Military Krav Maga

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Haganah (The Defense) was a Jewish paramilitary organization in what was then the British Mandate of Palestine from 1920 to 1948, which later became the core of the Israel Defense Forces.

After the 1920 Arab riots and 1921 Jaffa riots, the Jewish leadership in Palestine believed that they could not rely on the British administration for protection from the local Arab gangs, so they created the Haganah to protect Jewish farms and kibbutzim. In the period from 1920–1929, the Haganah lacked a strong central authority or coordination. Haganah “units” were mostly localized and poorly armed: they consisted mainly of Jewish farmers who took turns guarding their farms or their kibbutzim.

Following the 1929 Palestine riots, the Haganah became a much larger organization encompassing nearly all the youth and adults in the Jewish settlements, as well as thousands of members from the cities. It also acquired foreign arms and began to develop workshops to create hand grenades and simple military equipment, transforming from an untrained militia to a capable underground army. In 1931, the more militant elements of the Haganah splintered off and formed the National Military Organization, better known as Irgun. During the 1936–1939 Arab revolt in Palestine, the Haganah fielded 10,000 mobilized men along with 40,000 reservists. Although the British administration did not officially recognize the Haganah, the British security forces cooperated with it by forming the Jewish Settlement Police, Jewish Supernumerary Police and Special Night Squads, which were trained and led by Colonel Orde Wingate.

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On May 14, 1941, the Haganah built up the Palmach as the Haganah’s elite strike force. Its members, young men and women, received specialist training in guerilla tactics and sabotage. During 1942 the British gave assistance in the training of Palmach volunteers but in early 1943 they withdrew their support and attempted to disarm them. The Palmach, then numbering over 1000, continued as an underground organization with its members working half of each month as kibbutz volunteers, the rest of the month spent training. It was never large — by 1947 it amounted to merely five battalions (about 2,000 men) — but its members had received not only physical and military training, but also acquired leadership skills that would subsequently enable them to take up command positions in Israel’s army.

On May 28, 1948, less than two weeks after the creation of the state of Israel on May 15, the provisional government created the Israeli Defense Forces which would succeed the Haganah. In 1940, Lichtenfeld fled the Nazi occupation of his homeland. He arrived in Palestine in 1942. He began to train the Haganah’s fighting units, including the Palmach and Palyam in Physical Fitness and related subjects. After the establishment of Israel in 1948, he became the Chief Instructor of Physical Training in the Israeli Defense Forces. In 1944 Lichtenfeld began training fighters in his areas of expertise: physical fitness, swimming, wrestling, etc. During this period, he trained several elite units of the Haganah and Palmach (striking force of the Haganah and forerunner of the special units of the IDF), including the Pal-Yam, as well as groups of police officers. In 1964, Lichtenfeld retired from the Israeli military. He then modified his system to fit the needs of police forces and ordinary civilians and it came to be known as Krav Maga. He trained teams of Krav Maga instructors, who were accredited by him and the Israeli Ministry of Education. He also created the Israeli Krav Maga Association in 1978.

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