Tag Archives: Netanya

Jews of the Week: Oren Smadja & Sagi Muki

Judo World Champion

Oren Smadja

Shay Oren Smadja (b. 1970) was born to a Tunisian-Jewish family in Ofakim, Israel. He was the son of Israel’s first judo coach, Morris Smadja, who played a key role in introducing the sport to Israel. Trained by his father, Oren Smadja won his first gold medal in judo at the age of 12. Seven years later, he was Israel’s judo champion. Smadja went on to represent Israel at the 1992 Barcelona Olympics where he won a bronze medal. Three years later, he won the silver medal at the 1995 World Judo Championships. In 2008 he was a participant in the Israeli TV version of “Dancing With the Stars”. Altogether, Smadja won a medal or championship in 14 professional tournaments. He retired after competing in the 1996 Atlanta Olympics, and turned to coaching judo full time.

Sagi Muki

One of Smadja’s first students was a four-year old Sagi Aharon Muki (b. 1992) from Netanya, Israel. At the young age of 8 he had to choose to pursue either soccer or judo, and went with the latter. Under Smadja’s tutelage, Muki went on to win the under-20 European Cup in Berlin in 2011. The following year, he was Israel’s judo champion in his weight class, a feat that he repeated in 2013. He continued to win in multiple international competitions, and was ranked second in the world by 2015. That year, he took gold at the European Games and the European Judo Championship. Muki represented Israel at the 2016 Rio Olympics. Unfortunately, he failed to win a medal after severely injuring his spine. Bedridden for months, it seemed that Muki’s career was over. Undeterred, he refused surgeries and instituted an intense healing and training regime. Muki got back into shape and returned to judo at the Grand Prix Tashkent in October 2017. Silencing all of his critics, Muki won gold. Half a year later, he took another gold in the European Championships. Earlier this year, Muki climbed back to the world number 2 spot. Last week he won gold at the 2019 World Judo Championships in Tokyo, making him the first Israeli world champion. Muki also served in the IDF and carries the rank of sergeant. He takes great pride in representing Israel around the world, and is expected to bring home another gold at next year’s Summer Olympics in Tokyo.

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Words of the Week

Who can challenge the rights of the Jews in Palestine? Good Lord, historically it is really your country.
– Yusuf Diya al-Khalidi, Ottoman politician and Muslim scholar (1899)

Jews of the Week: Imi Lichtenfeld and Roy Elghanayan

Krav Maga & The Jewish Bruce Lee

Lichtenfeld

Lichtenfeld

Imre Lichtenfeld (1910-1998) was born in Budapest and grew up in Bratislava. His father was a police chief inspector who also owned the Hercules Gymnasium where he taught acrobatics and self-defense. Training under his father, Lichtenfeld became Slovakia’s Wrestling Champion, Boxing Champion, and Gymnastics Champion. In response to rising anti-Semitism in the 1930s, he put together a group of Jewish boxers that defended local communities from thugs. He realized that his training was of little help in real-life combat situations, so he started developing a new system of self-defense based on practical techniques, natural motions, and “simultaneous defense and attack”. In 1940, Lichtenfeld left Czechoslovakia due to the Nazi invasion and joined the Free Czech Legion, fighting alongside the British Army in North Africa. After two years of distinguished service, he finally made his way to Israel, and was immediately recruited to train the fighters of Haganah and Palmach (the Jewish defense groups that later became the IDF). His very effective self-defense system became known as Krav Maga – “contact combat” or “close combat”. With the formation of the State of Israel in 1948, Lichtenfeld (now better known by his Hebraicized name Imi Sde-Or) was appointed the IDF’s Chief Instructor of Physical Fitness and Krav Maga. He served in this role for the next 20 years, then shifted his focus to training Israeli police, while also opening two training centres for the general public in Tel-Aviv and Netanya. In 1995, he founded the International Krav Maga Federation.

Elghanayan (courtesy: bjjlegends.com)

Elghanayan (courtesy: bjjlegends.com)

Perhaps the best-known Krav Maga expert today is Roy Elghanayan (b. 1984), nicknamed the “Jewish Bruce Lee”. He began his training in Krav Maga and martial arts at an early age, and his skills were quickly recognized when he joined the IDF. He soon became the Chief Instructor of Krav Maga for the Israeli Special Forces. He holds a 4th Degree Black Belt, and is recognized as Israel’s Official International Ambassador for Authentic Krav Maga. He is also the only person to hold two Israeli Krav Maga national championship titles. Over the years, he has developed his own unique style, and has taught self-defense all over the world, including to the LAPD and the CIA. He currently runs a Krav Maga club in Los Angeles, and has also choreographed fights for some Hollywood films. When asked about the secret ingredient in his diet, he answered: “I only eat kosher protein”. Click here to see Elghanayan in action.

Words of the Week

Everybody has a plan, until they get punched in the face.
– Mike Tyson