Pankration Vs Kung Fu: A Self-Defense Comparison

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Pankration and Kung Fu might be two of the oldest known forms of martial arts. Pankration originated in the Ancient Olympics of Greece, and Kung Fu came from China.

So it makes you wonder what might have happened if these two martial arts went head to head; who would come out on top?

A Pankration fighter will win vs a Kung Fu fighter because Pankration mixes Boxing and Wrestling to beat an opponent on the feet or ground. If a Kung Fu fighter is taken down, they will be disadvantaged and likely to be submitted.

To learn more about the comparisons between these two fighting arts, keep reading, and I’ll explain all.

Differences Between Pankration Vs Kung Fu

Parthenon from Ancient Greece

Pankration is a martial art that has origins in Ancient Greece, around the 7th century BC. It was later introduced as an Olympic sport in 648 BC during the 33rd Olympiad.

This brutal sport came from a social desire to have a complete fighting tournament and spectator sport which would infuse methods learned from different fighting styles into one.

Essentially, almost any technique could be used except for biting or eye-gauging.

Pankration fighters would use typical Boxing, Kicks, and Wrestling techniques.

All kinds of submissions, like joint locks and chokeholds that you see in BJJ are often used in pankration.

Each Pankration fighter would use all these tools at their disposal to fight their opponent until they gave up, submitting by holding up their index finger into the air. The referee could also stop the match prematurely, declaring a winner or a draw.

It’s safe to say that Pankration is one of the most brutal forms of physical combat, especially when considering it was a sport.

Pankration shares similarities with modern MMA and is one of the reasons why it is considered to be, alongside MMA, one of the most effective martial arts. Pankration Vs MMA is a much closer comparison than the one of this article.

Like other highly effective martial arts, Pankration borrows techniques and skills from different fighting styles unashamedly to create one unified system for any scenario.

Modern MMA uses almost any martial art that is effective for the sport, and BJJ borrows Wrestling, Judo, and Japanese Jujutsu techniques to create a complete grappling system.

Pankration is still a practiced martial art today, despite being ancient, and there are competitive tournaments held yearly:

Kung Fu is an umbrella term that essentially means “Chinese martial arts.” Kung Fu (Chinese martial arts) encompasses various styles, including Shaolin Kung Fu, Wing Chun, and Tai Chi.

Kung Fu is more commonly known because of its references in popular media and promoted further with Chinese film stars like Jackie Chan, Bruce Lee, and Jet Li. Although “Kung Fu” literally means “a discipline or skill achieved through hard work and practice,” it has become a common term used in the Western world when referencing Chinese martial arts.

Details about the history of Chinese martial arts didn’t become detailed until 1928, but there is a Chinese legend that the first forms of martial arts were introduced during the 28th century BC during the Xia Dynasty. This would make its origins closer to that of Ancient Greece and Pankration.

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Chinese martial arts come in hundreds of styles and variations, broadly separated as internal and external. The former is generally more focused on the flow of qi (energy) within the body, whereas the latter focuses on fighting and competition.

Overall, Kung Fu focuses on various punches and kicks with an overwhelming priority on integral strength, mobility, and flexibility.

Kung Fu has one of the most expressive human body displays in a martial application. Chinese martial arts practitioners are trained extensively to bring their bodies’ capabilities to the maximum in terms of fitness and control in their attacks. Kung Fu martial artists are highly agile and can unexpectedly contort their bodies (particularly their legs).

Kung Fu, and Chinese martial arts in general, position themselves with stances with different names. These stances usually involve placing your body in a strenuous position for lengthy training periods to build core strength and stability.

These stances work as the backbone for channeling Qi, meditation, willpower (mind over body), and finally, using the application of combative techniques through weapons, fists, and kicks.

The main differences between these martial arts are that Pankration utilizes both striking and grappling to defeat an opponent in many ways, to force them to submit. Kung Fu uses primarily striking (punches and kicks) to beat their opponent but is generally used in much safer sports conditions.

Pankration Vs Kung Fu: Which Is Better To Learn?

Two martial artists demonstrating Kung Fu

Pankration is an ancient form of martial arts, and while it is still practiced today in some schools, it isn’t as common as Kung Fu and other Chinese martial arts. It might be challenging to find a Pankration teacher, making Kung Fu the easier option.

That being said, Pankration offers to learn about different ways of fighting and is more flexible for changing situations.

Kung Fu would teach you a lot about building your physical ability, flexibility, and striking options, but it isn’t necessarily all that practical for real-world situations.

If you want to learn how to use multiple styles of punching, taking down an opponent, and using grappling and submissions, then Pankration is the way to go.

If you’re fascinated by the visuals of Kung Fu and are more interested in learning fancy spinning kicks while building up a strong fitness foundation, then Chinese martial arts may be better for you.

If you care about which would be more effective for self-defense, keep reading.

Pankration Vs Kung Fu For Self Defense

Woman performing self defense against an attacker

Pankration students learn a better variety of skills for self-defense than they would in Kung Fu, making it the better option. Takedowns, grappling, and submissions make a big difference in a street fight where encounters often end up on the ground.

Kung Fu could teach you how to throw devastating kicks and make you highly agile. But in the end, you have to connect with a strike and with enough repetition or force to remove the threat. In a real-world situation, this is just unlikely.

With Pankration, you’d learn how to take down an enemy and hold them there. This grappling knowledge would give you free rein to hold, pound, or submit them. You’d also be learning some striking skills, particularly Boxing styles, to provide you with enough ability on the feet to fight off an attacker as well (like a Kung Fu fighter).

Who Wins In A Fight Between Pankration Vs Kung Fu?

Two men imitating a street fight scenario

Depending on skill levels, a Pankration martial artist would beat a Kung Fu fighter in most situations. Pankration teaches both Boxing and grappling, so a Pankration fighter would be able to strike with Kung Fu on the feet before taking them down to submit them and win.

Pankration is still taught more commonly throughout certain regions in the world, but rare. Seeing Pankration going up against Kung Fu is even rarer, but this video shows what happens when a “Drunken Kung Fu” fighter goes up against a Pankration fighter:

What happens in that fight is precisely what I’d expect.

A Kung Fu fighter has a lot of flash, fitness, and big kicks to confuse and daze an opponent for a while. But ultimately, once a Kung Fu fighter is taken down to the ground, they won’t have nearly enough knowledge to get out of difficult ground positions.

Entire martial arts are formed around ground fighting, and Pankration uses a mixture of them to be effective in an almost-anything-goes fight.

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