THE UNKNOWN HISTORY OF KRAV MAGA

Sigh…have you heard the quote that “the victors write the history books”? I’m finding out that the ones who do all the talking in the Krav Maga world have written their own history of Krav Maga. I got to spend several days with Grandmaster Yaron Lichtenstein and pick his brain as I asked him many questions. Yaron was Imi’s second student ever after Imi left the military and began to develop Krav Maga. Yaron was around Imi almost daily for over thirty years. Yaron was one of only ten men whom Imi trained from beginner to black belt. Yaron was given a document from Imi stating that he was Imi’s successor. Imi gave Yaron his own personal black belt as a gift. You think Yaron might know what really went on with Krav Maga? After bringing Yaron to the U.S. for a seminar (the first time he has been in the states in thirty years) and talking with him I honestly believe that right now I know more about the true history of Krav Maga than anyone else in the United States. This isn’t a boast, just me knowing how fortunate I am. What do I have to gain by blogging this info? Nothing. It actually makes me look dumb as I have told my students and affiliates for years a history that was wrong. Why do it? The truth is the truth…and I hate being lied to!

What we were told: Imi taught Krav Maga in the Israeli military.
Truth: Imi never taught Krav Maga in the Israeli military. The term “Krav Maga” was not coined until 1971. Imi retired from the military in 1966. Imi taught hand to hand self defense techniques in the Israeli military.

What we were told: Krav Maga was made to be easy to learn and easy to remember.
Truth: The above is true for the military hand to hand self defense techniques. When Imi created Krav Maga he intended it to be a martial art. The students were to wear gi’s and belts. It relied a lot on high kicks, jump kicks,etc. It was meant to take time to perfect and move up the belt ranks.

What we are told: Krav Maga is an open system meant to change throughout time.
Truth: Yaron made the statement “When Michelangelo was done with David did he leave the chisel and hammer there for others to change as time went on? Krav Maga was Imi’s masterpiece.” It was meant to be a martial art that was complete.

What we are told: Krav Maga isn’t a martial art, it is all about techniques that are easy to learn and master quicly.
Truth: Krav Maga was absolutely meant to be a martial art. Imi wanted all the moves to have Hebrew names no matter where they were taught just like Karate and Judo techniques all have Japanese names.

The way Imi taught some of the techniques is the exact opposite of how we teach some of them today. For example, they keep their hands down to “invite the attacker in”. We teach to keep hands up so we don’t get hit. He taught punches with arms only (they actually punch brick walls daily like the old martial art masters). We yell if our students aren’t turning their body to punch! We have taken most of the high kicks and jump kicks out of the system, Imi had a lot of these techniques in his Krav Maga. We kick with the shin to the groin. Imi called such kicks foolish and lazy…the reason to kick is for the reach advantage so it is done with the ball of the foot.

There are those running around claiming to have developed Krav Maga in the military who held office jobs while they were in the military. There are those claiming to be trained by Imi whom Imi never met. There are many claiming they got their black belts from Imi when he only gave ten out ever. There are those who bought their black belts. There are those claiming to be Imi’s favorite or the heir whom the original group of ten black belts tried to get Imi to throw out of the system. To quote Yaron “Money ruined everything”.

I was told specific things about specific people in the Krav Maga world that would have you shaking your head that I will refrain from talking about at the moment. I am certainly not disparaging all in Krav Maga. There are many, such as SGT MJR Nir Maman, who are working in Israel with law enforcement and military who are sharp, dedicated and are teaching techniques that save lives. We in the USKMA are certainly making people safer and healthier and showing gym owners how to make money teaching Krav Maga without being dishonest or selling out. Unfortunately there are many in Krav Maga who put money above honesty and integrity.

