from Chapter 3
Technical Analysis of Battle Zones
In this chapter we shall present a technical analysis of the kinesiology as well as the technique of dueling contests of the martial arts of the ancient Mediterranean world. As elsewhere in this book we shall use the Greek words pankration and pammachon to refer to these games and techniques, respectively, as the Greek word pankration is known worldwide. Pankration as a concept is a battle for submission, while pammachon corresponds to martial arts in general.
THE BATTLE ZONES
The battle zones are distinguished by the distance between the fighters and the techniques that are applied. In pankration there are 4 battle zones:
1. Kick Zone: range about 1.5 meters, where kicks are exchanged.
2. Boxing Zone: approximately 1 meter, where hand blows are dealt.
3. Entrapment Zone: about 0.5 meter, where there are limb and body holds with pulling and pushing. In this zone there are also knee, elbow, and head blows included.
4. Wrestling Zone: less than 0.5 meter, where, after capturing or engulfing the opponent, there are holds, throws, overthrows, and submission-immobilization of the opponent.
During the Roman Empire, athletes belonged to professional clubs, which were professionally oriented. This is the period of specialization of the athlete and the technique of the game.
THE KICK ZONE
Principles and Aims
We have already mentioned that the “skamma” was a factor that restricted the mobility of the athletes in a linear direction, decisively influencing the kinesiology of pankration. Considering the presentations on pottery, we can see that in pankration and pammachon there is one kind of kick: the front kick to the body or the legs of the opponent, never to the head.
Ancient Greeks, for example, were realists and knew the way pankration was practiced in Olympia should be the same as on the battlefield. The same goes for all Mediterranean peoples. Therefore, head kicks and a few more kinds of kicks were excluded from their martial arts and their fighting contests. Not because of lack of knowledge--we have reports of such kicks in contests--but because athletes could easily neutralize such a risky kick and take advantage over an opponent who would dare such a kick. So, in the kick combat zone, the front kick prevails, but only under certain conditions, as we shall proceed to explain. A basic factor in favor of the front kick is the minimal risk it entails for the athlete executing such a kick because he can maintain his balance and a confronting erect position toward his opponent.
In figure 25, the athlete on the left has held his opponent’s leg while he was attempting a kick. The entire technique could be interpreted as a contemporary application, which follows.
The athlete on the left is under attack.
He holds the offensive leg of his opponent.
With a suitable move of his arms and his body, he causes his opponent to lose his balance and drops him on the ground, still holding his leg.
From this position he can easily apply a leg lock with a very painful effect to the spine (not advisable because it is very dangerous).
THE BOXING ZONE
Principles and Aims
The blows exchanged by pankration athletes, relating to punches, are not the same as those in boxing. The difference is that in pankration punch blows are dealt from a longer distance than those in boxing contests. When athletes came close to each other, they aimed at holding each other, which does not occur in boxing. Pankration athletes in the close-up combat zone were trapping their opponents’ limbs or essaying body holds in order to continue the fight on the ground.
Due to the special characteristics of punch blows and by observing various presentations, we can see that a direct punch blow in pankration is quite different from such a blow in the game of boxing as far as the related technical characteristics are concerned. To be more specific, to gain power at the point of impact, as an athlete’s aim was one powerful blow instead of many fast blows, he would “arm” his hand high up behind his head, with his upper arm almost parallel to the ground! This move has its merits and is derived from the battlefields: it is the pricking of the enemy with a spear.
As the main weapon of fighters in those times was the spear, the muscle development of the trainees in this kind of offensive is almost inconceivable today because we do not use this move. The preference for this move, pricking with a spear, is shown in presentations in the archaeological archive, even in presentations of knife fights, fighting against an animal or in a duel, where one might expect to see a low fight.
It is possible that the same technique was used in boxing but in some cases only and it was not the rule. In the game of boxing, the combat zone was determined (only punch blows) and the aim was different: many continuous blows against the opponent. According to the rules, a boxer could not hold his opponent or use any other method except to avoid or defend against blows using his hands. So, in the game of boxing, because punch blows should be delivered fast and the athletes should look after their defenses, their position became more closed in and their hands were placed closer to their bodies and heads for protection.