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Pankration (wikipedia.org)
16 points by benbreen on April 9, 2015 | hide | past | favorite | 18 comments

Notable is the story of Arrhichion who won the Pankration when his opponent surrendered even though he died in the attempt. His corpse was crowned and proclaimed the victor.

The story of Damoxenos of Syracuse on this Quora answer to the question "What is the most unsportsmanlike conduct you have seen in any sport?" is also pretty interesting: http://www.quora.com/What-is-the-most-unsportsmanlike-conduc...

"... The only things not acceptable were biting and gouging of the opponent's eyes."

so (in honest curiosity) why didn't the first man to grab a thorny branch (or burning brand) aimed at the other man's genitals always win the contest?

Earlier mainstream MMA events like the first few UFC tournaments actually allowed groin strikes. I know for at least several bouts the athletes would have a gentleman's agreement not to employ them despite the legality.

Beyond that, the problem with attacking another man's genital's is...he can attack yours too. So the athletes employ defensive measures that usually nullify each other.

There are some positions like full guard where groin strikes are much easier to pull off for one person. And what can I say - that's hard to watch. Usually at the least they're wearing cups but it can still be painful.

They're in a ring.

Certainly the current surge of MMA popularity (perhaps abating) appears to me to be a return to more primitive western mores around violence.

It is interesting how eye gouging and biting were, even in greek times, considered out of bounds. Why? From where does this moral sense of fairness-in-violence come? Why would people cheer a man who has successfully broken another mans neck, but shun a man who has gouged another mans eyes out?

One wonders if we will eventually return to widespread animal sport fighting.

I think you have some mistaken beliefs about the linked ancient sport, and modern MMA. The goal is a submission, that is, to put the other person into a position in which they have to submit, or they risk injury. So I find your "successfully broken another mans neck" question to be a non-sequitur. Breaking someone's neck is not a desired outcome, nor is it particularly likely.

I practice Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, and have sparred a decent amount of MMA.

Rules must be such that enough people enjoy watching the fights, and enough people agree to fight. Presumably, few will agree to fight if nothing is off limits, and even if that is false, few will have the chance to gain the skills making the fights enjoyable before their eyes are gouged out.

(Personally, I'm not into this sort of entertainment to say the least, but that is beside the point...)

Modern day Vale Tudo is as close as you get to organized Pankration[1]. It has very limited rules and was (not sure if it still is) popular in Brazil.

[1] http://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vale_tudo

MMA, now and back then, is a business. Techniques like eye-gouging, small joint manipulation, etc. would put athletes out of subsequent fights for long periods of time or even permanently...not a good business model for anyone. With other types of submissions there is usually plenty of time to tap out to avoid permanent injury. So AFAIK there's no moral imperative at play here. I've also never witnessed a broken neck in my ten plus years of watching MMA. I'm sure it's happened, but most likely as an unfortunate accident and not intentionally.

my guess is that you can't really effectively harden yourself against biting and eye gouging and neither takes it any skill to perform those moves. and they're comparably dangerous: eye going blinds you and biting can lead to potentially lethal infections days after the fight. the undefeated champion would be at risk of being blinded or infected by a desperate amateur without matching skills.

it would take away from the spectacle and ruin an otherwise perfectly healthy athlete easily.

breaking the neck, on the other hand, is NOT an easy task, especially if your opponent is also a trained wrestler. you need skill and strength and at least it's something for the audience. i'm pretty sure though that deaths happened rarely and were mostly the result of accidents. the fighters were athletes after all, not cold blooded murderers. they were in for the money and the fame. same with the soldiers; mutilating your fellow soldiers wouldn't be a good thing.

From the WP article, they mention fights end with submission or when the judge stopped it. You seem to be implying that the competition is a fight to the death ("breaking someone's neck"), but that's not what the article says. It doesn't mean that death could or did not occur either, but just that it's not the main goal.

The Greeks invented mixed-martial arts? And did it naked?

Yes, they did. Then the Brazilians invented it again and it became modern day MMA.

> Then the Brazilians invented it again

This is untrue, there were many people who traveled the world to fight 'all comers' in no holds barred competitions. Mitsuyo Maeda[1] is one of these people who brought judo to Brazil which later become BJJ. Maeda is not the only that did this however (travel and fight anyone, in any discipline)

[1] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mitsuyo_Maeda

Yes, there was Maeda, and there was a bunch of other stuff (Merikan fights, shooto, etc). However, Vale Tudo was created by the Gracies, who eventually went on to create a very similar thing with the UFC, which then caught on and today MMA is pretty much what the UFC is.

Plus, before, there were fighters pitting their style against other styles. In Brazil, besides the BJJ fighters, there were 'Vale Tudo' fighters, who trained in many styles and mixed, BJJ, wrestling and stand-up (Marco Ruas for example. His trained in everything, and when asked, he said his style was Vale Tudo). Which is what any MMA athlete is today.

And now they're just mostly naked.

My introduction to this was Jeffery in Virtua Fighter.

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