The word Pankration is a Greek word which translated means "all powers" or
"all powerful", both are acceptable translations by Greek scholars. Pankration
was a sporting event in the ancient Greek Olympic games that was first introduced
in the games of 648 BC. The rules of the sport were simple, no biting or eye gouging
and victory was secured through knockout, submission or death. The historical
records of the early pankration are shrouded and mixed with Greek mythology and
it is not known whether these accounts of championship bouts and feats of strength
of the champions were myth or actual accounts. What is known is that just like
the boxers and wrestlers of the Olympic games the Pankration competitors refined
their skills for many generations through hundreds of years and became extremely
proficient at all elements of their sport including ground fighting and submission
holds to standing fighting with all types of strikes. Many of the holds, throws
and striking techniques can be seen on the pottery, statues and drawings of those
times. The ancient Olympic games were intertwined with many ceremonies and connections
to the worship of gods that were pagan to the rising christian population. Because
of this association and the rise of christianity the games eventually came to
a halt and along with it Pankration competition disappeared for many centuries.
The Olympic games were eventually adopted and reborn throughout the world alternating
the competition in a new country every 4 years, however, Pankration competition
was not included. It is only because of the sparse historical records and the
special interests of a few individuals that Pankration is having a rebirth in
Modern Day Pankration
The current wave of "no holds barred" and pay per view fighting events has
brought with it a curiosity and interest to it's ancient predecessor Pankration.
Just as the boxing venue grew and evolved from ancient Greece to Madison square
garden and the rest of the world, the skills, techniques, training methods, rules,
attire and safety measures have also evolved. For the most part this evolution
has been beneficial to the sport and it's participants. Now after centuries ancient
Greek Pankration is getting the opportunity to become Modern Pankrationin the
same way as it's brother boxing did.
There is only one major organization today that holds and sanctions events
as Pankration events. That organization is the U.F.C.F.: United Full Contact Federation.
The Pankration division of the U.F.C.F. was founded by Matt Hume, a professional
fighter, with a vision and desire to see the sport that he has a passion for evolve
to the level that modern boxing has, and with it the Pankration competitors would
get the respect and benefits that go along with that type of growth and evolution.
While the U.F.C.F. is the only major sanctioning body that uses the name Pankration
there are certainly other organizations that hold events under the same concept.
The two largest and most well known U.S. organizations are Battlecade's Extreme
fighting and S.E.G.'s Ultimate challenge events. In Japan, Brazil, and Russia
there are also some large organizations that hold their events under the Pankration
concept. The Shooto organization in Japan, founded by Satoru Sayama, was started
based on his studies of ancient Pankration and has been holding competitions for
20 years. Another organization in Japan utilized the Pankration concept and calls
themselves Pancrace. Even though only a few of the many modern organizations relate
their begining to the evolution of ancient Pankration, all of the previously stated
events are modern versions of the ancient sport. There are a few differences between
the rules, fighters attire, time limits and a few other issues between these organizations
but the same was true of boxing as it evolved through many countries and sanctioning
bodies to become the sport it is today.
What is a modern day Pankratiast?
There are a few individuals who hold arrogant claims that they are the sole
heirs to ancient Greek Pankration and anyone else who associates themselves with
Pankration is a charleton. They try to justify this claim with ancestry to Greece
and state that "if its not from Greece its not Pankration". Under this same misguided
thinking one would have to conclude that Evander Holyfield, Mike Tyson and Roy
Jones Jr. are not boxers but instead are charletons because they are Americans
of African descent who are trained by Americans of Italian Descent. This logic
is obviously flawed. When you put speculation aside one thing is clear about the
ancient sport of Pankration that holds true with today's modern counterparts.
That is, to be recognized as a noted Pankratiast you must compete and compete
well. When you look through the annals of Greek history the only recognized names
were those of great competitors who were champions in the sport. These champions
came from many different areas and had different fighting specialties or styles.
We see this parralleled today as many fighters from different countries and styles
try to prove themselves as the best. This brings up another question.
Is Pankration a style as well as a sport?
To answer this question consider a boxer or freestyle wrestler who enters into
a Pankration or No Holds Barred event. No one would refute the claim that their
style is boxing or freestyle wrestling. The way these individuals got the right
to title themselves and their style as boxing or wrestling was by training for
competition in the sport of boxing or wrestling and then actually competing. Under
the same criteria if an individual is training for competition and actually competing
in pankration events then they have met the criteria of modern boxers, wrestlers
and Pankratiasts as well as their ancient counterparts to claim their style as
Pankration if they so desire. There is no need for a pilgrimage to Greece, or
to learn the Greek language in order to become an effective Pankration stylist
or competitor, but instead to train and compete in a manner that will be effective
and successful in Pankration competition.
Modern Pankration's future
Modern Pankration has a bright but uncertain future. The U.F.C.F. and it's
Pankration President, Matt Hume, will continue to hold many amatuer events to
develop fighters and will continue it's world championship events in Hawaii. These
U.F.C.F. Pankration events have given competitors like Kimo Leopoldo, Todd Bjornethun,
John Lewis, Victor Belfort Gracie, Jerry Bohlander and many others like them,
an outstanding venue to get their early experience before moving into the more
highly publicized pay-per-view events that they now have success in. All of the
individuals who dare to step into the ring will know what Teddy Roosevelt meant
in his poem "The Man in the Arena" when he said, "their souls will never be with
those cold and timid souls who know neither victory nor defeat". As this new era
of Pankration unfolds, the fighters who press towards the mark will permanantly
carve their notch in history as our era's great Pankration champions.
About the Author
This history was written by Matt Hume, a professional Pankration fighter, recently
featured on Extreme Fighting 3. Matt is the Vice President of the AMC Kickboxing
- Pankration Center in Kirkland, Washington where he is the head Pankration instructor
of his own system of Pankration called: AMC Pankration. Matt is also the President
of the pankration division of the U.F.C.F. and sanctions regular competitions
in Washington and Hawaii, as well as other parts of the world where he endeavors
to further Pankration competition and standards for the benefit of the fighters
(Contributor: Matt Hume)