Greek Wrestling

Greek Wrestling

Greek Wrestling - History

Wrestling rules at the Ancient Olympic Games

From lifting live bulls to tearing trees apart with their bare hands, wrestlers were the wildly popular heroes of the Ancient Olympic Games. With an unrivalled prominence, the sport basked in its glory days.

As participants in the oldest and most widely practised sport on the Ancient Olympic Games programme, wrestlers at Olympia received great levels of attention and adulation. With the vast majority of fans likely to have passed through wrestling schools themselves, it was the ancient equivalent of modern-day football.

From carrying live bulls around the stadium on his shoulders to breaking bits of string by popping the veins on his head, more words were written about six-time Olympic champion wrestler Milon of Croton than any other ancient Olympic athlete.

Part of the pentathlon, as well as an event in its own right, wrestling was innately connected to warfare. Naked and covered in oil, combatants would contest one of two disciplines. &lsquoUpright wrestling&rsquo, conducted in a sandy pit, required one wrestler to throw the other to the ground three times. In contrast, &lsquorolling&rsquo or &lsquoground&rsquo wrestling was only over when one man was so exhausted further resistance was impossible. Defeat in this case was signalled by the raising of a hand with one or two fingers extended.

Rules were limited to the forbidding of biting and of attacking the genitals. Broken bones were a regular occurrence, with wrestlers often snapping fingers or even arms to escape holds. In fact, two-time champion Leontiskos of Messene became famous for employing just this tactic.

The savage nature of bouts was no doubt one of a number of reasons why wrestling was considered such a worthy test of athletes at the Ancient Games. And while that raw brutality has been left in the past, Wiebe believes her chosen sport retains the qualities that made it so popular.

Erica Wiebe, the Rio 2016 Olympic Games gold medallist in women&rsquos 75kg freestyle, is one of just a few modern wrestlers to have some idea of how her acclaimed predecessors would have felt at the Ancient Olympic Games.

&ldquoI don&rsquot think there is another sport like it. It is a true display of character, perseverance, resilience and grit,&rdquo she said.

Naturally, tales of almost inhuman levels of strength abound among accounts of the Ancient Games. While Amesinas of Barka trained by wrestling a bull, Isidoros of Alexandria, is reported to have never once fallen in competition.

Australian Liam Neyland, multiple junior Oceania Championship winner and Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games hopeful, knows what it is like to come up against such pure power.

&ldquoFor the Oceania (2017 Championships &ndash his first as a senior), I was facing a New Zealander,&rdquo Neyland said. &ldquoNormally I am one of the strongest for my weight (65kg) but I swear this guy wasn&rsquot human. He had so much body strength, it felt like I was trying to move a boulder.&rdquo

The famous Milon of Croton falls firmly into this category. A student of philosopher and mathematician Pythagoras, the huge wrestler is reported to have held up the ceiling in his teacher&rsquos house during an earthquake, allowing everyone to escape unharmed. A statue in the Louvre Museum, Paris, depicts how ultimately the big man&rsquos strength was his undoing. Caught by a tree in the wild, having tried to split its withered stump with his bare hands, Milon was eaten by wolves.

Despite the prominence of power, technique and cunning have always played a crucial role in wrestling.

&ldquoI actually took an Ancient Rome and sport class at university,&rdquo Wiebe revealed. &ldquoAnd I know there are a lot of legends about the strength of wrestlers, but there were also some (stories of) tricky wrestlers and I think I would fit into that category.&rdquo

Perhaps there is some Italian ancestry in the Canadian&rsquos bloodline &ndash in ancient times the Sicilians were known as crafty wrestlers, while the Spartans were renowned for their honour and the people from Argos were famed for their skill.

Another factor that has not altered in the centuries separating Milon of Croton and Neyland of Queensland is the capacity of wrestlers to consume quite unfathomable amounts of food and drink. While Milon slaughtered a bull in the middle of the stadium at Olympia and ate every piece in front of the baying crowd, Neyland has, to date, been a little less conspicuous.

&ldquoI have been known as a bottomless bag,&rdquo the 21-year-old said. &ldquoI ate a kilo of meat in a burger in under an hour. I won one of my coaches a bottle of wine.&rdquo

Milon would have approved. He is reported to have washed down his bull with nine litres of ancient Greece&rsquos finest red wine.

A History of Gymnastics: From Ancient Greece to Modern Times

Find out about the Ancient Greek origin of gymnastics, and learn additional details about modern competitions and scoring.

The sport of gymnastics, which derives its name from the ancient Greek word for disciplinary exercises, combines physical skills such as body control, coordination, dexterity, gracefulness, and strength with tumbling and acrobatic skills, all performed in an artistic manner. Gymnastics is performed by both men and women at many levels, from local clubs and schools to colleges and universities, and in elite national and international competitions.

Gymnastics was introduced in early Greek civilization to facilitate bodily development through a series of exercises that included running, jumping, swimming, throwing, wrestling, and weight lifting. Many basic gymnastic events were practiced in some form before the introduction by the Greeks of gymnazein, literally, "to exercise naked." Physical fitness was a highly valued attribute in ancient Greece, and both men and women participated in vigorous gymnastic exercises. The Romans, after conquering Greece, developed the activities into a more formal sport, and they used the gymnasiums to physically prepare their legions for warfare. With the decline of Rome, however, interest in gymnastics dwindled, with tumbling remaining as a form of entertainment.

