History of Krav Maga

The Origins Of The Israeli Defense Force's Fighting System

The Origins & History of Krav Maga

History Krav Maga Waltham, Massachusetts Before Krav Maga there was KAPAP (Krav Panim A Panim – meaning fighting face-to-face). This was a system of hand-to-hand fighting, that drew from Judo and Ju-Jitsu, and was sometimes referred to as “Useful Judo” – the first manual of close combat created for the IDF (Israeli Defense Force) was given this title. This system was developed in the 1930’s to equip members of the Haganah (the Jewish resistance force, in then UK occupied Palestine), with unarmed fighting skills and techniques. KAPAP was a framework of fighting ideas and principles, that used these to guide its selection of techniques from other traditional martial arts. One of the instructors in the Haganah, was a Hungarian immigrant called Imi Lichtenfeld. Lichtenfeld had a history of boxing and wrestling and was also a successful gymnast. He had also grown up experiencing the antisemitism, of 1930’s Europe, and had incidents when he, along with other Jews were targets of violence, often against multiple assailants. In experiencing and observing this violence he realized that people, when attacked, defaulted to their natural reactions, even if they had training in other martial arts or fighting systems.

As the Jewish population began to push for the creation of an Independent Jewish state i.e., the formation of Israel, tensions within Palestine started to grow, and it became apparent, that the neighboring Arab countries e.g., Egypt, Syria, Lebanon etc., would try to crush the new state by force as soon as independence was announced, with the goal of “pushing it into the sea”. This created a new sense of urgency in terms of training citizens, and members of what would become the IDF (Israeli Defense Force), in how to defend themselves and be able to fight etc. Lichtenfeld, along with others, had started to develop the KAPAP he had learnt into a simpler and more basic system that was quicker and easier to learn than traditional martial arts. The Origins & Development of Krav Maga Waltham Based on his experiences in Hungary, he started to use instinctive and natural movements as the basis for techniques. Rather than trying to get people to respond to an attack in the most effective/optimal way, with an “artificially” created technique, he looked at how people naturally reacted i.e., what they would actually do when attacked, and used these movements and reactions as the basis and foundations for his techniques.

His approach, and interpretation of KAPAP, became the basis for how new IDF recruits were trained. Although he referred to his system as Krav Maga (meaning contact combat), the terms KAPAP, Krav Maga, and Useful Judo, were used synonymously up until the mid-1960s. In 1964, Imi Lichtenfeld left the IDF and started to develop a civilian version of Krav Maga. Eli Avikzar, took over as the head of the IDF’s, Krav Maga and Combat Fitness (Cosher Kravi) program, assisted by Dennis Hanover and Miki Assulin (Krav Maga Yashir Head Instructor, Gershon Ben Keren, has trained extensively with both of them). By the 1970’s the term Krav Maga became the standardized term to refer to the IDF’s programs of hand-to-hand fighting, and the approach evolved from one that was used just by the infantry, to one that was used by all units and agencies etc.

If you are interested in improving your safety and learning some Krav Maga techniques and gaining a better understanding into how the system works, please click on the button below to book a 90-minute introductory Krav Maga seminar. If you would like to learn more about these seminars please click here.


Krav Maga Waltham Massachusetts Address Krav Maga Waltham Map & Location