Browsing the archives for the Uncategorized category.



Last Saturday I got caught in a snowstorm. I thought I would use this incident to describe for readers exactly what we mean when we say Levels One through Four.

I was supposed to drive my brother to Charles Roi airport in Brussels. When we left the house in the wee hours of the morning, a snowstorm was raging. Not that much snow was on the ground yet, but enough to make the roads dangerous. And the snowplows had not been out yet. But, being enterprising young lads with large genitalia, we decided to chance it anyway.

So we drove on our merry way, trying to make the flight. Conditions on the highway were bad, but we moved along at a steady pace on the unplowed roads with very heavy snow fall. Our principle worry was whether or not we would be in time for boarding, a legitimate concern since the airport is located roughly 54 kilometers from where we maintain an apartment in Brussels.

Suddenly the car in front of us lost it. He spun around twice and banged into two other cars moving slowly to his right.

My brother yelled “Watch it!” and stamped on an imaginary brake in the passenger’s seat.

Circuits clicked. The millisecond the spin began in front of us, the Machine stepped in and took control of my body. The Monkey went offline (the Machine (the Dinosaur) can do that as unbridled emotions are dangerous in such situations). My pulse dropped. My reactions sped up multiple times and everything slowed down around me. The car did not quiver or change speed but stayed its course.

“Don’t worry,” I told my brother calmly. “I’ve got it.”

The Machine watched the car spinning ahead and colliding with the other two vehicles dispassionately. It calculated the course of all vehicles in relation to the amount of available space and did not waiver from our scheduled route. It projected the possibility of domino effects in the vicinity and came out negative. We kept moving steadily ahead.

The three vehicles wound up on the side of the road. They were quite battered.

Much to my surprise, the Deity with the Sword stepped in. Unusual, in that he does not typically concern himself with such limited affairs. (The last time I let the Deity out of his box, he frightened a group of 60 fighter pilots into silence while I demonstrated a martial arts technique (the room went quiet and people are still talking about it)). He is not fully subject to human criteria so I generally stay out of his way. There is no telling what he will do after all; though benevolent, I’m not convinced he is altogether human as he is more concerned with the big picture, with right and wrong, justice and society, rather than us puny individuals. But this time he stepped in. I watched as he made sure all parties involved in the accident were alright. The Machine was given a task; it calculated potential arrival times vs. time spent by stopping and assisting those involved in the accident. The Deity watched as one of the two parties whose car had been struck got out of his vehicle and ran towards the others. He became convinced that full assistance would be rendered to the injured parties and withdrew, allowing us to continue our course. My personal opinion was only remotely solicited; I had chimed in that we had a plane to catch, and was scowled at in return.

We made it to the gate in time, but the airport was shut down due to heavy snowfall and my brother left four hours later.

And that, dear reader, is a description of Levels Three and Four as described by Level One. Level Two was also present at the time; Level Four cannot exist without it. But in this case the limbic system made itself manifest by expressing concern for fellow members of its Pack; the Deity in turn was moved to answer this plea, and so appeared. Level Two was also involved as an absence of fear or rage; these were replaced with Understanding.

I hope this helps those who are interested in such things. This is what it’s like being me.


Doubt Yourself Constantly


Here’s a suggestion to begin the New Year: Doubt Yourself Constantly. (I’m going to be writing this in English because, though this post relates directly to Greek society in general and Greek martial artists in particular, there are aspects that are pertinent to global society at large in our Internet Age.)

The Dunning–Kruger effect is a pattern of deviation in judgment whereby unskilled individuals suffer from illusory superiority, mistakenly rating their ability much higher than is accurate. Individuals create their own “subjective social reality” based on their perception of events and data (input). This bias is attributed to the inability of the unskilled to recognize their lack of relevant aptitude. Conversely, highly skilled individuals tend to underestimate their relative competence, erroneously assuming that tasks which are easy for them are also easy for others.

The phenomenon was first tested in a series of experiments published in 1999 by David Dunning and Justin Kruger of the Department of Psychology, Cornell University. As their article concluded, “the miscalibration of the incompetent stems from an error about the self, whereas the miscalibration of the highly competent stems from an error about others.” Although the Dunning–Kruger effect was formulated fifteen years ago, Dunning and Kruger noted that similar observations were made by philosophers and scientists throughout history, including Confucius (“Real knowledge is to know the extent of one’s ignorance”), Socrates (“I know that I know nothing”), Bertrand Russell (“One of the painful things about our time is that those who feel certainty are stupid, and those with any imagination and understanding are filled with doubt and indecision”), and Charles Darwin (“Ignorance more frequently begets confidence than does knowledge”).

It is also an error to assume that such behavior follows the (relaxed) outlines of a normal distribution (a bell curve). In probability theory, the normal (or Gaussian) distribution is a function that tells the probability that any real observation will fall between any two real limits or real numbers, as the curve approaches zero on either side. Normal distributions are extremely important in statistics and are often used in the natural and social sciences for real-valued random variables whose distributions are not known. A bell curve assumes that 95% of the population is found within two standard deviations:

But with regard to actual skill levels, this is actually not the case. Research conducted in 2011 and 2012 by Ernest O’Boyle Jr and Herman Aguinis (633263 researchers, entertainers, politicians, and athletes in a total of 198 samples) found that performance in 94 percent of these groups did not follow a normal distribution. Rather the groups fall into what is called a “Power Law” distribution.

A “Power Law” distribution is also known as a “long tail.” It indicates that people are not “normally distributed” within society. In this statistical model, there are a small number of people who are “hyper high performers,” a broad swath of people who are “good performers” and a smaller number of people who are “low performers.” It essentially accounts for a much wider variation in performance among the sample, and it is typical in any activity where talent is required – painters, authors, scientists, and martial artists for example.

Power Law distribution has very different characteristics from the Bell Curve. In the Power Curve most people fall below the mean (slightly). Roughly 10-15% of the population are above the average (often far above the average), a large population are slightly below average, and a small group are far below average. So the concept of “average” becomes meaningless.

In fact the implication is that comparing to “average” isn’t very useful at all, because the small number of people who actually influence outcomes accommodate for a very high percentage of the total value.

In short, people in a society are for the most part followers, not leaders, and are happy being followers. But what is frightening as depicted by the above two graphs, is that the tendency towards Belief, contrary to the Dunning–Kruger effect, does indeed follow a bell curve distribution. People will first follow, purchase, value, cherish, etc, that which does not threaten their own sense of ego, but rather enhances it, regardless of truth, efficacy, or consequences. There is a biological imperative for this that we have retained from our time as monkeys. So while thought leaders are by definition a minority, the majority of the population will reject deviations from the principle trend outright, regardless of whether they are right or wrong. In catastrophic scenarios, this has been termed the lemming effect (unfair to lemmings). No socio-economic class, no human activity, is immune to this effect. A grant-seeking university scientist can be a lemming just as much as a fashion obsessed teen-age girl. The power to fit in with one’s social peers can be irresistible. To a human lemming, the logic behind an opinion doesn’t count as much as the popularity behind an opinion.

