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Origins of Greek Martial Arts 1015

Text: - Boxing: It was invented by the Spartans because they didn't wear helmets in battle. They hence boxed to get used to avoiding blows to the head, and to toughen up their faces. (Philostratus, "Gymnastics" 9). - Wrestling: It was invented for battle. The proof is that the Athenians fought the battle of Marathon like a wrestling match (Philostratus, "Gymnastics" 11). Palaestra, daughter of Hermes, invented it. (Philostratus - not the one above - "Images" 2.32). Theseus invented the art of wrestling. Before that, people just wrestled using brute strength and size. (Pausanias, "Descriptions Of Greece", 1.39.3).

- Pankration: It was invented for war, like wrestling. The proof is that the Spartans fought unarmed at the end of Thermopylae. (Philostratus, "Gymnastics" 11). Palaestra invented it when she invented wrestling (Philostratus, "Images" 2.32).

description of a Submission


Text: Dionysiaca XXXVII 594-609 And having thrown the man completely spread out in the dust Aikos got on the middle of the opponent's back And sending his outstretched feet along under the spread out stomach, Binding together a bent bond around just above the knees, He pressed sole on sole and encircled the ankles to their outermost tips; And having quickly stretched himself over his opponent's back, And winding his hand over each other like a wreath, He cast a bond on the neck with his arm, having bent his fingers; He drenched the heaped up sand with soaking wet sweat, Cleaning off the running drops with dry sand, So that the entwined man might not slip through the knot of his hands While sending hot moisture down from his squeezed neck. And while he was being squeezed by the sharp palm The heralds chosen as overseers of the games wandered over, So that the forearm with the yoked-together lifting-strap would not kill him. For there was not at that time such a rule, which their descendants made later on, that when a man is overwhelmed by th strangled pain of necks being stretched by bonds he gives over the victory to his wrestling opponent with sensible silence, having tapped thewinning man with a shameful hand. This Fifth century poet Nonnos, goes into great detail describing athletic contests of various kinds, that he is writing as someone who had every opportunity to witness the real thing. his intricate descriptions of wrestling moves and counter-moves applied one after the other in sequence seems to be coming from someone with a good deal of first hand experience of the sport with a string ability to visualize the complex manouvers. From the article; Submission Fighting and the Rules of Ancient Greek Wrestling This is written by Nonnos a Fifth century poet. Nonnos' wrestling passages can be found in Dionysiaca X 339-77, XXXVII 546-609, and XLVIII 90-176

Use of the Korykos (bag) by Antyllus


Text: Those undergoing training use both hands, at first very gently, then more vigorously, so that they attack it as it swings away, and when it swings back at them they give ground as they thrust are thrust out of the way by its force. Lastly they punch it away beyond arm's reach ... with a final

effort after doing it all the violence they can, they hit it away so hard that if they were not very careful they would be thrown off their feet by the rebound. So it (the bag) can make the body muscular and give it tone, and it is a powerful exercise for the shoulders and the whole frame Antyllus (3rd century A.D.)

Death of Arrichion


Text: Having already grabbed Arrichion around the waist, the opponent had in mind killing him and rammed an arm against his throat, cutting off his breath, while with his legs fastened around Arrichion's groin, he pressed his feet against the back of both his knees. He got ahead of Arrichion with this stranglehold since the sleep of death was from that point creeping over his senses, but in relaxing his grip, he did not get past Arrichion's strategem. For Arrichion kicked away his heel, which put his opponent's right side into an unfavorable position, since now the knee was dangling. Then Arrichion held his opponent, who was not really an opponent anymore, to his groin and leaning to his left he trapped the tip of his opponent's (right) foot in the bend of hisd (right) knee and pulled the ankle out of joint with the violence of his twist in the other direction. From a description of a painting some 800 years after the match in the 54th Olympiad (564 B.C.E

Witness to Pankration


Text: I already witnessed once in a Pankration contest a man who hurled blows with hands and feet, all of them well directed, leaving nothing undone that might bring him victory, but who gave up, was worn out, and finally left the stadium uncrowned. The man being battered, on the other hand, was compact with solid flesh, mean, tough, exuding the athlete's spirit, and all muscle, like a stone or iron - he didn't give in to the blows and broke the force of his opponent by the toughness and firmness of his endurance until he won the final victory. Comments of Philo of Alexandria on a Pankration bout he witnessed.

