April 19

Israeli Martial Arts: The Complete Guide


I am sure you will agree, Israeli Martial Arts have become a global sensation over the last few years.

From being featured in films to being used by special forces. Everyone is talking about the Martial Arts from Israel and how great they are for self-defence.

In this article we are going to break down their history, what they are and the different types.

Ready, let's dive in.

What Are Israeli Martial Arts?

Israeli Martial arts are not based on competitions nor have a long history. They are fighting styles that suited to both offense and defence and can be deadly. In general, the Israeli martial art style was created to empower the Israeli Defence forces and is very aggressive and fast.

The most popular of the lot is probably Krav Maga. It has been adopted by most defence forces training across the globe. You can safely say that it is a series of rapid counterattacks that aims at targeting your opponent’s most vulnerable body parts.

Sounds dangerous?

Well, it sure is! It is a smart mix of many martial arts forms. Judo, Aikido, Jiu-jitsu and boxing style the framework of this fighting style. More recently, Wing Chun and Muay Thai have also found a place in the style. The goal is to incapacitate your opponent and preserve your life while ensuring that you emerge the winner in deadly combat. The style is not pretty or has much etiquette like other ancient martial art forms, but it is very effective.

You can also incorporate fitness in your lifestyle when you learn Israeli martial arts. It is a great way to gain faster reflexes and manage emotions and stress effectively.

History of Israeli Martial Arts


Imi Litchenfield, the son of a detective used street fighting skills taught by his father to protect his neighbours from fascists. Imi distilled all the tricks he knew to create Krav Maga with special emphasis on instinctive defensive fighting techniques.

He made it his life’s work to teach Jewish groups to defend themselves in an increasingly anti-Semitic world. He emigrated to Palestine and became an active member of the Free Czechoslovak Legion. He trained Israeli soldiers in the art of self-defence. Soon, Haganah, a paramilitary group comprising of free Israelis recruited him to train their soldiers.

Imi continued to do so even after the war ended. He soon became a part of the Israeli defence force. He continued to refine the martial art form to include knives and defence against modern firearms.

After Imi retired, he continued to teach his system of self-defence to civilians. He formed the Krav Maga Association. Quality instructors and international exposure soon made Israeli martial art styles popular globally.

 Different Type of Israeli Martial Arts

 The most popular Israeli martial art is Krav Maga. But, there are a few lesser known styles that have made their presence felt in the modern era.

We have already spoken at length about the combat-combat style of Krav Maga. Here are a few more Israeli martial art styles that you should know about:


  •  Kapap was the first CQB training doctrine that combined multiple fighting styles like Judo, Jiu-Jitsu, boxing, Knife combat, and firearms like the rifle and gun. The martial art form teaches not only defence against these weapons but also how to fight with them. Kapap was the style from which Krav Maga evolved in the hands of Imi Litchenfield. By the 1960s kappa had all but disappeared.

Haviv Galisko brought Kapap back to the limelight in 1999. He first trained the Hagana soldiers and then the Israeli Defence forces in an organized manner. The reason for the comeback of Kapap was the street crime and security issues that prevailed during that period.

Kapap is now taught in over 32 countries worldwide and has a massive fan following. Several elite military units including the Shabak and the Yamam have specialist kappa trainers.

  •  LOTAR is an acronym for Lochama B’Terror or the anti-terrorist cell of the country. Kpap and Krav Maga are a part of this system. It is a mix of many strategic countermoves used by the Israeli anti-terror task forces of the Israeli government.

The LOTAR uses hand to hand combat techniques, stress training, explosives, guns, knives, sticks and other weapons to counter terrorist activities. The outfit also specializes in sabotage and infiltration. It is also known as the Yamam and was established in 1974.

It is a style of fighting that involves instinct based fighting and uses real life situations for training purposes. In its modern version, LOTAR is also popular across the world as a martial arts style. Europe and America have many institutions that teach LOTAR.


  • Haganah is another modern Israeli martial art. The Golani Brigade, which is based in the USA and associated with the Israeli Defence Forces created this martialart style. Mike Lee Kanarek was its first proponent and taught the fighting style to his colleagues. It is a hybrid form of Hisardut, Krav maga and other self-defence styles of martial arts. It is one of the most well-known functional Combat Sports martial art in the USA.

The aim of haganah is to help you build mental strength, tough attitudes, and calm amidst stressful situations.

You can be sure to be prepared for any eventuality if you have trained in Haganah.


  •   Kavanah is an acronym for Krav ve Haganah or Fight and Defend in the Hebrew language. GM Naftali Yehuda, the co-founder of FIMA founded the Kavanah School of martial arts. This martial art has components of both Asian and Israeli martial art styles. The Egoze unit in the Israeli army, the US Marines and the navy are all instructed extensively in the Kavanah martial art.  

Kavanah is also well suited to civilian use as it teaches you how toreact and repel threatening situations. It is undoubtedly an effective self-defence technique. The ten tenets of Kavanah may be interpreted as the way of life that is ideal.

 The Most Popular Martial Arts in Israel

The most popular martial arts practiced in Israel is Krav Maga. It has become the staple of nearly every training for defence forces across multiple countries. Krav Maga is represented by the Hebrew letters K and M inside an open circle. The open circle denotes inclusivity. Krav Maga has incorporated many fighting styles in its regime. It evolves constantly as it is open to the addition of exercises, training methods, and techniques that improve its efficacy.

It is popular amongst all age groups and population range as it is simple and easy to learn. Krav  Maga has reputedly encompassed the easiest to recollect and shortest path to self-defence.

There are many schools that teach this Israeli martial art and you can learn the basics in just a few weeks. It is a  great way to gain fitness, improve reflexes and learn to defend yourself too. You can learn to concentrate, reduce stress and handle pressure situations with alacrity. It is a fun way to add exercise to your fitness regime while learning  a martial art.

 You must choose your trainer carefully as minimal rules and the inclusive nature of the fighting style make it fluid. Only an expert teacher can help you become proficient in this style.


So, there you have it, our guide to the Israeli Martial Arts.

Have you tried any? Do you study them still?

If so, comment below and let us know.


Andrew Holland


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