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Abir In Israeli Combative Measures

I recently met a retired member of the Israel Defense Forces (I.D.F.), and during the course of our conversation, I asked him about his Krav Maga training. He brushed this aside, and asked me if I was familiar with Abir training. I had heard of Abir, but erroneously assumed that it was simply a variation of Krav Maga, since many have been capitalizing on that system’s popularity and effectiveness. After being corrected, I was told that elements of Abir were incorporated into the training military officers receive, and that it was most unlike Krav Maga historically and stylistically. Further conversation as well as research on my part proved this correct.

Abir claims an ancient history, with some stating there is evidence that its roots go back to Biblical times. One of the better-known examples given is a relief of what is generally said to be ancient Egyptians engaged in armed combat. However, anthropologists, geneticists, and historians say that the skin coloring of the figures on the relief was of a Semitic people, not that of Pharaonic Egyptians. Additionally, the fighters had beards; ancient Egyptians could not grow beards. Further, the fighters were wearing the "Ephod-bad", a traditional garb of ancient Hebrew warriors. There is also a "Dum-Kat" being performed, an ancient war dance which is used in Abir even today. There is more to this art, however.

A large number of movements in Abir may, at first glance, seem to resemble Wushu, or even Copoeira. Yet, when the movements are carefully analyzed, and the historical background examined, we find they are based on the letters of the ancient Hebrew alphabet. The letters are seen in the hand and body movements. Coupled with this is the derivation of techniques from the Twelve Tribes of Israel. For example, the tribe of Judah has the lion as its symbol. There are a series of techniques where movements are based upon the powerful palm techniques, lunging stabs, and elbow and knee strikes resembling a lion's movements. The Tribe of Zevulun has a ship on water as its symbol. The movements for this group of techniques emphasize maintaining balance and footing when executing swift movements.


Arms and legs are also used in circular motions, and many other hand techniques resemble those seen in Wing Chun. Vital anatomical points are part of the art, with a variety of means to attack them employed. Throws, takedowns, groundwork, and strangulation techniques are taught in Abir, making the style a well-rounded JuJutsu-type system.

Similar to kata in Karate, Tae Kwon Do, or Kung Fu, Abir has choreographed fighting dances, making it resemble Pencak Silat or Copoeira more than the far Eastern counterparts. There are twelve weaponless forms, and six weapon forms in Abir.
The techniques have been kept alive for millennia by the Habanit, the Jews of northern Yemen. It is the Yemenite Jews who (arguably) claim to maintain the oldest and most authentic Jewish traditions and Jewish culture, religious practices, and arts. Abir today is recognized by the prestigious Wingate College of Sports Services in Israel, and many rabbinic scholars have recognized Abir as an authentic, ancient art of Jewish origin. It does not seem that Abir will surpass Krav Maga in popularity, but if one witnesses the techniques live (as opposed to snippets of video), one will note that the techniques are as deadly and effective as any found on battlefields anywhere. It is no wonder why they are reserved for officers of the I.D.F.

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