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Combatives:  Military Martial Arts

Part 1, 2, 3, 4, 5

Krav Maga

Krav Maga is the official combat art of the Israeli military forces. Krav Maga originated in the 1940's while Israel was still under British rule, and ordinary citizens were not permitted to own weapons. Unarmed combat skills were developed for self-defense. (Note the similarity to the beginnings of Okinawan karate). The words "krav maga" translate to "contact combat" in Hebrew.

Imi Lichenfield, founder of the art, became Chief Instructor of hand-to-hand combat and physical fitness for the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) in the late 1940s. Beginning with special forces units like the Haganah, Palmack, and Palyam, Krav Maga became the official combatives training for all military personnel and Israeli police and security forces. Lichenfield retired from the IDF in 1964 and began teaching Krav Maga to civilians.

Krav Maga, like the other military-oriented arts described in this article, is very combat-oriented. There are no kata or forms, or set combinations as reactions to attacks. Instead, the art emphasizes improvisation using a core set of techniques--since attacks don't always occur in the same manner (e.g. body position, speed, distance), reaction-based responses rather than rote practice was thought best. Many techniques originated in boxing and wrestling, not surprising given the background of the founder. Other techniques are from jujitsu and karate. However, most techniques seem adapted for modern battlefield combat, much as in the other military-oriented systems.

Because of the art's combat-orientation, there are no competitions or tournaments in Krav Maga. Like other arts, Krav Maga issues colored belts to denote higher levels of expertise.

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