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In a nation where people live every day with the threat of terrorism and possible military attacks from bordering countries, Israel has long understood the value of a strong defense. As with their country, Israelis too understand the importance of being able to defend themselves in the event of attack. This need has brought many styles of martial arts to Israel as well as causing the creation of homegrown martial arts in Israel.

Taekwondo has gained popularity. The Israeli Taekwondo Federation currently maintains its headquarters in Jerusalem. Shotokan karate is also quite popular and is headquartered in Tel Aviv.

The Majiroe Gym, located in Tel Aviv, is the center of kickboxing in Israel.

Kickboxing is becoming a favorite of many Israelis due to the efforts of people like Shuki Ron, a former member of the Israeli Army Special Forces. Ron currently works at Benny “The Jet” Urquidez’s Jet Center in Van Nuys , California. Kickboxing competitions, however, are not as common in Israel as the other martial arts.

The two most popular forms of martial arts in Israel today are “homegrown” styles. The need to create a self-defense system is very practical, realistic, and quick has blended various forms of martial arts such as judo, karate, and jujitsu into these Israeli-based styles: krv maga and hisardut.

Krav Maga, which in Hebrew means “contact fighting,” is based on various karate and jujitsu techniques. Krav maga was founded by lmi Lichtenfeld, as Czechoslovian immigrant. Lichtenfeld’s father was an acrobat in the circus and a wrestler who later worked for the police force as a chief inspector. When Lichtenfeld joined the Israeli military he began to teach soldiers self defense utilizing many of the techniques learned from his father. He eventually became the chief instructor for the Military School for Physical Training and Krav Maga of the Israel Defense Force.

The krav maga system utilizes the simplicity and the basic self-defense techniques of the oriental forms and is designed to be easily taught and learned. The system teaches blocking, striking, kicking, and falling as well as various psychological techniques.

The Krav maga system has been incorporated into the Israeli army training and conditioning program and is required of all infantry soldiers, pilots, and special forces personnel. A 2-week intensive krav maga training regimen is conducted at the Winengate Institute in Netanya , Israel . The Institute is the center of all sports activities in Israel including the Maccabbeean Games and the Olympics. This 2-week training program is designed to help soldiers learn personal defense in hand-to-hand combat as well as defense against an attack by various weapons.

Because of its utilization in the training of the Israeli military and its special forces, krav maga has become extremely popular within the nation. A Federation of Krav Maga has been established in Israel and many young Israelis attend krav maga training schools. These schools are run by krav maga black belts who design their system around the personal needs of the students.

Previously, children had to be at least 10 years of age to be eligible to take martial arts in Israel because of the intensity and the stress and strain placed on their bodies. Since the introduction of taekwondo and karate, children of younger ages have begun training in the martial arts. The krav maga system offers a less strenuous training system for younger children.

Originally designed to encompass traditional colored-belt testing to signify levels of achievement, krav maga advancement has focused more upon the individual’s commitment and loyalty to training and conditioning. Instructors determine advancement to higher levels based upon the students’ time in training, their physical conditioning improvements, and their personal dedication. There are no forms or breaking techniques used in evaluating a student’s progress. The student’s ability to utilize their knowledge of techniques in a practical manner, such as defense against a grab or punch, is the basis for evaluation.

To become a black belt in krav maga requires a commitment of at least 5 years. An intense testing program, involving full contact with no protective equipment against other black belts, is used to evaluate a student’s level of conditioning and knowledge. After obtaining their black belts, students of krav maga learn advanced disarming techniques such as defense against guns and various automatic weapons.

Krav maga continues to gain in popularity within the Israeli education system. In Tel Aviv, The Department of Education has established krav maga classes as a standard part of the curriculum for thousands of ninth grade students. The students take classes for an hour a week and learn various self defense techniques and how to deal with dangerous situations in calm and controlled manner.

Some self-defense techniques and methods of identifying explosive devices are instructed to Israeli school children by either member of the Israeli Special Forces or by the Israeli SWAT teams know as the Yamam. Since many members of the Special Forces, the training given to the school children does encompass some of the techniques and styles of krav maga.

Hisardut, which in Hebrews means “survival,” was founded by Dennis Hanover, a 9th degree black belt. In developing this style, Hanover studied various oriental martial arts forms including judo, karate, kyokoshinkai, and jujitsu. He received training under Master Oyama’s system in Japan and has provided technical assistance in the making of the various Chuck Norris Delta Force movies filmed in Israel.

Hanover utilized various oriental martial arts systems and created an eclectic style that emphasizes the importance of survival and defense. Though more complex than the krav maga system with its integration of various judo techniques, it is designed to be practical and realistic.

The hisardut system is the fastest growing martial arts system in Israel . It is very active in the training of body guards, the Israeli Yamam, and the military special forces units. The system emphasizes special tactics for handling attacks and disarming techniques. The hisardut system is based in Herzilia, Israel, just north of Tel Aviv. The club in Herzilia is called Dennis Hisardut in honor of the founder. After a 2-week intensive krav maga training, Israeli special forces and pilots attend a 3-week anti-terrorist training course utilizing the hisardut system. During this course, soldiers focus on various hand-to-hand combat techniques and disarming tactics.

All marital arts instructors in Israel today are ex-military personnel and stress the importance of physical fitness and conditioning. Because of the environment of Israel live in due to the threat of terrorist attacks, martial arts in Israel incorporates a significant number of disarming techniques for use against knives, clubs, and guns. Black belt training is especially intense in the use of disarming techniques for advanced weapons such as hand guns, automatic weapons, and grenades.

In addition to training in physically disarming their attacker, Israeli training encompasses the use of various psychological techniques. These techniques include how to act when under pressure, what to say, and how to respond to an attacker. Conditioning for how to react in highly stressful situations is required in all martial arts training in Israel.

Israeli martial arts training is designed to be practical, realistic, and easy to learn. It takes the best of each of the oriental martial art forms and brings them together in styles that are effective in providing self-defense in an area of the world where defense and survival are a way of life.

Mike Lee Kanarek is a martial arts instructor with rankings in taekwondo and Jeet Kune Do. He has received training in krav maga and hisardut and is a former member of the Israeli Special Forces. Kanarek is currently the Chief Instructor of the Authentic Tae Kwon Do Martial Arts Center in Sunrise, Florida.

Roy Lantz is an adjunct instructor in human resources at Nova Southeastern University . He has received training in Chinese Kenpo karate and Taekwondo. Lantz is currently a martial arts student training under Mike Lee Kanarek at the Authentic Tae Kwon Do Martial Arts Center.

1a. The Israelis are strong believers in body conditioning, what is called in Hebrew “Cosher Kravi”. Translated to English “Combat Fitness”, drills such as sets of push ups and punching with dumbells are always part of regular training. The Israelis have a say “The more you sweat in training the less you bleed in combat” and they truly live by it!
2b. Tae Kwon do has gained popularity and is very active today in Israel . Author demonstrates a TKD flying side kick, Mike Lee K. was trained in TKD by former heavy weight Korean Champion Grandmaster Jae Sin Je.