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The Greeks believed that pangration was founded by the hero Theseus, who combined wrestling and boxing together in order to defeat the Minotaur in the labyrinth at Knossos. Hercules was also believed to have defeated the lion of Nemea with pangration technique. It was considered as one of the most interesting and dangerous events since it combined boxing punches and wrestling holds offering the spectators a spectacle with quick scenes and frequent takedowns. According to the writer Philostratus, pangration was an excellent training exercise for warriors; Spartans considered it a martial art, practiced both by Spartan men and Spartan women. It was introduced in the Olympic Games in 648 BC, in the 33rd Olympic Games (for men). Boys' pangration became an Olympic event in 200 BC, in the 145th Olympiad. In other Games, however, such as the Panathenaic Games, children and adolescents competed in pangration at least since the 420s B.C. Among the famous pancratiasts of antiquity was Arrachion, who became a champion post mortem: according to Pausanias, as his opponent was choking him, Arrachion managed to break his opponent’s finger (digit). Hence came the sign for “apagoreuein”, i.e. surrendering, which is valid until today.
The Romans had adopted the Greek martial art (spelled in Latin as pancratium) into their Games. In 393 A.D., pangration, along with gladiatorial combat and all pagan festivals, was abolished by the edict of the Emperor Theodosius I.
At the time of the revival of the Olympic Games (1896), pangration was not reinstated as an Olympic event. Specifically, in 1895 Pierre-Hector Coullié, archbishop of Lyon, voiced his official decision on the reinstatement of sports to Pierre de Coubertin, the founder of the Modern Olympic Games, by stating "Nous acceptons tout, sauf le pancrace" meaning "We accept all [events to be reinstated], except pangration". Two possible explanations are currently offered for this ban: either the reason was that pangration was considered too harsh a game or it was that it had strong pagan associations, since the winner athletes were not called by their own names but by that of gods or semi-gods, usually Zeus or Hercules.
Amateur pangration was first introduced to the martial arts community by Greek-American combat athlete Jim Arvanitis in 1969 and later exposed worldwide in 1973 when he featured on the cover of Black Belt magazine. Arvanitis continually refined his revival with reference to original sources. His efforts are also considered pioneering in what became mixed martial arts (MMA). The International Olympic Committee (IOC) does not list pangration among Olympic sports, but FILA, which governs the Olympic wrestling codes, also sanctions pangration as a "form of Mixed Martial Arts". Pangration was first included in the World Combat Games in 2010. Now the international federation is United World Wrestling. Under UWW the Pangration competitions have two styles: Pangration Traditional (without striking on the head) and Pangration Elite (with striking on the head).
Pangration, from the Greek words “Pan” and “Kratos” meaning “the one who controls everything”, has the unique distinction of being the only martial sport in existence that can legitimately trace its roots to the ancient Olympic Games from 648 BC to 393 AD. Today, pangration is developed by FILA as a mild form of Mixed Martial Arts (MMA), which forbids striking to the head. Pangration is practised both by men and women, according to the same rules.In addition to individual competition, pangration includes two forms of choreographic team events that can be showcased with or without weapons.
There were two types of pangration:
Ground pangration, in which the contest continued after the opponents had fallen to the ground. It was the type used in contests.
Standing pangration, in which the opponents had to remain on their feet. It was used in training or in preliminary contests. This was a much lighter and safer version of the game.
The athletes of pangration did not wear gloves as the boxers did, so the blows were not as painful; however, a pankratiast was allowed to hold his opponent with one hand and hit him with the other, something forbidden in boxing. The fighter who fell to the ground first was in a difficult position, for his opponent was able to fall on top of him and immobilize him with his legs, leaving his hands free to hit him or apply a chokehold. The fighter who fell would try to turn on his back and use his arms and legs to protect himself. Slightly built athletes often fell deliberately on their backs, a device called hyptiasmos (“back fall”). Kicking was an important part of the pangration. A kick in the stomach was called gastrizein ("kicking in the stomach”). The hold, in which a fighter held his opponent's foot as tightly as he could to make him lose his balance, was called apopternizein (“foothold”).
Nowadays, pangration has distinctive sets, scaled from the easiest to the most difficult:
-Laktismata (mild hitting)
-Palaismata (mild wrestling)
- Lower fight (Kato Agon)
- Fight (Agon)
-Full fight (Pliris Agon)
-Pyx Lax (Boxing and Kicking)