Pankration Greek; all powers , a Greek martial art utilizing both striking and grappling, was created almost 3, years ago. It was practiced primarily as a sport, but found applications in combat, both on the battlefield and for self-defense. Pankration is one of the oldest confirmed martial arts practiced by human beings. The art had an extensive influence on Western martial arts, and possibly on Asian arts as well.
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Pankration was one of the most popular combat sports in ancient Greece. It combined two other popular sports of antiquity, wrestling and boxing, but kicking was allowed as well. The participants were called pankratiasts.
Pankration was first introduced at the thirty-third Olympics in BC. It impressed the crowds immediately because it was more diverse and exciting than any other combat sport they had seen. Despite offering an exciting and spectacular show to the fans who loved violence and blood, many times it could become extremely dangerous for the pankratiasts and there are several recorded cases in which the fight resulted in severe injuries, or even death, to one of the opponents - usually the one who was losing and refused to surrender.
This version officially entered the Games in BC. Boxer resting after contest bronze sculpture, — BC Public Domain. However, due to the many deaths of contestants taking place inside the arena, after a certain chronological point estimated to be post BC as well the judges had the right to stop a contest if they thought that the life of one or both of the athletes was in danger.
The referees were also armed with stout rods or switches to enforce the two rules of combat: no eye gouging or biting. The right boxer signals giving up by raising his finger high c. CC BY 2. There were many tournaments in most Greek city-states where pankratiasts could compete and every tournament began with a special ritual dedicated to the gods.
This ritual was written about by the Grecophone satirist Lucian:. On two lots an alpha is inscribed, on two a beta, and on another two a gamma, and so on. If there are more athletes, two lots always have the same letter. Each athlete comes forth, prays to Zeus, puts his hand into the urn and draws out a lot. Following him, the other athletes do the same.
Whip bearers are standing next to the athletes, holding their hands and not allowing them to read the letter they have drawn. When everyone has drawn a lot, the alytarch, or one of the Hellanodikai walks around and looks at the lots of the athletes as they stand in a circle. He then joins the athlete holding the alpha to the other who has drawn the alpha for wrestling or pankration, the one who has the beta to the other with the beta, and the other matching inscribed lots in the same manner.
A copy cast of wrestlers from , displayed at the horticultural center in Fairmount Park, Philadelphia. CC0 1. Nonetheless, contemporary historians who have researched and studied the history of pankration have come to the conclusion that this martial art is much older in reality than most historians originally thought.
The first mention of pankration takes us back to the mythological stories of Heracles and Theseus who, according to the myths, both used techniques of pankration to fight the Nemean Lion and the Minotaur, respectively. Pankratiasts fighting under the eyes of a trainer. Side A of an Attic black-figure skyphos, c. He takes us back to the 2nd millennium BC, which makes pankration one of the most ancient martial arts.
One of the most famous stories involving a pankratiast and a famous historical figure is that of Dioxippus and Alexander the Great. A battle between two soldiers. Alexander was known for his passion for combat sports, so he made Dioxippus an elite member of his close circle, which made many of his soldiers jealous.
One of them was Coragus, a highly skilled and decorated warrior who challenged Dioxippus to armed combat in front of Alexander and the rest of the troops. Coragus fought with weapons and full armor, while Dioxippus showed up armed only with a club. The Romans eventually adopted pankration, which they called pancratium in Latin. But in AD, this ancient martial art, along with gladiatorial combat and all pagan festivals, was abolished by the Christian Byzantine emperor Theodosius I.
With this act, pankration would gradually disappear over the centuries, until a Greek-American martial artist named Jim Arvanitis rediscovered it Pankration scene: The pankratiast on the right tries to gouge his opponent's eye; the umpire is about to strike him for this foul. British Museum, London. Public Domain. However, despite all the effort Arvanitis has put into the revival of pankration, every historian agrees that the modern version of pankration has nothing in common with the brutal and bloody martial art that Spartan, Athenian, and Macedonian warriors used as a natural weapon.
Featured image: Pankratiasts fighting. Theodoros Karasavvas, J. When called upon to do Read More. Ancient Origins has been quoted by:.
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The athletes used boxing and wrestling techniques, but also others, such as kicking and holds, locks and chokes on the ground. It was known in ancient times for its ferocity and allowance of such tactics as knees to the head and eye gouging. One ancient account tells of a situation in which the judges were trying to determine the winner of a match. The difficulty lay in that fact that both men had died in the arena from their injuries, making it hard to determine a victor. Eventually, the judges decided the winner was the one who didn't have his eyes gouged out. Over time, however, maneuvers like eye gouging were discouraged to prevent such unpleasant incidents. In Greek mythology, it was said that the heroes Heracles and Theseus invented pankration as a result of using both wrestling and boxing in their confrontations with opponents.
Pankration: A Deadly Martial Art Form from Ancient Greece
I have used modern Mixed Martial Arts as a source of concept, technique and as a testing ground for the reconstruction. I find this highly appropriate as modern mixed martial arts is simply a modern take on Pankration and Submission Wrestling which was practiced across the Greek world for a very long time in Ancient Greece and Rome. Last time I counted up the known periods of use for Pankration it added up to just under a years. We today cannot conceive of a no rules martial art fighting tournament with an almost year competitive history. The sheer amount of time Pankration was used in competition between the many city states of greater Greece tells us that this martial art was highly developed, soundly tested and brutally effective. It was not until the rise of modern mixed martial arts that many of the techniques and concepts of Pankration would finally be seen as important in the context of No Holds Barred fighting. Using these historical sources I have compiled a list of striking techniques, fighting stances, defensive concepts, grappling techniques and wrapped it all up with a modern mixed martial art perspective as a glue to bind together all the elements pulled from the historical sources.
Contrary to popular perception, fighting arts are not exclusively an Asian phenomenon, but exist in practically every culture and across all historical time-frames. It is doubtful if any people, anywhere on earth, ever lacked completely for some kind of combative techniques with which to fight savage nature or their sometimes-more savage fellowmen. Moreover, beliefs and practices that Europeans and North Americans associate with Asian combative systems often find their counterparts in western fighting methods. Greek and Roman pugilists frequently broke planks and stones to demonstrate their prowess, while wrestlers sometimes stood on oiled shields and invited challengers to push them off--an act reminiscent of aikido and tai chi ch'uan adepts withstanding the combined force of several men by concentrating on their center of gravity. What is also not generally known is that there existed in the ancient world an unarmed fighting art which not only compares favorably with later Asian systems, but as an event in the ancient Olympic Games was considered the truest test of an athlete's combative ability. This was the martial art known as pankration, a blend of Hellenic wrestling, boxing, strangulation, kicking and striking techniques, as well as joint locks.
Stances – Guards – Positions