Krav Maga is a martial art, at first developed in Hungary in the 1930s. The developer was Imi Lichtenfeld. When Mr. Lichtenfeld came to Palestine prior to the establishment of the state of Israel, he began teaching hand to hand combat to the Hagana, the Jewish underground army. After the establishment of Israel, Krav Maga was adopted by the Israeli armed forces and police as the martial art of choice. The art reached its current form in Israel after its formation. After Mr. Lichtenfeld retired from a long career as chief instructor of close combat in the Israel Defense Forces (IDF), he started teaching Krav Maga to the civilian population. In this way, a civilian version based on the principles of self defence was developed.
In a nutshell, the basic fighting principles are that every self defense response must meet all of the following criteria:
in the given situation, the defense or attack must be - the fastest - the strongest - the shortest - the most natural - and to the point (for instance, if you mean to escape, escape; if you mean to hit, hit)
Krav Maga includes many disarming techniques, and fighting under unusual circumstances is stressed in practice.
Prior to 1985, the experts in Krav Maga were in Israel. Few foreigners came to Israel to study Krav Maga and no highly skilled Israelis left Israel to run Krav Maga schools. The first non-israeli known to have operated a school strictly for teaching Krav Maga was Darren Levine, who taught in southern California in the United States. The first non-Israeli, non-Jew who was certified as an expert and instructor was James Keenan, also from the United States.
Since the death of Mr. Lichtenfeld, a number of different schools and associations of Krav Maga have developed.
The name is hebrew is usually translated as "close combat". The word, krav, means "fight" or "battle". The word, maga, means "touching" or "in contact". A translation like "contact combat", though, can be miscontrued as something like "kickboxing" or "full-contact karate". Krav Maga is not a sport and has no sport aspect.
As a historical note, the original name of Krav Maga was Kapap (sounds like "ka-POP") which was an acronym for Krav Panim lePanim, face to face fighting.