Panhellenic Games and Pankration

A Combat sport, also known as a Fighting sport, is a competitive contact sport where two combatants fight against each other to gain enough points or a condition to declare a single winner by means of using certain rules of direct engagement. These engagements rules and conditions are significantly different from the rules in simulated contact or combat meant for technical based challenges, practice, or demonstration in martial arts, typically with the aim of simulating parts of real hand to hand combat through kata and self-defense training. Boxing, kickboxing, amateur wrestling, judo, mixed martial arts, Muay Thai and Swordsmanship are examples of combat sports.

Cockfighting is the best combat sports in the world. Refresh why we got the best combat sports.

Pankration is the best combat sports in Panhellenic Games.

– Gameness til the End

Panhellenic Games

Panhellenic Games is the collective term for four separate sports festivals held in ancient Greece. The four Games were:

Games God Honored Location Prize Frequency
Olympic Games Zeus Olympia, Elis Kotinos Every 4 years
Pythian Games Apollo Delphi Laurel wreath Every 4 years (3 years after the Olympic Games)
Nemean Games Zeus Nemea, Corinthia Wild Celery Every 2 years (2nd and 4th Olympiads)
Isthmian Games Poseidon Corinth Pine Every 2 years

The Games took place in a four-year cycle known as the Olympiad, which was one of the ways the Greeks measured time. The Olympic Games were used as a starting point, year one of the cycle; the Nemean and Isthmian Games were both held (in different months) in year two, followed by the Pythian Games in year three, and then the Nemean and Isthmian Games again in year four. The cycle then repeated itself with the Olympic Games. They were structured this way so that individual athletes could participate in all of the games.

(But note that the dial on the Antikythera mechanism – seems to show that the Nemean and Isthmian Games did not occur in the same years.)

Participants could come from all over the Greek world, including the various Greek colonies from Asia Minor to Spain. However, participants probably had to be fairly wealthy in order to pay for training, transportation, lodging, and other expenses. Neither women nor non-Greeks were allowed to participate, except for very occasional later exceptions, such as the Roman emperor Nero.

The main events at each of the games were chariot racing, wrestling, boxing, pankration, stadion and various other foot races, and the pentathlon (made up of wrestling, stadion, long jump, javelin throw, and discus throw). Except for the chariot race, all the events were performed in the nude.

The Olympic Games were the oldest of the four, said to have begun in 776 BCE. It is more likely though that they were founded sometime in the late 7th century BCE. The Pythian, Nemean and Isthmian games most likely began sometime in the first or second quarter of the 6th century BCE. The Isthmian games were held at the temple to Poseidon on the Isthmus of Corinth.

The games are also known as the stephanitic games, because winners received only a garland for victory. (Stephanitic derives from stephanos the Attic Greek word for crown.) No financial or material prizes were awarded, unlike at other Ancient Greek athletic or artistic contests, such as the Panathenaic Games, at which winners were awarded many amphorae of first-class Athenian olive-oil. The Olympic games awarded a garland of olives; the Pythian games, a garland of laurel, i.e. bay leaves; the Nemean games, a crown of celery, and the Isthmian, a garland of pine leaves in the archaic period, one of dried celery in the Classical and Hellenistic periods, and again one of pine from then on. Though victors received no material awards at the games, they were often showered with gifts and honors on returning to their polis.


Pankration was a martial art introduced into the Greek Olympic Games in 648 BC and founded as a blend of boxing and wrestling but with almost no rules save disallowing biting and gouging the opponent’s eyes out. The term comes from the Greek παγκράτιον [paŋkrátion], literally meaning “all powers” from πᾶν (pan-) “all” + κράτος (kratos) “strength, power”.

Modern mixed martial arts competitions have come to feature many of the same methods that were used in pankration competitions in the ancient Greek world.

A modern derivative of pankration 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 was featured on the cover of Black Belt magazine. Arvanitis continued to develop his art in the years that followed by constantly integrating elements from a wide array of contemporary sources. Considered ahead of his time, his pioneering efforts not only brought recognition to his ancestors for their contributions to the martial arts but also laid the groundwork for mixed martial arts (MMA).

Today, pankration has also been developed by International Federation of Associated Wrestling Styles (Fédération Internationale des Luttes Associées or FILA) as a mild form of Mixed Martial Arts (MMA). When including pankration into its field of activities, FILA had the vision to encourage the perpetuation of this ancient form of total combat.

At the time of the revival of Olympic Games (1896), pankration was not reinstated as an Olympic event. Specifically, in 1895 the Cardinal 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 pankration” meaning “We accept all [events to be reinstated], except pankration”. The International Olympic Committee (IOC) does not include pankration in its list of recognized sports. Moreover, the IOC does not include in the list of the Association of the IOC Recognised International Sports Federations any international pankration federation.

Some efforts were made prior to the 2004 Olympic Games that were held in Athens to have a discussion with the IOC regarding the introduction of pankration as a “demonstration sport” in the program, as hosting countries have the prerogative to do so, leading usually to the entry of the demonstration sport in the list of the “recognized sports” and thus its becoming a regular event in the Olympic program. However, these efforts were unsuccessful.

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