Tag Archives: Wrestling

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),┬ánicknamed 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

Jew of the Week: Rafael Halperin

Rafael “Mr. Israel” Halperin

Rafael Halperin (1924-2011) was born in Vienna, immigrating to Israel as a child along with his family who fled rising tensions in Europe. Despite living in Ultra-Orthodox Bnei Brak, and studying in yeshiva, Halperin was drawn to body-building and exercise. To everyone’s surprise, Halperin’s rabbi, the famous Chazon Ish – one of the greatest Jewish leaders of the last century – actually permitted Halperin to pursue his new passion! After learning the depths of the sport in the U.S., Halperin returned to Israel and opened The Samson Institute – Israel’s first chain of gyms and health clubs. He soon organized the first ever Mr. Israel contest, and drew the attention of a wrestling promoter. As a professional wrestler, Halperin earned the nickname ‘Samson the Second’. Among the most famous wrestlers at the time, he refused to throw matches or participate in match-fixing, which has always been the norm in wrestling. [Click here to see Halperin in action.] Amazingly, he was also the personal trainer for Ethiopia’s emperor Haile Selassie, the father of Rastafarianism. Halperin was adept in business, opening many restaurants and hotels across Israel, as well as the country’s first automated car wash. His greatest success was ‘Optica Halperin’, Israel’s largest chain of optical stores. To the last days of his life, Halperin was a businessman. A year before his passing, he opened ‘Zisalek’, Israel’s newest glatt-kosher ice cream parlour. Devoutly religious throughout his life, Halperin officially received his rabbinic ordination in the 1970s, and in his later years worked to develop a credit card that wouldn’t function on Shabbat. Oh, and he also started his own political party called Otzma, published several books including an encyclopedia, worked as a diamond cutter, was once Israel’s karate champion, and fought in the Yom Kippur War. What have you done lately?

Words of the Week

Everybody is a genius. But if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree it will live its whole life believing it is stupid.
– Albert Einstein