Imi Sde-Or (formerly, Imrich Lichtenfeld) was born in 1910 to a Hungarian Jewish family in Budapest. He grew up in Bratislava, Slovakia where his father, Samuel Lichtenfeld was a Chief Inspector in the Bratislava Police Force. As a former circus acrobat, Samuel Lichtenfeld owned a gymnasium where many activities were taught, including self-defense. Due to the influences of his father, Imi became a very successful boxer, wrestler and gymnast, competing at both national and international level
Krav Maga is born
In the mid 1930’s, anti-Semitic riots threatened the Jewish population of Bratislava. Imi became the uncrowned leader of about 100 Jewish young men, boxers and wrestlers. Together they defended the Jewish neighborhood against racist and fascist gangs. Through these real world experiences Imi quickly understood that sport had little in common with real combat and even began teaching his fellow defenders.
Krav Maga in the Military
In 1944 Imi began training fighters in his areas of expertise: physical fitness, swimming, use of the knife, and defences against knife attacks. During this period, Imi trained several elite units of the Hagana and Palmach (striking force of the Hagana and forerunner of the special units of the IDF), including the Pal-yam, as well as groups of police officers. In 1948, when Israel was founded and the IDF was formed, Imi became Chief Instructor for Physical Fitness and Krav Maga at the IDF School of Combat Fitness. He served for a total of 20 years, during which time he developed and refined his unique method for self-defence and hand-to-hand combat. In 1964, after retiring from the army, Imi began adapting Krav Maga to meet the self-defence needs of civilians and opened two training centres in the cities of Tel-Aviv and Netanya. His methods were formulated to suit everyone – man and woman, boy or girl, who might need it to save his or her life or survive an attack while sustaining minimal harm
Born in 1959, Eyal Yanilov began his Krav Maga training in 1974 with Eli Avikzar (at the time one of the top instructors). Soon afterwards, he began studying Krav Maga directly under the personal tutelage of Grand Master Imi-Sde Or (Lichtenfeld), founder of the Krav Maga system. Eyal demonstrated extraordinary talent as a student, and later as an Instructor. He went on to serve as Imi’s closest assistant from the early 1980’s for almost 20 years. Eyal is the only person in the world to whom Imi presented the highest grade in KM: ‘Master Level 3 (Expert Level 8)’ & ‘Founders Diploma of Excellence’.
The development of Krav Maga
To meet the needs of modern conflict in the world today, Eyal Yanilov, after Imi entrusted him with this mission, had created a new curriculum for Krav Maga. The aim was transforming it into an organized and formal system that is built on the principles of action and unique instructional methods.
In those years, Eyal turned Krav Maga into a technical and integrated system and also was responsible to teach this new way to the high graded Israeli instructors. About a decade later the mission was to build KM also as a tactical system. Nowadays the system is composed of three pillars, Self-Defense, Combat and Fighting, and VIP and 3rd Party Protection. Eyal first did that as the head of the Israeli Krav Maga Associations (IKMA) Professional Committee and was highly instrumental in the educating the general public and in the benefits of the system, as well as military and anti-terrorist units in Israel.
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