The History of the Krav Maga Federation


Founder Imi Lichtenfeld - Knife Defense

In 1948, the United Nations voted to grant statehood to Israel, and to partition the entire region of the British Mandate for Palestine into two states, one Jewish and one Arab. This decision was the motivating force behind the 1948 Arab-Israeli War, a series of armed conflicts between newly formed nation of Israel and its Arab neighbors, who rejected the UN proposition. Ultimately, the region was divided among Israel, Egypt, and Transjordan (modern-day Jordan). The first Israeli Prime Minister, David Ben Gurion, disbanded the paramilitary units in favor of a more cohesive military unit, the Israeli Defense Forces, or IDF. Imi Lichtenfeld joined the newly founded Israeli army in 1948, commencing a 15 year period of military service with the IDF. He began to build upon the foundation of fighting principles that were comprised of his boxing, wrestling, gymnastic, and military training. This new fighting style was termed Krav Maga, or contact combat. As the head instructor of Krav Maga for the IDF, Imi was able to sift through his own knowledge and experience, as well as the knowledge and experience of his trainees, to expand the style with the most efficient methods of defense and offense possible.

From 1948 through 1963, Imi developed and refined his own methods of self-defense and hand-to-hand combat while training Israeli soldiers in those same techniques. During that period, he personally qualified the best fighters of the most elite units of the IDF. In 1963, when Imi finally retired from military service, he had already begun to modify the style with the goal that it could be used by civilians, creating techniques that did not rely on what the military units can rely on; carrying weapons and functioning in a unit comprised of other soldiers for support. In order to promote this method, he opened two centers, one in Tel Aviv and one in Netanya. From then on, Imi's life would be dedicated to training future generations of students and to the expansion and refinement of the style. It was during this time that Imi, like many Eastern European Jewish émigrés to Israel, adopted the Hebrew version of his name, becoming Imi Sde'Or, the direct translation of Lichtenfeld (field of light).

Krav Maga Federation Founder Rhon Mizrachi
In 1972, the first civilian course for Krav Maga was offered at the School for Trainers at the Wingate Institute for Physical Education and Sports, a world-renowned training center for Israeli national and Olympic athletes that falls under the auspices of the Israeli Ministry of Sport and Education and that remains the ultimate authority for martial arts in Israel. In addition to its role as the official style of the Israeli Defense Force, the Israeli Security Forces, the Israeli Police department and Military Police, and the Anti-Terrorism Forces, Krav Maga would rapidly become an integral part of elementary and high school education for Israeli youth, and a national form of self-defense meant to empower all Israeli citizens as they tended to their day to day activities in sometimes volatile and dangerous surroundings.

In 1978, the Federation for Krav Maga and Self-Defense - Imi's Method, was created. The purpose of this organization was to establish a body that that would promote the purity of Krav Maga, while allowing it to develop as the national defense method. The goal was to create an organization that would be non-partisan, non-political, and independent of other sports organizations: the single highest authority for Krav Maga. The founders of the federation were: Imi Sde'Or (President), Barak Yehoshua (Head of the Professional Committee), Tsvi Morik (Secretary), Haim Zut, Eli Avigzar, Rafi Algrisi, Haim Gidon, and Oskar Klein. In 1980 the name of the Federation was changed to the Israeli Krav Maga Association.

Krav Maga Federation Founder Rhon Mizrachi
In the early years there were few power struggles. Disagreements among the founders were minor, and were settled as the differences of a family would be. Imi had veto power and was a dominant, highly respected figure. With the proliferation of the style and the emergence of the second generation of members, however, came larger internal disputes and disagreements. The main subjects of contention were the management of the organization, differences in opinion over the efficacy of techniques, struggles over individual stature. These internal conflicts became the impetus for the creation of a number of splinter organizations teaching Krav Maga with and without quality control. Many of the initial members left the Israeli Krav Maga Association to create their own organizations. Presently, there are very few ligitimite organizations.

In the 1980s, in a disappointing turn of events, a watered-down version of Krav Maga began to be taught in the United States ; none of the members had trained in Krav Maga for more than a few months. Because of this, their instructors could teach only what the owners learned. The style created was one that would appeal to American students looking for an aerobic workout rather than proper fighting skill. There are now many schools across the US who teach an art that neither Imi nor the initial members would recognize, it is only for financial gain.

It is of great importance that people interested in training in Krav Maga research schools and instructors; Imi's art is a belted Martial Art, not an art determined by levels. Any school owner or instructor who has no teacher and therefore does not train cannot be considered a teacher of Krav Maga.

Rhon Mizrachi receives 5th Dan, Israel
It is the goal of the Krav Maga Federation to remain true to the spirit of Imi's vision, to promote and protect the style as it was originally created. Rhon Mizrachi was a student both of Imi's and Haim Zut's. He leads the Krav Maga Federation, an organization whose goals are to teach what he has spent his life learning; Imi's Krav Maga. His direct lineage and 40 years of training and teaching (his 1980 instructor course was presided over by Imi) set him apart from every other Krav Maga instructor in the US. The Federation that he has created in the US and it's instructors and school owners all follow his teachings, learning from a direct decendant of the true art of Krav Maga.

Master Instructor Rhon Mizrachi has dedicated his life to the art of Krav Maga. He has been training for 37 years, over 25 of which have been spent as an instructor. He is the highest ranking practitioner of Krav Maga residing in the United States who is not self-ranked. An eighth-generation Israeli, Rhon was born in Hadera, Israel, in 1963, and raised on Kibbutz Gan Shemu'el. By the age of 7, he was training in Krav Maga four times per week with founder Imi Lichtenfeld and Haim Zut.
Read Rhon's full bio here...