Browsing the blog archives for February, 2010.

The origin of Pammachon

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Ladies and Gentlemen!

This is the Age of Discreditation, when things once commonly accepted as fact have been proven to be untrue, or are simply no longer believed. Let’s face it, AAA stocks have been found to have worth only as toilet paper (and rough toilet paper at that), so why should men believe in icons? And why should the martial arts be an exception, when in fact they are not? We have discovered that the samurai did not in fact, back in the day, actually use their swords that much in combat, or even follow the honor system attributed to them by later authors. Filipino kali did not defeat Magellan – there was no such thing as Filipino kali when Magellan landed with his party of deckhands on Filipino shores. The origins of many a Chinese martial arts style are subject to question – did Yim Wing Chun and Ng Mui actually exist, or are they fable? How about Shinryuken Masamitsu Toda? How about Romulus and Remus, or Zhang Sanfeng? (There is actually more evidence for the existence of Robin Hood than there is for Zhang Sanfeng.)

In light of all the above, I feel the obligation to disclose the true origin story of Pammachon, passed down through my family for generations. The following will be posted on the pammachon.gr site and become a part of our “official” mythology:

I am the 88th Master of Pammachon, a lineage that began in the 6th century BC with Master Timasitheus, and has lasted for 2500 years. Really. No, it’s a true story, and I will outline it for you here. Of Timasitheus himself, Herodotus has stated in his book Terpsichore (Book E’ 72.4-73.1) that:

….And these men were condemned to death, among them Timasitheus the Delphian, of whose prowess and courage I have great things which I could tell.

The Founder Timasitheus was born in the Greek colony of Croton in Italy. Growing up there as a boy, he was a great admirer of the wrestler Milo, who had won six Olympic crowns for wrestling at Olympia, and was famous for his great strength and stamina. When the mystic Pythagoras of Samos moved to Croton, both Milo and Timasitheus became his students, the former marrying Pythagoras’ daughter.

Pythagoras agreed to become Timasitheus’ teacher more to punish Milo for his immense ego than anything else. He bet the great wrestler that he could train the young student to defeat him in wrestling at the Olympiad, at which Milo laughed in his face.

Pythagoras taught the young Timasitheus the Principle of the Meander, or how the soft may be used to defeat the hard. He taught him about the gods and goddesses of the Earth and Sky, of Fire and Water, Lightning and Wind, Mountain and Sea, and the Primal Chaos from which all had sprung. He taught him of the binary nature of the universe; that, once the layers are peeled away, at the Core all things are simply 1/0.

Timasitheus’s family was originally from Delphi – they were immigrants to Croton who had paid the tax and become citizens. At Pythagoras’s insistence, Timasitheus participated in the 516 BC Olympics competing for his home city of Delphi, and easily defeated all comers in the pankration, winning the laurels. Over the next four years, our Founder trained rigorously to defeat Milo, oftentimes retreating into the wild in seclusion, fighting barehanded against lions and wolves.

During the 512 BC Olympics, Timasitheus competed in both the pankration and in wrestling. Not wanting to insult Milo, he entered the wrestling contest as a citizen of Croton and the pankration contest as a native of Delphi. He easily prevailed in the pankration, for no one could stand before him. Then it came time for the true contest, against a lifelong friend and mentor, a man who used to carry a bull on his shoulders to the slaughter, and then serve it up for his meal and eat it entirely.

Milo was old, already in his forties at the time, but Timasitheus knew that, if he came to grips with the man, Milo would crush him with his incredible strength. So our Founder Timasitheus used the art of akrocheirismos, continuously intercepting Milo’s grasping hands, deflecting them, locking him up and throwing him away. As Timasitheus refused to close with him, even after throwing Milo several times, the battle lasted for most of the day. After six consecutive victories at Olympia, Milo understood that he must lose. He bowed his head in defeat and prepared to withdraw the moment the herald proclaimed: “Timasitheus of Croton, winner of the wrestling”.

But at that very moment the crowd rushed into the arena, lifting Milon up and crowning him with wreaths and flowers and laurels, carrying him round the stadium. Amongst those who were carrying him and were cheering him on was his fellow countryman, Timasitheus the victor. That day Milo’s statue in Olympia was smothered with flowers and Timasitheus bowed at its feet.

But Milo did not die well – his ego was his downfall in the end, as the Sage Pythagoras had predicted. According to Strabo and Pausanias, Milo was walking in a forest when he came upon a tree-trunk split with wedges. In what was probably intended as a display of strength, Milo inserted his hands into the cleft to rend the tree apart. The wedges fell from the cleft, and the tree closed on his hands, trapping his fingers. Unable to free himself, the wrestler was devoured by wolves that evening.

Modern day historians will try to convince you that Timasitheus of Croton and Timasitheus of Delphi were two separate athletes, but pay those fools no heed. We of the Pammachon lineage know for a fact that they were one and the same.