It is important for people to note that exceptional performers are not superhuman. The majority of us are subject to the effects of our limbic system, which reacts emotionally to the lack of understanding among the “pack”, including exceptional performers. A healthy reaction to social rejection among Power Law leaders is seclusionist tendencies, but things can rapidly turn worse (Van Gogh is a clear example). Emotional turmoil is often the result of not being comfortably placed within one standard deviation of the main body of the pack. Financial success, which can be produced by psychopathy if/when it arises, is often out of reach for hyper-high performers because they simply are not capable of understanding what the overwhelming majority of people want in the first place. While tragic in the case of art, in life and death scenarios, close combat for example, only right and wrong matter, not social drivers and mores. Popularity contests and social combat should have little to do with actual battle – and when they do, the effects are tragic.

In an interview about ten years back for a martial arts website, I was told I was considered “a snob, strange, eccentric”, primarily because I did not engage in social niceties. While I valued the opinions of my peers and superiors, I did not (and do not) consider many people who thought (think) they were (are) my peers to be my peers. Understandably, this brought about a great degree of rejection and anger, which to be honest, I didn’t mind; I knew Van Gogh had never sold a single painting in his life. I was more concerned with whether or not what I was painting was actually any good – whether I was tactically right or wrong. But I was surprised that martial artists, even famous teachers, were more willing to support people guilty of the murder of children or accessories to the murder of children, than simply admit they were wrong in the first place. At fifty-five, I have now matured enough to understand why this is the case – but I still condemn such decisions and will continue to express my contempt for the people who think otherwise.

As it turns out, over the decades, I have been proven right about many things in many cases where I took a contrary position to popular trends (I have also been wrong, and paid the price, but less frequently – the statistics are in my favor). In the case of survival, which is what martial arts and close combat should be all about, right and wrong should be the deciding factor, not monkey-pack status. When a leopard has pounced on a chimpanzee’s back, the ape is probably little concerned with his status in the pack. We are at that point in our development when our very survival is at stake. As intelligent animals, we should be concerned with the leopards circling around us, ready to dart into our midst and kill, not with Kimmie’s butt. So my advice for the New Year to you is this: forget about your ego; challenge yourself constantly. You are neither that important, nor that bright, nor that talented. What you should involve yourself with are the internal (primarily) and external enemies that threaten the survival of everything you care about. I will continue to be an @$$h0Λ€, but I want you to understand one thing: you can always rely on me to tell you the simple truth. I may not always be right – no man is perfect – but you should know that my own ego is irrelevant to me before what is right and what is wrong, and I always publicly admit it when I screw up.


No scale armor in the Phalanx!


This subject of scale armor worn by the classical Greeks was raised by a student of mine recently after I expressed exasperation at a certain page I noticed on the internet. I took a contrary standpoint to what was being portrayed (what a surprise, right?), for reasons that were not immediately obvious, and found myself being asked to explain that standpoint. Since I am getting more ornery, cantankerous and decrepit as I get older, and am reaching the point where I hate explaining period, let alone explaining about something in detail, I thought about just not saying anything, but that would be inappropriate both from the standpoint of etiquette and cantankerousness. Therefore:

As a means of (re-)introduction, let me state a few things (again) for the record. I used to design and repair fighter aircraft for a living, so take it for granted that I have a fairly decent grasp of structural and materials engineering. I am a consultant on close (hand to hand) combat to NATO; my major claim to fame is that I predicted (publicly, in writing) the results of incorporating MMA-based tactics into the Combatives program of the US Army, roughly eight years before the Army was forced to capitulate and admit there were problems (after 920 incidents and having spent millions of dollars). Surprisingly enough, the methodology I use to train NATO and Hellenic Armed Forces today is based on historic Greek close combat and weapons tactics; I apply them, however, to modern combat scenarios, and military professionals, not re-enactors, as well as simple civilians, have successfully used them to defend their lives and well-being. Please note I am referring to actual documented events, not rhetoric or supposition.

So. No scale armor in the phalanx. Why, you ask? Dude, we have vase drawings that show Greeks wearing scale armor!

Short answer: Because we are neither smarter nor more capable than, and in the majority of cases not even equivalent to, our ancestors.

Body armor consisting of small metal plates has a long history. Beginning in the 2nd millennium BC various kinds of splint (scale and lamellar) armor were already firmly established in the Near East;  the boar tusk helmets used in Mycenaean Greece were essentially organic splint armor.  Lamellar armor refers to many plates linked to one another with thongs, and is actually a better tactical design. Scale armor consists of metal plates, fastened to leather or fabric. It may have been the earliest splint armor developed in that its layout duplicates the scales of a fish (hence the name). The armor plates are U-shaped and are always directed downward. The rows of scale armor overlap 1/3 of one another and are slightly shifted aside, in this way forming a multi-layer surface. To fix the scales to the stratum, thin thongs were ordinarily used. The stratum is typically leather.

Scale armor was designed to provide maximum freedom of movement for the warrior. That is to say, scale armor was used in close combat when freedom of movement was prized, and only when the primary threat to the armor was encountered at an angle of ninety degrees or greater to the plane of the scales themselves. You see, despite many positive features (elasticity, good protective properties, simple technology), scale armor has one critical flaw: it is vulnerable to piercing weapons in specific angles. Especially dangerous for scale armor are piercing thrusts delivered from an angle in line with the end of the scale. The hazard was great, for example, for the mounted warrior, as the thrusts of foot soldiers’ spears were always directed upward in line with openings in scale. But scale armor works great against people who are cutting downwards with a sword, for example, and is decent protection against arrows.  So it was generally worn by light infantry who needed to move around and were worried about facing arrows and swords.

It should be understood that armor’s primary purpose is not to absorb a blow – it does do that, but a design involving absorption of force would involve deliberate plastic deformation not easily tenable in historic combat. The purpose of armor then is to deflect a blow, so that it bounces off the area being struck. Large pieces of plate armor are very good at that. Even scale armor is good at deflection under specific angles, though with scale armor, much more of the momentum of the blow is transferred to the flexible substrate underneath and to the body itself than with plate.

The Greeks were forming large plates of bronze (and burying them) all the way back to the Mycenaean era. They certainly did not have technological limitations. Nor was there short supply of the elements of bronze. Therefore, everything and anything they did had a precise and deliberate tactical reason. It was a choice. If they wanted to wear scale armor, the choice was deliberate and had a very specific tactical objective. Our job is to decipher their reasoning, not second guess them.

Is any of this making sense? Hank Reinhardt was the grand-daddy of Western HEMA. He never studied a single fechtbuch in his life other than George Silver (and Richard Burton). Instead, he applied an earth-shattering philosophy to weapons that was based on simple logic – the shape of the tool defines its use. Hammers cannot be used as screwdrivers, nor do you drive in a nail with the edge of a blade; so it is with ancient weapons and tactics. Since war is life and death, everything is done with a very specific objective in mind – or else. I grew up with that philosophy, and still apply it today.

