Browsing the blog archives for October, 2013.

What’s in a word, Part Two


I recently had three delightful visits to my home following publication of this video:

Pammachon Lethal Combatives Demo

in which I show aspects of Pammachon.  One of the visitors was an old student who had not trained with me for almost a decade, while the others were squadron commanders who liked the whole S.E.R.E. concept portrayed in the video (one of whom is a Pammachon student as well).

The thing that wowed me was that people got it, they showed me that they understood both the basis of Pammachon and the concepts portrayed in the video.  One commented on my stance and movement, which reportedly was the way a “natural human predator would move and stand.” Another referred to the techniques shown against the insurgents, citing that they were “exactly what a wolf would do – snap at its prey to disable it, seize it and force it down where it can’t strike back, then terminate it.”

So I’m impressed. Pammachon has become an identifiable system, right on schedule. Students are getting the message. All this internet time and seminars are paying off.

And since Pammachon has become an identifiable system, the first thing we need to do is protect our boundaries. Let’s continue with what’s in a word.

The term “Pammachon” was used in ancient Greek texts in very few cases in the sense of a combat sport, and exclusively by authors from Christian times . Specifically one mention occurs in Dio Chrysostom’s works  (he lived circa 40 – 115), most likely in reference to pankration,  and another in Hesychius (who lived at the end of the 5th century); but Hesychius calls Pammachon “Cypriot wrestling.” Theocritus, 315-260 BC, the creator of ancient Greek bucolic poetry, used  the term “pammachoi ” (total warriors) in reference to athletes. Ancient dictionaries (Souda, Eudemus, etc. ) recorded the term “pammachion ” in the context of pankration.

I started using the word Pammachon in 1999 and copyrighted it in 2000 with regard to “the Martial Art of the West.”  I had found incredible similarities between hand to hand combat techniques and methods in the Western world, starting from Egypt in 2000 BC and going all the way up to 1945, and distilled the common elements; I reasoned that if something worked in diverse geographic cultures throughout 4000 years of human history, chances are that it was proven effective in combat.  As I have explained elsewhere, I decided to call this common method “Pammachon” based on etymology; as a martial artist, I knew the difference between martial arts and combat sports (unlike a slew of 20 year olds and the US Army), and I knew “pan-kration” could not be the martial art of the ancient Greeks, no matter how many people wanted it to be. Insisting that it was, is like saying that “catch wrestling” is hand to hand combat. Catch wrestling can be used in hand to hand combat, but it cannot by definition be hand to hand combat.  The best translation for pankration is “all control”; today we would call it submission fighting, or MMA. But the martial art that was common to the Western world was armor-based, and used specific tactics and methods that took the presence of weapons into account, as well as biting and gouging.

In 2002 I organized the system, copyrighted the material, set up the website, and started talking about Pammachon openly;  I had discovered my grandfather’s photos and was uncovering 19th and early 20th-century material from all over Greece.  In 2004 I formed a non-profit cultural foundation to promote the teaching of Pammachon, which was legally recognized by the Supreme Court of Greece.

In 2006, however,  I encountered an unpleasant diversion.

Greece’s official Pankration Federation ΕΟΠΑ was founded back in 1996 by the students of a controversial figure in the Greek martial arts scene. Bill Zachopoulos was a low-ranking student in Uechi ryu karate who had studied the basics with ex-marine Les Mayo in Albany, NY, and then quickly proceeded to open his own school a few years later. Bill’s rank, as many ranks did back in the day,  miraculously advanced as he flew over the Atlantic to return to Greece in 1969, when he opened his first karate school in downtown Athens. He called his system Okinawa Te Tai, and over the next 20 years spawned an empire of 140 schools scattered throughout all of Greece (and yes, he got better at it as he learned more about martial arts), forging an empire in the process. If this sounds like I’m being hard on Bill, let me say that he was a driving force for the growth of martial arts and combat sports in Greece, and was generous with his time and money, and was ahead of the curve on some things. But he was uneducated (he wrote in block letters) and unscrupulous, and in the end, untrained in the martial arts; I met him on several occasions and several of his closest students were friends of mine.

Bill then made a cardinal mistake; he got old. After his wife died, he became enamored of a certain young lady and had a fling. Sadly, the woman’s mother put her foot down with regard to her daughter dating a more-than-middle-aged man and forbade the union. In a peak of frenzy, Bill threw two hand grenades at the evil matron; the evil matron survived unscathed, however, and Bill went to prison for two counts of attempted murder. He eventually died in prison of a heart condition.

His students were shocked at the situation and the whole Organization teetered for a few months, but then inspiration resonated and the Empire Struck Back. The Greek Pankration Federation was founded in 1996 by the 140 schools in the Okinawa Te Tai network, plus a smattering of other interested parties. It was very well done, and for the first few years, a powerful and promising federation stood on the horizon. Then greed and ignorance stepped in, and everything fell apart.  The problem with ΕΟΠΑ was not pankration – it was that its members insisted on presenting Okinawa Te Tai as pankration, for lack of having trained in anything else.