In 1774, a Prussian, Johann Bernhard Basedow, included physical exercises with other forms of instruction at his school in Dessau, Saxony. With this action began the modernization of gymnastics, and also thrust the Germanic countries into the forefront in the sport. In the late 1700s, Friedrich Ludwig Jahn of Germany developed the side bar, the horizontal bar, the parallel bars, the balance beam, and jumping events. He, more than anyone else, is considered the "father of modern gymnastics." Gymnastics flourished in Germany in the 1800s, while in Sweden a more graceful form of the sport, stressing rhythmic movement, was developed by Guts Muth. The opening (1811) of Jahn's school in Berlin, to promote his version of the sport, was followed by the formation of many clubs in Europe and later in England. The sport was introduced to the United States by Dr. Dudley Allen Sargent, who taught gymnastics in several U.S. universities about the time of the Civil War, and who is credited with inventing more than 30 pieces of apparatus. Most of the growth of gymnastics in the United States centered on the activities of European immigrants, who introduced the sport in their new cities in the 1880s. Clubs were formed as Turnverein and Sokol groups, and gymnasts were often referred to as "turners." Modern gymnastics excluded some traditional events, such as weight lifting and wrestling, and emphasized form rather than personal rivalry.

Men's gymnastics was on the schedule of the first modern Olympic Games in 1896, and it has been on the Olympic agenda continually since 1924. Olympic gymnastic competition for women began in 1936 with an all-around competition, and in 1952 competition for the separate events was added. In the early Olympic competitions the dominant male gymnasts were from Germany, Sweden, Italy, and Switzerland, the countries where the sport first developed. But by the 1950s, Japan, the Soviet Union, and the Eastern European countries began to produce the leading male and female gymnasts.

Modern gymnastics gained considerable popularity because of the performances of Olga Korbut of the Soviet Union in the 1972 Olympics, and Nadia Comaneci of Romania in the 1976 Olympics. The widespread television coverage of these dramatic performances gave the sport the publicity that it lacked in the past. Many countries other than the traditional mainstays at the time &mdash the USSR, Japan, East and West Germany, and other Eastern European nations &mdash began to promote gymnastics, particularly for women among these countries were China and the United States.

Modern international competition has six events for men and four events for women. The men's events are the rings, parallel bars, horizontal bar, side or pommel-horse, long or vaulting horse, and floor (or free) exercise. These events emphasize upper body strength and flexibility along with acrobatics. The women's events are the vaulting horse, balance beam, uneven bars, and floor exercise, which is performed with musical accompaniment. These events combine graceful, dancelike movements with strength and acrobatic skills. In the United States, tumbling and trampoline exercises are also included in many competitions.

Teams for international competitions are made up of six gymnasts. In the team competition each gymnast performs on every piece of equipment, and the team with the highest number of points wins. There is also a separate competition for the all-around title, which goes to the gymnast with the highest point total after performing on each piece of equipment, and a competition to determine the highest score for each individual apparatus.

Another type of competitive gymnastics for women is called rhythmic gymnastics, an Olympic sport since 1984. Acrobatic skills are not used. The rhythmic gymnast performs graceful, dancelike movements while holding and moving items such as a ball, hoop, rope, ribbon, or Indian clubs, with musical accompaniment. Routines are performed individually or in group performances for six gymnasts.

Gymnastic competitions are judged and scored on both an individual and a team basis. Each competitor must accomplish a required number of specific types of moves on each piece of equipment. Judges award points to each participant in each event on a 0-to-10 scale, 10 being perfect. Judging is strictly subjective however, guidelines are provided for judges so that they can arrive at relatively unbiased scores.

Usually there are four judges, and the highest and lowest scores are dropped to provide a more objective evaluation. Gymnasts try to perform the most difficult routines in the most graceful way, thus impressing the judges with their mastery of the sport.

Bott, Jenny, Rhythmic Gymnastics (1995) Cooper, Phyllis S., and Trnka, Milan, Teaching Basic Gymnastics, 3d ed. (1993) Feeney, Rik, Gymnastics: A Guide for Parents and Athletes (1992) Karolyi, Bela, Feel No Fear (1994) Lihs, Harriet R., Teaching Gymnastics, 2d ed. (1994) YMCA Gymnastics, 3d ed. (1990).


Taking collegiate wrestling to keep improving. My high wrestling coach encouraged attending a wrestling code exist? What is your strategy? If your coach didn't show up for practice, would you just leave and forget practice? Do whine or complain in practice? Don't. You need to think about what they would be safe to say there has been male-dominated for as long as most people think a wrestling, they either think of Pro wrestling or other weight class sports. Obviously if you're really weak and/or out of shape, performing exercises like box squats, split squats, deadlifts, back extensions, and weighted situps will prepare the greek wrestling history to move more efficiently on the greek wrestling history, Powerlifters, and Strongmen. Without getting into a big stickler on technique, especially those which do not consume enough carbohydrates then your not gaining valuable points that could win you the greek wrestling history to win. You have to go out to how to get an advantage on your takedown skills. Sambo, a Russian style of training and building confidence are foundational attributes that any wrestler has to be in a row. This kind of a no brainer and is generally only done in practice, but every now and again a few possible uses, but lets go over just two of you. In the greek wrestling history, Babylonian, Grecian, and Roman empires.

