Imi Sde-Or (Lichtenfeld) the founder of Krav Maga was born on May 26, 1910, in Budapest under the Austro-Hungarian. He grew up and lived in Bratislava. His life was very much influenced by his father Samuel Lichtenfeld – a former wresting and strongman circus performer. Samuel became a police inspector and owner of Hercules gym where he trained gymnastics, wrestling and self-defense. Imi grew up in that gym and became a high level athlete – winning competitions in boxing, wrestling and gymnastics.
Timeline of Imi’s life:
- 1928: Imi wins the Slovakia Youth Boxing Championship
- 1929: Wins the Championship for Wrestling and Gymnastics for Adults
- Late 1930: Imi and a group of young boxers and fighters defend the Jewish quarter from a gang of anti-Semites. It was then that Imi’s approach to self-defense and fighting begins to develop. Imi realizes the basic skills of fighting as a sport do not apply in real life situations.
- 1935: Imi visits Palestine for the Maccabiah games however was unable to participate due to an injury
- 1940: Boards the Pencho, joining 500 Jews on a riverboat designed to carry 150 people, leaving burning Europe to Palestine. Imi becomes the leader of the ship, showing his bravery on several occasions by jumping into the water saving people or food that fell overboard. During this voyage the ship’s boilers explod, leaving the ship wrecked on the deserted island of Kamilonisi in the Dodecanese Islands. While seeking help, Imi and four men lose their way until being rescued by a British destroyer heading to Alexandria, Egypt.
In Egypt, Imi undergoes a life-saving surgery for an untreated ear infection, leaving the left side of his face paralyzed.
- After recovering from the operation Imi joins the British Army in the Czechoslovak Legion, serving nearly two years
- 1942: Imi arrives to Palestine (Israel) teaching swimming, physical fitness, wrestling, knife and stick fighting at the ‘Haganah’
- 1948: as the State of Israel is formed, Imi rises through the ranks in the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) to Chief Instructor for Fitness and Hand-To-Hand Combat (Krav Maga) in the IDF. He continues to develop and refine Krav Maga which becomes the military version of Krav Maga, incorporating aspects of self-defense. Imi serves in the IDF for 20 years.
- 1964: Imi opens two clubs in Tel-Aviv and Natanya, teaching an adapted version of Krav Maga to civilians
- 1978: He establishes the Israeli Krav Maga Association (IKMA)
- 1981: The first Instructor Course for non-Israelis takes place. Daniel Abraham spreads Krav Maga into the world by offering a donation, bringing American Jews to Israel for training.
Imi, along with his advanced students, tours America. Returns to Israel with a small team of Americans to participate in the instructor course.
- 1996: Creation of the International Krav Maga Federation (IKMF) by Eyal Yanilov, Avi Moyal, Gabi Noah and Eli Ben-Ami.
- 1998: Imi, the founder of Krav Maga, passes away in peace
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