Krav Maga. A better approach to Self Defense.
Last week, at the end of January 2013, I have had the pleasure to attend another Israeli Krav International seminar with Moshe Katz from Israel. Organized by Mr. Laurian Lapadatu – an accomplished martial arts and fitness professional and the founder of Krav Maga Force – the seminar was held at the well-known Tactix Gym in Downtown Vancouver.
Krav Maga literally means in Hebrew “Combat Contact” or “Close Quarter Combat”.
The seminar for general public provided self defense strategies in dealing with randomattacks that might happen on the street, while the seminar for instructors was also covering defense strategies against armed attacks. It was a great seminar and I would like to thank Mr. Laurian Lapadatu for bringing Moshe in Vancouver for the second time.
Mr. Moshe Katz, a dear friend of mine, is an expert on martial arts, was trained and certified as a 4th degree Black Belt in krav maga (contact combat) by IDF Captain Itay Gil, who served in Israel’s special forces paratroops brigade and selected to be the Chief Instructor for Israel’s elite counter-terror and hostage rescue commando unit, “YAMAM” (Special Central Unit) of the Israeli Police Border.
As an active member and instructor of “The Unit” Itay Gil updated and innovated his Krav Maga skills used in his military training, to fit the need of his Yamam members, in combating terrorism and defending on the streets against armed and unarmed attackers.
Moshe Katz who was a student of Itay Gil for more than 18 years, obtained a 4-DAN on Krav Maga, the highest rank ever awarded by Itay Gil. He teaches krav maga defensive techniques very similar to what Yamam is instructed in dealing with urban assault.
For those who are not familiar with Israeli Special Central Unit, YAMAM is considered the best in the world when it comes to Counter Terrorist Tactics and Execution. The “Unit” was established in 1974 after the terrible massacre in the Israeli town of Ma’alot when it was determined that a special unit is needed to handle hostage situations within urban areas.
I feel very privileged to be able to train with Moshe, and hear his advices on many occasions. My wife Daniela was also impressed by the simplicity of Moshe’s training.His self defense techniques are not bounded by any tradition or “Master Veneration” which in his opinion might lead to idolatry, things that are not easy acceptable in Israel’s culture.
He doesn’t bow to Mr. Itay Gil (which is also his friend) nor to any other krav maga experts, although he get great respect for all of them as they all contribute in a way or other to the progression of modern krav maga. Moshe teaches and updates his krav maga self defense techniques based on the reality of life in Israel today, not in Japan or China 300 years ago. He doesn’t care if I am a 30th generation master of Shaolin, and teach the original Chinese Gung Fu Style. He only cares is if my techniques can protect someone from violent hooligans in his neighborhood or in downtown Jerusalem today. These are his own words:
“I don’t care if your style originated with the American Indians, (sorry, Native Americans), The Biblical patriarchs, some Chinese guy in a monastery, or your dear old granny; if it works – great, that is all I care about.”
And we need to realize that Krav Maga, self defense, is an evolving process, like everything else in life, not a martial art bounded in some tradition. I founded Moshe’s humour to be subtle, but with a lot of wisdom.
In many occasions he pointed that today, “very few people practice medicine like the doctors of Louis the 14th, or use phones like the original ones developed by Alexander Graham Bell”. We evolved and our needs as well. We used wireless and digital technology not anymore wires and cable connections.
While several people on Asian martial arts consider the idea of lineage to be very important, many krav maga associations and federations trying to imitate these martial arts, are claiming to follow the original teachings of Mr. Imi Lichtenfeld who they credited as the founder of Krav Maga.
Indeed Mr. Lichtenfeld, a very capable men, use his boxing and wrestling skills to teach young Jews in to protect against increased anti-Semitism and the Nazi gangs who frequently attack them on the streets of Bratislava in the late 1930′. And indeed Mr. Lichtenfeld had a big contribution to the development of many fighting strategies adopted by the Israeli Defense Force. But with all due respect he is not the founder of krav maga. He is just one of many who contributed to the development of the Israeli Defense System.
For those who know something about Jewish history, Krav Maga has no single “founder” and no official beginning. It is the product of the needs of the times and the efforts of many fighters and instructors over the years, each adding and modifying based on their skills and experience. If you like to read more about Jewish hystory as a nation of warriors, I recommend Moshe Katz’s book “Israel a Nation of Warriors” that can be founded on Amazon.
One example of krav maga evolving process is captain Itay Gil. He served in Israeli Defense Forces paratrooper brigade, and part of his training was basic krav maga. Indeed he might have the “original” krav maga training as every Israeli military recruit.
But after his military duty, he was selected as an active member of the YAMAM and chief close-quarter combat instructor for “The Unit”. With over 33-years of hand to hand and krav maga combat study, Itay Gil become the executive director of all training programs for the Israel Border Police as well as the undercover police intelligence unit. Based on his 14 years of active duty combat experience, he developed new strategies and innovated many original krav maga techniques to fit the real street gang confrontation.
He trained Moshe Katz, which build up on these new techniques and adapted them to fit also the real-life situations that common people are faceing in the streets of Jerusalem today. Can I say that Itay Gil or Moshe Katz are the founders of “modern krav maga”? I don’t think so. They are just great teachers who contribute to the expansion and development of modern self-defense.
Politically, Krav Maga has by commercialisation become the most well known Israeli Martial Art. In fact it has never been the only martial art.
KAPAP “face to face combat” system was already developed in Palestine and in place in the 1930’s, as an ongoing combat development program for returning Jews to their land in the British Mandate of Palestine. But as krav maga grow in popularity in North America, has also intensified tensions between some organizations that teach it.
Fighting and arguing over the authenticity of their methods, the origins and the realism of their fighting techniques become subject of favouritism toward one leader on another. Some also trademarked the term “krav maga” in US, and sued all the others who use this name. Finally he lost in court since krav maga is a broad name which means “combat-contact”. In the end it’s all about money and who are your clients.
As Mr. Moshe Katz explained to me, it doesn’t really matter who was your teacher or the teacher of your teacher, or how directly are you connected to the founder of one martial art style or system, but what matter the most is:
“CAN YOU TEACH ME TO PROTECT MYSELF FROM VIOLENT THUGS IN MY NEIGHBORHOOD OR IN DOWNTOWN JERUSALEM TODAY?”
More about the history and evolution of Israeli Martial Arts on another blog. Until then consider to read the “Israel a Nation of Warriors”. You might understand the meaning of krav maga from the necessity of a reality-self defense system, not a commercialized one.