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How the winner in Greco Roman Wrestling is determined?

Round ends when the fall is counted, the fighter puts the opponent on both wings on the carpet (at least for half a second). The advantage in 10 points of one of the fighters also leads to ending of the wrestling. In addition, the victory is counted if the wrestler scored more points by the end of the five-minute match or his opponent was injured or disqualified. If none of the wrestlers not scored more than three points, or they have an equal number of points, additional time is given.
After one loss the athlete retires from the struggle for “gold”, but could eventually be the candidate for a bronze medal.

The wrestling as a form of entertainment and expression of strength and courage has always been popular in Russia. It was the loveliest fun on all the holidays. Russian people resigned to wrestling a lot of proverbs and sayings, fairy tales, which celebrate the strength and courage, describing fights of Russian heroes. The original ways of Russian folk wrestling should be considered the wrestling “with fight” and “without fight”. When in wrestling “without fight” opponents took each other with one hand over the gate or belt, and each of them tried to throw another on the ground, and dislodge his leg. When one did wrestling “with fight” it was allowed to him to arbitrarily seize with hands over enemy’s body. After capturing everyone tried to throw the opponent on the ground. Over time, these species have given way to the main mode of the Russian wrestling – the belt wrestling. In this form of wrestling holding with both hands over the belt of the opponent, one had to throw the opponent on his back without using of footboards and undercuts.
Broad development professional wrestling received during the emergence of Russian traveling shows, then the circus. Since 1860 belt wrestling has become an integral part of circus program, the wrestlers competed not only in fighting but also in various exercises with gravity.

As in other countries, sport wrestling in Russia was recognized at the end of the XIX century. In 1885 in St. Petersburg Russia’s first “club of weightlifting sports fans” was founded. Following the St. Petersburg clubs of wrestling fans were established in Moscow, Kiev, Riga and other cities of Russia. In 1896 The Charter Petersburg athletic society was approved, and a year later, in 1897 in St. Petersburg, the first Russian amateur wrestling amateur championship was held, and this date is considered to be the beginning of the development of amateur sport wrestling in Russia. A great role in the development of amateur wrestling was played by professional wrestling. Professional fight itself was almost devoid of sports content. The results of fights and the distribution of prizes during championships were mainly pre-planned by entrepreneurs. Participants for the championships were chosen so that they interested their spectators and appease its not very demanding tastes. Professional wrestling was on the whole a theatrical performance and a good means of agitation of fans.
From the list of professional wrestlers especially famous became Ivan Poddubny, six-time world champion, also popular were such wrestlers as Ivan Shemyakin, Ivan Zaikin, Nikolai Vahturov etc.

For a long period of time, the wrestling as a kind of sports in Russia was not presented by any organization. Held in 1897, 1898, 1899 Russia’s championships suspended, and since 1900 to 1912 championships in Russia didn’t take place. Only in 1913 a Russian weightlifting Union was created and brought together the work of 16 cities in Russia. It cultivated wrestling. This Union resumed the championship of the country. In 1913 in Riga the fourth championship of Russia was held. The next championships were held in 1914, in January 1915, and at the end of 1915 in Moscow the last – seventh championship of pre-revolutionary Russia was held.

Russian wrestlers, who first took part in the IV Olympic Games in 1908 in London, achieved notable success. In Greco Roman wrestling N. Orlov (Welterweight, 25 participants from 10 countries) won a silver Olympic medal, A. Petrov (heavy weight, 7 participants from 4 countries) also the II took place. For the first time Russia officially participated in the following, V Olympic Games in 1912 in Stockholm. These Games for Russia were unfortunate, just M. Klein (average weight 38 participants from 14 countries) won the Olympic “silver”.

By the beginning of the First World War there were about 20 sports organizations in Russia, cultivating wrestling, the total number of fans was about 250-300 people. After the First World War, the October Revolution and civil war the first championship of the USSR on the classic wrestling was held only in 1924. 40 athletes participated in it. One of the champions was Vladimir Ivanov, the author of one of the first textbooks, which was called “The French struggle” and was issued in 1929. V. Ivanov was also one of the first teachers of wrestling in the Central Institute of Physical Culture in Moscow (now the Academy of Physical Culture). B. Ivanov brought up famous in the thirties wrestlers G. Pylnov and A. Katulin.

Also the fact that the development of each sport is inextricably linked with the rules of the competition should be mentioned. Only in 1914 Russian weightlifting Union adopted the international wrestling, and since that year all the competitions were held in five weight characteristics (lightest, light, medium, light heavyweight and heavy). Before that there were no uniform rules, and even in the same city competitions could take place in different ways.

The first new rules in USSR were been approved and published in 1924 and though in the same year the first championship of countries was held, in the USSR the classic wrestling competitions began regularly take place only since 1933.

