Fight Over Who Owns Krav Maga

Plus ça change, plus ça la meme chose.

Some of the earliest examples of brands were martial arts styles. By that I am not talking about Kung Fu, because Kung Fu is a constellation of martials arts. Kung Fu is a bit like a fractal, it all looks the same until you get close and see the complexities. I am talking about individual arts under the Kung Fu umbrella. One of the characteristics of martial arts throughout the world is who defines the art, who created it? Who owns it? Is a martial art intellectual property? That said, I am referring to the sub brands of Kung Fu. Hung Gar, Tung Booi Kwen, Lung Ying,  Duen Kwen, and Choy Li Fut.

As one might imagine, the grandmasters of martials arts were somewhat possessive. They felt a rectitude and propriety were a part of their traditions and demanded a succession list, who can teach, who can teach what, who is the best? Many believe Bruce Lee was poisoned by people who took umbrage at his decision to make himself a teacher of the Wing Chun system without permission.

It’s funny to see the same dynamic happening now for another completely original martial art.  From a New York Times article about the indigenous Jewish art: Krav Maga.

“The martial arts world is replete with controversy about who is the top instructor within a given discipline,” said David Kahn, the chief instructor of the American branch of the Israeli Krav Maga Association that Mr. Lichtenfeld had established. “Unfortunately, Krav Maga finds itself embroiled in this same type of internecine conflict, as Imi never appointed a successor.”

One of the claimants to his throne is Haim Gidon, 73, who leads the association. Mr. Kahn, his longtime student, was recently in Israel to help produce a documentary aimed at recording the history of Krav Maga, weighing the various claims to Mr. Lichtenfeld’s mantle and validating Mr. Gidon’s credentials.

My answer to all this? Who cares? Will deciding this matter one whit in any fight anywhere?


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