Fighters from elite combat units participated in the IDF’s first-ever self-defense tournament last week. The competition featured matches between soldiers with training in Krav Maga – a method of self-defense developed in Israel. The Maglan unit claimed first position, while the Paratroopers Brigade’s Duvdevan unit and the Lotar counterterrorism instruction unit followed closely behind.
The tournament featured fighters from sixteen units – each of which fielded three representatives to battle it out for the top prize in three weight classes. Reservists from the IDF’s Combat Fitness Division served as the competition’s guest judges.
Krav Maga – meaning “contact combat” in Hebrew – originated in the 1930s when Imrich Lichtenfeld, a European Jew, invented the self-defense method to combat anti-Semitic violence in his hometown of Bratislava. After moving to British-mandate Israel in 1940, Lichtenfeld joined the pre-state Haganah defense force, where he trained elite units in the use of the system that he had based on his training as a boxer and wrestler. Since the establishment of the IDF in 1948, the method has evolved into a complex self-defense system and has spread throughout the world.
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“We are beginning to train not only the special units and reconnaissance brigades, but also regular infantry brigades in Krav Maga,” Col. Oren Gil, head of the Combat Fitness Division, told the IDF website.
“The Givati Brigade conducted Krav Maga training in their most recent brigade-wide exercise,” Col. Gil said, adding that “brigade training bases are beginning to include exercises in this field in their training.”
According to Col. Gil, the School for Infantry Corps Professions and Squad Commanders is set to integrate Krav Maga training into their programs. The addition will allow graduates of the course to return to their units with the necessary capabilities to teach basic Krav Maga to regular infantrymen.
“A combat soldier, whether he is from an elite unit or from regular infantry, is the only one prepared to contend face to face with the enemy,” Col. Gil explained. “Another weapon at [the soldier's] disposal is his body – his physical ability. Krav Maga exercises very much contribute to flexibility, quickness and building a stronger body.”
Col. Gil mentioned that as of next year the Krav Maga competition will be expanded and that the various regular infantry brigades are expected to participate in the tournament.