Pankration Vs BJJ: Differences & Comparison

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Pankration and BJJ have their differences and similarities. Both are loved by fight fans, which makes pankration vs BJJ an exciting debate.

Modern pankration uses striking and grappling during a match, but BJJ focuses only on ground techniques.

Feeling curious about what’s better between the two? Let’s get right into it. 

What are the differences between Pankration and BJJ?

Pankration is a martial art that mixes striking and grappling. Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu (BJJ) is a pure grappling sport that relies mainly on submissions.

BJJ specialists can wear two different attires. First is the traditional Gi, and second is the No-Gi attire. In the Olympics, BJJ athletes wear a Gi all the time. 

No-Gi and Gi BJJ don’t fight each other competitively. There’s a separate BJJ event for No-Gi. In this event, athletes wear rash guards and shorts only. 

Pankratiasts use 8 oz gloves, similar to MMA. This helps them have a better grip on their opponent’s body in the middle of grappling while keeping striking options open. 

BJJ has no striking, so the athletes don’t need to wear fighting gloves. 

A professional BJJ match has a maximum length of 10 minutes. This can be lessened if a submission or a disqualification happens. If not, the victor will be decided on who has more points. 


Pankration and BJJ came from different parts of the world. BJJ originated in Japan as ‘jiu-jitsu,’ while pankration was born in ancient Greece as one of the most brutal martial arts ever. 

A Brazilian martial artist, Helio Gracie, founded BJJ. He took jiu-jitsu and improved his moves and overall technique. This improvement became the birth of the Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu that we know today.

Various modifications to the style of BJJ were made. Some removed the traditional Gi and called it No-Gi jiu-jitsu. They consider this BJJ style as a more street-effective way of grappling.

No-Gi BJJ was further revised, which gave birth to Combat Jiu-Jitsu. To keep things short, it’s No-Gi but with strikes, which makes that version more similar to pankration. 

Ancient pankration started in Greece as a locally organized fighting event. It was enjoyed by the locals because of its high-action fights. All moves were legal then except for eye, mouth, and eye pokes. 

The sport became well-known and eventually made its way to the Olympics in 648 BCE. In the Olympics, glorious pankratiasts were born, famous fighters named Arrichion, Kleitomachos, and Dioxippus.

As time went by, the brutal sport transitioned into the modern world. Because of this, modern pankration was developed. 

Modern pankration promotes more sportsmanship and self-control. It is entirely different from the messy and brutal sport that its ancient version was known for.

Fighting styles

Pankration has a fighting style similar to MMA. It has a good balance of grappling and striking. While BJJ focuses on pure grappling and submissions. 

Pankration striking is based on Boxing and Kickboxing. Strikes such as roundhouse, push kick, uppercut, jab, and more can be used. 

Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu fighting style revolves more around takedowns, body pins, and submissions. Their main goal is to dominate someone on the ground by executing different mounts. 

Today, a new BJJ fighting style is starting to immerge called Combat BJJ. In this style, palm strikes are allowed while the fighters are grappling. 

Combat BJJ is a more practical way of grappling. You can use this in a real-life situation because you’ll get to strike the opponent to the ground if you have the chance. Most Combat BJJ bouts don’t wear a Gi. 

Finishing the fight

A pankration fight can be finished through strikes or submission. While a traditional BJJ match can only end with a successful submission.

Combat BJJ can either end via submission or knockout. This is because Combat BJJ permits striking to the head. 

In pankration, a pankratiast can win via TKO or KO and submission. A knockout win can be achieved with the use of kicks and punches.

A submission victory is done with pankration joint locks and choke holds. To do this, a takedown must be done to transition the fight to the ground. 

Is Pankration or BJJ better for self-defense?

Pankration is better in self-defense compared to BJJ. But only because Pankration has a more versatile fighting style with striking options. Knowing only how to grapple on a street fight isn’t enough to survive, like with BJJ, so pankration offers more.

Yes, a grappler is any striker’s weakness, but it’s better if you’re a striker and a grappler. A pankratiast can dictate a fight in any way they want. 

Suppose a pankratiast finds themselves at a striking disadvantage. In that case, they have the option to shoot a takedown and immobilize their enemy. 

Pankration techniques like body throws are effective during a bullying situation. Some throws allow you to counter bigger guys. 

Despite that, it doesn’t mean BJJ is ineffective. It’s still one of the best self-defense martial arts in the world.

The only problem is that you’ll be ineffective if you can’t take the fight to the ground. So takedowns are critical.

But if you’re lucky to make things go your way (to the floor), you’ll own anyone regardless of the size. Knowledge about Combat BJJ styles is a plus factor because at least you can throw strikes during a mount. 

Is Pankration or BJJ easier to learn?

BJJ is easier to learn because you’ll only focus on the ground game. In learning pankration, you need knowledge in both striking and grappling.

In pankration striking, you must learn boxing and kickboxing and fuse them into one style. In your ground game, wrestling, jiu-jitsu, and judo elements are necessary for learning an excellent ground foundation. 

After acquiring this knowledge from different martial arts, you’ll be able to combine them. Then timing and fight IQ is what you need to polish. 

You must know when to throw a takedown and how to set it up, along with striking combos. 

In BJJ, you’ll have all your focus on ground techniques. More focus on a specific aspect makes the learning process easier and faster. Though, this doesn’t mean that BJJ is a piece of cake.

Who would win a fight between a Pankration and BJJ fighter?

A pankratiast will win if they fight a BJJ fighter. This is because a pankratiast is more well-rounded. Moreover, the ability to strike makes the advantage gap larger. 

On a Pankration vs. BJJ fight, it’s predictable that the BJJ fighter will throw a takedown. Using kicks is the best option to create and maintain distance. 

With every takedown attempt, the BJJ fighter will likely absorb multiple strikes. This will result in them receiving damage without accomplishing any objectives. 

If the BJJ fighter gets close, a pankratiast can defend a takedown easily. This is because they also have grappling experience. 

Let’s say the fight went to the ground. The BJJ fighter still doesn’t have a 100% winning chance in this scenario. Because the pankratiast also can defend, counter and attempt a lock. 

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