IMI LICHTENFELD SDE OR – KRAV MAGA
Imre "Imi" Lichtenfeld (May 26, 1910 – January 9, 1998) was a Hungarian-born Slovakian-Israeli martial artist who founded the Krav Maga self-defense system. He was also known as Imi Sde-Or, the Hebrew calque of his name. Lichtenfeld was born on May 26, 1910, to a Hungarian Jewish family in Budapest in the Austro-Hungarian Empire. He grew up in Bratislava, Slovakia. His father, Samuel Lichtenfeld, was a chief inspector on the Bratislava police force and a former circus acrobat.
Lichtenfeld trained at the Hercules Gymnasium, which was owned by his father, who taught self-defense. As a young man, Lichtenfeld was a successful boxer and wrestler. He competed at national and international levels and was a champion and member of the Slovakian National Wrestling Team.
In 1928, he won the Slovakian Youth Wrestling Championship, and in 1929, the adult championship in the light and middleweight divisions. That year, he also won the national boxing championship and an international gymnastics championship.
In the late 1930s, anti-Semitic riots threatened the Jewish population of Bratislava. Together with other Jewish boxers and wrestlers, Lichtenfeld helped to defend his Jewish neighborhood against racist gangs. He quickly decided that sport has little in common with real combat and began developing a system of techniques for practical self-defense in life threatening situations.
In 1935, Lichtenfeld visited Palestine with a team of Jewish wrestlers to participate in the Maccabi games but could not participate because of a broken rib that resulted from his training while on route. This led to the fundamental Krav Maga precept, 'do not get hurt' while training. Lichtenfeld returned to Czechoslovakia to face increasing anti-Semitic violence. Lichtenfeld organized a group of young Jews to protect his community. On the streets, he acquired hard won experience and the crucial understanding of the differences between sport fighting and street fighting. He developed his fundamental self-defense principle: 'use natural movements and reactions' for defense, combined with an immediate and decisive counterattack. From this evolved the refined theory of 'simultaneous defense and attack' while 'never occupying two hands in the same defensive movement.
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