Let me digress and provide you with a functional example that will be obvious to everyone before we continue with the topic of scale armor. I have, in the past, made reference to the proper body position in the phalanx. I still see a lot of re-enactors holding their spear in the “overhead, thumb down” grip; their bodies are turned sideways when holding the spear in this manner, because that is the only way to make the spear point “look forward” when doing so. They hold the shield “in the air” while doing so with their left forearm, their left shoulder sometimes within the hollow; it is difficult to lock shields and fold together while turned sideways, so they don’t, but rather keep their distance from each other. I have stated in the past that re-enactors hold their weapons and armor this way simply because they cannot duplicate the proper “overhead, thumb facing up” grip and body facing forward stance, that was used in the phalanx. What I mean to say is that they physically cannot perform the action. But the logic that these re-enactors use is that, if they cannot do it, then the ancients couldn’t, because the human body hasn’t changed in ten thousand years. What is being ignored is that the evidence is clear and opinions do not matter.

Even if I trained every day for the next twenty years, and he himself did nothing else but drink beer and get fat, I would never be able to do taichichuan like Grandmaster Chen Xiaowang. Never. There is a very simple reason for this: he began taichi as soon as he could walk, was trained by the family who invented the art in the first place, and has been doing it for seventy years. The same holds true for the ancient Greek hoplite – he was raised to enact a particular movement with a very specific strategic application and practiced it daily all his life. The strength of the hoplite’s triceps and wrists was enormous. We desk jockeys today cannot duplicate the hoplite phalanx, no matter how much we try. Period.

So we typically “adjust” the phalanx to fit our own capabilities, and not the other way around. And it’s wrong. It’s very wrong.

It’s all in the greaves, you see.

Let’s look at this picture. It shows a pair of ancient hoplite greaves.

They’re all like that, no variation. Guess what? The knees are only protected facing forwards. There is no protection for the side of the knee, period – nothing like the medieval poleyn, for example, which was useful because the knight didn’t know where the next blow was coming from. Do you guys think remotely, even for a second, that the people who designed and built the Parthenon couldn’t come up with decent protection for the side of the knee, if that part of the joint was facing in the direction of greatest risk? Come on. The reason greaves do not have side protection for the knee joint is because the hoplite was always – always – facing forward in the phalanx. I won’t get into the other body dynamics of mass formation that make this a necessity, having already done so and been ignored, but in one sentence, to truly close shields, you need to be facing forward. In any case, the greaves prove my point like a clear blue sky filled with the sun. Hoplites stood in the phalanx facing forward, never sideways.

Analogies like this are important because they help us to understand why scale armor was untenable in the phalanx. Hoplites were squeezed together like sardines in a can. The fox knows many ploys, the hedgehog only one great trick, Archilochus tells us – hoplites were adept at one thing: presenting a dense, nasty, bristle of steel points to the enemy.

We have to take into account the conditions of the phalanx, without which the whole concept of the “hoplite” is irrelevant. The hoplon shield measured roughly one meter in diameter and weighed about seven kilograms. This large shield was deeply dished and partially supported on the shoulder. The revolutionary part of the shield was, in fact, the grip; it placed the handle at the edge of the shield, and was supported by a leather fastening for the forearm at the centre. The shield rested somewhat (but not too much) on a man’s left shoulder, stretching down to the knees. These large shields were designed for a mass of hoplites to push forward into the opposing army, and was their most essential equipment. But the hoplon shield is completely useless outside of mass formation. It is large, unwieldy, and yet despite being so, does not adequately protect the legs despite its size. Moreover it is easily turned against the wielder if grasped; this is the reason the Romans, who based their strategy on the individual soldier rather than the formation, did not use it. In mass formation, however, the hoplon shield excels, more so in a formation that requires overlapping shields like the phalanx. Which is why the Greeks used the thing in the first place – they were spearmen, not swordsmen or archers.

Again, try to understand the conditions of crowd behavior in relation to the phalanx. In order to maximize the pushing force of a crowd, the distance between bodies must be minimized to the point that the group becomes one mass pushing in synchrony. In crowds of this density, shock waves are produced that kill people due to compressive asphyxia. These forces are generated by the domino effect of men leaning against each other and pushing in the same direction at once; victims die in panicked stampedes every year simply because they cannot endure this pressure. The hoplite endured such pressure routinely.

So. Squeezed together like sardines, very little room to move around in, decreased mobility as the result of being required to protect their neighbor (the main tactic involved), people pushing in on you from all sides. A bristly wall of sharp steel points. That was the phalanx.

You have to consider how soldiers move in such conditions. The type of movement required in the phalanx was the reason for the solid bronze cuirass in the first place. Now remember, the Greeks knew all about scale armor, about lamellar armor, about segmented armor, and could create any size section of bronze they wanted; we today are not smarter than the people who built the Parthenon and fought for their lives standing in the dust and the grime and the blood. Had they wanted to use segmented armor in the phalanx, they would have done so – but they didn’t. They didn’t, because the formation needed to move as a single unit. Like the hoplon shield, the bronze cuirass sucked. It allowed no shoulder movement whatsoever – the hoplite had to move his body from hips. He could not lean forward because of the weight of his armor and the requirements of the formation he was engaged in. He could not breathe into his chest, because solid bronze does not expand – he had to breathe into his belly, much like a Zen monk. But the solid bronze cuirass had advantages as well. Spear points coming through the shield wall would be deflected and bounce off – solid bronze does not readily pierce. Moreover, the bronze cuirass supported weight and pressure from the men behind him in the scrum – otherwise all that force would have been directly applied to his torso. Each hoplite had a shield pressing into his back while he tried to transmit that same force forward. The bronze cuirass fulfilled two tasks then; it kept pressure off the hoplite’s chest, and by forcing him to move from the hips, ensured that he would not be pushed off balance and turn the entire phalanx into a sprawl (rugby much anyone?).

Like the musketeer of later ages, the hoplite had to stand his ground and push forward. He had to use his spear like a sewing needle, seeking ingress amidst multiple targets in the shield wall ahead of him. His mobility was limited; his body faced forward and he made use of the power of his legs and spine, his arms delivering blows with whipping, snapping motions. And his armor? Well, the seamless bronze was designed for the principle task of deflecting, not absorbing or blocking, the multiple thrusts and blows that would rain in on him. Anything that goes contrary to that principle, goes contrary to the central idea of the phalanx.

And that is the problem with scale armor. It was strictly designed for people who have to move around a lot, not stand in the face of the enemy.

Before we get into scale armor, let’s talk about the linothorax itself. Its presence is irrefutable but also controversial at best. It was supposed to be “the poor man’s armor”. Experimental archaeologists have reconstructed it using materials that would have been available in the ancient Mediterranean: handspun, hand-woven linen and rabbit glue. Reconstructions weighed in at about 10 pounds – about half the weight of a full bronze cuirass (typically 20 to maximum 30 pounds). These linen reconstructions very adequately protected the user against localized strikes from arrows and other weapons. But the researchers found that the linothorax was vulnerable to rain. Even more of a threat was the user’s own sweat on a hot day. The armor needed waterproofing, both inside and out. The researchers did a number of experiments along those lines, and found that rubbing a block of beeswax over all sides of the armor provided waterproofing. Moreover, when they wore the armor for a couple of hours, the wearer’s own body heat softened the glue and made the armor conform to the user’s body shape – and the researchers were not standing in the middle of a battlefield while conducting these trials.

