The founder of Krav Maga, Imi Lichtenfeld, was born in 1910 in Hungary but grew up in Bratislava, Czechoslovakia. Imi was a natural athlete, winning championships in wrestling, boxing, and gymnastics as well as a successful swimmer. Imi’s greatest influence was his father, Samuel, a police officer, self-defense instructor, and former circus acrobat. Samuel taught self-defense techniques at Hercules, Bratislava’s first gym, which he owned.

In the 1930’s, Imi honed his fighting skills in the streets of Bratislava, protecting himself and other Jews from local fascist thugs. He took part in numerous fights to prevent anti-Semitic mobs from terrorizing the Jewish community in the city. These fights sharpened Imi’s awareness of the difference between sport and street fighting. The seeds of Krav Maga were planted in his mind from these experiences. 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.

Imi’s fighting to protect family and neighbors made him unpopular with the local authorities and he was forced to leave in 1940. So, Imi made his way to Israel, which was then called Palestine. He joined a paramilitary organization (Haganah) fighting for Jewish independence where the leaders immediately recognized Imi’s fighting prowess and ingenuity. During this time, he taught other soldiers basic hand-to-hand fighting skills and his reputation grew.

In May 1948 Israel was born and the Israeli government asked Imi to develop an effective fighting system which later became codified as the Krav Maga system. This paramilitary organization (Haganah) was eventually incorporated into the Israeli Defense Force (IDF) and Imi became the military school’s chief instructor for physical training and Krav Maga for about 20 years. After he finished his active duty, Imi began adapting and modifying Krav Maga to civilian needs. The system was formulated to suit everyone, man and woman, boy or girl, who might need to save his or her life or survive an attack while sustaining minimal harm.

"Krav Maga heightens perception and transforms fear into something more productive." IMI LICHTENFELF 

- Creator of Krav Maga 1910-1998