What is Krav Maga?

What is Krav Maga?

Krav Maga is a self-defense system developed by the Israel Defense Forces for training military personnel in hand-to-hand combat. Krav Maga uses instinctive movements aggressive counter attacks and a no-holds-barred mentality without the ceremonial elements of traditional martial arts.

Krav Maga will teach you to use punches, kicks, knees, elbows, and grappling techniques to defend yourself. It is a unique and practical system because it was designed to bring people to a high level of proficiency in hand-to-hand combat and self-defense in a very short period of time.

Krav Maga by design stresses efficiency, aggression and, above all, survival. This design philosophy resulted in traditional elements of martial arts practice like forms, katas, and rules for competition, being omitted from Krav Maga training, so in addition to the previously mentioned striking and grappling techniques, Krav Maga also teaches techniques like headbutts, groin strikes, strikes to the back of the head, eye gouges, and throat strikes. All of which would be considered illegal in a sanctioned sport fight or martial arts competition.

To get a little deeper into answering the question “what is Krav Maga”, it’s important to look at why Krav Maga was developed to begin with. That starts with Krav Maga’s creator, Imi Lichtenfeld.

Imi Lichtenfeld was born in Hungary in 1910 and grew up in Hungary where he practiced boxing and grappling his whole life under the tutelage of his father, Samuel. Imi joined Nazi resistance groups in Europe during WWII and fought back against Nazi oppression until the end of the war when he and thousands of others could immigrate to the newly formed nation of Israel. Imi’s hand-to-hand combat skills became the foundation of the Israel Defense Forces training, known today as Krav Maga.

Imi’s expertise in multiple aspects of hand-to-hand combat as well as the pressure of training people to defend their newly formed nation in a very short period of time lead to the distillation of technique and tactics. This in turn lead to the development of what is Krav Maga’s no-holds-barred mentality. There are no rules on the battlefield, thus there is no consideration for rules or “fairness” in Krav Maga. The only “rule” is to win. The only success is survival.

Imi understood that the IDF recruits would learn faster and retain their training more easily if they understood the principles behind the techniques and behind their training as a whole.

       What is Krav Maga?

  • Striking
  • Grappling
  • No holds barred mentality 

Some of the key principles that Krav Maga utilizes are as follows;

  1. Identify the immediate danger.
  2. Use your body’s natural reaction.
  3. Defend and counterattack simultaneously.
  4. When counterattacking, aggressively target vulnerable areas.
  5. Techniques must be effective regardless of size or strength.

Every aspect of Krav Maga training is based on these principles. Adhering to the same principles unilaterally makes Krav Maga easy to learn and easy to retain. Students learn one defense for multiple attacks. Ultimately students have to remember fewer details and can apply systemic action to fight back and win if they are attacked.

This becomes very important in dealing with some of the scariest types of assaults and attacks, like those involving attackers armed with guns, knives, and blunt weapons. Krav Maga training, because of it’s military background, trains people to deal with these sorts of real-world dangers. Krav Maga does not train people for rules based competitions.

       What is Krav Maga?

  • Military roots
  • Principle based
  • Easy to learn 
  • Easy to retain
  • Always adapting

Krav Maga, as a system, is always adapting and changing. If a better technique is discovered, and it holds up the the basic Krav Maga principles, the old technique is omitted and the new technique is adapted into the system.

Imi eventually realized that the same principle based, always adapting, Krav Maga training the IDF was receiving would be beneficial, possibly life-saving, for civilians around the world.

In the early 1980’s Krav Maga Worldwide’s Chief Instructor Darren Levine was one of a select group of people invited to train with Imi in Israel at the prestigious Wingate Institute. Imi’s vision was to spread Krav Maga throughout the world and make people safer so they could “walk in peace”.

Several years later Darren achieved the rank of Black Belt under Imi and was given a Founder’s Diploma, which was essentially special consideration from Imi and the Krav Maga Association of Israel to bring Krav Maga to the United States. Shortly after that Darren founded the Krav Maga Association of America and eventually Krav Maga Worldwide.

