Best Pankration Techniques In Modern & Ancient Olympics

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Pankration has evolved a lot over the years. From the Ancient Olympics in Greece to modern pankration tournaments, here are some of the most common and best pankration techniques:

  • Single and double-leg takedown
  • Low crotch takedown
  • Straight punch
  • Hook
  • Uppercut
  • Jab
  • Push kick
  • Roundhouse kick
  • Knee
  • Elbow
  • Armbar
  • Ankle locks
  • Body slam

Curious about why these moves are so effective? Have a read below. I’ve prepared an explanation of each move. 

Techniques from Ancient Olympic pankration

Ancient Olympic pankration moves are more brutal than the modern version. This is because there are’s little to no rules followed back then.

Ancient pankration had few rules and regulations because it clung to the more barbaric side of fighting. To win, you must stop your opponent or force them to submit. 

Punches & kicks

Punches and kicks are the most used moves in Ancient Olympic pankration. You can land these shots at any body part you want. The only exemptions were eye pokes and biting. 

Almost every striking martial art use punches or kicks as their primary means of combat. Some notable examples are how Boxing, MMA, and Muay Thai have similarities to pankration striking.

Punches are effective in targeting the upper body section. Two of the most effective spots to land a punch are at the head and liver. A clean shot in these areas might give you a KO. 

You can also punch the leg area in ancient Pankration. But it’s a bit hard to execute and is situational. For example, pin your opponent to the ground, and you can land some shots to the thighs there. 

Kicks are one of the most powerful blows you can throw in a fight. There are a wide variety of kicks you can choose from. Roundhouse, push kick, sidekick, and more!

Kicks are effective when in any body part. Ancient pankratiasts use kicks in the genitals, heads, or legs for maximum damage. 

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Leg kicks are also used to compromise their enemy’s movements. 

Shots in the back of the head

Any strike to the back of the head was legal in ancient pankration. They would work their way to the opponent’s back and hammer fist their occipital bone.

They could even soccer kick the nape of their opponent if they knocked them down. Landing this move successfully will almost guarantee a knockout win. 

Shots in the back of the head are effective because they can cause the brain to twist. This might also damage vital nerves and tissues. 

I’m definitely not condoning using these techniques today, they are very dangerous, but this is likely what happened in pankration in the Ancient Olympics.

What makes this technique effective is it can destroy one’s balance. Back-of-the-head blows can shake up the endolymph, a fluid responsible for balance. 

Prolonged occipital bone damage might lead to more severe injuries. That’s also why this technique is one of the most brutal and dangerous on this list. 

Ancient pankration had little to no rules. This allowed ancient pankratiasts to use techniques that would now be illegal.

Spine attacks

Spine attacks are any strikes that are intended to damage the spinal column. These strikes can be landed on the spine. In ancient Pankration, any strikes were allowed.

Spine attacks are effective because the layer of skin protecting it is thin. This means any strikes would have the chance to damage the spinal cord easily.

It’s also easy to attack the spine once you get to the back. It’s wide open and vulnerable to any attacks. 

Ancient pankratiasts were aware of the consequences of damaging the spine. That’s why they would use this technique to inflict maximum damage on their enemy. 

Back then, they didn’t care about their opponent’s safety. The important thing is to win and gain fame and money. 

Body slamming

Body slamming is a technique that requires you to lift your opponent and slam them to the ground. Slamming is done abruptly once you reach your desired height. 

Body slams were often used in ancient pankration because they dealt a lot of damage. It makes the victim receive a quadruple amount of the impact due to gravity and his body weight. 

Slamming is an excellent technique to transition the fight to the ground. It will give you an opening to land some ground and pound or execute a submission. 

There are also cases of body slams knocking out fighters. Usually, they land on their napes or heads, losing consciousness. 

Slams can break bones if you do them correctly. Moves that can do these things were widely used in ancient pankration. 

Tracheal grip choke

Neck strangling is one of the easiest submissions in ancient pankration. Fighters would mount their opponent and put their hands around the opponent’s neck until they passed out. 

Unlike any other submission, neck strangling doesn’t require complicated setups. An excellent takedown or slam would open the opportunity. 

