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Pankration in the Olympics -
Will MMA be Featured in the Olympic Games?

By Robert Rousseau,
Pankration, an ancient combat sport that has in recent decades experienced a revival of sorts, nearly became an Olympic event in 2004. However, its application was denied.

A shame considering its glorious and ancient past. One that undoubtedly many do not realize involved the same Olympic Games that they were recently denied enrollment in.

To know more is to read on.

Olympic Pankration - The Early Years

In the Ancient Greek language, "pan" means all and "kratos" means strength or power. Thus, the word pankration in essence means, "no holds barred". However, the word "pankration," is really a more contemporary term for the sport that was initiated by Jim Arvanitis ( a modern day champion of Pankration ). Originally it was referred to as pagratio.

In short, pankration became an Olympic sport during the 33rd Olympiad in 648 B.C. However, it was much more than just an athletic endeavor during those times. It was, in fact, the basis for training for all Ancient Greek troops - including the Spartan Hoplite warriors - as well as Alexander the Great's Macedonian Phalanxes.

Pankration fighters came from varied styles much like mixed martial arts practitioners today ( and those from the orient ). In fact, specific and differing styles were often passed from family to family. Master teachers were generally called Thaskalos, while students were sometimes deemed, Pankratists. Again, similar to the oriental martial arts, Katas ( called Pyrrics ) were often utilized along with a variety of breathing and power striking exercises in practice.

What Did the Sport of Pankration Look Like?

Pankration is a fighting sport that originally combined boxing with wrestling. In that sense, pankration events were somewhat similar to today's mixed martial arts events ( and modern day pankration events mirror this as well ). Further, pankration style fights could be ended by either submission or incapacitation. Though a combatant could signal submission by raising their hand, oftentimes losers were noted because they had either been killed or fallen unconscious.

Pankration matches had only two rules in early times - no eye gouging or biting. Further, like the initial UFC events, there were no time limits or scorecards. Even better, if by the end of the day a winner had not come to the forefront, the two combatants would delve into a blow by blow scenario until a winner was declared.

In other words, these guys were tough!

It should probably be noted that the toughest of these fighters was rumored to be a man by the name of, Dioxippus. Dioxippus was an Olympic champion who, beyond the Olympics, was apparently able to defeat one of Alexander the Great's famous fighting soliders ( named Coragus ). It appears that Dioxippus did this with only a club in hand while his adversary had a more complete arsenal of weapons and was dressed in full armour. Looks like they lost the whole meaning of hand to hand combat with that one, huh?

Pankration Today

The modern form of pankration seems to owe a debt of gratitude to a man by the name of Jim Arvanitis. Arvanitis ( mentioned earlier in this article ) was a Greek American that showed significant interest in the ancient martial sport of his homeland, and therefore developed a full martial arts system based on it called Mu Tau Pankration. Even more impressive, he pioneered this movement nearly alone decades before the first UFC event took hold.

Today pankration events are held all over the world.

In the 1990's, perhaps in a large way due to certain karate practitioners and the emergence of mixed martial arts in general, a movement to bring pankration back to the Olympics emerged. However, this Greek born movement lost steam due to several factors.

Still, all was not lost. In the year 2000, a man by the name of Craig Smith formed the World Pankration Federation. The hope in doing so was to further the sport of pankration for the athletes participating in it.

One thing, of course, that would further their pursuits more than anything else would be a reintroduction to the Olympic Games.

Will pankration make its way back to the Olympics?

The short answer, yes. Perhaps wishful thinking, but it would seem absurd to think that it wouldn't.

Somehow the sport of pankration fell out of the public radar and was erased from the games. However, when it was a part of the Olympics, one thing is for sure.

It was the most popular event going.

Kind of like what MMA is becoming right now.

Real fighting, whether the naysayers like it or not, is the ultimate competition. That's why they call it ultimate fighting. For much the same reason why mixed martial arts was blacked out from America for so many years, pankration was barred from the modern Olympic Games.

People believe it is a brutal sport.

Tough, yes. Brutal, no. Obviously, the pankration being practiced today is nowhere near as brutal as the two rules style events that littered the landscape of Ancient Greece centuries ago. Further, boxing, a sport with a worse track record when it comes to health than MMA, continues to be a mainstay in the Games. For these reasons, one has to believe that the truth will eventually come out; justice will be served.

And the sport of pankration will be back in the games of all games. The Olympic Games.

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