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IMI LICHTENFELD

Imi Lichtenfeld Krav Maga
Imrich Lichtenfeld (also known as Imi Sde-Or) was born in 1910 to a Hungarian Jewish family in Budapest, and grew up in Bratislava, Slovakia. Under the influence of his father, Samuel Lichtenfeld, who was a Chief Inspector in the Bratislava Police Force and a former circus acrobat, Imi became a very successful boxer, wrestler, and gymnast. Competing at both national and international levels, he quickly rose to fame.

KRAV MAGA IS BORN

In the mid 1930s, anti-Semitic riots threatened the Jewish population of Bratislava, Imi’s hometown. Imi became the uncrowned leader of about a hundred Jewish young men, many of whom were boxers and wrestlers. Together, they defended the Jewish neighborhood against racist and fascist gangs.

Imi quickly realized that martial arts and traditional sports had little in common with real combat, and knew that he had to change his fighting techniques. He then began to improvise on his knowledge of fighting sports to create new techniques that would be effective against his opponents. His natural talent, experience with fighting sports, and familiarity with the violent street conflicts enabled him to come up with a fundamental self-defense principle that would become the core of all Krav Maga’s techniques: To make use of natural movements and reactions in defense, and immediately follow up with a decisive counterattack.
Imi Lichtenfeld History

KRAV MAGA IS USED IN THE MILITARY

In 1940, Imi fled his homeland which was occupied by Nazis. He headed for Palestine, then under the British mandate, as an illegal immigrant on the riverboat Pentcho, which became shipwrecked on the Greek Dodecanese Islands. He eventually reached Palestine after serving with distinction in the British-supervised Free Czech Legion in North Africa and was quickly welcomed into Israel’s pre-state Hagana military organization after its leaders recognized his fighting ability and ingenuity.

Imi began training fighters in physical fitness, swimming, use of the knife, and defenses against knife attacks in 1944. In his charge were several elite units of the Hagana and Palmach (striking force of the Hagana and forerunner of the special units of the IDF), including the Pal-yam, as well as groups of police officers.

Imi began training fighters in physical fitness, swimming, use of the knife, and defenses against knife attacks in 1944. In his charge were several elite units of the Hagana and Palmach (striking force of the Hagana and forerunner of the special units of the IDF), including the Pal-yam, as well as groups of police officers.

A WARRIOR, TEACHER, AND GENTLEMAN

Imi retired from the army in 1964 and decided to impart the skills of Krav Maga to others. He opened two training centers in the cities of Tel-Aviv and Netanya, using an adaptation of Krav Maga to meet the self-defense needs of civilians. Imi believed that Krav Maga should be accessible to all who wanted to learn – be it man, woman, or child who might need it to save his or her life one day.

Imi passed away in 1998, at the age of 88. Up till his final days, he continued to develop Krav Maga techniques, concepts and instructional methods with the assistance of his closest student, Eyal Yanilov. A man of morals, Imi always took great care to promote his universal principles of respect for others and avoidance of unjustified use of force. These principles are still promoted to this day by Eyal Yanilov and Krav Maga Global.

A more detailed life story of Imi can be found in the books written by him and Eyal Yanilov.