pankration

In the Panhellenic games of ancient Greece, wrestling, boxing and pankration were called the “heavy events." The term was chosen to describe combative contests in those arts because they were not only crowd favorites but also the domain of the larger and heavier athlete.

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Black Belt Hall of Famer Jim Arvanitis weighs in on the subject of pankration and the Olympics, while Black Belt contributing editor Mark Hatmaker looks at the evolution of wrestling and the Games.

In Part 1 of this series, Black Belt examined judo and how it's changed because of the Olympics. In Part 2, we looked at taekwondo and the effect the Games have had on the Korean martial art. In Part 3, the subject was the Olympics and karate — which, it was recently confirmed, will debut at the 2020 Games. Here, we discuss how wrestling has been altered and whether pankration has a chance of getting back in.

— Editors

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Internationally known as the "Father of Modern Pankration," Jim Arvanitis, the Black Belt Hall of Fame 2009 Instructor of the Year, contends that "be it a front kick, hammerfist or shoulder throw, the lineage of each can be traced back to the ancient Greeks." He should know, having studied pankration and both its modern-combat and mixed-martial arts applications for decades. When visiting the Black Belt photo studio for a technique shoot, he broke into a brief history of pankration and the Greek Olympic Games and how they tie into what we now know as mixed martial arts.

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If you’re a student of self-defense, learning how to wield ancient weapons and defend against them is impractical. Why? Because it’s unlikely you’ll face a Greek spear or a Japanese katana outside the dojo. It’s much more practical to acquire a working knowledge of edged weapons and firearms and concentrate on how to neutralize them. The pankration approach to weapons defense teaches you to always assume your assailant is armed while you look for subtle clues about what he’s actually carrying. If he’s wearing a coat in hot weather or has one hand behind his back or in a pocket, he might be concealing a handgun. Regardless of how good you are at gun disarms, you should resort to using such a technique only if you think all other alternatives—avoidance, de-escalation and escape—are futile.

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