Haganah – Israeli Modern Martial Arts

HaganahHaganah? My exposure like so many practitioners of martial arts was in the traditional systems of Chinese Kung Fu, and various other Asian systems of defense, such as Kempo TKD. I remember the classes being extremely rigid and defined in terms of learning by repetition various empty hand forms/katas and eventually exotic weapons. Some of these weapons were traditionally used in warfare and personal battles throughout Asian history. Weapons such as the Spear, Broadsword, Butterfly Swords (Wu Dip Dao) were only taught after a number of increasing longer and difficult empty hand forms/katas were perfected. There was a mixture of physical conditioning along with a break down of some key movements associated with a particular system or style. Training demanded much commitment, dedication, time and respect to both the Master (Sifu), school and history of the style.

Numerous years later a new generation of martial artists demanded a quick, explosive no nonsense method of learning to defend oneself, without the need for esoteric weapons, culture exposure (Lion Dance) extensive grace (forms interpretation) or pacifistic philosophies. As much as traditional and exotic Asian systems dominated the growth of martial arts in the past, this new generation promised fast, devastating results with all the aggression unchecked. One of these new systems is known as Israeli HaganaH.

HaganahThe HaganaH (or Hagannah) (means defense, ההגנה in Hebrew – pronounced “Hah Gah nah’) Originally a Jewish paramilitary organization which eventually became an essential part of the IDF (Israeli Defense Forces) They were predominantly a group of freedom fighters, outnumbered and ill equipped, the HaganaH defeated superior adversaries to establish the State of Israel.

They ultimately became the IDF, Israel’s current military force. In this respect, HaganaH is a complete Israeli Combative methodology and self-defense system which is based on various Israeli martial arts and Israeli military tactics. It is a reality based martial art that is used by Israeli Special Forces operatives in extremely dangerous situations. The system was developed to enable an individual with a disadvantage in physical size, strength, weapons and armament to be able to defeat an adversary with an obvious advantage, making it a highly adaptable martial art with broad appeal that is not restricted by a persons physical stature, age or innate abilities.

The HaganaH system is a combination of four key Israeli martial art systems; Krav Maga which is the official self-defense system in Israel. Hisardut a full contact reality based fighting system that specializes in counter-terrorism and terrorism survival. KAPAP, which stands for Krav Panim el Panimand and translates from Hebrew as “face to face combat” is the original combat system of CQB, hand-to-hand combat and self-defense, employed by the Israeli Defense Forces. L.O.T.A.R. evolved from KAPAP and provides fighting techniques that were needed in battle, hand-to-hand combat, including applications with firearms, knives and stick fighting.

HaganahThe training structure consists of two complimentary components. The first component called F.I.G.H.T. (Fierce Israeli Guerilla Hand-to-Hand Tactics) contains hand-to-hand, empty hand verses knife and gun, and ground survival elements. The second is an armed-combat component which includes Israeli Tactical Knife Fighting and Israeli Combat Shooting.

The program is designed for worst case scenarios, when escaping from the situation may not be a viable option. In every situation where escape is inevitable, students learn three options: restrain, incapacitate or terminate the attacker. They are drilled to create a mindset that reacts to a violent assault by immediately switching from a victim to a predatory aggressor. In addition, F.I.G.H.T. uses common strategies and tactics against most attacks allowing the practitioner to learn quickly. There is no need to learn countless new techniques, replacing the old. As a result this allows you to gain rapid proficiency.

Within a few weeks students become very proficient at executing each of the three objective options which are programmed into muscle memory. This enables students to quickly focus and devote maximum time to programming their bodies to react automatically with proper techniques when attacked and to gain dominance as well as overall confidence in their skills.

The entire F.I.G.H.T. (Fierce Israeli Guerrilla Hand-to-hand Tactics) system is taught in a rotating four month approach, and covers all tactics in the same period of time. Defense against common punches, kicks and various other open hand strikes is initially stressed.

Repetition of each technique is the key to programming muscle memory, and developing a quick instantaneous reaction when applied in a real world hostile situation.

From a base in hand to hand using various defensive and offensive strikes, defense against weapons is taught in the form of Israeli Tactical Knife (ITK) course. Unlike, the open hand curriculum, this high level class teaches the use of a knife as a defensive weapon if your opponent deploys an edged weapon. You learn to fight offensively and defensively using an edged weapon to balance the hostile encounter.

Aside from open hand training and knife tactics, HaganaH offers, ICS – Israeli Combat Shooting (Defensive Handgun) course. This course is designed in three progressive levels to teach you how to effectively use a handgun to defend yourself.

Building muscle memory (programming your body to shoot accurately instinctively) and proper mindset is heavily stressed from the beginning stages of our courses and stress shooting is introduced gradually into the training drills in order for you to be able to bridge training concepts to the reality of the actual pressure associated with real world events.

I would suggest to anyone seriously considering studying any modern martial art, to take advantage of the free introductory class. This will give you a solid foundation to determine if the school, the instructors and methods as well as the overall self defense system is inline with your goals. Every martial art style is different and every school has a particular method of teaching which is reflected by the various instructors. At the minimum, I would suggest, watching a class live as almost all schools will gladly accept visitors as potential new students. A school is a business just like any other facility with a service.

When I was in Davie, Florida, I dropped by the USA Headquarters several years ago, and also watched a class taught by Mike Lee Kanarek. Learning martial arts is an extremely valuable skill which requires time, effort and serious commitment. My best advice is to start by doing your research online, searching for information on various styles and systems, and then visiting several schools and taking a free class or just watching if you feel too nervous. This will give you firsthand experience at judging the school, instructors, classmates and overall self defense system/style. Remember it’s your time and money. Invest wisely in yourself and skills.

Controversy surrounding the legitimacy of various HaganaH claims and it’s owner/founder have also surfaced in an online blog, whose creator Robb Hamic attempts to expose much information surrounding the hype. You can search online for his revelations which can help those who are skeptical and would like a counter opinion. Access his blog here.

  • Hudson Valley HaganaH – Milford, PA
    HaganaH accommodates many situations and practitioner skill levels. The point of reference becomes a familiar and comfortable place.
  • HaganaH Houston
    At Haganah Houston we are part of the F.I.G.H.T (Fierce Israeli Guerilla Hand-to-hand Tactics) program, which teaches you to use Haganah.