When looking at the linothorax, then, we have to evaluate its function in relation to the phalanx. It was not, for example, that much lighter than the bronze thorax – common perception of the weight of bronze is skewed. Unlike the bronze cuirass, the linothorax did allow shoulder motion, however; in fact it was  worn by wrapping it around the shoulders, thereby shifting the “center of motion” of the user upwards – not necessarily a good thing in a crowd. It was soft while used – therefore in the phalanx, it could not provide support against the inevitable pressure in the ranks. It was delicate – moisture pretty much ruined it; and what happened to the necessary waterproofing beeswax when the thorax was squeezed by the shield of the colleague behind you and you squeezed the back of the colleague in front of you. You have to wonder, then, how was it taken on expedition? How well did it survive in the field? Imagine a modern kevlar vest that fails when exposed to moisture and you get the picture; the logistics of the linothorax are complicated.

Now let’s cover that up with scale armor. In some places, such a tactic makes sense. Since the linothorax was “softish”, not hard, scales would conform to its shape as it molded, so scales make more sense than solid laminates. Scales could add a hard surface layer that would deflect a blow, an important criterion as we will see. A linothorax did not deflect stabs – rather they “caught” in the linen while trying to penetrate it. A principle target on a hoplite then was his right side – he was in danger there from the man opposite him to the right. So scales going down the sides and lower torso facing forwards, as depicted by Warry back in the Stone Age (1985), make sense. You can’t use too many though – weight becomes a factor, and you might soon find your armor weighing more than a bronze cuirass.

But, regardless of the weight of scales, it is their array and placement that matter in the end. The “sticking” factor is important as well; a primary method of breaking the formation of a phalanx was breaking the stance and balance of its individual components. If a man was hit in a particular location and the spearhead stuck, the momentum of that impact was transferred to the man receiving it. To make matters worse, a spear is not an arrow or a javelin; faced with a terrible, terrible point of steel, it is normally supported by the trained muscles of a man in full battle-lust using every ounce of his skill and rage to drive that point through. One tactic was to simply knock the opponent off balance with the spear, and then segue into a lethal strike when weak points were revealed (remember the sewing needle?); this is why solid armor is designed so that weapons “bounce off” rather than stick. Well, weapons stick into the linothorax; that is one of its problems. One man could break the balance of his opponent while a second drove a spearpoint into this throat; the phalanx works as a group, remember. This was their strength.

Cover it up with scales then, dude, so the weapons don’t stick into it, dat’s what we talkin’ about! Well, OK, but what about those areas where the geometry of scale placement sets the end of the scale straight in line with the point of the spear? That would be a problem, wouldn’t it? Remember what we said about the vulnerability of scale armor? In this case, the scales would lift up and guide the spear point straight into the underlying fabric, both disrupting the armor and, more importantly, breaking the balance of the man wearing it. In fact, adding scales to those places makes the effect worse than if simple linen alone were used for multiple reasons: structural, physical, kinesiological. The places in question are, of course, the shoulders and (shudder) helmets, directly in line with the point of ingress of the opponent’s spear. In those places, the use of scales in the phalanx is simply preposterous. It makes no sense whatsoever. It is contrary to all tactical considerations.

That having been said, we can’t know that there wasn’t a specific use for the particular set of armor, if it existed at all. We just don’t know about scale armor and the ancient Greeks. Moreover, there is no surviving linothorax to evaluate. But there is one thing for sure regarding the linothorax.

Its existence probably means the end of the phalanx. It’s the only conclusion that makes sense. That is to say, it is likely that at the time the linen thorax became popular, the phalanx likely was revised or even ceased to exist as we know it. I personally think that this happened right after the Persian wars, and ultimately was the reason for the Spartan surrender on Sphakteria.

Likely as a result of the Persian Wars, tactical vulnerabilities of the phalanx vs. specific missile weapons were uncovered. Understand that the whole premise of the phalanx rests on an invulnerability to missile weapons – that is how they defeated the Persians. But maybe they learned something from the Medes after all. We must not forget that a 150 years later Alexander defeated war elephants through the use of missile auxiliaries. Maybe the Greeks started using artillery after the Persian wars. The Greek author Biton (2nd century BC), whose reliability has been positively evaluated, described two advanced forms of the gastraphetes, a foot-held crossbow, which he credits to Zopyros, an engineer from southern Italy, who in turn seems to have flourished in the late 5th century BC, and probably designed crossbows for the sieges of Cumae and Milet between 421 BC and 401 BC. The bows of these machines featured a winched pull back system and could apparently throw two missiles at once. The historian Diodorus Siculus (1st century BC), described the invention of a mechanical arrow-firing catapult (katapeltikon) by a Greek task force in 399 BC.

From the mid-4th century BC onwards, evidence of the Greek use of arrow-shooting machines becomes more dense and varied: arrow firing machines are briefly mentioned by Aeneas Tacticus in his treatise on siege craft written around 350 BC. An extant inscription from the Athenian arsenal, dated between 338 and 326 BC, lists a number of stored catapults with shooting bolts of varying size and springs of sinews.
While this a century and a half along the line in history, it is obvious that at some point after the Persian Wars, somebody came up with the idea of artillery methods and tactics to disrupt a phalanx. We know this because armor began to lighten considerably, helmets were revised to expose the face, and skirmishers became far more important, culminating with the Athenian general Iphicrates annihilating a mora (a battalion of about 600 men) of heavily-armed Spartan hoplites in 392 BC.

What can we learn from this? That we shouldn’t be in a rush to interpret what we perceive as evidence outside of tactical boundaries. That archaeologists, both amateur and professional, are not military tacticians and need to be careful in their estimations. No one wore full-scale armor in the phalanx because it made no sense and exposed vulnerabilities to attack that threatened the formation of the phalanx itself. Note that this is not a point open to debate – water boils at 100 degrees, it is neither warm nor hot nor tepid. Similarly, one must always consider the tactical and strategic reasons behind the use of any measure and countermeasure in combat; if not, you fail in your evaluation. In the case of scale armor in the phalanx, the logic comes up short.

If the ancient Greeks did wear full scale armor as depicted by re-enactors, then the soldiers in this role had a purpose outside the main formation of the troops. What that purpose was, I cannot know, and apparently history has not retained. But such armor was never used in the phalanx.


Pammachon, A New Sport Once Again in 2014


Pammachon in Hellenic antiquity was a sport during the Roman era, distinct and separate from Pankration as identified by ten historic references to date.

The oldest reference is papyrus letter SB 3.6222, eloquently translated by Ms.Sofie Remijsen of Leuven University in her article Pammachon, A New Sport (The Bulletin of the American Society of Papyrologists 47 (2010) 185-204)). In this letter, a man called Dios writes to his sister to tell her how he competed, and won, in athletic Pammachon games held before the Emperor in Alexandria in March 302 C.E. Dios writes: “I was at first paired up to do pankration and had bad luck, as I do not know how to do pankration. So I challenged the five (other athletes) to do pammachon.”

