Submission wrestling in Ancient Greece


Blue Belt
Oct 5, 2005
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So I was flipping through channels a few weeks ago and saw a thing about Ancient Greece. Long story, but there was a part about submission wrestling, and some ancient artifact/painting/pot or something like that, that actually showed like 300 different positions/moves related to submission wrestling, from 3000 years ago or something like that.
Anybody know anything about this? I know that pankration and wrestling were part of sports in Ancient Greece, but the fact that there were pictures/drawings made that are still around today is cool, IMO. They might even be better than the latest instructional DVD's...
We all know the history of BJJ, and how TJJ came from Japan and is at least a few centuries old. But to think that a lot of the grappling moves now were being used 3000 years ago is crazy...
pancrase or pankration has been a major olympic sport in greece. i think it was one of the first sports after running.

catch as catch can (aka catch) wrestling claims to have come straight from the greek combative sport. many cultures watched the olympics and learned and the gypses and carnival folk just carred it on. "hookers" (catch wrestlers, a 'hook' is a submission with intent to cripple) took on all comers for money in carnival shows and the wrestling evolved from there.

some say american folkstyle wrestling comes from this more than the greco-roman wrestling. they tried to take this wrestling and eliminate the damaging aspects to have a sport safe to practice. it also translated into the early days of pro wrestling. those carnival shows earned the wrestlers good money and someone obviously wanted a piece. tons of people would watch the matches.
some one should do a term paper on grappling through the ages, it would be a good read
Most of the classical pankration subs look weak in comparison to modern subs though.
In the original Greek Olympics, before the Romans changed everything up, Pankration was a form of wrestling that had a huge arsenal of submissions, but also employed all manners of strikes. Grabbing hair to assist in uppercuts or genitals to forcefuly roll an opponent over were some of the most common and effective moves. Later Olympics also featured boxing, and many of the Pankration fighters also entered the boxing competition, despite the fact both were held on the same day. More often than not, the winner of the Pankration event would also win the boxing tournament, because everyone he fought would just forfeight to him.
There is a very old story of Alexander the Great having one of his best warriors fight a pankrationist. The warrior (I can find the names if asked, but don't know right now) showed up in full armour with a spear and sword and started the match by throwing the spear at the pankrationist, who, wearing a loin cloth and holding a wooden club, dodged it, closed the distance and took the other fighter down, placing his knees on the mans sword arm and neck, winning the match.
Pankration matches were extremely brutal and often ended when one fighter simply could not continue... bones were broken, eyes were gouged and much blood was spilled... there are actually quite a few paintings (on pottery and otherwise) with leglocks being particularly common...

there was no tapping out if you were a spartan...
Hmm, that is very interesting. I agree, a full report would be great.
Very ineresting. This would be a really really good story to read!
I think I just may do a term paper on this, for my Ancient History class next semester.
I plan on writing about pankration and similar things next term university. Links, books and other resources is greatly apreciated. I already have my eyes on geting "combat sports in the ancient world"..
I was at my cousins house a few years ago (she married a Greek) and they had a book about the anciente Olympics and it had a chapter about pankration. It explained the rules and had pictures of the subs they used (from various ancient paintings). It looked very familiar. It also had listings of in which years which sports where included.

THere was tapping out, and I remember reading a story in that book of a match in which one wrestler had a RNC ont he other, the guy getting choked was doing the toe-hold counter tot he RNC. The guy shoking eventualy submittewd to the toe-hold and when they pulled them apart, the guy being choked was dead. The winner of the match was dead. Only example of that I can remember.

This year I was hunting around for a judo book and I found a French book translated to Spanish that was called an introduction to judo, or something like that. It has extensive background info on many other grappling arts as well as judo. The whole book (400 pages maybe) has no technique work at all, just training methods, philosophy and history. It includes info about pankration and many other styles, including an old Spanish style that I had never heard of. Very interesting stuff.

If anyone writes those papers that are being mentioned on here, you should post them up so we can all read them. :) I would sure like to. The universality of grappling is impressive and many cultures are independently invented nearly identical movements and systems.
I agree. More information on ancient grappling systems = Always good.
muerteverde said:
The universality of grappling is impressive and many cultures are (have) independently invented nearly identical movements and systems. point exactly. 1000's of years of grappling in all corners of the world, and yet a lot of the moves we now know as fundamental in "submission grappling" came about from so many different peoples and cultures.

Who knows? Maybe a lot of what today's "pioneers" (Gracies, Jigoro Kano, etc.) have come up with, was actually first figured out by other peoples years ago, and just got "lost" through the ages.
Motha F--kers have been armbared since the stone age. That I am sure of.:)
dang thats really interesting. It would suck to get caught in a triangle back then with only loin cloths on. Or u could just bite their balls.
I think I'd rather tap than put my mouth on a random guy's nutsack.
greasemonkey said:
dang thats really interesting. It would suck to get caught in a triangle back then with only loin cloths on. Or u could just bite their balls.

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