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The Differences Between Krav Maga Organizations

One of the most common questions we get is – what is the difference between the various forms of Krav Maga in NYC? Which is the best and which should I choose? In the New York City region alone there is the IKMF, IKMA, KMF and Commando Krav Maga, to name a few.

It must be confusing for a beginner when they start looking into the various forms of self defense systems and martial arts and find there are at least half a dozen different organizations that all claim to be the authentic, Krav Maga is no exception.

In NYC alone there are now at least 6 separate Krav Maga organizations.  We thought it would be helpful to provide a run down on a few of the options available out there and try and cut through some of the politics.

The first thing to say is that the NYC region has a number of very good Krav Maga schools and instructors.  We are lucky to have access to some of the best organizations and instructors Krav Maga has to offer.

Since the Krav Maga’s founding father, Imi Lichtenfeld, passed away in 1998, the Krav Maga world has split into various organizations that have each developed their methods along different lines. Here is a run down on some of the biggest and best (the great and the good) Krav Maga organizations in the New York region at the moment.

The Israeli Krav Maga Association (IKMA). The IKMA is the oldest Krav Maga organization in the world founded by Imi Lichtenfeld.  It was created to promote Krav Maga within Israel and remains in existence in Israel and in the USA. The IKMA is headed by one of Imi’s original students, Haim Giddon.  In the USA, it is led by David Kahn. The IKMA’s techniques were developed in Israel and are taught to the New Jersey Police Department, among others. The IKMA is a reputable organization that provides a high standard of training.  They are based out of Hamilton, New Jersey and they have recently opened a school in NYC.

The International Krav Maga Federation (IKMF).  When the IKMA became divided during Imi’s later years, due to disagreements amongst some of the higher graded instructors and Krav Maga started to spread beyond the borders of Israel, some of Imi’s most loyal and respected students and instructors, including Eyal Yanilov, Avi Moyal, Gabi Noah, and Eli Ben-Ami formed the IKMF with Imi’s blessing. The IKMF is a non-profit Israeli organization that was founded in 1996 and it is reputedly the biggest Israeli Krav Maga organization in the world (although, the IKMF has only recently arrived in the USA). The IKMF is now headed by another of Imi’s original students, Avi Moyal. In the USA, the IKMF instructor team is led by Tamir Gilad. Like the IKMA and KMF, the IKMF’s techniques have been developed in Israel over the years by teaching Israeli Defense Forces including special forces units and law enforcement professionals. One of the IKMF’s head instructors, Eyal Yanilov, broke ranks with the IKMF and formed Krav Maga Global (KMG) recently. The techniques and training methods taught by KMG instructors therefore very closely resemble those of the IKMF. Both the IKMF and KMG are reputable organizations that provide a high standard of training. There is an IKMF school in New York (NYC).  There aren’t currently any KMG schools in the New York region.

Krav Maga Federation (KMF).  The KMF has been in New York the longest of all the above organizations.  The KMF is currently led by another of Imi’s original students, Haim Zut in Israel. In the US, the KMF is led by Rhon Mizrahi.  The KMF’s philosophy follows the original guidelines, techniques and principles set forth by Imi Lictenfeld, without alteration. For instance, they have retained Imi’s belt system whereby material and techniques separate ranks of students. KMF is a reputable organization that provides a high standard of training. The KMF have a number of schools in New York City.

Krav Maga Academy and Krav Maga Crash are two other solid options available in the NYC region but they are much younger organizations.

There are differences in the techniques and teaching methods employed by the various organizations in New York. The only way of deciding which is for you is to try them and decide for yourself. Most students base their decisions on cost, convenience and the relationship with their instructors. We do not think any are worse or better than the other, they all provide excellent training, they are just different. If you stick to one of the organizations noted above, you can’t go far wrong. Choose a school that you can see yourself training at for a long time so make it convenient, cost effective and make sure you have a good relationship with your instructor.