SB 3.6222 is the earliest attestation of pammachon as a separate sport, distinct from pankration. This interpretation is confirmed by ILS 5164, an honorary inscription from AD 375-378 for the athlete Philoumenos, who had obtained victories in four different events: pammachon, wrestling, pankration, and boxing. Also in the fourth century, Eusebius compared a martyr to a victor in the sacred games, victorious in the pammachon. As this passage does not go back to agonistic poetry and was written in a century when pammachon was attested to as a separate sport, one may assume that Eusebius also referred to Pammachon itself and not pankration. The athletes doing pammachon were not called pammachoi, but pammacharii with the Latin ending -arius typical of professions. Pammacharii figure in six texts from the fourth and fifth centuries.  The anonymous author of the Expositio totius mundi mentioned them in his description of the entertainment sector in Syria.  In a story of the Apophthegmata, an officer helped a group of pammacharii on their way to Constantinople to get a boat from the governor.  In another story, an old hermit compares a Christian fighting evil with a pammacharius fighting two adversaries.  Saint Jerome mentions pammacharii as a type of athlete, besides runners and those who throw the discus.  Firmicus Maternus and Pseudo-Teuchros tell which position of the stars makes pammacharii. The lexicon of Hesychius, mentioning pammachon in the lemma about Cypriotic wrestling, brings the total number of sources on this sport to ten. (Note: Hesychius makes a point of calling the Pammachon practiced in Cyprus “barbaric.”)

In the context of the International Pammachon Union (ΔΕΠ), it was our intention to revive Pammachon as a martial art and close quarter combat, given that such training had survived in Greece until World War Two. In 2010 Sofie Remijsen provided the final confirmation for something that we had suspected all along: that Pammachon was also a separate sport in ancient times (much like the German “fechten” meant “close quarter combat” in the Middle Ages and “fencing” today).

One of my personal chief concerns with the proliferation of Mixed Martial Arts was the evident tactical weak points combat sports displayed with regard to the training of military personnel and police in close quarter combat; these concerns were unfortunately verified through the travails of the US Army Combatives program, and the inevitable capitulation announced in 2010 by senior officers whereby they admitted the program needed to be revised. Pammachon as a sport is now under the aegis of the Hellenic Federation of Pankration Athlima (ΕΟΠΑ). It remains our concern as to how combat sports can be structured to better prepare military personnel for close quarter combat and weapons retention, and police officers for the submission and control of hostile perpetrators who may be bearing a concealed weapon. We are, therefore, as of Monday September 1st 2014, reintroducing pammachon as a separate sport for competitors of Mixed Martial Arts and pankration under the aegis of the Hellenic Federation of Pankration Athlima.

A detailed set of rules is presented in the specified attachment. The distinctions from the Mixed Martial Arts or pankration matches you are used to are as follows:

1. Any strike to the body is acceptable within the parameters of allowable and prohibited strikes. As Pammachon contests are meant to simulate hand to hand combat, however, and a high incidence of injury to the hand (boxer’s fractures, human bites) is recorded as the result of punches to the head and face during altercations,  strikes to the head and face are thereby restricted to “one per phase.” Only one strike to the head or face is allowed when standing per round, and one strike when the contestants go to the ground per round. A “phase” is defined when both participants are in the standing position, or not (i.e. in the ground position).

2. Natural weapons. The teeth are natural weapons. Any position or technique that allows a contestant’s teeth near a point of vulnerability shall result in a “break in action” (the referee will call “Don’t Move”) and contestants shall be placed by the referee once again in a previous point in the sequence of events, i.e. positions that place the contestants at simulated risk from potential biting will be discouraged.

3. Participants shall use soft “rubber” training blades (i.e. made of Santoprene or equivalent materials) that mold to the body and bend. “Hard” plastic or metallic knives are forbidden. Rubber weapon length will not exceed 14 inches.

4. Contestants shall wear a white or blue jujutsu/judo belt based on their respective corners’ color, and wrapped in such a manner as to retain their rubber knives tight against the body, one blade per contestant. Rubber blades may also be worn on the contestant’s calf, secured with blue or white bandages based on the contestant’s corner color.

5. Rubber blades may not be drawn until contestants enter into a standing clinch, grapple, throw, or go to the ground. Rubber blades may not be used when contestants are in “boxing” or “kicking” range in the standing position. Pammachon is not a fencing match or blade duel but is intended to simulate the use of hidden weapons in close quarter combat within grappling range.

6. A contestant’s rubber blade may not be drawn by his opponent, but may be turned against an opponent following a disarm when he has drawn the blade himself.

7. In case that a participant is able to draw his rubber knife (or take his opponent’s weapon or turn the opponent’s weapon against him) and successfully strike once at designated fatal targets, or strike twice at designated “wound” targets, in accord with ΔΕΠ criteria and regulations, the fight is considered a TKO. Fatal targets requiring only one strike with the rubber weapon are the neck, clavicle, torso centerline immediately below the sternum, lower abdomen centerline, kidney region, and groin area. Wound targets (requiring two strikes) are anywhere else on the torso, the axillary region (the armpit) up to mid-bicep, the inner wrist, and the inner femoral region up to mid-thigh. If a wound target is struck only once before the weapon is turned or retained, the attacker is awarded three (3) points but the round continues.

8. The head and face may not be struck with the rubber knife at any time, and such violation is cause for immediate disqualification.

9. Dropped weapons. Any weapon that has fallen to the ground may be used by any contestant.

It is hoped that Pammachon, once again as a “New Sport” as Ms. Remijsen called it, will capture the imagination of athletes worldwide who are either military personnel, policemen, or security officers, and who thus run the risk of actually having to face concealed weapons in the course of their duties. Rules will be revised in the future to allow similar competitions for younger athletes. The International Pammachon Union and the Hellenic Federation of Pankration Athlima will provide training, certification, and sponsorship for any affiliated instructors and athletes who wish to participate in or promote Pammachon competitions. We hope that such training will play a small part in protecting the health and safety of people around the world.


Kostas Dervenis

International Pammachon Union
Pammachon Branch, Hellenic Federation of Pankration Athlima


Please, not ninjutsu again!


A new comment on the post #66 “Get it straight, people” is waiting for your approval
Author : Vivek Patel  (IP:
E-mail : [email protected]

I am curious, have you actually read Kacem’s book and his thesis?
And if you have, have you followed up on every reference given therein?


First off, let me say I’m pretty amazed that people still care what one man, who has not been part of a particular school for twenty years, thinks about its lineage. To answer your questions:
1. Of course.
2. Of course not.

The reason that I have not followed up on Kacem’s references is that, in those cases that are actually of interest, they are not legitimate references.  The historical components of his book were actually better put forth by Stephen Turnbull more than twenty years ago. When Kacem decides to deviate from history, he does so in a big way.

He begins this deviation by presenting the Togakure ryu scroll as a historical document. He uses the scroll’s style of the writing and its content to present it as dating to some author other than Takamatsu, specifically to some point in the Edo period (broad: 1603-1867). Radiocarbon dating would require 50 grams of material from that scroll to establish its date plus/minus forty years, effectively displacing any criticism – I would be happy to bear the costs of this testing myself if only to prove that the scroll was written by Takamatsu (though this can also prove disastrous – see my comment below **). In other words, if the scroll dates to 1750 plus or minus 40 years, it is clearly not Takamatsu’s work, but if it dates to the 20th century, it is. You see, Hatsumi told me so himself back in 1986 when he showed me the scroll: “Takamatsu Sensei writing” he said, in as clear English as he could. Yes, guys, most of us old timers have seen the source material, especially those of us who were cultivated as weapons to cement the foundation of the new business model. We did not have to wait for you enlightened scholars in the age of Youtube and Facebook to do the work for us. My assigned task back then as a Young Acolyte was to transfer Stephen Hayes’ business empire to Hatsumi by writing articles in magazines, and I did a pretty good job of it. In 1986, according to all the Japanese, Steve was Evil, probably pretty much the same way I am evil today.