Sweep followed by Choke Description

1130 Text: But the girl jumped up again from the dust and stood up steady on her feet once more. Then Dionysos with an agile movement mercilessly set his knee against Pallene's belly, and holding her tried to to roll her over on to her back, and tried to hook ankle or shin, or to catch the knee. At least the god fell back of himself rolling on the ground and let a feeble hand conquer him: a charming physic it was for his love, when he lay beautiful in that happy dust on his back, bearing upon his own belly that lovely burden-- he lay upon his back, bearing upon his own belly that lovely burden -- he lay still, and did not throw off the girl, but held her fast with soul consoling bonds of desire. She pulled herself from the manly hands of love mad Dionysos, and lifted hersel to her feet with a twist of her legs in a quick supple movement; but the god with a slight effort simply rolled over and laid the rosy girl flat on the ground, So there lay the girl on the ground stretching her arms abroad, and as she lay along the ground he joined his arms neetly in a clasp about her neck.

Dionisiaca XLVIII 150-170 by Nonnos



Text: The Scythians have a convention that makes this evident: instead of holding the bow in the left hand and pulling the arrow back only with the right hand, they use either hand to the same extent for both. There are very many other such models -- in chariot driving and other activities -- from which one could learn that those who contrive to make the left weaker than the right do so against nature. As we said, when this affects plectrums made of horn and other such tools, it doesn't make a big difference; but in war, when one must employ tools made of iron, itdoes make a big difference, not only in regards bows and javelins , but especially when heavy arms must be used against heavy arms. At that point, there is a very great difference between one who has leaned and who who hasn't, and between one who has been trained in gymnastic and one who hasn't trained in gymnastic. Just as someone perfectly trained for the Pankration, or for boxing , or for wrestling , is never unable to fight to fight with his left side, and thus is not a cripple or a clumsy bumbler when ever someone, by switching over, compels them to fight on that side; in the very same way, I think, one should correctly expect that for fighting in heavy armor and all the rest, whoever possesses two limbs with which to defend himself and attack others should do all he can to not allow either to be idle or untrained. Plato's Laws. 795a Description of the ambidexterity of Pankration, boxing and wrestling.

Wrestling Critique


Text: 1st Translation: As for the sort of wrestling techniques Anataeus or Cercyon developed for their arts, out of their useless love for victories, the boxing techniques developed by Epeius or Amcyus, since they're useless in the encounters of war, they're not worthy of being adorned by a discussion. But the things that fall under straight wrestling, including releases for the necks, hands and sides, when practiced with a love of victory, when one is tough and graceful, and for the sake of strength and health, should not be neglected, since they are usefull in every way.

2nd Translation: To come to wrestling, the devices introduced into their systems by Antaeus or Cercyon-or again into boxing by Epeus or Amycus-from mere idle vainglory, are useless in encounters in the field and unworthy of celebration. But anything which comes under `stand-up wrestling,' exercises in the disengaging of neck, arms, and ribs which can be practiced with spirit and gallant bearing to the benefit of strength and health, is serviceable for all occasions and may not be neglected. Heroikos by Philostratus 14.4-15.6

Arrichion's Death


Text: And as to the wrestling? Those who engage in the pancratium, my boy, employ a wrestling that is hazardous; for they must needs meet blows on the face that are not safe for the wrestler, and must clinch in struggles that one can only win by pretending to fall, and they need skill that they may choke and adversary in different ways at different times, and the same contestants are both wrestling with the ankle and twisting the opponent's arm, to say nothing of dealing a blow or leaping upon an adversary; for all these things are permissible in the pancratium --- anything except biting and eye gouging. The Lacedmeamonians, indeed, allow even these, because I suppose, they are training themselves for battle, but the contests of Elis exclude them, though they do permit choking. Accordingly, the antagonist of Arrichion, having already clinched him around the middle, thought to kill him; already he had wound his forearm about the other's throat to shut off the breathing, while, pressing his legs on the groins and winding his feet one inside each knee of his adversary, he forestalled Arrichion's resistance by choking him till the sleep of death thus induced began to creep over his senses. But in relaxing the tension of his legs he failed to forestall the scheme of Arrichion; for the latter kicked back with the sole of his right foot (as the result of which his right side was imperiled since now his knee was hanging unsupported), then with his groin he holds his adversary tight till he can no longer resist, and throwing his weight down toward the left while he locks the latter's foot tightly inside his own knee, by this violent outward thrust he wrenches the ankle from its socket. Arrichion's soul, though it makes him feeble as it leaves his body, yet gives him the strength to achieve that for which he strives. Imagines by Philostratus Book II . 6

Pancratium is best


Text: The kinds of wrestling differ from one another, indeed, the best is the one combined with boxing. Imagines by Philostratus Book II .32

Defensive Boxing Description


Text: The boxer or pankratiast fighting for the victor's crown pushes away the punches coming at him with both hands and bends his neck this way and that, guarding against being struck. Often he stands on tiptoe and draws himself up to his full height, then drawing himself back he forces his opponent to throw idle punches as if he were shadow boxing Philo 80 81