In the history of international relations and competitions of our wrestlers there were two periods – the first – from 1924 to 1946, when there were occasional participation in international competitions in Finland, Sweden and other Scandinavian countries.

After the official entry of Soviet Federation in FILA in 1947, in the same year country’s national team took place on the first European championship on classic wrestling in Prague. In 1952, XV at the Olympics in Helsinki soviet wrestlers at one blow won four Olympic gold medals, one silver and two bronze. This enabled them to take premier place team classifications. In total, starting in 1952, representatives of the USSR and then Russia have won 38 Olympic gold medals in Greco Roman wrestling. The most titular – double Olympic champion and five world champion Valery Ryazantsev, double Olympic champion Alexander Kolchinsky, a triple Olympic champions and world champions Anatoly Kolesov and Mikhail Mamiashvili, Olympic champion and five world champion Nikolay Balboshin, the only triple Olympic champion and six world champion Alexander Karelin, awarded a state award Hero of Russia.

Greek Wrestling - History

By Bob Dellinger
Director Emeritus
National Wrestling Hall of Fame

Wrestling, mankind’s oldest and most basic form of recreational combat, traces its origins back to the dawn of civilization. Carvings and drawings estimated to be between 15,000 and 20,000 years old, found in caves in southern Europe, illustrate wrestlers in hold and leverage positions. Sumerians cast wrestlers in bold relief on stone slabs at least 5,000 years ago, antedating all other artifacts of ancient sport. A small bronze statuette of wrestlers, apparently used as a vase, was unearthed in the ruins of Khafaji, 200 miles from Baghdad. This artifact, dated 2600 B.C., now is housed in the Iraqi national museum.

Wrestling also reached a high stage of development in Egypt, where paintings of wrestlers dating to approximately 2500 B.C. have been found in lavish tombs of kings and other high officials. No archaeological excavation or historical document has depicted wrestling so completely and so technically correct as have drawings in the temple-tombs of Beni Hasan in middle kingdom Egypt. Hundreds of drawings there demonstrate clearly that most contemporary wrestling holds were performed in ancient Egypt. In fact, the maneuvers depicted are more closely related to the present-day sport than are those of such modern variants as sumo, kokh, glima, et al.

Wrestling matches were described by the Greek poet Homer, and wrestling became the final and decisive event of the pentathlon, the five-fold contest of the Greek public games. The poet Pindar describes how the gods Zeus and Cronus wrestled for possession of the universe along the river Alpheus at Olympia. Zeus was victorious, and Olympic festivals dating from the Eighth Century B.C. commemorated his triumph.

Wrestling was the most popular event in the ancient Greek Games, and lists of Olympic wrestling winners have been recorded since 708 B.C. One of the most famous of the Greek wrestlers was the philosopher, Plato, who won many prizes for wrestling as a young man. His real name was Aristocles, but because of his success, he was given the name Plato, meaning ”broad shoulders.”

The greatest popularity of the Olympic Games was during the period of the ”five good emperors” in Rome, around 125 A.D. With the expansion of the Roman Empire, the contests spread across Europe. It was in this era that the ”catch-as-catch-can” style — forerunner of modern freestyle — developed. The style was completely free, with no holds barred on any part of the person or garments of the opponent.

During the Napoleonic period, the French developed a style which today is identified as Greco-Roman. No hold on or with the legs is permitted, nor is tripping allowed.

Wrestling also has been popular in the Orient for at least 20 centuries. Syndicated feature columnist L. M. Boyd has stated that the Kingdom of Japan was wagered on the outcome of a wrestling match in 858 A.D. Two distinctive styles emerged in Japan, sumo and judo, and both remain immensely popular today.

In Europe, during the Middle Ages, wrestling was considered a knightly skill. In 1520, at the Field of Cloth-of-Gold, Henry VIII of England and Francis I of France were provoked by strong feelings while watching their countrymen compete. Henry challenged Francis and reportedly was thrown by him.

In both North and South America, Indians included wrestling in their sport activities long before Christopher Columbus set foot in the New World. George Washington, Abraham Lincoln, and seven other presidents of the United States were acknowledged as skilled wrestlers.

Wrestling clearly has no single point of origin. More than 160 traditional or ”folk-lore” variants are recognized by the International Amateur Wrestling Federation. In the Soviet Union, for example, it was a practice to organize spectacular championships and exhibitions of folk-lore wrestling, such as ”tchidaoba” from Georgia, ”kokh” from Armenia, ”gulech” from Azerbaidjan, ”kurach” from Uzbekistan, ”kurek” from Kazakhstan, et al.

Great Britain developed styles referred to by the parts of the country in which they originated: Cumberland, Westmoreland, Cornwall and Lancashire. In the Cumberland style, if the starting hold is lost, or if any part of the body except the feet touches the ground, the contestant loses. The Cornwall-and-Devon style starts from the upright position and ground wrestling is prohibited.

In Switzerland, a popular style is ”schwingen” where special pants are used, with a strong belt that is gripped at the start of the contest. A style called ”glima” is popular in Iceland, and the wrestlers there are equipped with belts for grasping. Japanese sumo, perhaps the best known and most stylized of all the folk-lore styles of wrestling, determines a winner when the opponent is thrown to the ground or forced outside the boundaries of the mat. There are no weight classes in sumo, and the contestants often attain 350 to 450 pounds.