So Kacem uses the style of writing to date the scroll as pre-Takamatsu, then goes on from there. He calls Takamatsu “a true ninja, descended from a ninja family in Iga, and heir of nine schools of ninjutsu, including Togakure ryu ninjutsu which has roots in the Kamakura period.” He provides not a single scrap of evidence to corroborate any of those statements. Please note that not ONE member of the supposed historical genealogy is substantiated – we are not talking about “one Toda” but generations of Todas who do not exist. In summary, the part of Kacem’s work that is supposedly original research, falls far from the standard of what could be considered original research under any type of legitimate peer review.

In fact, the most interesting part of the book is Kacem’s translation of a letter sent from Takamatsu to Hatsumi. In this letter, Takamatsu goes to great lengths to state that, even though Ikai came from China and taught Chinese arts, ninjutsu is the product of “evolutionary research” in Japan and not a Chinese art.  “Just as for the types of combat of the schools that emanate from Shorinji, they are technical points that seem to be taijutsu.” “They naturally developed the use of gunpowder and pharmacology as a ningu.”
Yeah right. Methinks Takamatsu is expressing his internal heart a bit more deeply in this letter than he would have cared to let on. I can’t, and don’t, know what happened to him in China. I know where he was employed, and it had nothing to do with Emperors or governments or the military or whatever. He was never a hero of the downtrodden. He was never the Emperor’s bodyguard. But somewhere along the line he picked up a very evident need to distance himself from the Chinese sources of whatever he came to be teaching.

In any case, Vivek, I’ve been very lucky as a historian (*), but I don’t see why it should matter to any of you what I think. I would be very happy if I was proven wrong at some date in the future, primarily because it would offer legitimacy to a method that I have spent a considerable portion of my life training in. But Pammachon only has as much to do with ninjutsu as, say, Takenouchi ryu jujutsu or Glima wrestling – they are all systems of combat that employ hip throws. I would not be overly concerned with what I think. And, as I have stated repeatedly, I would be very happy to be proven wrong.

Except that maybe what is bothering you is that you can’t prove me wrong. If that is the case, no worries – you are in the company of much larger, much more prestigious, much more legitimate and far more wealthy organizations. The U.S. Army for example.


(*) I got lucky twice:
The first time was when I pointed out that Mycenaean hand to hand combat was probably based on submission grappling. Oxford historian Bettany Hughes went on to locate anatomical evidence that gave a high probability to that thesis.
The second time was when I took a stance pointing out that Pammachon was clearly something distinct from Pankration.  In light of their internal troubles during that period, the Greek Pankration Federation employed the Central Archaeological Council to state that all records show Pammachon as a Palaeo-Christian, Roman era word that referred to Pankration.  Lo and behold, Sofie Remijsen translated her now famous papyrus and proved without a doubt that Pammachon was something clearly distinct from Pankration. Today most experts are siding with my opinion that Pammachon was a word very much like the German “fechten”.

(**) “Mein lieber Hermann!” Back in 1996, I “took a bath” when I stumbled onto some “collectors” who had located a “trove” of “Nazi art”, including works by Gaugain, Van Gogh, Cezanne, etc.  I’m still a fairly decent chemist, so I took a work by “Gaugain” and had it analyzed. It had “old paint” dating to the turn of the 20th century at the latest. Starry-eyed and full of visions of the tens of millions I would acquire I took the “Gaugain” to a prestigious art museum in Germany, where the technical analysts confirmed it was “old paint”. I then triumphantly (sounds of Carmina Burana) marched into the office of the curator, who was an expert on Gauguin, and lay the painting reverently on his desk. “Where did you get this?” he whispered as he peeled back the newspaper covering the work, and my chest puffed up as I stood on the ship of my inherent destiny, roaming the world to engage in the betterment of mankind (but on a luxury cruise ship). The my hopes shattered. “Oh no no,” he said, “no, this is a fake!” “What?” I roared, you incompetent, you buffoon, you sniveling crawling worm “how can it be a fake? The paint is old!” “Why yes,” he answered  mildly, “it’s an old forgery. They made thousands of them back then.”

So it is with Kacem, except he cannot see it because he is emotionally entrapped.


Some Thoughts for 2014


Over the past year, I’ve been thinking a lot about why we do what we do. For me, the reasons are obvious, and I’ve written about them repeatedly – I’m seeking a means to change current trends in society, and believe history holds the answers to questions that are bothering us some. But I also have come to see that many people today are training in the martial arts for entirely the wrong reasons, and would therefore like to take the opportunity offered by the New Year to raise the mirror of internal deliberation to us all. Because, as martial artists, we must first hold the clear light of introspection up to our own selves before beginning to evaluate the motives of others- failure to do so simply means that we are not, in the end, martial artists, no matter how much we portray ourselves as such.

A friend of mine recently gifted me with Hank Reinhardt’s books (which I had not read), and  – gosh darn boy howdy – I came to realize that – yea verily – as it turns out I am indeed a student of Hank.

Reinhardt was a prolific author of articles on swords and knives, and wrote a column on “swords in the movies” for Blade magazine. He produced videos on the sword. He played an integral role in the modern day HEMA iconic documentary Reclaiming the Blade, detailing his experiences in the Historical European Martial Arts. He had a book on the history of the sword in progress at the time of his death at 73, which was published after his death by Baen Books as “The Book of The Sword” – I will quote from this book shortly.

I knew Hank between 1984 and 1986. He was in his early fifties at the time, younger than I am today, but at the time was already a cantankerous old f@®τ who did not suffer young fools lightly, a disposition which apparently improved (or got worse, depending on how you look at it) over time. There were many things about Hank that I did not come to understand except after the decades passed and I had matured myself.

One of my senior students, Stamatis, offered the following observation a few weeks ago:

“I noticed,” he said, “that you care nothing about technique or training; you look at how a student stands and how he moves, what he emanates, and you know where he is in seconds.”

“Well, yes,” I responded, “and not only me. Every senior martial artist is like that. It doesn’t matter what a student knows or more accurately what he thinks he knows. What is important is what he is. We can see that immediately; there is no need for him to do anything but stand there. That is how we judge each others’ levels as well.”

“I’m beginning to understand that.”

“I know.” (Stamatis recently completed Level Four.)

“So how do you get that across to students? How can you get them to understand what is important?”

“You don’t. You can’t. They will never accept it, which is why some leave, and why many think they know better.”

“So what do you do?

“Train the ones who stay. They are the only ones who are capable of grasping what we are discussing anyway.”

