(a combination of wrestling and boxing)

The pankration was added in 648 BC in the 33rd Olympiad. Greeks believed that the pankration was founded by the great hero of Attica, Theseus, who combined wrestling and boxing together in order to defeat the fierce Minotaur in the labyrinth. It is thought that the pankration developed out of the primitive way of fighting used by man when he came across an enemy, either human or animal. According to the author Philostratos, it is an excellent exercise in training warriors.

There is no equipment used in the pankration (no boxing gloves).

Rules of the Game
All the holds used in wrestling and all the blows used in boxing were allowed. The only things forbidden were biting and gouging. Therefore, the pankration was the most dangerous and toughest of all events, since victory was sought with no consideration of the danger to the body or the life of one's opponent.

The pankration had two forms:

  • Kato pankration, in which the contest continued after the opponents fell to the ground. It was used in games.
  • Ano pankration, in which the opponents had to remain standing. It was used in training or in preliminary contests. This was a much lighter and safer form.
Pankratiasts did not wear gloves as competitors in boxing did, so the blows were not as painful; however, a pankratiast was allowed to hold his opponent with one hand and hit him with the other, unlike boxing.

The fighter who fell to the ground first was in a difficult position, for his opponent was able to fall on top of him and immobilize him with his legs, leaving his hands free to strike him or apply a strangle-hold. The fighter who fell would try to turn on his back and use his arms and legs to protect himself. Slightly built competitors often deliberately fell on their backs, a device called hyptiasmos (back fall).

Kicking played an important part in the pankration. A kick to the stomach was called gastrizein (the stomach-trick). The hold, in which a fighter held his opponent's foot as tightly as he could to make him lose his balance, was called apopternizein (the heel-trick).

Characteristics of a Good Pankratiast:
According to Philostratos, the perfect pankratiasts were those whose physical build was such that one might describe men suited for the event as being the best wrestlers amongst the boxers and the best boxers amongst the wrestlers. Psychological qualities like courage and endurance were also important.





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In Mu Tau Pankration, a unique ranking system consisting of ten grade levels (abbreviated as GL) is utilized. A board of officials, assigned by the United Pankration Alliance (UPA) controls all teaching certifications. The ranking levels recognized are (from highest to lowest):
Keereeos (Creator/Innovator/Patriarch)
Master (GL10)
Senior Instructor/Professor (GL9)
Instructor (GL8)
Assistant Instructor (GL7)
Advanced (GL5-6)
Intermediate (GL3-4)
Novice (GL1-2)

All ranks are authorized by a Certificate issued by the United Pankration Alliance (the governing body of Mu Tau Pankration) with the signatures of the student's immediate instructor and that of a senior instructor. Grade levels 9-10 are based solely on the approval of Grand Master pankratiast Jim Arvanitis. It usually requires 7 years of training to attain the rank of instructor (GL8), and at least 15 years to achieve Senior Instructor level

Pankration bouts

Pankration bouts may only take place between members of recognized Pankration organizations. The UPA (United Pankration Alliance), founded by "The Father of Modern Pankration" Jim Arvanitis, is the official U.S. representative body.

There are three types of Pankration competitions. Each differs from the other in the rules and allowance of techniques.


This competitive form allows any means of attacking one's opponent with the exception of biting and gouging. It is the original sport of the Olympics of 648 B.C. A contest continues uninterrupted until either a knockout or submission is reached.


The Spartans practiced a fierce, no-holds-barred form of competitive combat. It allowed every offensive technique with the objective to render one's adversary either helpless or senseless.


"Modern Sport Pankration" encourages the use of both "ano" and "kato" skills, with an equal emphasis on standing and ground fighting, as well as striking and grappling techniques. The following rules are a subset of those that apply to all contemporary "all-powers" bouts sanctioned by the UPA , and are inspired by the ancient event with added safeguards to make this form of pankration more acceptable for "reality-based" competition in the modern world.

*A written test on Pankration history must be completed and passed prior to being allowed to compete.
*Note that this form of competition is FULL-CONTACT only.

