The Hellenic Pangration Athlima Federation participated in the World Martial Arts Festival and the General Assembly, that was organized by the World Martial Arts Union (WoMAU) in South Korea in the city of Chungju from 6th to 10th of September 2013.
In the delegation of the H.P.A.F. participated the Athletes of the Greek National Team (Langis Dimitrios, Manolakos Panagiotis, Mahairas Nikolaos, Nikolakakou Vasiliki and Felouri Dimitra), The National Coach Mr. Langis Ioannis as well as the President of the Historical Committee of W.P.A.F. Mr. Nakasis Athanasios and The member of the Historical Committee of W.P.A.F. Mr. Kotsiaris Vasileios.
In the General Assembly which was attended by representatives of 45 countries, Mr. Nakasis’s speech about “The expectations and role of Pangration in Greece in the frame of youth’s education and the sustainable development of the sport” arguably been the most interesting.
Below you can read Mr. Nakasis’s speech
Greek Pangration Athlema Federation
Committee for the History of Pangration Athlema
Prof Dr Athanasios NAKASIS, Architect, President of the Committee, Secretary of Greek Pangration Athlema Federation, President of Greek ICOMOS
Evangelia KARDARA, Curator MS, Member of the Committee, Dep.Gen. Secretary of Greek ICOMOS
Vasileios KOTSIARIS, Curator, Member of the Committee, Treasurer of Greek ICOMOS
Angelos NAKASIS Architect MS, Member of the Committee, Member of Greek ICOMOS
Sofia SPIROPOULOU, Archaeologist, Member of the Committee, Press Responsible of Greek ICOMOS
The expectations and role of Pangration in Greece in the frame of
youth’s education and the sustainable development of the sport
Pangration (Pagration, Pancration, Pankration): Martial Art and Sport.
The origins of the Pangration are to be found in ancient Greek mythological traditions: the struggle of Heracles with the Nemean Lion, of Theseus with the Minotaur, and of Ajax with Odysseus.
Historical sources, mentioning the Pangration, cover the period from the 8th century BC to the 12th century AD (those after the 5th century AD are lexicographical). The term “Pangration” and the terms derive from it are attested in about 80 inscriptions in multiple entries, and in about 95 authors, with multiple attestations of the term per author.
Pangration was a Martial Art founded as a blend of Boxing and Wrestling including kicks as well. Ancient sources indicate that Pangration was an integral part of major and local athletic contests in the Classical and Roman periods, from Italy to Anatolia and from the Black Sea to Egypt. It was even a part of the required military training of ephebes (young men).
Pangration was widely spread outside the Eastern Mediterranean basin as early as the Hellenistic Period and reached Asia via the military campaigns of Alexander the Great. It is believed to be the ancestor of the majority of Martial or Athletic Arts, developed in this geographical area.
Pangration is considered to be the most demanding fighting system ever; in antiquity it was spectacular and popular and much more interesting than other sports because the Pangratiasts practiced a combination of techniques which resulted in switching scenes and often falls; it was also considered a very dangerous sport, since it could bring about the death of the athlete. It is documented in literary sources the example of Arracheion, a Pangratiast from Peloponnese, who died during a match and was declared winner posthumously! The story goes that few minutes before he died he had broken the finger of his opponent, who signalled to the referee by raising his index finger to quit the game out of pain (because he was in too much pain).
During the Pangration match all moves were allowed except from two: the athletes were forbidden to bite or to strike blind the opponent. Even those restrictions however did not apply at the city of Sparta, where Pangration formed part of the military training. In Sparta there were Pangration games for the women as well.
Pangration was included in the Olympic Games in 648 BC; it became the most popular Sport of antiquity because of the large demands it required from the athletes, the diversity it provided as a spectacle and the excitement it created at to the audience; these characteristics are evident in its ancient name, Pangration, which literally means “to dominate totally.” It seems that no athletic event was considered important enough in antiquity if it did not include Pangration.
