Krav Maga ( literally means in Hebrew. "contact combat") is a noncompetitive self-defense system developed in Europe that involves striking techniques, wrestling and grappling. Krav Maga is known for its focus on real-world situations and extremely efficient, brutal counter-attacks. It was derived from street fighting skills developed by Imi Lichtenfeld, who made use of his training as a boxer and wrestler, as a means of defending the Jewish quarter against fascist groups in Bratislava in the mid- to late-1930s. In the late-1940s, following his immigration to Israel, he began to provide lessons on combat training to what was to become the IDF, who went on to develop the system that became known as Krav Maga. It has since been refined for three applications: civilian, police and military.
Krav Maga has a philosophy emphasizing threat neutralization, simultaneous defensive and offensive maneuvers, and aggression. Krav Maga is used by Israeli Defense Forces, both regular and special forces, and several closely related variations have been developed and adopted by law enforcement and intelligence organizations,Mossad and Shin Bet. Outside Israel, Krav Maga is used by various special police, military and intelligence forces, such as american CIA, FBI, US Marshals, USAF, DEA, Sky Marshals and various police departments (SWAT teams). There are several organizations teaching variations of Krav Maga internationally.
A key principle of Krav Maga is finishing a fight as quickly as possible and therefore all attacks are aimed towards the most vulnerable parts of the body (e.g., face, neck, groin, knee, etc.). Because there are no sporting rules, individuals trained in Krav Maga are not limited to techniques that avoid severely injuring their opponents, but training and sparring drills provide maximum safety to the students by the use of protective equipment and the use of reasonable force. For example, kicks to the groin during sparring is commonplace, but groin protection must be worn and students should demonstrate due diligence with regards for their partners' safety. Students learn to defend against all variety of attacks before engaging in full-contact sparring. Students are taught to respond to attacks in the quickest and most efficient way; a common lesson taught is 'always use the nearest tool for the job'. This basically means use whichever limb is closest to your attacker at the time and whichever feels most natural. Men and women undergo the same drills. It has no sporting federation and there are no official uniforms. Usual training attire consists of a t-shirt and loose fitting trousers. Krav Maga is also one of the few martial arts in which footwear is habitually worn due to it being 'reality based training'.
General principles include:
- Counter attacking as soon as possible (or attacking preemptively).
- Targeting attacks to the body's most vulnerable points such as the eyes, jaw, throat, groin, knee, etc.
- Neutralizing the opponent as quickly as possible by responding with an unbroken stream of counter attacks known as "retzev", and if necessary a take down/joint break.
- Maintaining awareness of surroundings while dealing with the threat in order to look for escape routes, further attackers, objects that could be used to defend or help attack and so on.
Basic training entails a warm up, learning the essential pressure points and how to approach and control an opponent utilizing the application of force. Students learn how to execute strikes and kicks including punches, hammer fists, elbows, various kicks and knees. Students learn defenses against takedowns, chokes, bear hugs, arm bars and various other possible attacks. Training also includes learning to defend against various weapons including knives, bats, guns etc. Pressure drills are also common so that students can experience being attacked by multiple attackers. Other pressure tests include students closing their eyes and then having to react to a variety of potential threats. Fitness and endurance training is also incorporated into regular classes.
Prior to 1980, all experts in Krav Maga lived in Israel and trained under the Israeli Krav Maga Association (IKMA) That year marks the beginning of contact between Israeli Krav Maga experts and interested students in the United States. In 1981, a group of six Krav Maga instructors traveled to the US to demonstrate their system, primarily to local Jewish Community Centers. The New York field office of the FBI and the FBI's main training center at Quantico, Virginia saw it and expressed interest. The result was a visit by 22 people from the US to Israel in the summer of 1981 to attend a basic Krav Maga instructor course. The graduates from this course returned to the US and began to establish training facilities in their local areas. Additional students traveled to Israel in 1984 and again in 1986 to become instructors. At the same time, instructors from Israel continued to visit the US. Many United States-based instructors have travelled to Israel to further learn Krav Maga. These instructors take the knowledge and teachings back to students who are based in the United States but want to learn from Israeli-taught instructors.