Krav Maga is a self-defense system. It will teach you how to use your body to fight back and win if you are attacked. It was originally developed for military personnel and brought to civilians by Imi Lichtenfeld and Daren Levine. Today thousands of civilians train at Krav Maga Worldwide certified training centers. Krav Maga Worldwide training is also trusted by law enforcement agencies and military units around the world.

The best way to really understand the answer to the question “what is Krav Maga” and to find out what Krav Maga is, is to come in and take a class at a certified Krav Maga Worldwide training center.

Krav Maga Illinois https://kravmagaillinois.com/ is an officially certified training center of Krav Maga Worldwide.  We are so proud to bring this potentially life saving program to our students.  We are on curriculum with over 150 certified training centers around the world.  We offer a FREE TRIAL class, so you can experience true Krav Maga Reality Self Defense Training. Call us at 773/775-5201 to start your Krav Maga Journey TODAY.


Krav Maga Illinois has been selected as Best Self Defense training by Chicago Magazine.

Founded in 2009 by Sue Garstki, a lifetime martial artist with over 40 years of martial arts and teaching experience.  Krav Maga Illinois has served thousands of students looking for realistic self defense and awareness training, confidence, empowerment, physical fitness, and mental toughness.  Our Krav Maga Training practitioners include moms, dads, students, professionals, military personnel, law enforcement, anyone interested in protecting and improving their quality of life.  Krav Maga Illinois is a proud licensee of Krav Maga Worldwide, and is on a nationwide curriculum with over 150 KMW training facilities all over the world.

Krav Maga Illinois Krav Maga Kid’s Program is for children 10 and up.  This is a program that focuses on reality self defense, anti-bullying, strength and confidence building.  It is a hands on program in a safe and supportive environment.  

All of our instructors are officially certified through Krav Maga Worldwide and USA Boxing.  They are  knowledgeable and recognized in their field of expertise. What we do is self defense, and that is clear through the level of instruction given by our talented instructors. Instructors can answer questions or be contacted 24 hours a day, 7 days a week at info@kravmagaillinois.com or call directly at 773/775-5201. You can also visit our website at KravMagaIllinois.com

About Sue Garstki: Sue Garstki is a certified Expert Level Kravmaga Worldwide Instructor, 2nd Degree Black Belt in Shorei Goju Karate.  She has been certified in Commando Krav Maga and the Haganah/F.I.G.H.T. system. She is also a Level 4 instructor in the Raven Method Close Quarter Defensive Tactics System, having had the honor of working with the Chicago Guardian Angels. Sue was nominated Female Reality Self Defense Instructor of the Year by the Global Network of Reality Based Self Defense Systems, and Civilian Close Quarter Combat Instructor of the Year. Sue has worked with the Chicago Police Department as well as schools and other organizations spreading awareness in Self Defense, Women’s Self Defense and Domestic Violence issues. In June 2013 Sue was inducted into the U.S.A. Martial Arts Hall of Fame, and again in 2015, where she was named Krav Maga Expert of the Year.  She is a certified personal trainer under NDEITA and was one of the first instructors be be certified to teach the National Association of Professional Martial Artist’s (NAPMA) Kardio Karate program.  She is the founder of the Women’s Martial Arts Alliance, member of the National Women’s Martial Arts Federation, and the American Women’s Self-Defense Association.  Sue can be reached at any time for more information or to answer any questions at info@kravmagaillinois.com.

The Krav Maga Illinois headquarters is at 5201 North Oketo, Chicago, Illinois 60656 773/775-5201


Krav Maga is Modern, Close Quarters Self-Defense

Krav Maga is roughly translated from Hebrew to mean “close quarter fighting.” It is a highly effective martial art that utilizes a combination of strikes, grapples, throws, locks and holds. Krav Maga originated from street fighting techniques of Jewish gangs defending themselves in the tough ghettos of Bratislav in the 1930s. Krav Maga was developed in Czechoslovakia in the 1930’s by Imi Lichtenfeld. After the nation of Israel was born, Krav Maga was adapted and further developed by the Israeli security forces.