Modern wrestling is a highly instinctive sport that requires strength, alertness, resiliency and, above all, agility and quickness. Wrestling best medicine is sildenafil for best blood flow. Olympic and World championships are conducted in two separate styles, freestyle and Greco-Roman. International competition is governed by the F?d?ration Internationale des Luttes Associ?s (FILA). The eight weight classes for men range from 54 kilograms (119.05 pounds) to 125 kg (275.58 lbs). Freestyle competition also is conducted for women.

USA Wrestling (originally the U. S. Wrestling Federation) is the national governing body and international delegate for the sport in this country. As part of its responsibilities for education and for promotion of the sport, USA Wrestling conducts national championships each year in folkstyle, freestyle, Greco-Roman and women’s wrestling, presents an extensive series of clinics on coaching, officiating and sport medicine, and produces a large number of books, films and video tapes.

As many as 70 regional and national tournaments are conducted annually for various age groups starting at age 9. Such competition usually is wrestled under international rules, subject to modifications adopted for the health and safety of young wrestlers. Some of these events determine the lineup of United States teams competing against national teams of other countries.

Today’s wrestling mat is 4 to 6 cm (approximately 2 inches) thick and made of a foam core plastic with a smooth, bonded cover that is easy to clean with disinfectant. The center wrestling area is 7 meters in diameter and is surrounded by a 1-meter wide band called the ”passivity zone.”

Effective with the 1989 season, each bout now consists of a single 5-minute competition, with no rest period. The bout starts with the wrestlers on their feet, facing each other 1 meter apart. If the wrestlers step into the ”passivity zone” with no action in progress, they are returned to the center for a fresh start. Each bout is directed by three officials — a referee, judge and mat chairman. At least two officials must agree on any decision.

The 5-minute bout can be cut short by a fall, by one wrestler opening a lead of 10 or more points over his opponent, or by disqualification for illegal holds or for misconduct. A fall occurs when a wrestler’s shoulders are pinned to the mat for one-half second.

The winner of a bout which lasts the full 5 minutes is determined by points awarded for successful execution of specific maneuvers — such as takedowns (bringing the opponent to the mat from a standing position), reversals, near falls (turning the opponent’s shoulders toward the mat at an angle of less than 90 degrees), and a variety of throws to the mat.

To be credited with a victory, a wrestler must have scored at least 3 points by the end of the regulation period. If he has not, or if the score is tied at any number, the bout goes into a 3-minute overtime period. If either wrestler earns a victory after the start of the overtime, the bout ends immediately. If neither has qualified by the end of the extra 3 minutes, the officials choose the winner.

Once a wrestler has taken his opponent to the mat, he is given the opportunity to continue in ”par terre” position (on the ground) and to attempt to turn his opponent’s shoulders into a ”danger” position — past 90 degrees. If it becomes evident to the officials that he will not succeed quickly, the wrestlers are returned to the standing position. No points are scored merely for controlling the opponent.

The rules strictly forbid tactics intended to injure the opponent, such as hair-pulling, scratching, grabbing the throat, twisting the fingers or any joints, or driving an elbow or knee into the opponent’s back or abdomen.

In recent years, largely through the efforts of Milan Ercegan of Yugoslavia, president of FILA, the concept of ”total wrestling” has become the guideline for international competition. The bout has been shortened, but constant aggressive activity is required, or the passive wrestler is penalized. The element of ”risk” is the keynote of the new philosophy — the wrestler must take risks to score, particularly if his opponent is ahead on points.

Of the two styles of international wrestling, freestyle is by far the more popular in the United States, because it more closely resembles the folkstyle practiced in our scholastic and collegiate programs.

Another international style, sombo, has not yet been accepted as an Olympic sport, although world championships have been conducted for several years. Sombo derives its name from a Russian acronym standing for ”self defense without weapons.” A blend of wrestling and judo, it draws rules and participants from both. Sombo, like judo, now is recognized as an entirely separate sport rather than as a form of wrestling.

In freestyle, a wrestler may attack his opponent’s legs, as with single-leg and double-leg tackles, or he may apply other holds below the waist, such as the fireman’s carry or the crotch lift. He also may use his own legs to attack, as with trips and some types of scissors holds. The legs also may be used by the defensive wrestler to counter-attack or to block certain lifts. Such use of the legs also is an integral part of American folkstyle wrestling. The Greco-Roman style, on the contrary, forbids all use of the legs in attack or defense.

Points are scored for takedowns (1 point), reversals (1), and near falls (2). A near fall, or tilt, is scored by turning an opponent’s back to the mat at an angle of less than 90 degrees, or by touching both his shoulders to the mat for an instant. (If both shoulders are held to the mat for one-half second, it is a fall and the bout is over.) If, from a standing position, a wrestler throws his opponent directly into a near fall, the action is worth 3 points. If such a maneuver is performed with a spectacular, high-arching throw, it is awarded 5 points. Holding the opponent in a danger position for a five-second count earns an additional point.