I have heard Grandmaster Yaron Lichtenstein called a crazy old man and a liar. Knowing even a bit about Yaron should put these people to shame. Yaron looked at Imi as a father figure. His respect and reverence for Imi is apparent every time I talk with him. He retired to Brazil years ago and was done with Krav Maga completely until his son told him that if he didn’t keep Imi’s Krav Maga alive it would die because he is the only one who teaches it the way Imi wanted it taught. He does what he does only for Imi’s memory. He is one of the few not teaching for the money. I know that he has gone to other countries to teach seminars and upon seeing the conditions people were living in refused any payment. I have also heard people go on about his videos and how bad he looks as if he couldn’t possibly be the real deal. Part of this is hands are down, not turning into punches, etc. that he does on purpose as talked about above. Part of this is he is in his 60’s for crying out loud. The only videos I ever saw of Imi doing Krav were taken when he was in his last years. He looked slow and not too sharp. Should I think he isn’t the real deal because he was older and didn’t look good…he was the creator!! I may be quicker and sharper looking than Yaron but I wouldn’t mess with him. He was a war hero who was shot many times and taken prisoner for months in the Yom Kippur war (this can be proven, unlike many in Krav Maga who were proven to be liars when they talked about their military record). This man has taken lives with his bare hands in his military days…more than once. Again, I wouldn’t mess with him! BTW, Yaron is the only one who had been invited to teach Krav Maga for Wingate in Israel (others merely rent out Wingate facilities).

NOBODY other than Yaron is teaching Imi’s Krav Maga. All those running around in their camo’s and claiming to be THE authority on Krav Maga are teaching military self defense techniques. Krav Maga, the way Imi intended it to be, is a martial art that only Bukan (Yaron’s school name) is teaching. Period. This is why you will hear that what I am teaching is “American Krav Maga” from now on out of respect for both Imi and Yaron.

Advertisements

11 Comments

  1. “American Krav Maga” – if what you are teaching is taught in places other then America and/or originated somewhere other then America … isn’t that name a little off?

    My krav instructor did a trip through Israel a couple years back and his biggest message when he returned is that how he teaches is very close to how they teach. Does that mean in Israel they are teaching American Krav Maga?

    I am not disputing trying to pay respect to both Imi and Yaron, just questioning if “American” is the best modifier that should be added to the name.

    Thanks for what you do.
    You can post this if you like, or you can take it as a private message.

    • Thanks for the comment. The point isn’t so much what i am calling it as what i am not. There is only 1 person teaching Krav Maga the way Imi developed it. Nobody, even in Israel, is teaching Krav Maga with the curriculum, techniques, etc. the way Imi developed it except Yaron. Nobody is teaching the USKMA’s exact curriculum and techniques so i don’t have a problem with the name as it has, indeed, been “americanized”. A slight name change so that I am not saying I am teaching Imi’s art seems honest. My problem is people calling what they are doing “Krav Maga” as if it were Imi’s art when it is not.

      There were ten men whom lived through Imi’s developing Krav Maga from the beginning. Imi only trained ten to black belt. Of the ten who were with him from the beginning one has passed away, eight have other jobs and do not continue to teach the martial art of Krav Maga and only Yaron keeps the gi’s, curriculum, techniques, etc. as Imi wanted it.

      Am I saying everyone else is teaching garbage (including myself)? Of course not. There are many teaching great self defense. I believe our system is second to none as far as showing people how to defend themselves against any potential danger very quickly. The point it, anyone claiming to be teaching Imi’s Krav Maga is mistaken.

  2. Great blog Mark! I only spent short moments talking with Yaron in between sessions, but his passion and deep respect for Imi and Krav Maga were astounding. The one thing I learned was not to call it Krav! It is Krav Maga – Krav alone means nothing!

    Dave Sutton

  3. The most amazing and respectful text I ever read.
    Thank you for believing. Also I was in Israel with you.

    Tiago Macedo

  4. Really interesting article. I am not a practitioner or Krav Maga but have read much about it and seen documentaries. The Crav Maga training I saw looked very tough. What I saw had massive similarities to training that I did with a Ju-jitsu master in the UK (Keven Pell) who is ex-military and does training contracts with the American, British and Russian military (special forces). The main similarities that popped up for me were efficiency of movement, speed, aggression and determination to never give up (beasting in a major way). It has been refined by real life use also in body guarding, experience of running clubs in tough areas in cities (multiple opponents, getting stabbed etc).
    So, also similar is the idea that there are both military and civilian aspects to the training which have different end results some of which were not there in the original martial art..
    I love what you have written above. I am a believer that no one single martial art has dominance because many have roots in similar places and really it is about individual instructors refining various martial arts. In the end for example Mr Pell, if he was inclined, could call what he teaches something else, give it a new name to reflect what he has developed over his life time.

  5. I really feel proud of being part of Bukan school, I’m from México and I have the honor of being in one of the original bukan schools learning krav magá as Imi created it. Congratulations for this blog!