Krav Maga is more effective for close quarter combat than many other styles of the mixed martial art. Unlike most Asian martial arts, it was born in the modern era. This makes it a very “applicable” system of self defense. While Karate and Kung Fu were developed to for individuals to defend themselves while traveling the dangerous highways of feudal Japan, Korea and ancient China, Krav Maga was designed to be used in the tighter confines of an urban setting.

Being a modern martial art, it also provides reliable techniques for defending oneself against an opponent armed with a gun or knife.

Close quarters fighting in Krav Maga is about using simple, direct movements to neutralize an opponent quickly. It is a fighting style developed on the streets and perfected on the battlefield. There is no sporting federation or points system involved. Groin strikes, joint breaks, eye jabs are all legitimate close quarters fighting techniques that can be learned and used in Krav Maga.

Close quarters defense in Krav Maga is reliant on several factors. Technique is of course essential but so is awareness, discipline and aggressiveness. Unlike many martial arts that are embodied with a non-violent code, aggressiveness is vital in it. Close quarters fighting in Krav Maga is about ending an encounter quickly and when necessary, brutally.

Discipline is key because without it is impossible to master Krav Maga; and awareness is key because it allows you to head off or avoid conflicts before they arise. In worse case scenarios, awareness can help you determine when it may be necessary to launch a preemptive strike.

The training is meant to be realistic in nature and to prepare students in the event they should find themselves in a close quarter encounter with an assailant. Many of the techniques used in Krav Maga are popular with mixed martial arts competitors for their effectiveness in bringing down an opponent.

Close quarters defense in Krav Maga is not really something you can learn by just reading about it. In order to really learn the techniques, you need training from qualified professionals.

A Brief History of Krav Maga

Unlike most martial arts with ancient roots in Asia, Krav Maga does not have a long story to narrate as it was developed during the comparatively recent 1930s. It is based on self defense mechanisms in real world situations and can cause injury or even death to the attacker. Krav Maga, which means ‘contact combat’ in Hebrew, was formulated in Israel and used for training their military forces. An easier version is taught to civilians as self defense mechanism in various Karv Maga schools. Its philosophies emphasize aggression, offensive and defensive maneuvers, and threat neutralization.

Imi Lichtenfeld and the birth of Krav Maga

Imre Lichtenfeld, also known as Imi, was born in 1910 in Budapest, a city of the Austro- Hungarian Empire. He grew up in Bratislava (then known as Pozsony) with his father, who worked in the police force and also was an athlete. Imi trained under his father in self defense and went on to become a successful boxer before becoming a member of Slovakian National Wrestling Team.

The Jews in Bratislava were under constant threat from anti-Semitic riots during the 1930s. This forced Imi to lead a group of Jewish wrestlers and boxers to the streets to save himself and his community from the rising number of anti-Semitic thugs. He soon realized that sport fighting was not the same as real world self defense, as they were not suitable for the aggressive nature of a street fight.

He re-evaluated the techniques and built a repertoire of techniques ideal for responding in a more aggressive nature. This marked the birth of a new martial art known as Krav Maga. His new techniques became successful, much to the displeasure of authorities in the Nazi-fearing society. By 1940, he was forced to abscond from his homeland to Israel (then Palestine).

Spread of Krav Maga in Israel

On his arrival in Israel, he started teaching his self defense techniques to Israel’s Haganah paramilitary organization to help them create an independent state of Israel and to protect the Jewish refugees. Haganah later on merged into Israeli Defense Force and Imi was appointed as the Chief Instructor of Physical Training. In this position, the taught the military personnel the new martial art known as Krav Maga. During his 20 year service in the Israeli Defense Force, he refined and developed the technique to suit military and civil needs.

Upon retirement from official duty, Imi set up Dojo Martial Arts School to teach the civilian version to whoever wanted to master the self defense techniques of Krav Maga. By the 1980s, American security agencies started showing interest in the Israeli martial art and 22 officials came to Israel to attend a basic Krav Maga course. They returned to the U.S. with the new fighting techniques, and from there, it started spreading throughout the globe.

Krav Maga teaches students to counter-attack on the first chance of opportunity, to target the vulnerable points of the attacker, to maintain awareness of surroundings during an attack, and to neutralize the attacker as soon as possible. It is therefore an ideal defense technique in many real
world scenarios.