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December 27, 2018 11:36 am

Israeli Embassy Brings Krav Maga to Azerbaijan as Self-Defense Method for Women

avatar by Benjamin Kerstein

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An Israeli soldier training in Krav Maga. Photo: 900 via Wikimedia Commons.

Israel has launched a program to bring the martial art of Krav Maga to Azerbaijan to teach local women how to defend themselves.

Krav Maga, “battle touch” in Hebrew, was developed by Israeli Imi Lichtenfeld as an easy-to-learn, practically-minded alternative to more rarefied forms of martial arts. Its primary purpose is not to defeat one’s opponent per se, but to extricate oneself as quickly as possible from a dangerous situation. As such, it has become extremely popular as a self-defense technique.

Azerbaijan is a predominantly Muslim country, but is viewed as one of the most moderate and tolerant Islamic states, and has had warm relations with Israel for decades.

The Krav Maga program is being spearheaded by the Israeli Embassy in Baku and is led by Lilach Shiff, who teaches women-only self-defense classes in Israel. She is the only female senior instructor in the International Krav Maga Federation.

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According to the Hebrew news site Mako, the embassy’s concept was to undertake a program related to the increasingly prominent issue of violence against women, which has prompted large demonstrations in Israel itself.

“The Azeris are very interested in martial arts, and together with the issue of self-defense, we wanted to bring this with an Israeli face,” said Avital Merman Rosenberg, Israel’s deputy ambassador in the country.

“It doesn’t matter where you live,” said Rosenberg, “There is still this problem” of violence against women, “which is not local but global, and we wanted to raise awareness of this. … Every woman, and every person in general, should have the possibility of defending themselves, and therefore we wanted to give them some basic tips and tools to do this.”

Rosenberg says that the program has met with an enthusiastic reception from Azeri participants.

“They really enjoyed it,” she said, “and you could see that they opened up and really took all these tools to heart. I hope that there will be the possibility of continuing and doing similar things in the future.”

In addition to the formal lessons, the Israeli embassy has filmed several instructional videos starring Shiff and distributed them on Azeri social media.

“We believe we need to intensify our efforts and further emphasize these issues,” said Rosenberg, “especially in places where awareness of empowering women is still incomplete.”

“In Israel we are very progressive on many things we sometimes don’t see,” she added, “because to us it’s completely natural, but when you go outside you see some of these things are not self-evident in the entire world. In Azerbaijan there is a lot of respect for women, and we wanted to take this another step forward, from our point of view, and give women the ability to defend themselves.”

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