When I was training in the Bujinkan in the 80s, there came a time when students discovered “the ryu-ha kata.”  Gosh darn boy howdy, you were no one if you did not know that special Gyokko ryu kamae, or how many variations of Yama Arashi kata the Kukishin ryu densho had, or if Takamatsu Sensei was suffering from a particularly bad hangover on the day he decided to put a specific technique down on paper. All completely irrelevant, of course, and commonly expounded upon in Japanese philology (One is reminded of the lesson of the samurai who was taught by a master while working as his servant and getting smacked on the head with a piece of wood in the middle of the night). But it didn’t matter to students – gosh darn boy howdy, if you didn’t know all the details of the ryu-ha kata left and right, you had no business being in the teacher’s chair, and if you did, well – gosh darn boy howdy – you surely deserved the stripes you were wearing.


I mention this piece of ancient history simply for the reason that many students of HEMA today have come to view the fechtbuch like students of the Bujinkan viewed the ryu-ha kata back in the 80s and 90s –  as a holy gospel to be spread amongst the masses. Each particular exponent, of course, has been visited by the Holy Spirit in turn, and as such, is the Only One whose particular brand of dogma represents the Truth regarding the fechtbuch. (Can you give me an Amen? Can you give me a Halleluiah? Praise the Lord!)

Here is Hank’s perspective:

(From Hank Reinhardt (2009-08-11T04:40:21.645000+00:00). Hank Reinhardt’s Book of the Sword (Kindle Locations 3315-3329). Baen. Kindle Edition, )

“In the past several years these many European “fechtbuchs” have been translated and have been made available to those interested. I have read only a few of them and plan on reading more. However, I have a healthy skepticism regarding most of these books…

Let me explain my hesitancy in embracing these manuals with wholehearted enthusiasm. First, these books were written several hundred years ago. Language and convention have changed considerably since that time. It is quite possible that comments were not made in the books simply because everyone at that time knew what the author was talking about. It could also be that some things were left out deliberately so as to gain students where these things were explained by personal instruction. Above all, these manuals are not clear in their depiction of movements from one position to another and thus many of the movements are not fully explained.

However, many people today will look at one of these manuals and proceed to state that this is the way swords were used at the time of the writing. This is equivalent to reading a modern martial arts manual and drawing the conclusion that this is the way street fights are conducted, from someone who has never been in a street fight. Watching many of these drills and exhibitions taken from the manuals, I will admit that they look pretty good, but a close examination will show that these are well choreographed, and bear as much resemblance to actual combat as do fights in the movies.”

What he said. (Back in the 80s we only had 3 fechtbuchs that Hank had photocopied from museums in Europe: Silver, a version of Talhoffer, and a Dutch manual that showed wrestling techniques and joint-locks (don’t make me look it up)). But any book that shows a man half-buried in a pit fighting a woman, or people bashing each other with weird shields in order to establish which man God has decided is in the right, has to be examined with the proper degree of anthropological skepticism.  Fighting a woman while half-buried in a pit to establish whether or not she has had pre-marital or extra-marital sexual relations, for example, really has nothing to do with the battlefield – and yet such depictions are included in a manual purportedly dealing with life-and-death combat.

I am distrustful of such accounts precisely because of what happened with the popular perception of the samurai. I have often written of the Hagakure, compiled by Tsuramoto Tashiro from his conversations with the samurai Yamamoto Tsunetomo between 1709 and 1716. The problem with this book is that the samurai class had already been defunct for almost a century at the time of these interviews, and Tsunetomo himself had never seen combat – he was presenting his view of history the way that he wanted it to be.  The Hagakure forms the core of the established version of the samurai in both Japan and abroad – but Professor Thomas Conlan recently debunked much of the philosophy presented in the volume as inconsistent with historical reality.

And yet, in the 1920s and 1930s, the Hagakure was held up as a philosophical beacon in Japan by a fascist dictatorship that resulted in the death of millions and atrocities beyond recall. The military in Japan established almost complete control over the government in the early 20th century. Many political enemies were assassinated, and communists persecuted. In 1933, Japan withdrew from the League of Nations because she was heavily criticized for her actions in China. Indoctrination and censorship in education and media were complete. Navy and army officers occupied most of the important offices, including the one of the prime minister. The Hagakure, presented as duty to the Emperor in itscontext, played a critical role – a role such that simple working men and women, farmers and tailors, would view themselves as loyal samurai, self-immolating in service to the Divine Emperor.

The lesson is that, as Westerners, it is our obligation to constantly shine the cold light of reality first and foremost on ourselves. Hank was waaaay ahead of the curve. It is a pity I was too young to realize this at the time.

Hank goes on in his Book of the Sword to establish what is truly important and useful in historical close-quarter combat. And ironically, despite what I’ve stated previously regarding the Hagakure, much of what is useful in armed combat today was indeed recorded in Japan during the 17th century:

“The Japanese manuals that I have read (always in translation) rarely, if ever, deal with any of the physical aspects of swordplay. Instead they deal with the mental side. They stress the development of the mind and the spirit, and to the Westerner, this is rather confusing, as it is stated in terms of Zen and many of the other spiritual concepts. It is sometimes stated that these concepts cannot be properly explained in writing, but require a teacher. Now, a cynical person might say that this was done in order to encourage individuals to enlist in the school that the writer favored or even taught. I have no doubt that this was true in some cases, but I also feel that many merely wished to share knowledge. It is also true that some things have to be demonstrated and even explained in person. Therefore, it is up to the individual to draw his own conclusions on the works that he might encounter whether they be Western or Eastern. There is no question that the most difficult manuals to understand are those written in the Far East. There is the real poetic terminology which, when coupled with Zen Buddhism, can present quite a challenge for the Westerner. Terms such as: Moon in the Water, Beating the Grass to Scare the Snake, The Empty Mind or The Stillness of the Placid Pond. These are lovely phrases, and once you understand what is meant, why, they all make sense. But it can require a great deal of effort to learn what is meant, while in the West information is imparted in a much plainer fashion.”

(Hank Reinhardt (2009-08-11T04:40:21.645000+00:00). Hank Reinhardt’s Book of the Sword (Kindle Locations 3334-3345). Baen. Kindle Edition.)

Stance. Movement. Mind. Philosophy. Martial arts all come down to these Four Cornerstones. There is nothing beyond them.

In Pammachon we progress along four levels. I first became aware of these levels in the 80s while studying Buddhism and meditation, martial arts, combat sports, and literature.  They have been referred to in both Eastern and Greek philosophical texts, and I will not dwell on them overlong in this post.

The first stage is simply physical. In this stage, the fechtbuch indeed play a role, because you are learning how to stand, how to move, how to engage an opponent tactically, how to protect yourself. But there is no real threat level involved – it is all theory. Hence, the only part of your nervous system that you use, is your neocortex, the conscious part of your brain, the “Angel” in our terminology.

The second stage is emotional. You engage your limbic system and learn how to control yourself and others when influenced by your amygdalae and hypothalamus. You come to terms with your emotions and they no longer run the show during combat or altercation. This is the “Monkey.” (For neuroanatomical purists, forget about McLean’s model for a second and work with me:  consider the fear circuit and the pleasure circuit as specific neuronal circuits that form what might best be called our “emotional neural network.”)