According to Aristotle, Leucarus of Acarnania finalized the sport’s rules. Matches were conducted in accordance with the same general rules that governed all Sports. The athletes competed in age classes and in couples. They were selected to compete with each other by lot. When the number of competitors was odd, one of them had a bye and he advanced to the following round without having to compete.
The athletes could fight standing or on the ground. The basic instruction of Pangration techniques was conducted by the Paedotribae, who were in charge of boys' physical education. High level athletes were also trained by special trainers who were called Gymnastae, some of whom used to be successful Pangration athletes as well.
Some of the most popular methods of training in antiquity were a) Korykomachia: an exercise in which athletes struck the korykos, a leather sack filled with fig seeds or flour or sand, which hung from the ceiling, just like a modern boxing bag b) Skiamachia: shadowboxing and c) Cheironomia: various hand exercises.
According to Greek traditions Pangration contests were initially conducted outside established athletic contests, in the frame of funeral games in honour of mythical figures. Matches were always held during festival performances, especially at Olympia (the Olympic Games), at Delphi (the Pythian Games), Isthmia (the Isthmian games) and Nemea (the Nemean games).
Pangration matches and training bouts were mainly practiced at gymnasia, palaestras, stoas, stadia, konistras, theatres and, in Roman times, amphitheatres. Usually Pangratiasts competed nude, just like other athletes did. Nevertheless Pangratiasts were different from other athletes in that they had particular behaviours, diet, hair and body care. When they were competing they anointed themselves with oil and sand, as did other athletes. In imperial times, the Aleiptes (the teachers of the athletes) put wax on the bodies of the Pangratiasts (and wrestlers) in the Aleipterion, a separate part of the gymnasium or the palaestra.
Victory in Pangration could result from the opponent resigning during the match or admitting defeat. Victory in all three extreme sports (Boxing, Wrestling, and Pangration) is also documented. Ancient sources refer in many cases to the public response, which the judges had to take seriously.
In some competitions, prizes were not of high material value, but rather of symbolic value; in other competitions the glory and honour of victory was accompanied by a high monetary or material reward. The prizes in many cases could be of high financial value. Moreover, it is documented that prizes for winning the Pangration in some competitions were much more valuable than prizes for winning in other events.
The most common prizes for victors included insertion in a list of victors, champion status, trophies, grants of citizenship, a homecoming procession, the demolishing of city walls for them to pass (since the city had no need of fortifications when they had such athletic victors), statues, and monuments, including funerary monuments. The monuments could also be sculptures, reliefs or vases (of metal, stone or clay). The most common monuments were statues or busts of the athlete. Other forms of monuments were altars, columns or lists of victors that constituted a monumental group. The inscription of winners was placed on a common stele, a herm or a statue base. Many times the name of the athlete was written on the crown (either inscribed or in relief).
In certain victory catalogues Pangration is referred to as “Sacred Game”, a characterization which is extremely rare for other Sports in antiquity. The most common prize in the “Sacred Games” (which did not award cash prizes) was a simple crown. The crown was made of wild olive at Olympia, of laurel at Delphi, of pine at Isthmia and of wild celery at Nemea.
The sources preserve the names of many famous athletes, and in many cases victories and anecdotes from their lives are mentioned such as for Sostratos of Sicyon, who used a special technique in which he bent back the fingers of his opponents, Polydamas from Thessaly, who became a legend because of his alleged fight with a lion in Thrace, Theogenes from Thasos, who was believed to have obtained 1400 victories in Pangration and Boxing competitions and many others.
Pangration never ceased to exist in Greece, although it did not always form an integral part of major and local athletic contests. For many centuries Pangration was conducted in more amateur way, it became part of the daily life of many social classes of Greek community. The main idea of this ancient sport was always present in Greek society. One can distinguish the features of Pangration in fights out in the street, in improvised fight contests, in local and informal championships etc. Pangration has always been part of life routine, when a child or student fights in school, when men engage in quarrels which involve fights or even when someone tries to defend himself when attacked.