I have a good relationship with ΕΟΠΑ. I don’t tread on them too harshly and they make sure not to give me an excuse to wax medieval. They know who they are. I know who they are. We both know who I am. Everybody gets along; in fact, personally we like each other and share a drink now and then.  And, since for them pammachon was until recently a synonym for pankration, and there can only be one pankration federation in Greece, we are not really competing, and they think they have the upper hand. The truth is, I LIKE ΕΟΠΑ. I support ΕΟΠΑ for the simple reason that they are as valid as taekwondo, and there is no reason NOT to have a Greek combat sport. I just wish they would further educate themselves on what they are supposed to be, and get rid of those ridiculous uniforms (that Bill Zachopoulos actually came up with) and their ludicrous use of kicks. The ancient Greeks did not employ yoko geri, though the medieval Europeans did.

Circa 2006 they suffered a civil war, however. A bunch of their lesser qualified denizens with delusions of grandeur decided to up and skedaddle and form their own federation called ΠΟΑΜΑ, promoting an ancient Greek combat sport they called pammachon or pammachion that no one had ever heard of. The ΕΟΠΑ guys made sure to gather a bunch of prestigious-sounding individuals to Jointly Declare that There Ain’t No Such Thing as a Sport called Pammachon, and let it go at that. I didn’t care either, because, since I had secured copyrights for my own use and formed a cultural federation for the Greek government which predated their activities, there was nothing they could do about yours truly. ΠΟΑΜΑ eventually disbanded while trying to take ΕΟΠΑ out (ΠΟΑΜΑ today doesn’t even have a website), and most of their members were reabsorbed into the pankration federation after offering humble apologies. Their resident consulting historian, a man called Gregory Zorzos, pressed charges against me for slander because I publicly doubted his conclusions and sources, doubted his references to awards he had allegedly received, and even doubted the existence of the publications he had allegedly authored. The DA threw the suit out. Anyone who has tried to read one of Mr. Zorzos’ books (with one exception) would understand the DA’s decision.

And then  – drumroll – in 2010 Sofie Remijsen translated a 3rd or 4th century papyrus (You, dear lady, are an incredible researcher – I read your other publications as well and predict you will continue to shake the status quo for many years to come. ). Suddenly, there WAS an ancient sport called Pammachon dating to Roman times to Greek Alexandria in Egypt. Whoops and wtf homes?!

But I already knew that Pammachon dated to Roman times in Alexandria; I will keep my own council as to how I knew it. Still, I was surprised to discover that Pammachon had been a sport in Roman times; I didn’t know that.

Then I thought about it. Alexandrian Pammachon was most certainly a sport of Greek origin. Why would the Romans use a Greek name for a sport of Roman origin?

The Roman words that could be used to refer to combat sports or martial arts (or hand to hand combat for that matter) are:

bellum, belli,  certamen, certaminis, certo, certare, certavi, certatus,  confligo, confligere, conflixi, conflictus, dimicatio, dimicationis, duellum, duelli, deluctio, deluctionis, praelium, praeli(i),  proelium, proeli(i)  pugna, pugnae, pugnare, pugnavi, pugnatus

None of these words even remotely resemble machi or pammachon.

Alexandria was Greek. Pammachon was Greek. It was not Roman.

Then it hit me – “fechten.”

Fechten is a German word that is used today with regard to sport fencing. But over the centuries it has also meant fighting, and combat, and beating each others’ brains out with large heavy implements and sharp nasty things. In short, the word evolved from meaning hand to hand combat to meaning sport fencing.

It occurred to me that the word Pammachon could have evolved in a similar manner. It could have started out as a word for hand to hand combat and come to be perceived as a sport, just like fechten.

The proven existence of a Roman-era Alexandrian sport named pammachon gives credence to my theory that pammachon was the battlefield art of the ancient Greeks.

But there is no proof. As the archaeological record stands, Pammachon was either a late synonym for pankration or a Roman-era sport in Alexandria.

The archaeological record is common domain. What is NOT in the archaeological record, however, is NOT common domain.

Since I published first, and since then have been cited by academic authors and students in degree programs, the theory of Pammachon as the “battlefield art” of the ancient Greeks remains my intellectual property. In order for someone to use the term in this context, according to modern convention and current legislation, I must be cited. I may even have a case for IP infringement if someone doesn’t reference me.

See, after reading my books (because he doesn’t really speak Greek and is therefore not capable of engaging in primary research), in 2010 American Jim Arvanitis started using the word Pammachon to describe what he called “battlefield pankration.” Jim copied core concepts from my books and website. Without reference. And published a new book and dvd series on the subject matter. For profit. Which makes it intentional.

Now, the US has wonderful copyright laws (brokered by Microsoft). For copyrights registered before the infringement, the court may award statutory damages up to $150,000 per intentional infringement. Copyright owners may also obtain (subject to approval by the court): (1) a temporary restraining order that prohibits the infringer from distributing the copyrighted work, and (2) a court order authorizing the U.S. marshal to seize the allegedly infringing material(s). Moreover, copyright infringement is a felony punishable by up to 3 years imprisonment and a $250,000 fine under 17 U.S.C. § 506(a) and 18 U.S.C. § 2319 when the pirate willfully reproduces or distributes at least 10 copies of one or more copyrighted works with a total retail value of more than $2,500 within a 180 day period. And, the maximum penalty rises to 5 years imprisonment if the pirate acted “for purposes of commercial advantage or private financial gain.”

