This book examines the profound interplay of martial arts, combative, and self-defense disciplines with nationalism and ethno-religious politics through the analysis of Zionism, the birth of the State of Israel, antisemitism, and the life of the contemporary Jewish Diaspora in the United States. It connects martial arts studies and political science, spearheading the new field of political hoplology. Focusing on the complex formative process of national communities, their growth, resilience, and consequences for the individuals, Krav Maga and the Making of Modern Israel presents the unique case of Krav Maga (literally hand to hand combat), a self-defense system developed between the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, which is now considered a staple of Israeli culture and a prime self-defense practice. Through its chapters, the book provides strong evidence supporting the idea that physical violence is indeed needed as a unifying experience to allow national communities to emerge and thrive. Furthermore, it examines the growing importance of violence for modern democratic societies and suggests the existence of a “gladiatorial effect,” or the need for a certain level of violence to exist to maintain a harmonious, stable, and cooperative society.
Andrea Molle is assistant professor of political science at Chapman University.
Introduction: Is Violence a Necessity for the Modern Nation-State?
1 Lions of God: A Critical History of Krav Maga
2 Jewish Nationalism and the Politics of Self-Defense
3 Once Were Warriors: The American Diaspora, Zionism, and the Warrior Mythology of Ancient Israel
4 Accept Yourself as Your Own Savior: Krav Maga as a Religious Experience
5 Si Vis Pacem Para Bellum: Krav Maga, MMA, and the Gladiatorial Effect
Conclusion: Martial Arts as a Social Vaccine
Appendix: Krav Maga and National Identity Questionnaire
In what ways is violence a necessary aspect of the modern nation state? In asking this provocative question, Andrea Molle opens a new chapter in the development of martial arts studies as well as political science more generally. Deftly weaving together pressing topics such as nationalism, political conflict, and violence manifested on both the interpersonal and political levels he is able to shine a bright light on some of the most pressing questions of our current social moment. This opening statement in the area of ‘political hoplology’ is sure to be referenced by a wide variety of scholars for years to come.
Andrea Molle’s exhaustive investigation of Krav Maga is a massive contribution that will serve to fill a glaring gap in the study of martial arts. Hereafter, it surely must be included in the bibliography of all serious scholarly works looking at the political and social implications of martial arts and the connection between ritualized violence and the formation of national identity. Molle’s masterful tome opens our eyes to the immense potential of this field of academic inquiry.
As the popularity of Krav Maga grows, it bears asking what relationship practitioners envision between the art, the state of Israel, and the Jewish people. Is Krav Maga merely seen as a highly efficacious means of defending oneself, or does aligning oneself with the art signify an ideological position? In asking questions such as these, Molle carves out a space for what he calls political hoplology. This book represents a much-needed addition to the growing field of martial arts studies by turning our attention to the ways in which martial arts not only have the potential to shape the identities of individual practitioners but may also affect how the public perceives the nations and ethnic groups that created or popularized those arts.
Most people typically associate the martial arts – for example, Judo, Karate and Muay Thai – with the countries of the Far East, including Japan, China, South Korea and Thailand; however, a number of non-eastern Asian countries are also home to the martial arts, including Brazil, Mexico and Russia. Israel, too, falls within the latter group, its particular martial art known as Krav Maga, which is a Hebrew term for close quarters fighting... [Molle’s] monograph offers an illuminating excursion into the history of Krav Maga, as well as a sensible interpretation of its role in building up both collective solidarity and individual self-empowerment. Scholars interested in the social, cultural and/ or political impact of this martial art should find his book useful to their academic pursuits.