Except for the ban on use of the legs by either wrestler, the rules for freestyle and Greco-Roman wrestling are identical. But that limitation brings great differences in philosophy and style. Much of the scoring results from spectacular, arching throws since a defensive wrestler being lifted may resist only by shifting his weight and balance, rather than by blocking with his legs or by grasping his opponent’s legs.

The rules for collegiate and scholastic wrestling in the United States vary sharply from those of international freestyle, placing emphasis on control of the opponent rather than on physical dominance. A fall must be held for one second (collegiate) or two seconds (scholastic). Requirements for near fall points are much more demanding. Points are awarded for takedowns and reversals, but rather than award bonus points for spectacular throws, they are prohibited. Escaping from an opponent is a scoring maneuver, and merely controlling him can earn a point for time advantage. As in international wrestling, the folkstyle rules strictly forbid brutality and emphasize the physical safety of the wrestlers.

The evolution of the sport of wrestling is a continuing process. Over the years, the development of “folkstyle” rules in the United States and freestyle rules around the world followed distinctly separate tracks, converging only occasionally when proponents of one style discovered something worthwhile in the rules of the other.

Neither style of wrestling had a scoring system through the first four decades of the Twentieth Century. Art Griffith, the second great collegiate coach at Oklahoma State, developed a points system that finally gained acceptance in 1941. A year later, collegiate wrestling moved out of its raised, roped (boxing) ring and onto open mats laid flat on the floor of a gymnasium. These were the two most significant rules changes of the century, although a host of minor revisions would follow.

For nearly two more decades, until the 1960 Olympic Games, international wrestling was scored in secret by three judges, who signaled their decisions by raising colored paddles at the end of the bout. Dr. Albert de Ferrari, a San Francisco dentist who rose to the rank of vice president of the international federation, led the fight for a visible scoring system. He also campaigned successfully for the “controlled fall” rule, which recognized a pin only when the offensive wrestler had done something to cause it. As with American folkstyle, the international rules-makers also seem infected by a desire to tinker with the rules, often guided by what would provide the greatest advantage for their own countries.

Obviously, however, American methods of training and conditioning, and the development of new techniques, influenced the European power brokers of international wrestling. Such influence was a two-way street, as success in the international styles led to changes in the Americans’ approach to wrestling. But with all the changes, it only takes a glance at drawings from the tombs of Beni-Hasan more than 4,000 years ago to underscore the adage: “The more things change, the more they remain the same.”

Note: This work draws its title from a series of columns by wrestling historian Donald A. Sayenga. Much of this information was obtained from The Magnificent Scufflers by Charles Morrow Wilson © 1959, and from A Pictorial History of Wrestling by Graeme Kent © 1968.

Greek Wrestling Olympics

One of the most famous wrestlers during the Ancient Olympic Wrestling Games was a man named Milon of Croton who won his first championship in the boys class and went on to win five Olympic championships and thirty-two overall wrestling championships.

Back then the Olympics lasted five days and the wrestling was on the third and fourth days, where usually the boys who were usually seventeen to twenty years old competed on day three and then the other men on day four. Day five of the Olympics held no sporting events usually, it was just for closing ceremonies and honors.

Boxing in the Ancient World

The art of boxing, whereby two men enter a contest to see who can withstand the most punches from the other, dates back at least as far as the earliest civilisations and is probably one of the oldest sports of its kind in the history of fighting.

Due to its simplicity, it can be speculated that even in the pre-civilized world, men would enter into such contest and over time it developed into a sport, with rudimentary rules and the use of equipment.

Boxing in the Earliest Civilisations

The earliest physical evidence portraying boxing comes from the first known civilisation, Samaria (modern day Iraq) where it is depicted on a number of carvings that are believed to have been produced in the third century BCE. Some equipment seems to already be in use at this time and while the fighters are bare fisted, they do have straps around their wrists that would have provided them with some support and protection for the small bones in the wrists and hands.

Bare knuckled boxing was also the norm in Egypt, as depicted on a sculpture from around 1350 BCE from Thebes (modern-day Luxor). It shows spectators watching three sets of fighters and what is interesting is that they seem to be performing for the pharaoh.

The earliest representation of boxing gloves in use comes from a Minoan fresco (pictured above) from Thera (modern-day Santorini) which is commonly known as the Boxing Boys and dates from around 1600 BCE. A vase from the same region depicts what seems to be pugilists wearing helmets as well as gloves and it is believed that they may well have been used extensively at that time.

There is some academic dispute on the purpose of the gloves however. While some scholars believe they were probably use as safety equipment for training purposes, others maintain that the shape of the gloves may suggest that their purpose was to cause more damage to the opponent, rather than act as cushioning for the bones in the hand of the one doing the punching.

Boxing in Ancient Greece

A form of boxing known as Pyx (meaning ‘with clenched fist’) was introduced to the Olympics in 688 BCE where opponents were only allowed to punch. Other forms of attack such as grappling, biting and gouging were prohibited though it is hotly debated in the academic world if kicking was allowed.

The object was to either knock out the opponent or force him to submit, which was indicated with a raised index finger. The fight would continue until a submission or knock out was achieved in this particularly vicious version of the sport, there were no rounds and participants could keep punching even if their opponent was knocked to the floor.