You gotta love it. That’s the reason I insisted all my works be published in the US. Coincidentally, I wrote the five-year strategic plan against IP infringement for the responsible EU Agency.

Those who may be interested in Jim Arvanitis, please view this link, where you can read about him in his own words:

Which brings us back to the issue. Remember, the archaeological record is common domain. What is NOT in the archaeological record, is NOT common domain.

Therefore, in conclusion we have:

1. Pammachon is a martial arts school with a distinct methodology and philosophy that was reconstructed by yours truly in 2000 after almost vanishing in this generation, based on the art that was taught in the 19th century in my village. I have a court decision recognizing this statement precisely as worded, dating to 2004. I have a copyright on this martial art and its related terminology dating to 2000.

2. Since use of the word “Pammachon” with reference to the battlefield art of the ancient Greeks was made by yours truly in 2000, and no publication predates my own, and since academic reference has been made for same by students and degreed historians as well as the general public, Kostas Dervenis owns the IP rights for this thesis, and anyone proposing or using the same context, is obligated in the very least to make reference to my publications. That is how the law stands around the world;  any nation-state that has signed the Berne convention, has agreed to these terms. You can contest this if you wish, but I would recommend not banging your head against the wall.

That is to say, until the archaeological record proves that Pammachon was the battlefield art of the ancient Greeks, at which point I will gladly surrender all IP rights to the use of the term in this context, such use of the term remains my intellectual property.

So, you guys think I dropped enough piss on the borders of the territory, or what?

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You might be missing the point


I recently had a conversation with a friend on Facebook regarding historical bowies and their use.  If you look at original bowie knives, most of them lacked a hilt, and the reason for this was quite simply that lack of a hilt made it easier to carry on the person close to the body. You see the same trend in Balkan knives of the same period. The popularity of the Bowie was established in the 1830s, expanded during the 1840s, and reached its peak in the 1850s and the Civil War.  Many bowies were actually made in England, however. The trickle of Sheffield Bowie knives in the early 1830s developed into a flood before the Civil War, with whole factories springing up in England. Bowie knife collections today indicate (not prove) that only about one in ten knives was American made. Union soldiers generally favored Sheffield-made Bowie knives, while Southerners used hand-made versions from individual blacksmiths.  After the Civil War the bowie knife diminished in popularity, and by the mid-1870s was relegated to use as a hunting knife, which is where it started, before it became popular again as a fighting knife in the 1970s.

Let’s take a look at some originals:

(Great article, make sure to click through all the photos!)

Interestingly enough, only one original knife survives that was clearly a dueling blade for knife on knife. This blade is of Mexican origin, and is also claimed to be the one Jim Bowie carried at the Alamo,:

It carries a strong Spanish/dueling influence, and it is likely that Bill Bagwell based his extraordinary Hell’s Belles on this design. But as you can see, the original bowies looked very different, and had no hand guard- just like Balkan knives and Caucasian qamas.

Pavle “Paja” Jovanović (June 16, 1859 – November 30, 1957) was a Serbian Realist painter. His most famous and recognizable painting is the Fencing Lesson. Balkan yatagans tend to have larger ears and are often of bone or ivory; I studied them when I was researching Pammachon.

For me, such weapons are clearly used with the system of quadrants used today in saber/backsword fencing, unlike the eastern saber dance which most resembles gatka. But I have to question if we are missing something – there is no hand support for what is clearly a stabbing as well as chopping weapon. Why? This is not a shamshir or kilij, where the thrust was primarily a backcut during which the hand does not indeed slide (tried it full force on a cow torso with a real kilij while wearing leather gloves).  But for the Balkan yataghan I just don’t get it. How is the hand protected from sliding down onto the blade during a stab?

The qama, Pammachon’s short sword, has two little studs that guide the edge and prevent slippage. It also has a pseudo-guard your hand slips into; I have thrust one through a bull’s spine as a test. But the yataghan escapes me.

As I mentioned earlier, the bowie, like the saber and the kilij, relies on the backcut for much of its functionality. Without the backcut, the bowie quickly becomes irrelevant. So my question is, how many points are we missing? My brief 44-year sojourn in the martial arts and hand to hand combat has shown me that people tend to forget many details very quickly, within a decade for example – I have proven that repeatedly myself during my own studies. So again, the question is, are we missing the point during historical reenactment and reconstruction? Do we lack vital information? And if so, are our egos preventing us from discovering that information? Are we trying to become IMPORTANT rather than trying to discover the truth?

If you are primarily ego-driven, chances are that you are wearing blinders of a sort. And in this day and age, many of us are motivated by our ego and desires rather than the primary function of the warrior, which is to protect the group, and to lose personal ego and desire. Remember, you only have to fear what you carry with you into the Dark. Many of us carry a 50 kilo backpack of subconscious and unconscious urges and hatred with us all day long – that is why we fail.

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