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Yamam And Krav Maga

by Steven J. Kaplan

The word Yamam is the acronym for three Hebrew words which translate to, "special central unit". This, in fact, is Israel’s equivalent to the SWAT units found in the US. As with their American counterparts, they are a specialized, elite civilian force. Included among the responsibilities of Yamam are hostage rescue and counter-terrorism operations, and undercover police work. Additionally, extradition methods are taught, as well as personal security techniques for V.I.P.s.
One major difference between SWAT units in America and Yamam is in the background of the members. Since Israel has mandatory military service, all unit members have a minimum of three years of experience in a branch of the military, some with more. All members must be between 22 and 30 years of age, but because of previous military service, no previous police experience is required. Skills taught are sniping, canine management, roping, medical skills, demolition, and bomb disposal. Additionally, members are schooled in Arabic. All units of Yamam are paramilitary; they do not engage in routine police responsibilities. As is the case with many military special forces units, both in Israel and the U.S., there is a "hell week", whose difficulty is considered amongst the hardest in the world. This is in all likelihood because Yamam is said to be based upon the U.S. Army’s Delta Force. The training period for Yamam is six months.


Part of the police tactics training Yamam members receive is Krav Maga. However, there are, as a very general statement, three categories of Krav Maga. One is Krav Maga as taught to the general population. The other is Krav Maga with specialized techniques specifically for law-enforcement. The third is Krav Maga as taught to the military. This is the form of Krav Maga taught to Yamam . Not only do these techniques include what most people would expect from an elite force, but it is the method of training which is the key to the successful execution of the techniques. A comparison could be made by viewing a "family-oriented" karate dojo, and a karate dojo employing teaching with older, traditional methods which are harsh and sometimes brutal, resulting in "one tough guy". In addition to the techniques themselves, endurance is stressed, as well as discipline. Given the responsibilities Yamam undertakes, the harsh training is necessary and appropriate.

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