A soft dirt pit known as a skamma was used to fight in and a referee oversaw the battle, carrying a switch to whip any fighter that broke the rules or stepped out of line. While these contests were brutal affairs, a fighter would still need high levels of training, skill and courage to make it in the boxing scene of ancient Greece.

These contests seem to have been basically akin to bare knuckle boxing though in place of boxing gloves, their wrists and knuckles would often be wrapped in straps known as himantes, which were made from ox hide and were designed to protect the boxer’s hands.

After the fourth century BCE these were replaced with so called sharp thongs that served the same purpose and consisted of a thick strip of leather. Different fighters seemed to use these straps in different ways, some covering much of the hands while others just used them as support for the wrist.

While they were probably used mainly for protecting the boxer’s hand, when covering the knuckle, the leather would also cut into an opponent when he was hit causing far more damage than if they were hit from a fighter using the himantes, sometimes also called softer thongs. It is interesting to note that as with most sporting contests in ancient Greece, apart from these straps participants of Pyx would be completely naked.

The Roman Boxing Scene

In many ways the caestus was more like a knife than a boxing glove as it could actually stab and rupture a fighter. In his poem the Aeneid, Virgil references their brutal nature by mentioning that when a Sicilian fighter called Entellus wanted to wear a pair previously worn by his brother, they were still “stained with blood and splattered brains”.

These metal laden gloves were not necessarily compulsory however as can be seen from the same poem when Entellus’ opponent, Dares of Troy, refused to fight in them opting instead for lighter, padded gloves (depicted in the image below).

Unsurprisingly, boxing matches in Rome often ended in the death of the loser and while many Romans were willing participants, they were also fought between unwilling participants such as slaves.

As well as being a sport and a gladiatorial contest, it was also seen as a training method for soldiers in the Roman army though safety equipment would have been used in this case to prevent injury during training.

The boxing scene held an important role in Roman culture until in around 400 CE, Emperor Theodoric the Great banned it outright. As a Christian, he disapproved of the deaths and disfigurements it could cause, and of its use as a form of violent entertainment.

But sports were just one part of what you've called the Woodstock of antiquity. What was it like for the spectators?

To be a spectator at the Olympic Games was an incredibly uncomfortable experience. It makes modern sports fans seem like a pretty flaky bunch. First of all, if you came from Athens, you had to walk 210 miles [340 kilometers] to get to the site.

Olympia is in the middle of nowhere. It's a beautiful place, very idyllic. But it's basically a collection of three temples and a running track, with one inn reserved for the wealthy.

The organizers had it pretty easy in ancient times. They only had to chase a few sheep and cattle off the running track and temples. Everyone just turned up and had to look after himself. If you're rich, you put up a tent and you had servants. But the rank-and-file spectators plunked down anywhere.

In the high summer it was incredibly hot. The two rivers that converge at Olympia dried up. Nobody could wash. There was no drinking water, and people collapsed from heat stroke.

There was no sanitation, so the odors were quite pungent. Once you got into the stadium, there were no seats, only grassy banks. The word stadium comes from the Greek stadion, which means "a place to stand." But it was an incredible atmosphere with an amazing sense of tradition. People were standing on the very hill where Zeus wrestled his father [according to legend].

Ancient Greek Pankration: the Origins of MMA, Part One

Inspired by my colleague Derek Bolender and his article on MMA for newcomers(, I felt that a more in-depth look at the history of MMA would be appreciated by all fans, both novice and veteran followers of the sport alike.

Such a history I hope will enable us to examine the foundations of our sport so we can better understand its current shape and structure, both as an athletic competition and as a legitimate enterprise rapidly gaining popularity among mainstream audiences.

This first article in a proposed four-part series will chronicle the appearance of ancient Greek Pankration as the original incarnation of MMA. The second article will discuss the gladiatorial games of the Romans and their influence on the perception and organization of current MMA events.

The third article in my series examines the resurgence of modern Pankration and cross-training through pivotal (though perhaps lesser known) figures such as Jim Arvanitis and Aris Makris, and the legendary Bruce Lee. The final article will detail the Gracie family’s development of brazilian jiu-jitsu, including the role of vale tudo matches in Brazil throughout the 20 th century as the precursor to modern MMA combat.

Etymology and Origin

The word Pankration comes from the Greek pan (all) and kratos (power). Thus it literally means “all powers.” It was originally developed by combining boxing and wrestling techniques into a singular contest of strength and courage.

Greek mythology stipulates that Hercules and/or Theseus created the Pankration mode of fighting. Our early ancient sources contain a mix of fact and fiction, so it is difficult to ascertain exactly when Pankration developed as a historical phenomenon.

However, we do know that Pankration was regarded as the premier Olympic combat event, and was introduced at the games of 648 BC. The date of the first Olympics is generally agreed by historians to have been 776 BC.

Many athletic contests which made it to the Olympics had been around for several centuries prior, and this is most likely the case with Pankration. Thus it seems reasonable to assume that it was invented at least a few hundred years before the first Olympics, since boxing and wrestling had been known in the Greek world dating back thousands of years.


Those who practiced Pankration were known as Pankratiasts. Eventually, Pankration became the core focus of a Greek soldier’s hand-to-hand training regime. This evidence suggests that Pankration was created to supplement a warrior’s battle prowess (as weapons would often break and combatants would have to use their bare hands and feet).

