the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) School of Combat Fitness. He served in the IDF for 15 years, during which time he continued to develop and refine his hand-to-hand combat method. In 1964 he left the military though continued to supervise the instruction of Krav Maga in both military and law-enforcement contexts, and in addition, worked indefatigably to refine, improve and adapt Krav Maga to meet civilian needs.
In 1978, Lichtenfeld founded the non-profit Israeli Krav Maga Association with several senior instructors. The Israeli Krav Maga Association has existed continuously from that day and is still located in Netanya Israel. Grand Master Haim Gidon was elected President of the IKMA by an assembly and a vote of over twelve hundred members and still serves as President, Grand Master and 10th dan black belt. Imi Lichtenfeld died in January 1998 in Netanya, Israel.
The Israeli Government has recognized the IKMA as the continuation of Imi Lichtenfeld’s system The Prime Mister of Israeli recognized Grand Master Haim Gidon for his work in krav maga . Prior to his death, Imi Lichtenfeld published a list of his highest level students, their ranks and witnessed this document in the presence of a notary . Imi Lichtenfeld signed a notice that Grand Master Haim Gidon should be present at an student or instructor rankings of brown belt and above.
Expansion to the USA
Prior to 1980, all experts in Krav Maga lived in Israel and trained under the Israeli Krav Maga Association. 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. 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. Law enforcement training in the US began in 1985.
Krav Maga is currently being taught as a primary hand-to-hand combat technique at some police departments in the United States.
All Israel Defense Forces soldiers, including all Israeli Special Forces units, learn Krav Maga as part of their basic training, although most non-Special Forces trainees only spend a small amount of time training in Krav Maga, up to a week of training for a few hours per day. Further, Krav Maga is the defensive tactics system used to train the Israeli Police, Israeli Intelligence and all Security Divisions. Krav Maga is also taught to civilians, military, law enforcement and security agencies around the world. The Swedish Army uses Krav Maga lightly in close combat training for urban warfare. Schools can be found everywhere from Australia and the UK to South Africa. The International Krav Maga Federation (IKMF) 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. Krav Maga is also being deployed in the Palestinian territories, particularly for its versatility, where Israeli soldiers adapt it for crowd control purposes.
There are 3 levels of practice: for the army, for the police, and self-defense for civilians. Those 3 levels feature differing techniques due to their specialized applications (i.e. attack, threat-neutralization, or self-defense).