Pankration, developed by the ancient Greeks, was another brutal sport endured in ancient times. It consisted of a mixture between wrestling, boxing, and the primitive rough and tumble which can be defined as the natural instinct of a savage or child attempting to get an opponent down in any possible way including beating, strangling, kicking, and biting. However, Pankration differed from wrestling in that the objective of the latter is to throw an opponent without using kicks or directed blows. Boxing differs because in Pankration one can use his fists as well as several other part of his body to submit an opponent. Wrestling was introduced in the 18th Olympiad, boxing in the 23rd olympiad, and Pankration in the 33rd Olympiad around 776 B.C.E.
Pankration can be compared to modern MMA except that it was much more intense. The only rules were no biting and no eye-gouging, which meant choking, scratching, slapping, kicking, punching the genitals, leg tripping, finger bending and flipping an opponent overhead were all fair game. There was a judge who watched over the matches with a stick ready to strike anyone who committed a foul. Participants fought in the nude, and there were no rounds or rests. Interestingly enough, the point of this sport was to get as close as you could to killing your opponent without actually sending him to the grave. One lost only by admitting defeat. So if you killed your opponent it meant he could endure more physical pain and was more of a man. Killing someone resulted in an instant loss. Once, an Olympic medal was awarded to the fighter Arrichon who, just before his death, had forced his opponent to surrender by the overwhelming pain he inflicted on him by dislocating a bone in the man’s ankle. Another interesting fact is that the Greek Spartans were not allowed to participate in Pankration because it was disgraceful for them to admit defeat.
Pankration can be considered an earlier version of MMA because both allow participants to use a variety of unarmed fighting techniques including stress holds, punches and kicks to the head. The same argument that followed Pankration continues today with MMA or “Ultimate Fighting”. Many have argued that these events are barbaric and require brute force more than skill, and therefore cannot be considered a sport. People of this belief over the years want it to be banned. In ancient times, many athletes argued that Pankration required just as much skill as brute force. Despite opposition, MMA is legal at the pro level today in 37 states, and many argue that boxing, football, snowboarding and skateboarding actually cause more injuries and death.
Clemmit, Maria. “Extreme Sports.” 3 April 2009. CQ Press Electronic Library. Web. 27 September 2010.
Gardiner, Norman. “The Pankration and Wrestling.” JSTOR. Web. 27 September 2010.
Glueck, Grace. “The Olympics As They Were.” 23 July 2004. Gale World History in Context. Web. 27 September 2010.