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US History of Krav Maga

Imi and Darren Levine

Imi and Darren Levine

In 1981, the Krav Maga Association of Israel, headed by Imi Lichtenfeld, and the Israeli Ministry of Education held the first International Instructors Course for Krav Maga through the Wingate Institute for Physical Education and Sport. A generous philanthropist in New York, S. Daniel Abraham, sponsored a delegation of 23 members from various cities in the United States to attend the course, which was supervised by Imi himself, who was 71 years old at the time and retired from his military career. The course was taught by Krav Maga lead instructors Shike Barak, Eyal Yanilov and Ruevin Moimon.
Darren Levine was selected to be part of the delegation because of his martial arts and boxing background as well as his involvement in the physical education program at the Heschel Day School in the San Fernando Valley.

The instructors course was an intensive 6 week course, consisting of 8 hours of training during the day and additional hours of training at night. The students trained 6 days a week.

During the 6 weeks, Imi befriended Darren. At the conclusion of the course, Imi told Darren that he would spend the following summer in Los Angeles teaching and training him. It was a strenuous and exhausting 6 weeks, and by the end of the course, only a few members, including Darren, passed.

After he returned home from the instructor’ s course, Darren began teaching Krav Maga at the Heschel Day School as an elective class. By 1982, the class had become so popular that it was incorporated into the physical education program. In the summer of 1982, true to his word, Imi came to Los Angeles and spent many weeks with Darren and his family while instructing Darren in Krav Maga.

Every summer after Imi’ s visit, Darren would either go to Israel to train in Krav Maga, or Imi himself would return or would send a top military or civilian instructor to the United States to train Darren. At the end of I984, Darren received his first degree black belt in Krav Maga. At Darren’s belt award ceremony Imi’s black belt was passed onto him. Also in 1984, he received his full instructors teaching certification from the Wingate Institute for Physical Education and Sport and the Krav Maga Association of lsraeI.

At the request of Imi, Darren, with the help of his student, Joel Bernstein, and-other prominent members of the Jewish community, formed the Krav Maga Association of America, Inc. in 1983 to regulate and promote Krav Maga in the United States. Another goal of the KM Association was to help promote good relations between the United States and Israel. Through the KM Association, Darren and his top students began teaching Krav Maga to law enforcement in the United States and adapted Krav Maga to suit the needs of peace and military officers. Even Imi came back to the United States in 1987 to help Darren teach Krav Maga to the Illinois State Police.

Darren continued teaching Krav Maga at Heschel until 1987 when he moved the classes to the University of Judaism. Classes at the University of Judaism continued until 1996 when demand for Krav Maga grew so great that the Krav Maga National Training Center was opened in West Los Angeles in February of 1996. It was the first center of its kind, blending Krav Maga with a fitness program and establishing a training ground for civilians and law enforcement personnel that previously had never existed anywhere in the world.

Imi was proud of the gains Krav Maga had made in the United States. In 1997, shortly after Darren received his 6th degree black belt in Krav Maga, Imi awarded Darren a Founder’s Diploma for Special Excellence in Krav Maga. Imi gave this diploma to only 2 individuals, Darren, and Eyal Yanilov, the Director of the International Krav Maga Federation. These diplomas were given to the people that Imi wanted to be the leaders of Krav Maga.

Krav Maga continues to thrive in the United States with the help of Darren, the talented Krav Maga instructors, and the many dedicated students of Krav Maga. In January, 1999, Krav Maga Worldwide Enterprises was formed to facilitate the expansion of the Krav Maga system throughout the U.S. and around the world- Krav Maga Worldwide Enterprises expects to eventually have a Krav Maga training center in every major city in the country. We thank everyone for their continued support of the finest self defense and fighting system in the world.