Mandatory Protective Gear:

  • 8-ounce open-finger gloves with dense foam knuckle padding (spheres)
  • Full-face head guard with poly-carbonate (clear) face cage
  • Neoprene knee pads
  • Soft foam shin pads
  • Mouthpiece
  • Groin protector
  • Lightweight wrestling shoes

Competing Pankratiasts are expected to fight barechested and wear thigh length spandex shorts.
Opening Spartan salutation must be made to one's opponent and to the contestant's corner.

Legal Techniques:


  • All punches to the head and body
  • Kicks to the legs, body and head
  • Knee strikes to the head and body
  • Sweeps
  • Takedowns and throws (including suplexes)
  • Clinching the waist and neck
  • Any standing submission hold or choke
  • Any block, parry, or evasion to defend against blows
  • Any reversal of a takedown or throwing attempt


  • Punching to the body
  • Kicking to the body and legs
  • Knee strikes to the body
  • Any form of mounting
  • Chokes (arm-throttling and gripping with hands, or applying pressure with any other part of the body)
  • Any submission joint lock (elbow, ankle, knee, finger, toe, etc.)
  • Neck cranks, chin locks, etc.
  • Any reversal or escape from a hold

Illegal Techniques:

  • Gouging or poking the eyes
  • Biting
  • Striking to groin, kidney, spine, and back of the head
  • Strikes to head or face (on ground)
  • Headbutting
  • Elbowing
  • Hitting to the head when on the ground
  • Hairpulling
  • "Fish-hooking" (putting fingers in opponent's mouth)
  • Pinching
  • Scratching
  • Tearing or pulling the ear
  • Kicking to the knee joint
  • Stomping with the foot on the feet, face, or body
  • Avoiding opponent/running out of "arena"/refusal to fight
  • Unsportsmanlikebehaviour
  • Pulling on the cage of the headguard
  • Rude or belligerent behavior including foul language
  • Any competitor suspected or found of consuming any illegal substances for performance enhancement prior to competition will be suspended for no less than six (6) months.
  • Throws involving torqueing of the neck or any joint.

Bouts can be won via knockout, submission, or points.

UPA members may inquire about purchasing a full length rules booklet. Topics covered include:

  • The point system description
  • Referee requirements
  • Judges' requirements
  • Ring requirements
  • Event promoter requirements
  • And many more related topics



Pankratiasts are classified based on U.F.C.F. Pankration experience, wrestling, jiu jitsu, muay thai, kickboxing, boxing, and other martial experience. The following guidelines may be over ridden based on the above listed experience & skill.

Novice class: 0 - 2 fights
C class: 3 -5 fights with minimum 1 win at novice class.
B class: 6 - 9 fights with 2 or more wins at C class.
A class: 10 + fights with 2 or more wins at B class.

Required safety gear & uniform

Safety Gear

Approved shooting style gloves, approved shin n instep pads ( pull on type ), approved knee pads, cup, mouthguard, optional - Neoprene or cloth ankle supports can be worn to support a previous injury but the injury must be verified by the ringside physician & the supports must be approved. Taping of previously injured areas will be under the same conditions stated above.


  • Approved shooting style gloves are mandatory
  • Pankratiasts fight bare top without Gi's or other top apparel.
  • Full length tights or bicycle length tights shall be worn on the lower half of the body.
  • Knee pads are required & must be approved thickness & density.
  • Shin n instep ( pull on type ) pads must be approved for thickness and density as well as proper fit. They must provide maximum softness with enough density so that when a thumb is pressed into them the shin and knee bones cannot be felt through them with strong pressure applied. Pads must fit snugly so that they will not easily pull down or move around during competition.
  • Fighters must wear a cup. If the fighter wears an outer cup it must cover only the groin & lower bladder area, it cannot extend out around the hip area. Outer cups must be approved.