  6. I’m part of KMG (Krav Maga Global) in Budapest, Hungary where Imi was born. Why do you glorify this Yaron? I have been at Eyal Yanilov’s seminars who is widely regarder as one of the few students who trainer with Imi etc. etc. We can sit and talk all we want about who the “true” direct student of Imi is but here’s the point: Krav Maga is ecclectic self defense design purely for survival situations. Why else would the IDF and Mossad use this system too? Imi taught these short and deadly moves to the Jewish people here in Hungary and in Bratislava and only later taught in Israel. The moment you consider Krav Maga to be a martial art, then you can also start competitive Krav Maga tournaments. I’d never want to use throat/eye/groin strikes in competition. In fact I hope that I’ll never find myself in a situation where I’ll have to use all that I’ve learned. I find it to be a stupid comparison about Michellangelo. Krav Maga is NOT an art. If a guy wants to kill you, will you give a single damn if you kick with the shin or not? Should we also stop improving technology that makes our life easier and better just because 50 years ago someone said something? We must adapt and improve and not be stuck with pointless discussions. It’s all about survival so that we can get home safe and eat our soup.

    All the best and be safe.

    • Why do I glorify Yaron? Dude, did you read the first paragraph. There is nobody else even close to having his credentials. I am sorry that you don’t like truth in your history but there is no changing what really happened, was said, etc. Unfortunately most live by ““What then is, generally speaking, the truth of history? A fable agreed upon.” – Napoleon Bonaparte

      • And you know this because…he told you? Or did you ask Imi?

      • I,m a student of bukan in Mexico. Today I was practicing with Grandmaster Yaron in a seminar and I just can say that I am full of proud and respect about our Grandmaster Yaron and Sensei Rotem. Imi’s Krav Maga has changed my life. Bukan guide me in many ways. I am very happy and lucky to know the Krav Maga as Imi created. Thanks to Grandmaster Yaron for it.
        Nice Blog.

  7. I read your article with interest and notice many similarities between what Yaron is saying about Krav Maga and what Boaz Aviram says about it. If you don’t know who Mr. Aviram is, he was the third IDF Fighting Fitness Academy Krav Maga Chief Instructor (the first being Imi Lichtenfeld and the second Eli Aviksar). Boaz also says that it wasn’t called Krav Maga in the military, that Imi named it that when he modified it to teach to civilians. Which brings me to the point of it being a constantly evolving system, Mr. Aviram says humans have been fighting with two hands and two feet for centuries, what’s changed recently that requires modification of the system. I’m sure he mentions either in his book or in one of his blog posts about the techniques having Hebrew names also. The way he teaches Krav Maga is the same way it was taught when he was teaching in the IDF, which includes some high kicks (Defence against under hold knife attack with a scissors jump kick for instance). He also teaches hands down so as not to telegraph your intentions and to invite the attacker in, especially in the way he teaches kicks (it’s like a see-saw motion). Also in his book he mentions only punching with the arms and about punching the brick walls, although this isn’t how he teaches punches (punching with arms only I mean, or brick walls for that matter). Again he also teaches kicking with the ball of the foot as it extends the reach of the kick (one of the most important principles he teaches is the most efficient attack with the maximum reach with minimum effort whilst exposing yourself to the least amount of danger possible). Boaz also talks a lot both in his book and on his blog about so called civilian systems teaching “Krav Maga” for the purpose of making money. I won’t go into the way Boaz’s system works but it’s a pretty decent way to run an organisation honestly in my opinion.

    I know it sounds like I’m the head of the Boaz Aviram fan club but like I said I noticed many comparisons plus I’ve just recently within the past few weeks read his book again. I’m sure anyone else who has read his book or blog posts can back up the points I’ve made. Can I just also state that I don’t study Krav Maga with any organisation as the only one near me charges a fortune for one class (they are KMG affiliated), and that I also have books and DVD’s by other instructors and organisations that are also excellent (David Kahn, The Ultimate Krav Maga DVDs, the 5 disc set done with Eyal Yanilov and Darren Levine back in the early ’90’s and Imi and Eyal’s book to name pretty much them all!). I know it’s an old post but it might be a useful post for someone else someday. “So one may walk in peace”.


Comments RSS TrackBack Identifier URI

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s