Pankration

pankrationAncient Pankration

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 this generation.

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.

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James Figg - The First Bare-Knuckle Boxing Champion

As modern day martial artists, we owe a great deal to those who formulated and developed our arts. I love to read their works, and stories about these great men and women. By studying the past greats we can gain inspiration and we can fully appreciate our arts as we can view them in their correct historical perspective.

There is a good chance that the art you practice originated in the orient. However, we should not forget about our own indigenous fighting systems and their masters, as they are every bit as effective as their oriental counterparts and they also make up a large part of our martial heritage. I would class myself as a “traditional karateka,” and yet as a regular part of my training I hit a punch bag, jump rope and spar using boxing gloves - as I’m sure many of those reading this article do also. The western art of boxing has had a huge influence on all the martial arts. Hence, in addition to studying oriental martial arts masters, I also like to read about the masters of the native art of boxing. One such master was James Figg.

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Karate Uniforms

By Rob Redmond, www.24fightingchickens.com

Every sport has a uniform. Despite the fact that neighborhood games spring up with everyone wearing street clothes, our society has a habit of putting athletes into uniforms. In some cases the uniforms are practical, as in the case of swimmers or bicycle racers. Other sports uniforms are impractical nods to tradition, such as the baseball uniform. Karate is no exception, and it seems to be one of those sports which have a tradition of wearing a very well-known yet somewhat impractical outfit during training.

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Delayed Death Touch: Instructions to the Coroner of China Reveal Knowledge of Vital Points

One of the joys of researching a topic in depth are the little gems of knowledge you often uncover. Several years back I camp upon a reference to a manuscript that was translated by Herbert Giles. One of the reasons this caught my eye was the name of Herbert Giles. He was one of the men responsible for developing the Romanization of Chinese (Wade-Giles).

Then there was the title, “Instructions to the Corner” or “Records of the Washing Away of Unjust Imputations”. With a Masters degree in Criminology I began to wonder what type of forensic information might be discussed in an old Chinese manuscript. The “Hisng Yuan Lu” dates from the reign of Shun Yu (1241 – 1253) and was written by Sung Tzhu. Giles first came across this work while stationed at Ningpo in 1873 and subsequently translated this text. It was then published in the “China Review” in 1874 and later republished in the “Proceedings of the Royal Society of Medicine” in 1924. Once I acquired a copy of the translation I quickly scanned the text and to my pleasure there were two charts showing vital points! Not here indeed was something to look at. A text that dated from the mid 1200’s, translated into English in 1874 that clearly addressed vital points. This may be the earliest text in the English language that mentions vital points. Consider, the “Hisng Yuan Lu” made available to us information on vital points forty eight years prior to the introduction of Karate into Japan by Gichin Funakoshi in 1922. Also, remember there are a number of books published in the early 1900’s that clearly discuss and demonstrate the use of vital point techniques.

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The impact of Dr. Erwin Von Baelz

There are two major divisions of martial arts, and they can be described in several different ways. A very simple yet effective way of looking at the arts is to say one is a “sport” and the other is “self defense”. Of course this is a very simplistic way of making a differentiation of the arts. You could differentiate the two major groupings as “Do” or “Jutsu”. Or, in a more simplistic way we can describe the arts with a primary interest in “sport” or “self-defense”. Of course these are not hard and fast, a martial art system that promotes the sport or physical fitness aspect can be used in a self-defense situation. Likewise, an art that promotes self-defense as a primary concern can have aspects of sport and physical fitness. There are as many variations on these two broad categories as there are instructors. I do not want to place any value judgment on the value or worth of any one system, or orientation. Each is valuable and serves the purpose of the individuals. This is of course the way it should be.

Drager (1974) notes “traditionalists and to those who regard classical bujutsu from the viewpoint of actual combat, the modern disciplines are nothing but an ass in a tiger’s skin.” (p.55) It is quite clear there is a distinction made between arts such as Kenjutsu and Kendo or Ju-Jutsu from Judo. Prior to the Meiji restoration there was a need to have the martial arts to be combat effective. However, once the modernization of Japan and her military forces began they were trained in the most modern methods of the time. Japan based its navy on that of Great Britain and their army on the German model, each was dominant powers at that time. Japan recognized it’s need to create a modern army and navy and the infrastructure to support the modernization of a nation. They were able to recognize feudal warfare techniques, which relied on the samurai, were not practical. Living in this time seems unimaginable to me. I find it hard to even imagine what the time must have been like. When all you have known is turned upside down. Try to think what it would be like if our whole country found out they were 50 to a 100 years behind the rest of the world in technology? Just think what we would do to try to catch up. Think of what we would have to discard the old and how quick we would have to grab on to the new.

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