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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.


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.




Krav Maga has been popularized all over the world as the Military Martial Art of the Israeli military. Practitioners claim to be military instructors who invite people to learn the art from them and become experts and instructors themselves. They claim to teach the secrets of the art as taught to the Israeli military and offer courses in the civilian, military, law enforcement, and VIP protection categories. These claims need to be thoroughly researched and authenticated. 


For this, first we will go through a brief history and evolution of Military Martial Arts.


Military Martial Arts is sometimes also referred to as “Hand-to-Hand”, or “Unarmed Combat”. By definition, H2H or Unarmed Combat refers to combat without the use of any kind of weapons involved, such as edged weapons (knife) or firearms. Armies all over the world and down the ages have always used some form of physical conditioning to keep their personnel fighting fit and some form of fighting system which could be termed as unarmed combat. They have each had their distinct characteristics, such as the use of bayonet or knife fighting being popular in some cultures.



During World War II, the British compiled a series of techniques by borrowing from Judo and wrestling and called it Unarmed Combat or UAC. In China, William Fairburns devised techniques for fighting with or without weapons and called it the Defendu system of Hand to Hand combat, which had a major influence of Chinese Martial Arts and Judo. This was later adopted and expanded by Col. Rex Applegate of the US army with a major influence of grappling. The American system is also called Combatives. Apart from these, several other countries have their own system of Military Martial Arts such as the Russian Sambo, German Hand to Hand, Israeli Krav Maga. One of the newer arts is the BISON SYSTEM founded by a Dr. Deepak Rao on the basis of experience of training 15,000 personnel of Indian forces in CQB. Later Rao was decorated by the President of India for his research and study in modernization of CQB. He was pipped by the Chief of Army Staff with the rank of Hony Major for his innovative training. There are hundreds of letters from the Indian forces top brass commending the original research and efficiency of the system in bettering the Combat readiness of the Indian Forces. These letters also authenticate the fact that all research and training was conducted under invitation of the respective force HQs, with officers and men alike being part of the course during official training hours in the respective training location.


It is worthwhile studying the BISON SYSTEM as like Krav Maga, it is a modern day art which is designed for use by the military.  


Imi Lichtenfeld was a PT (Physical Training) instructor in the Israeli army who had some background in wrestling. During the World War II period, he devised a series of exercises which he taught to the Israeli Defense Forces. This military version was known as the Haganah system. After his retirement he modified the system for civilian use which came to be known as Krav Maga. 

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