Imi Lichtenfeld

Imrich ("Emerich") Lichtenfeld (1910 – January 9, 1998) is the founder of the self-defence system Krav Maga. He is also known by the Hebrew calque of his name, Imi Sde-Or.

Early life

Born in Budapest, in the Austro-Hungarian Empire, Lichtenfeld grew up in Pozsony, (now Bratislava, Slovakia), which was part of Austria-Hungary at that time. His father, Samuel Lichtenfield, was a chief inspector on the Bratislava police force and a former circus acrobat. He owned and ran the Hercules gym where he taught self-defence. As a young man, Imrich was a successful boxer and wrestler.

Development of Krav Maga

In the late 1930s, anti-Semitic riots threatened the Jewish population of Bratislava. Together with other Jewish boxers and wrestlers, Lichtenfeld helped to defend his Jewish neighborhood against fascist gangs. He quickly realised that sport has little in common with real combat and began developing a system of techniques for practical self-defense in life threatening situations.

In 1940, Lichtenfeld fled the Nazi occupation of his homeland, heading for Palestine. He arrived there in 1942. He began to teach his combat techniques to the members of the Jewish underground organisations Haganah and Palmach. After the establishment of Israel in 1948, he became the Chief Instructor of Physical Training in the Israel Defence Forces. It was during this time that his system came to be called Krav Maga.

Later life

In 1964, Lichtenfeld retired from the Israeli military. He then modified Krav Maga to fit the needs of police forces and ordinary civilians. He trained teams of Krav Maga instructors who were accredited by him and the Israeli Ministry of Education. He also created the Israeli Krav Maga Association in 1978. Lichtenfeld died in Netanya, Israel at the age of 87.

Combat techniques

Krav Maga is known for its main principles:

  1. Do as much damage in as little time as possible.
  2. Change from defending to attacking as quickly as possible (including simultaneously).
  3. Use items around you as weapons.
  4. Be aware of everything that is happening around you.


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