Pangration revived globally after the 2nd World War. The Greek Pangration Athlema Federation (GPAF) was officially established in 1996. Its main objective is the promotion, circulation and organization of Pangration in its traditional as well as its modern form. Today Pangration is developed also by the World Pangration Athlema Federation (WPAF), established in 2002. GPAF and WPAF are officially recognized by the Greek State as the only representatives of the Sport.
Under the guidance of GPAF hundreds of regional athletic corporations and groups are working their best with every mean they have in order to instruct and train properly young people who are interested in Pangration. Every year there are many festivals and special events regarding Pangration, which are organized either by formal athletic institutions and corporations or by local groups all over Greece. During these events there are demonstrations, contests, feasts as well as seminars and lectures aiming at the transmission of the cultural value of Pangration. At the same time they a serious effort of assessing and cultivating national practitioners is in progress, who will undertake the task of disseminating and teaching in colleges and hopefully schools the Pangration sport. These efforts are also focused on for the establishment of the University of Pangration Sport in Sparta-Greece.
The GPAF has 127 athletic corporations and organizations throughout the country, with 5500 athletes. The national championship is organized every year and all games are taking place each time in several cities; when in Athens, it is held at the modern facilities of an Olympic Stadium. It’s a modern stadium with capacity of 9300 people, build for the Olympic Games of Athens in 2004. The facilities are granted by the state to GPAF to house its function and activities.
In 2010 during the 10th International Conference of Sports Medical Centre there was a Pangration demonstration and many aspects of the Sport were presented to the representatives of the state and local authorities, the doctors who participated to the conference, the athletes and their families.
In February 2012 in Veroia, Northern Greece, a conference about Pangration has been organized, which included seminars, contests and presentation on several subjects in relation with the Sport.
In July 2012 demonstration matches were conducted with large turnout in Molai, Lakonia–Peloponnese.
On October 12 2013 Pangration Games will take place in the ancient Stadium of Nemea. This is a major event, as it will be the revival of Pangration in the same Stadium after 1600 years. A similar event will take place in the Stadium of Ancient Messini, after 1600 years, as well.
Today there are three main distinctions of Pangration: two kinds of matches (Agon 1 and Agon 2) and the Sport (athlema). A Pangration match (especially Agon 1) resembles in many ways the ancient Sport. The most popular version of Pangration is the Sport, with several rules for the protection of the athletes.
There are individual contests (Pangration, child Pangration, Pix-Lax) and team contests (Palaismata, Polydamas). The athletes can hold their opponent’s body or clothes; they can push him and can throw him from the ring. The application of pressure is allowed, in certain circumstances. Holds and blows must be controlled, especially those which are near the head. There are also many forbidden practices such as choking, stomping with the foot, twisting of body parts or joins, grabbing the skin, pushing the groin, use of nails or teeth, blows to the face, neck, back of the neck, joints, and groin, the pulling of hair, ears, nose and groin, the lifting and throwing down of the opponent, and the lifting and striking of the opponent’s middle with the knee. Also forbidden is to throw the opponent down in the ring with the purpose of crushing the opponent “body to body”. Holds to the neck are forbidden. The faking of injury is forbidden. The application of substances or objects which cover the skin (e.g., bandages) is forbidden without the approval of the doctor of the games.
Pangration promotes the social integration between various social groups and people of all ages and ranks. Children and young people who practice Pangration in the established athletic corporations are learning the ethics and rules of fair play and Olympic Spirit. By following the rules and applying the regulations of the game the athletes are learning to act with respect towards the opponent, the spectators and the game itself.
The practices of Pangration also influence other parts of daily life such as health, exercise and diet. In order to keep fit and be able to cope with the demands of training the Pangration athletes are strongly advised to follow a balanced, yet complete diet. In other words Pangration contributes in multiple ways to improving private and public health and to enhancing both physical and spiritual well being and development.
WPAF also works for the same purposes by organizing World or Regional Championships and other International festivals; it has 55 countries-members and 20.000 athletes. The main object of the Federations is the preservation and promotion of this ancient and traditional sport, the organization of championships, as well as the recruitment of young people and all citizens in general to participate to the organization and conduction of Pangration Sport.
