Derrek Hofrichter: Teaching self-defense the Israeli way

Derrek Hofrichter discovered Krav Maga, a self-defense system developed in Israel, while attending college in Washington, D.C. “Back then, it was pretty obscure. Not too many places had it and not too many people had heard of it,” says Derrek. “The only place that was offering it at the time was the Jewish Community Center in D.C. They had two classes a week on racquetball courts, where I took my first class. I was 19 years old.”

Now Derrek holds a second-degree black belt and is recognized by Israel as a senior Krav Maga instructor. He is also the owner of EVKM Self Defense & Fitness (formerly East Valley Krav Maga). At the end of 2016, EVKM moved its Tempe location to a larger facility and opened a second location in downtown Phoenix in January.

Krav Maga was created in Israel by Emrich “Imi” Lichtenfeld, a boxer, wrestler and gymnast. He adapted his formal skills to street fighting to defend his Jewish neighborhood as the Nazis rose to power in the late 1930s. In 1948, when the State of Israel was founded and the Israel Defense Forces was formed, Imi became chief instructor of Krav Maga.

Krav Maga is still used in Israel today by IDF, police and security forces. In the last 10 years, it has become popular in the United States as law enforcement agencies and military sought to “come at things with a different approach in a post-9/11 world,” says Derrek. “They looked at what the Israelis were doing. That is how Krav Maga started to make its way over to the United States.”

Derrek admits Krav Maga is tough to describe; technically, it’s a martial art but doesn’t have other traditional components of a martial art. “We tend to call it a self-defense system rather than a martial art,” he says. “There are no competitions or any of the other things typically associated with a martial art. Krav Maga is purely for people wanting to defend themselves and get into better shape.”

He also stresses that “anyone can do it; that’s the important part of it. The goal is to find a way for everyone to defend themselves.”

EVKM offers Krav Maga for youth, teens and adults. Youth classes start at age 4. Called Young Warriors, it teaches age-appropriate self-defense and physical fitness. It helps children to develop good fitness routines and gives them the framework to remain physically active as they get older.

Other classes include kickboxing, which is more about the workout and less about self-defense; but they all complement each other. “Everything we do goes through the focus of self-defense and fitness,” says Derrek.

One of the largest demographics interested in Krav Maga is young women. “We train so many college-age and young, professional females,” says Derek. “The 18-to-24 age range is very vulnerable, according to sexual assault and crime statistics.”

Most people want to know the basics of what to do if they find themselves in a threatening situation. Derek recommends a six-month course that covers the fundamentals. For the average person, coming in two or three times a week over the course of six months will help them learn what to do in such circumstances.

EVKM also offers intermediate and advanced training classes. Similar to martial arts, there are rank levels and belts that signify how long individuals have been studying and what tests they have passed. “It is a well-thought-out and well-laid-out system, but there is always more to learn,” adds Derrek.

Derrek has traveled to Israel twice and is the only Krav Maga instructor in Arizona to be certified by the Israeli government. He completed a senior Krav Maga instructor program there last May.

When Derrek travels to Israel, he studies Krav Maga at the Wingate Institute in Netanya, where Imi Lichtenfeld taught his first classes so many years ago. Wingate is also a military training base and where many Israeli Olympic athletes train.

“The courses are seven days long, 10 to 12 hours a day, and you eat your meals in between training. In the cafeteria, you sit with all these Israeli Olympic athletes – it’s a fun experience,” says Derrek.

Derrek is passionate about his training and training others in self-defense: “I don’t feel we need to add other [martial] arts or systems. I personally believe that Krav Maga offers the best system there is…and gives us everything we need for self-defense.”

To learn more about Krav Maga or sign up for a class at EVKM Self Defense & Fitness, call 480-535-7087 or visit

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