Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Ancient Combat Systems

The most ancient evidence of combat forms were found in the spanish city of Albacete, where archeologists found paintings that date from somewhere between 10.000 and 5.000 BC. Despite this it is more accepted, regarding historical proof, that this type of activity, has it’s most ancient roots in Egypt, where 4000 year old Hieroglyphics have been found related to this matter. Hieroglyphics representing men executing fighting forms with their fists covered with gloves up to the elbow.
Jeroglificos.jpg (10493 bytes) This shows the human tendency towards this activity, but in this case it had a military character. Archeology has also made other important discoveries in the sumerian culture about 3000 BC in Mesopotamia, where they also show the existence of combat forms with fists.

With out a doubt Greece was also one of the ancient cultures that developed fighting systems without weapons. In the island of Crete its people built a temple for the goddess Hera (Temple of Olympus) in 2000 BC, and with this the Olympic tradition began. The Greek fighting systems were an important part of the Olympic games. The Greek were responsible of the conception of the first sports methods applied to individual combat forms with a pedagogic system. Their purpose was the cult of the body and maybe a way to honor the gods. To cultivate their bodies they created the gymnasiums, centers where men trained almost nude. They had rooms for conferences, ball games, pools, etc, and the best gymnasiums were in Sparta. The gymnasiums were directed by the gymnasiarchs that taught how to run, jump and throw objects like the disc, javelin, lift weights, but most of all they taught a certain type of wrestling called PANKRATION.

Greece was invaded by the Jonios in the year 2000 BC and later in 1800 BC by the Aqueos. Despite these invasions, they kept celebrating the competitions until 1580 BC where they gave birth to the first Olympic games.

Olympic Background

The games began with only one competition, the stadion race, that was a 180mt foot race. However the original distance was a stadium long and therefore depended on the location were the competition had place, but nevertheless as mentioned, later on, the official Olympic distance was 180 mt.

In the year 680 BC another competition was added to the games, the chariots race, which included several acts and ceremonies that made the competition last a whole day, later on the games had a duration of 5 days.

The first day, with the presence of all the competitors and the judges, there was a religious ceremony, where the people offered gifts to Zeus. The competitions took place on the rest of the four days. These games were most popular and reached its apogee in year 1170 B.C.

In the 5th and 6th century the five traditional disciplines were:

* The stadion race

* The armed warriors race

* Pankration

* Wrestling

* Pentathlon
And the Pentathlon was divided in

* The foot race

* long jump

* The javelin

* Discus

* Wrestling

None of them required instruction, except wrestling, because to wrestle, strength was not enough; ability and skill were very important to execute the locks and to dodge the adversaries techniques. What also was important was a deep knowledge of the strategies and the rules of the game. This competition is known now in days as the Greco-Roman wrestling, being it the least brutal of all the fighting systems of that time.

Pankration, was the first combat art that was technically disciplined. This art was not completely Greek, it also had roman contributions and was practiced since 776 BC. Pankration along with other fighting systems is a very important historical reference for martial arts and some say that martial arts origin could be found in pankration. Pankration was very important in the games between the years 648 and 395 BC, but in 395 BC by a sentence of the emperor Teodosio, the Olympic games disappeared and with them, pankration.

The other fighting systems that together with pankration, like pugme and wrestling, later gave birth to other combat styles. We can find in pugme the origin of English boxing and in wrestling what we actually know as Greco-Roman wrestling and in a certain way Pankration was the style most similar to karate and that is why we can consider it the forefather of karate.

Pankration had a great and very well organized infrastructure and the competitions had place according to a random selection and the role of the referee was very important.

Pankration fighting system was formed by wrestling and boxing techniques: well trained locks and blows all of them taught by their trainers. The "PAIDRIOTIBO", the fighter who felled to the grown, lost the fight giving the winner a laurel crown which he would later give to the gods. The competitors concentration was mostly important, the arms were protected by leather belts, and the blows could be either with fists or open hands in any part of the body. The greatest champions were honored building statues in there names, famous were:


These combat systems were later practiced in Persia and even later on in India th. In fact in India a clan before the Kastriyas, the Tchatrias practiced a similar system called NATA.


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