Aside from being an easy submission to do, it’s also painful. Strangling can inflict an extreme amount of paint on your opponent’s pharynx

Techniques from modern pankration

Techniques from modern pankration are still dangerous but are a lot safer. The modern sport has more rules and regulations that the pankratiasts need to follow. 

Modern pankration has more rules because it promotes sportsmanship and self-discipline. But the entertainment factor and competitiveness are still there.

Punches & kicks

Punches and kicks are two of the most basic techniques in modern pankration. In learning pankration, these two are the first moves you’ll need to get familiar with.

Punches and kicks are influential in modern pankration because it’s easy to use. It contains the fundamentals of striking, which you need in the sport. 

Punches are usually landed on the head and body. It is the most used technique both in professional fighting and street fighting

Punches allowed in modern pankration

  • Uppercut
  • Jab
  • Straight
  • Hook

Kicks are an excellent move to maintain a good distance while dealing damage. Kicks can target the head or body.

Kris Nekvinda, a 190-pound Fight Club 29 member, delivers a powerful body kick during the U.S. National Pankration Championships in Santa Ana, Calif., Oct 25.
English: Cpl. Nicole A. LaVine, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

Kicking the throat, kidneys, spine, groin, knees, calves, shin, and foot is not allowed. 

Kicks allowed in modern pankration

  • Roundhouse kick
  • Lead kick
  • Head kick
  • Push kick
  • Side kick 
  • Side thrust 
  • Hook kick
  • Back kick
  • Spinning kicks

Knees and elbows

Knees and elbows are great for close-quarter combat fights. Clinching can now be seen in modern pankration, which opens the possibility for knees and elbows. 

Knees are the best alternative for kicks if your opponent closes the distance. This technique can target the thighs, ribs, abdomen, or head. 

An elbow is a brutal move that can open deep cuts on the face. It is often a slashing move to the face that can turn the lights off to anyone. 

Elbows and Knees are widely used in Muay Thai, a striking martial art from Thailand. 

Takedowns

Double-leg takedowns are an excellent technique to put the fight to the ground. It’s usually done if you think you can’t handle your opponent’s striking. 

It can also be single-leg takedowns where you’ll only attack one leg. This move’s main point is to destroy your enemy’s balance.

Takedown techniques are the gateway for chokeholds and locks. It can also open an opportunity for ground and pounds to score more points. 

Chokeholds and locks

Chokeholds and locks are effective in holding your opponent in one place. It aims to immobilize the opponent or restrict their airflow, which may force them to tap. 

Some pankratist refuse to tap out and end up going to sleep due to the lack of oxygen. 

Some famous submissions are the rare naked choke, kimura, arm bar, knee bar, and ankle locks. 

Dominique Waters, Fight Club 29 fighter, prepares to swing at an opposing teammate clinging to his leg during the USA National Pankration Team Championships tournament held at Santa Ana High School in Orange County, Calif., Saturday, July 26, 2008. Waters, one of the newest fighters to join Fight Club 29, is a 19-year old freestyle wrestler by trade.
See page for author, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

If you trust your ground game, you can take your opponent down and work your way to a submission. This technique is gold if you’re up against a good striker. 

Feints

Feints are great for confusing your enemy. It’s a fake strike attempt, usually followed by an actual strike if the enemy bit the bait. 

Feints are effective if you want to play a more technical fighting game. This technique will help you set up your shots easier. 

Most knockout artists in Boxing and MMA are experts in throwing feints. A finesse MMA performance from Leon Edwards showcased a perfect feint that set up a head-kick knockout against Kamaru Usman.

Final say on the best pankration techniques

Ancient and modern Pankration has a lot of similarities and differences. 

Both frequently use kicks and punches as a solid base on the striking part of the game. When it comes to the ground, grappling with submission is the way to go.

The only difference is modern pankration has a safer and more civilized form of fighting. It promotes more sportsmanship and self-discipline among the pankratiasts.

Ancient pankration focused more on violence and the goal of making your opponent quit no matter what.

That’s what made it a useful tool in times of war, even the Spartans adopted pankration. There are plenty more unique facts about ancient pankration that might surprise you.

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