  • David Kahn

    We read your blog with interest. A number of your comments require specific answers. The Israeli krav maga we teach comes directly from Grandmaster Haim Gidon. Israeli krav maga (Gidon System) is not developed in the U.S.A.; it comes directly from Netanya, Israel. Haim Gidon developed extensive groundwork and other adaptations/improvements while Israeli krav maga founder Imi Lichtenfeld sat in the IKMA’s training hub (Haim’s gym), 21 Ben Zion, Netanya. Imi formally approved these advancements. The IKMF did not have access to this material – techniques Imi wished formally incorporated into the krav maga system.

    Haim Gidon’s retzef, (“continuous combat motion”) is unique to the IKMA. No other organizations use this crucial fighting concept. Moreover, the IKMA maintains a professional committee that, in coordination with Grandmaster Gidon, formally includes or discards techniques within the IKMA curriculum.

    Your commentary about the history of the organizations is further misleading. Imi founded one krav maga organization: the IKMA. To be sure, Imi was upset with the discord sown by certain of his top students, and, one in particular. Importantly, Imi presented his final belt rankings in 2006. Two individuals Haim Gidon and Eli Avigzar are ranked at eighth dan. Eyal Yanilov is listed at seventh dan. In a subsequent 2006 public ceremony, Imi commented when presenting Haim his eighth dan diploma, “ninth and tenth dans were to come” for Haim.

    As noted, the videotape and historical document are readily available. Belts are important within the krav maga system. You can make up whatever grading system you like, but, Imi used belts. Grandmaster Gidon follows in Imi’s footsteps with, perhaps, even more arduous belt ranking requirements.

    Wouldn’t logic dictate that Imi awarded his highest ranking to the individual he intended to invest and continue his system? Imi’s awarding Haim Gidon the top ranks, underscores his faith and belief in Haim Gidon’s development of Israeli krav maga as Imi envisioned it.

    Incidentally, what is the highest rank awarded directly by Imi to the IKMF’s instructors?

    Professionally, the success of the IKMA’s military and law enforcement courses for U.S. federal, state, and local law enforcement agencies along with all four branches of the U.S. military speaks for itself. Commendations are readily available on our websites: and For example, we have consistently taught at the New Jersey State Police Academy since the year 2000. We are also Police Training Commission certified. We taught at Camp Lejeune, Fort Wadsworth, Sandy Hook, and the Joint Base along with traveling to Japan to teach select United States Marine Corps units.

    In addition to Grandmaster Haim Gidon’s regular visits/training courses in the U.S., Sgt. Major Nir Maman (res.) one of the former lead counter-terror instructors for the Israel Defense Force Special Operations and Counter-Terror Base (LOTAR), spearheads our counter-terror training program. In 2009, Nir was awarded the IDF’s Ground Force’s Soldier of the Year Award for his outstanding work training foreign special forces transiting through Israel on there way to forward deployment. Shay Amir, former Lead Combat Instructor for North America and a senior agent with the Shin Bet, also teaches with us. Shay sponsors professional courses that receive worldwide acclaim. To state the obvious, our training comes directly from the top Israeli professionals in their fields.

    We also work closely with Alan Feldman and Rick Blitstein, two senior instructors who completed the IKMA’s first international instructor course in 1981. Rick and Alan, both personally instructed by Imi, have taught krav maga in the U.S. for the last 60 years to thousands of students.

    One crucial difference between the IKMA and IKMF is the IKMA, in addition to teaching self-defense, teaches hand-to-hand combat. We teach how to fight against another professional fighter and prevail. So, speaking of groundwork, our ability to prevail against professional “ground fighters”, including the best the military has to offer, in combination with our weapons groundwork, is, to be sure, an advancement in the system. Other organizations try to copy us, but, they are not us.

    Personally, Rhon Mizrahi and I have a respectful relationship. Perhaps, you should ask Avi Moyal how it is to train with Haim Gidon and what Avi thinks of Haim Gidon’s students? In light of your comments, we would be very interested to see Avi’s public response.

    We certainly agree with your final commentary. Anyone interested in the differences between the original organization and others should view our training clips available on youtube by typing in “Israeli krav maga.” So, to suggest we teach anything but Israeli krav maga is misguided. While our teaching customization is tailored for the American lifestyle, our techniques unequivocally come from Israel. In conclusion, as you suggest, let’s rely on the aphorism: “seeing is believing.”

    With respect,

    David Kahn