Illegal Techniques

All classes
  • Head butts are illegal
  • Closed fist to the head of a downed opponent is illegal
  • Striking with the elbows is illegal
  • Groin strikes are illegal
  • Straight palm strikes to the head of a downed opponent are illegal
  • Kicks and knee strikes to a downed opponent are illegal
  • Striking the throat is illegal
  • Pulling hair is illegal
  • Poking or gouging the eyes is illegal
  • Biting is illegal
  • You may not throw an opponent onto their head or neck
  • Heel hooks are illegal
  • Grabbing the ring ropes or corner pads is illegal
  • Pinching is illegal (intentional)
  • Scratching is illegal (intentional)
  • Striking the side and or front of the knee is illegal
  • Knee strikes to the head are illegal
  • Finger & toe submissions are illegal

    Additional Illegal

  • Fighters may not use any slippery substance on their body such as vaseline or linament.

Legal Techniques

All classes
  • Kicking the head, legs and body is legal (both fighters standing)
  • Punching the head, body, and legs is legal (both fighters standing)
  • Take downs are legal (with exceptions noted in illegal techniques section)
  • Submission, joint locks, chokes and pressure point techniques are legal except as noted under illegal section
  • Knee strikes to the body and legs are legal (while both standing)
  • Punching the body while on the ground is legal


Grandmaster Pankratiast Jim Arvanitis (a.k.a Keereeos) displaying the finer points of Mu Tau.

As a fighting art of antiquity, the importance of pankration goes without saying. Although many of its techniques can be found readily in other indigenous systems of the world, pankration was certainly the first combat method to incorporate a complete array of fighting techniques, including ground tactics, in its repertoire. Besides the legacies left by pankration to the Western sports world, namely boxing and Greco-Roman wrestling, a modern derivation of the classic "all-powers" fighting style would also emerge.

Pankration was introduced to the American martial arts community in the early 1970's by Greek-American Jim Arvanitis, who had been trained from childhood in Greco-Roman Combat Grappling and boxing techniques. Due to his strong ethnic ties, Arvanitis would also spend most of his life studying and researching the history and concepts of pankration. Arvanitis later became proficient in muay-Thai (Thai kickboxing), Boxe Francaise Savate (French foot-fighting), and combat judo. He then extracted the optimum theories and skills from these sources, and synthesized them into a cognate form. Called Mu Tau Pankration or MTP for short, Arvanitis' system integrates modern techniques with the roots of the ancient pankration. Designed solely for unrestrained street combat, it combines submission grappling and ground-fighting skills with kickboxing. He based his modern pankration style on leverage and technical efficiency rather than brute strength. The student of this exclusive hybrid is a well-rounded fighter, one who is skilled as either a striker or grappler, and effective waging combat either upright or on the ground, where most real fights will end up. Although many are now claiming to be practicing pankration, the fact remains that Arvanitis was the very first to revive the ancient form, transform it into a contemporary "cross-training" art, and popularize it around the world.

In the 1970s and early 80s, Arvanitis would continue the tradition of his ancestors by competing in Golden Gloves boxing and intercollegiate wrestling. He also was undefeated in no-holds-barred street fights and impromptu challenge matches against other martial arts stylists. In 1973, pankration was first exposed to the American martial arts community when Arvanitis was featured on the cover of Black Belt magazine. Since that time, he has appeared in over 200 articles in newspapers and the top international self-defense publications. He also stars in a number of instructional video tapes. Jim's incessant accomplishments as an author, historian, athlete, and high-profile instructor has made him the most famous martial artist of Greek lineage and leading pankratiast of the Twentieth century. The art of pankration and the name Jim Arvanitis have indeed become synonymous.

Today, the influence of pankration is clearly visible in modern combative competitions stressing a "limited rules" environment. Several pankration organizations throughout the European continent sponsor events on an on-going basis for practitioners. Ironically, in Greece itself, the authentic Hellenic martial artists following the "old ways" are training in small backyard contingents. There is little, if any, cohesion between these groups. It is the goal of the UPA (United Pankration Alliance), founded by Jim Arvanitis, to organize these proponents under its direction.

It is without question that Greece's passion for martial arts has a long and proven history. From the arenas of the first Olympic games and the legends that rivaled the mythology of the gods, to its current practice as an unrestricted combat form for today's rings and streets, pankration reigns as one of the most formidable and comprehensive fighting styles that has ever existed. Thanks to the efforts and innovations of its foremost resource, Jim Arvanitis, its legacy lives on.