Pangration World Championship takes place every two years and in between takes place, also every two years a Continental Championship; in Europe, the latter was organized last year in Italy and the next one is scheduled to take place in Moscow in 2014.
This year’s World Championship took place in Evrota Region, Lakonia-Peloponnese with great success. More than 500 athletes from 32 countries took part in the games and over 3000 spectators participated in the event, while 70.000 spectators were watching it at the same time, through Internet.
This November 2013, from 10-14, a world seminal of Martial Arts will take place in Ancient Olympia. Right after (from 14-18) the 2nd European Championship will take place in Veroia, Northern Greece, with the participation of 15 European countries.
The main features of modern Pangration preserve its ancient character. To begin with, the official language used during the contest (terminology) is ancient Greek, while the instruction program is based on techniques and methods which were in use during antiquity. Furthermore the distinction of Pangration in two main categories, the upper Pangration and the lower Pangration, is also an establishment inherited from the past. One important feature of modern Pangration Sport is that the regulations and rules are constituted in a way that the protection of the athletes is obtained in the most sufficient degree. The preservation of many ancient elements in the conduction of modern Pangration has a significant social and cultural function and meaning because it keeps alive the connection with the past and the roots of the Sport. In that way the people who are practicing the Sport today recognize it as part of their cultural heritage.
Under appropriate guidance Pangration can be taught at schools as part of the athletic education. Therefore a new group of specialized professions will be incorporated in the educational system, such as sport doctors, Pangration coaches, nutritionists etc.
GPAF is in contact and collaboration with many international groups involved with Pangration and many steps have already been made to the expansion and globalization of Pangration all over the world.
These efforts are supported not only by the Hellenic State, namely the Ministry of Culture and Sports, as well as by many municipalities in Greece. Pangration is a traditional sport of great value in the terms of Greek Cultural Heritage. It is in many and different ways connected with the Greek History and the Olympic Games. Therefore the government is very much interested in supporting all efforts aiming at the promotion and preservation of Pangration. Documentation and relevant papers have been implemented on behalf of the appropriate ministries and public services, while the leadership of the Hellenic state strongly supports the idea and proposition of Pangration becoming an Olympic sport. Under this perspective the state continues to support the sport and the athletic organizations involved and it will further develop the management and administrative frame of promoting the sport. It will also introduce, if needed, new laws and regulations in order to create favourable conditions for the safeguarding of Pangration.
The nomination of Pangration as a modern Olympic Game is also supported by all Pangration Federations and by the International Olympic Committee, by WoMAU (South Korea) and by IMGC (North Korea).
Furthermore several efforts have been undertaken and are still in process for the inscription of Pangration in the Representative list of intangible heritage, a nomination which will definitely improve the visibility and status of Pangration sport and it will reinforce the efforts of all organizations involved to strongly argue in favor of the reintegration of Pangration at the Olympic Games. A policy will be established aiming at promoting the significance of ensuring the continuity and preservation of this cultural heritage in terms of history, tradition and social interaction. The benefits from this inscription will also enhance the visibility and promotion of martial art heritages all over the world, since Pangration is considered to be the source of most of the martial arts because it combines techniques and methods used in all of them. Therefore this particular aspect of international cultural heritage will be appropriately advertised and promoted, by obtaining at the same time the interaction and exchange of diverse martial arts and sports and more importantly by increasing worldwide the awareness of ancient and traditional aspects of intangible cultural heritage. Under this perspective new athletic facilities will be established in some of the largest cities in Greece in order to host pangration championships with the participation of many countries and regional educational centres and coaching schools are going to be built in order to facilitate the safeguarding and dissemination efforts. Thus there will be an opportunity to ensure the legal frame of protection and promotion of Pangration by enforcing measures and management plans in order to practice and spread Pangration tradition in an appropriate manner and to raise awareness and interest among the general public.
Finally in the domain of state initiative all available assistance will keep being granted while a classification of pangration and martial art schools must be institutionalized. It is the state’s responsibility as well to contribute in every way it can, to protect by law the preservation and promotion of the athletic and martial traditional arts, including Pangration.