Anyone who teaches Krav Maga professionally or has been taking classes beyond a Groupon deal will know his name. Avi Moyal is one of the most experienced and decorated Krav Maga instructors in the world, one of the few who trained directly with founding father Imi Lichtenfeld. Imi’s guidance has been instrumental for Avi, not only in Krav but also in life. For the past 30 years, Avi has been teaching others the self-defense system, which he calls a “gift” that he is honored to bestow on the world after feeling the joy of discovering it himself.
Avi stumbled upon Krav Maga at the young age of 6 and was immediately smitten. His dedication to his craft led him to become the youngest expert-level practitioner at the Aguda, the first Krav Maga organization, at the age of 18. From there, he was enlisted in the Israeli Defense Force’s Marine corps, where he served as a Platoon Commander in a Terror Demolition Unit. Today Avi is a leading authority on Krav Maga and is the chairman of the International Krav Maga Federation, which aims to carry on Imi’s vision.
I spoke with Avi about his devotion to Krav Maga, which for him wasn’t really a choice. For Avi, Krav Maga wasn’t just a hobby that grew into a profession; it’s the love of his life.
I read that you were very young when you first started learning Krav Maga. Can you remember back to that time and describe what you felt when you first discovered it?
First time I learned Krav Maga was at the age of 6. My mother was very athletic and she used to go swimming, dancing, yoga, and every type of sport the nearby country had to offer. She took me one day and dropped me off in a Krav Maga class. The teacher Yaron Lichtenstein, who was one of Imi’s student, was talking about food for 30 minutes, so I thought Krav Maga was about food. But then in the last part of the lesson he taught us 360 defense. I remember the feeling of excitement and joy when I successfully blocked my partner’s slap — it was love at first fight.
What made you want to become proficient?
I just followed my heart, and slowly I realized that nothing else I did made me as happy.
The more I did Krav Maga the more proficient I became. In time I learned that with Krav Maga I could do and see things in a way that others couldn’t. That’s when I understood that it was a gift given to me by nature and a present that I could give to others. And at some point I just stopped doing other things.
Speaking of children, you published a Krav Maga booklet for grade-school children. How does teaching young children, who are much more impressionable, Krav Maga differ from teaching adults? Do you have to be more sensitive to certain risks? How do you prevent them from becoming violent in character?
Teaching kids is totally different. First of all, there are different risks involved with kids, not just the environment, like falling on the floor or hitting the wall, but there’s bullying and kidnapping. At their age, kids lack experience, thus making them very vulnerable.
Second, as an instructor, teaching children needs to come from the heart, not from the brain — you need to feel them. Your impact on them is huge, and with great power comes great responsibility.
Last, the goal is to make better people, not create warriors. By teaching them control, by setting the right example, you prevent them to from being violent. There is proof that Krav Maga makes a difference because every school we teach sees a 40 percent reduction in violence.
We’re all familiar with Imi’s famous quotes of wisdom (such as “Learn Krav Maga so that one may walk in peace”), but did he ever give you any personal advice on Krav Maga or life?
Yes, and I follow his advice to direct the IKMF. He was never a dictator, or the big boss, or the grandmaster, as if no one should question his words. He knew better than everyone else, but he was wise to listen and never said you were wrong. He always saw value in everyone’s opinion, but if he disagreed he would say there is another way and explained why. He always put his employees first and always asked me to keep the family together. I am doing my best.
I read that you’re interested in spreading Krav Maga to various countries. Which countries have been especially receptive and which countries are still on your wish list to visit?
Greece, Spain, Italy, and Holland were just a few among about 62 countries that were very receptive. I don’t have any specific countries on my list, but whenever there is a need or a request, I’ll go. For example, right now I am going to South Korea and Cambodia. The idea is to plant the seeds of Krav Maga so that they grow in the future, like Imi did for me and others.