How It All Began
Growing up in Bratislava, Slovakia, Imi Lichtenfeld’s exposure to combative sports and self-defence at an early age, as his father served as the chief inspector in the Bratislava Police Force. In his youth, Lichtenfeld spent a majority of his time in his father’s gymnasium. It was here, he trained and honed his skills in boxing, wrestling and gymnastics. He eventually went on to win a few championships on both national and international levels. Later in his life, Lichtenfeld would utilize these skill sets in developing one of the most famous hybrid martial arts.
The rise of anti-Semitic riots plaguing the streets of Bratislava, Czechoslovakia during the 1930’s served as that extra push in the journey of the development of Krav Maga. At this point in time, Lichtenfeld placed himself at the forefront. He put a group together that would help defend the neighborhoods that were coming under attack by anti-Semitic thugs.
Consisting of Jewish boxers and wrestlers much like himself, he led this group forward against national socialist party. He later realized that the skills he had in such competitive sports such as boxing and wrestling could not be applied as practically as he had hoped in the real world. When it came to real-life street fighting, there were no rules and guidelines holding anyone back. There was only brutality.
From this sudden realization, Lichtenfeld began to spend the years to come in reviewing and developing new techniques. The techniques would later transform into Krav Maga. Focusing on the practical aspects of self-defence and combat, he left Europe and join Israel’s paramilitary organization. He joined the organization to help protect Jewish refugees. Here he continued to refine the skills, knowledge, and techniques involved neutralizing any threats with the least amount of conflict.