As a result of Pythagoras’s bet, all of Milo’s secrets passed on to Timasitheus, who also inherited the teachings of Pythagoras. From the fusion of the two, Pammachon was born. Timasitheus moved back to Delphi, at the command of the god Apollo. He married a young Delphian girl and settled down (something about a sudden pregnancy), serving as a special agent in the service of the Oracle of Delphi. Over the next few years, Timasitheus went on to win several many athletic contests while competing for Delphi, while at the same time his military exploits were astounding. It is safe to say that what normal soldiers experienced over a lifetime, Timasitheus endured and triumphed over during his brief three year service to the Oracle. 

A depiction of Timasitheus survives from a later date. Note that the artist has sculpted a thin and unassuming man of no apparent muscular development, polite and courteous. This then was the terrible warrior Timasitheus:  

http://images.perseus.tufts.edu/images/1992.03.1/1992.03.0045

Timasitheus’s death took the form of a heroic sacrifice. Knowing that within the next few decades the Persians were going to invade Greece, the Oracle of Delphi ordered Timasitheus in 508 BC to become the bodyguard of Isagoras, an Athenian aristocrat and ally of the Spartans. Timasitheus disliked and distrusted the elitist, pudgy, bisexual and ruthless Isagoras, but followed the command of the Oracle of Apollo as a true warrior and knight. There was also a practical reason behind his decision – Timasitheus distrusted Isagoras’s rival Cleisthenes even more than he disliked Isagoras. Cleisthenes is touted today as the founder of democracy, but in fact he was a fraud and a rabble-rouser, a true politician of our modern day; the man had no integrity. Timasitheus knew that the Oracle had foreseen that, should Cleisthenes prevail, the “Persians would invade Greece at the Athenian’s call.”

Sadly, in the civil war that followed, Cleisthenes prevailed, promising the Athenian public full democracy. Isagoras and a small group of Spartans took shelter on the rock of the Acropolis – along with Timasitheus as his bodyguard. For two days, Timasitheus and the Spartans held back the Athenian crowd, fighting thousands of Athenian hoplites at close quarters. On the third day, Isagoras and the Spartans accepted terms of surrender, under which they were allowed to leave – if they delivered Timasitheus and Isagoras’s Athenian allies to their enemies. Timasitheus surrendered willingly, following the commands of the Oracle of Delphi. As we have seen, the father of modern history, Herodotus himself, honored Timasitheus by mentioning him in his works, as did Pausanias at a later date.  And sadly, the prediction of the Oracle of Delphi came true. After the death of our Founder, and following Cleisthenes assuming control of Athens, the Athenians, afraid of the military might of the Spartans, sent emissaries to King Darius of Persia, surrendering onto him earth and water. This act of submission became the causus belli for the Persian invasion of Greece 16 years later.

For two centuries following Timasitheus’s death, Pammachon was passed on from father to son within Delphian families descended from Timasitheus, as commanded by the Oracle. At some point in the 4th century BC, my distant ancestor Pantazis the 1st the Tymfaian married Eleni of Delphi and inherited the lineage of Pammachon. Pantazis was an Epirot warrior, a bodyguard of Queen Olympias, and some say the father of Alexander the Great as well (ahem, we know it wasn’t Zeus, right, and she claimed it wasn’t Phillip?). Pantazis followed Alexander on his conquests at Olympias’s command, saving his life on more than one occasion. When Alexander died on the 11th of June 323 BC, Pantazis moved to Alexandria, where he studied at the famous Library and became a bodyguard for Ptolemy A’ Soter (some day that Ptolemy’s victories over Perdikkas in 321 at Memphis, and against Demetrius the Besieger in 312 BC, were due to Pantazis and his use of Pammachon tactics).

Throughout the millennia, a scroll attributed to Pantazis the Tymfaian has been passed down in my family, dated to 321 BC (he must have written it just before the battle with Perdikkas). Today, only a fragment remains of this papyrus scroll, and it is kept in a sealed environmental chamber so that it may be preserved, in a private museum whose owners are wealthy acolytes of Pammachon:

http://img126.imageshack.us/img126/3145/pammachon7bj.gif

To tell the story of Pammachon over the next 2200 years would require a whole series of books (and perhaps one day I will write them), but the gist of the matter is that, in 1984 I inherited the system from my grandfather, since my father Pantazis hated Pammachon and didn’t want the hassle.  For those who might be inclined to scoff, bear in mind that the portrayal above has far more traceable historical facts than most of the histories of most of the martial arts schools taught today…..  and who knows what I can and can’t prove? The martial arts world isn’t exactly a pristine academic forum – I’ve seen claims by very accredited scholars become trash over the decades.
 
[OK, so the people who know me better are now thinking wtf? I liked the story and wanted to copyright it in English, and I saw historical conjecture on something else that was completely ridiculous on the internet about an hour ago, producing the rant. I didn’t have time to sit down and repudiate the aforementioned at the moment, but this text was available from a couple years ago (in Greek) and, with a little tailoring, readily postable. Expect more to come in the future, regarding the Spartans and their Nepalese kukris…]

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