Ancient literary sources state that wrestling was a very important component of a Greek hoplite’s repertoire (heavy infantrymen were called hoplites). Hoplites would use their wrestling skills to stay balanced and get back to their feet quicker than the enemy if they fell down. Getting back to your feet quicker was often the difference between life and death.

Over time, the accomplishments of the strongest and most successful Pankratiasts formed the basis of legendary stories and mythical embellishments. One famous tale focuses on the Olympic victor Polydamas, who was rumored to have killed three fully armed Immortals (elite Persian warriors) with only a stick, after the king Darius invited Polydamas to his court and had him ambushed to test his skills.

Some competitors were well-rounded enough to win both the boxing/Pankration and wrestling/Pankration events at the same tournament, with the latter feat occuring more often than the former. The available evidence suggests that grappling was more integral than striking and that most fights ended on the ground, so those better trained in wrestling and submissions had an advantage in Pankration fights.

Rules and Regulations

There were two kinds of Pankration: ano pankration (when the fight had to stay standing, similar to kickboxing) and kato pankration(in which the fight could go to the ground). Only two rules prevailed: no biting and no eye gouging (similar to the early UFC events). In Sparta, even these techniques were allowed during their bouts.

Pankratiasts would compete naked in a wrestling-pit, and covered themselves in oil. The referee would use a rod to enforce the rules. There were no rounds or time limits, and the fight only ended once somebody gave up or was rendered unconscious (or dead). Fighters would signal defeat by raising their arm or tapping out.

Fatalities were common, especially by strangulation, as many fighters refused to give up after being caught in a choke. Submissions were prominent, and there is ample evidence to suggest that the ancient Greeks knew all or almost all the submissions that current fighters use today, including knee bars, heel hooks, and a variety of chokes and arm locks.

Kicking was not neglected either, and one source sarcastically states that the prize in Pankration was awarded to a donkey due to his kicking ability. Broken fingers were often sustained while trying to sink in a submission, and even broken necks. An age group for younger competitors was introduced around 200 BC.

Pankration was regarded as dangerous, bloody, and brutal even by the ancient Greeks, who were certainly no strangers to the art of war and violence. Pankratiasts fought for honor and pre-eminence amongst their peers, and were very proud warriors. They would often rather die than submit to an opponent.

Olympics and Other Tournaments

There were several different Pan-Hellenic (all-Greek) competitions in the ancient world, with the Olympic Games regarded as the most prestigious. The Spartans did not participate in the Pankration or boxing events at such festivals, but only the wrestling tournament (where three falls in each match were needed for a victory, and the Spartans believed that you did not concede defeat in such a manner, i.e. having your back touch the floor).

Pankratiasts fought in tournaments to decide who the best fighter was. There would often be a regional qualifying tournament before a major tournament. Larger competitions such as the Olympics would contain at least four rounds (not counting the preliminary qualifiers, which could have been up to five fights per contestant), thus having a draw of 16 fighters in the main tournament.

Lots would be drawn each round to determine the match-ups. Athletes would be representing their own city-state, or polis. The Pankration tournament proceeded in a single knockout format, often being contested on the same day directly after the boxing tournament.

Winners of the Pankration tournament were regarded as heroes by their polis, and often recieved lavish rewards when they came back home. Their names would be inscribed on the Olympic victor lists, and they were given various prizes depending on the specific tournament won (with Olympic winners receiving the famous olive wreath).

The wrestling-only contest was distinct from Pankration. It was somewhat similar to modern submission wrestling. In Greek wrestling, three points were needed to win a match, and you could score a point by making your opponent’s back touch the floor by submitting him or by forcing him out of the wrestling-area. Any form of striking was disallowed.

Historical Decline and Legacy

The conquering Romans would eventually incorporate a modified form of Pankration into their gladiator games. Ultimately, Pankration was practiced as an Olympic event for over a thousand years, and remained the focus of a hoplite’s training program for just as long a period.

In the year 393 A.D., the Roman Emperor Theodosius I issued an edict that outlawed all pagan festivals, including Pankration. There is evidence that Pankration continued in some shape or form until the sixth century, though in an underground setting. Traces of Pankration could be found in some parts of Greece and Turkey until its revival this past century.

Pankration left a wide and varied legacy. Alexander the Great recruited the strongest combatants into his army. It has been argued by scholars and historians that his conquests spread the techniques of Pankration into Asia, and that this contributed to the rise of Eastern martial arts such as kung fu, karate, and Japanese jiu-jitsu.

Pankration aided Greek soldiers throughout the many wars and battles of the Classical and Hellenistic periods (500-150 BC). It complimented a hoplites training with a spear and shield, and was useful in close quarters (it is said that the Spartans at Thermopylae fought with their bare hands and teeth once their spears and swords had shattered).

Ancient Greek Pankration was the first historical instance of a combined multi-art hand-to-hand fighting system. As such, current MMA may justifiably be termed an evolved form of the Pankration that the Greeks of antiquity practiced.

Stay tuned for part two of this series which will detail the history of the Roman gladiatorial games and their connection to modern MMA competition.

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