Just two days ago, the 26th of May and 104 years ago, Imi Lichtenfeld was born. The sole creator of civilian Krav Maga and the world Krav Maga movement. We, as Krav maga practitioners owe it to this man, for the very path we have taken is primarily because of him. He inspired his students and people throughout the world to learn and develop their ability, and to ultimately assist him in spreading Krav Maga across the world.
Throughout his life Imi was a fighter and a warrior who was involved in real life conflict during the Nazi regime and beyond. He was a gentlemen, one that everybody knew and liked no matter where he went. Imi had a heart of gold and was the type of guy who would give you the last sip of water left, who would share everything with you with no fear and no ill agenda.
Those who knew Imi spoke highly of the humble master who could snap anyone in two, in half a second. I’ve only heard people speak in awe of this wonderful man. I only ever hear the funny stories, the action packed stories and the stories illustrating that this man cared about others above himself.
There is one story I would like to share with you. I will share many more in time and will likely have hundreds of Imi stories within this blog category.
Telling this story is my attempt to put the attention on this great man that changed the world, my life and likely yours too. This story illustrates where Krav Maga comes from and the cold reality that some lived in its creation.
Please, if you have any stories, share them with us.
I heard this story from one of the lead masters in Krav Maga. My interpretation of it may not be 100% as it was told, but I will do my best to retell you.
During Imi’s time training paramilitary units (before the formation of the IDF), a lot was learned about combat and the use of Krav Maga. Krav Maga was an evolution; through much conflict and war, from the streets of Bratislava and through Imi’s journey to Palestine, to the formation of Israel (as its own independent state) and beyond. It continues to further its reach around the globe and is ever evolving according to the modern world.
Once Israel was formed, Imi became the Chief Instructor of Physical Fitness and Krav Maga for the IDF. At this point in Imi’s life, he was very experienced and a veteran in fighting and combat. Krav Maga was in its early days of development and at this point quite different from the Krav Maga you know.
I was told that Imi had an old British armed and unarmed combat manual (probably one of many books). He used to go through the techniques and present them to his soldiers and units. These soldiers would go and carry out their duties, and in so doing, they would learn quickly what worked for them and what didn’t (they were basically the testing committee of those days!). The soldiers would report back to Imi about the techniques they were taught and whether they were effective.
This particular story involves a soldier who reported backed to Imi. The soldier was in a lot of mental and emotional pain and distraught. He had killed an enemy soldier with a knife, but the technique he used proved to be inefficient, slow and not effective enough to immediately neutralise the threat.
The conversation went something like this:
Soldier: ‘Imi, I tried the technique of stabbing between the ribs, and it was terrible! It did not stop him quickly enough, there was a lot of blood, he was kicking and screaming and I had to repeatedly stab him to stop him’.
Imi: ‘Okay, no good.’ said Imi reaching for his manual. He found the technique and then crossed it off marking it with the words ‘BAD TECHNIQUE’ and some further notes.
Then Imi proceeded to another page and showed the soldier another close range knife technique that targeted a major artery, and they discussed it and trained it a little.
On the next visit the soldier comes to see Imi.
Soldier: ‘Imi, the technique was good. It worked very quickly, within seconds and with little mess’.
Imi: ‘Excellent’, and then he took his manual, found the page, gave it a tick and wrote ‘GOOD TECHNIQUE’.
This story (whether 100% accurate or not), illustrates where Krav Maga came from. It was born on the battlefield and in the cold, hard streets of reality.
Imi died in 1998 at the age of 88. As practitioners of Krav Maga, let’s not forget where Krav Maga came from. Lets be thankful that we are learning something that has been through constant testing and modification, and continues to be refined to this day.
Rest in Peace, Imi LichtenfeldWritten by Kurt Colpan
Your Krav Maga Expert.com
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