The third stage reflects the purity of Mind. You engage your basal ganglia and react to an exterior threat with stillness of mind and purpose, without pause and without the burden of suppressed emotion. This is the “Dinosaur.”

The fourth stage reflects our entire being; this is the Mollusk. Neurologically you learn to control and employ your enteric and autonomic nervous systems. Like a mollusk, you are flooded by the sea of Being around you, the smells and tastes of your surroundings washing in and out of you and imparting information, data with cause and effect.

These are the foundation of martial arts. Nothing else matters.

This is what Reinhardt was trying to say. This is what I have been saying all along.

I know it is difficult. To accept the above, you must, as Hank says, accept that there are teachers out there who “merely wish to share knowledge.” You cannot judge them, and they can defeat you without working up a sweat. You know this, whether deep down inside or right up front, and it gets your gall, because in the Epoch of Information that is the Internet, you may have even been so bold as to state “well – gosh darn boy howdy – I have the same books in my library as he (or she) does, who do they think they are?” But it doesn’t work that way. You can look at Picasso and Gauguin and say “wow – genius” if you are at a level aesthetically to comprehend their work, or you can say “dude, yuck yuck yuck look at that yuck he scribbles like a kid yuck yuck” or “titties uhuh yuck yuck.” Your opinion will not have altered Picasso or Gauguin’s portfolio one iota – what will have transpired is that you will no longer be in a position to enjoy their inspiration. Your choice. Your decision, and it is a binary one.

How can you tell if a teacher is legitimate? He will have discussed the things I am referring to in this post repeatedly, long before you read them here. He will not be predatory – where there is smoke, there is fire.  If a teacher is charging inordinate amounts for “certification,” or is (routinely) sleeping with teenagers, or even is inordinately “glamorous” and vain (for reasons I will not get into here), then run. If the show is all about the teacher, then run. If the teacher does not question himself constantly, run. If the teacher does not hold his own teachers and his own self up to moral standards, run. If the teacher justifies his own failings or the failings of his own specific interests for whatever reason, run. Demand perfection, though you will never achieve it. The universe is binary, you see: you cannot be a little bit pregnant, and you cannot make a baby in one month by making nine women pregnant. Things either are, or are not.

And trust me on this: neither the specific application of Yama Arashi, nor whether the foot is placed left or right as described in one of Liechtenauer’s verses has anything whatsoever to do with it. Liechtenauer himself knew this.

Happy New Year.


Shadowboxing Movement Number One (or, how to link primordial ritual dance to martial arts)


In the course of teaching Pammachon, I occasionally provide glimpses of the sources I used to reconstruct the art. I will never reveal them in their entirety nor even partially – my reasoning is simple: whatever products result from my creativity are, per the Berne convention, my intellectual property and may not be used by others without my expressed permission. Whatever lies within the archaeological record belongs to humanity and is, as such, common domain, and may be used by everyone. I don’t want “smart” people to capitalize on my efforts.

That having been said, every so often I enjoy being petty and rubbing other people’s faces in it. This is one of those times, driven by something entirely unrelated to this post.

When originally presented to the public, detractors squealed that the first movement in Pammachon (of eight movements) was based on Chen tai chi chuan’s Parting the Wild Horse’s Mane (Ye Ma Fen Zhong), which I had learned from Chen Xiaowang, and evilly re-interpreted from Bujinkan ninjutsu’s sanshin no kata, or maybe I had seen it in a video sent to me by David Eisenberg featuring Master Shi Ming, or somewhere else, but in any case the movement was “oriental, dude, just like your made-up martial art” (insert frothing at the mouth, tween gossip, and increased levels of testosterone here).

Then I intentionally misled (sort of) a bunch of people (mostly for fun) with Fiore Dei Liberi’s posta longa. Actually the reason I chose that particular depiction was that it proved the historical continuity of the movement in medieval Europe, right on schedule.

Recently a senior student of mine stumbled onto a depiction reflecting an original source of pammachon’s first movement. He found this one, and what it shows is ancient Greek sacred dance, used in rituals.  Interestingly enough, it depicts sea nymphs, an important distinction for reasons I will not get into.

In fact the movement derives from this depiction, and shows Metis, primal goddess of the Greeks, wife of Zeus and mother of Athena, using this movement in her dance. Metis is the daughter of two deities of the sea, and represents intuition, a hunter’s guile (allowing prey to fall into traps); she is a primal goddess from primal times. This is the only known depiction of Metis that survives. And, since Metis correlates to level four (the Enteric Nervous System) in Pammachon, it is good that the student begin work towards achieving this state from the very beginning, which is why it is the first thing he or she is taught.

But that movement exists all over the world, you cry. Precisely, that is the whole point. Every step in Pammachon, every movement, every technique, every principle, though founded in  Greek culture, exists in martial arts and spiritual disciplines all over the world. It is truly pan-machon , all combat. Remember, to prove veracity, what is needed are reproducible results. Our premise is that, if something exists in different geographic regions around the world throughout 4000 years of recorded human history, and is used by unrelated cultures again and again, it has been proven through repeated use and “survivability”, i.e. there is something to it. We don’t need to reinvent the wheel, and why would we want to anyway? It took me twenty years to do the work back in the day (no databases on the internet), and I have been offered a PhD for its publication – parts of it went into my book “The Martial Arts of Ancient Greece.”  But the entire thesis will never be made public – I put its material into Pammachon.


Another kali rant


I’ve been thinking of the Philippines this weekend for obvious reasons – my heart goes out to those suffering, weather patterns created by humanity’s greed and ignorance. But my thinking of the Philippines brings me back to kali whether I want to or not; and so here we are with another kali rant that actually has a point, and is a continuation of my previous post. Much of it is a translation of an earlier article of mine in Greek.

To be honest, this rant came up because my wife was right. We bought a new TV, so we moved the old one to another place in the house and hooked it up to a satellite receiver. My wife wanted the TV to go into a specific nook in the kitchen. I measured everything very carefully, and said no, it wouldn’t fit. She insisted. I complained. She insisted. I whined. She insisted. I GROWLED. She insisted. I capitulated and put the TV into the nook.

The damn thing fit perfectly. I was wrong. See, no matter how much something looks good in the lab, you never know if it really works until it works in the field.


Proponents of Filipino Martial Arts (FMA) typically base the superiority of their art on the amazing victory of chief Lapu – Lapu against the Spanish conquistador Ferdinand Magellan. This has always driven me crazy. The Philippine government has even erected a statue in his honour on Mactan Island that fans of Filipino kali never fail to visit (they have also renamed the town of Opon in Cebu to Lapu-Lapu City). I would like to provide a description of this battle, based on the autobiography of naval officer Antonio Pigafetta, who was present, so that the reader can see for himself that things were not the way they are presented at all.

Magellan left Spain on 20 September 1520 with five ships. Before passing through the eponymous straits, he previously had to deal with a mutiny that began under Commander Juan Sebastian del Cano (who was convinced that Magellan was leading them to certain death), sparing the rebels’ lives in the process. In March 1521 Magellan arrived in the Philippines, and the following travesty was enacted.

Magellan was a fanatical Catholic and was convinced that God had chosen him to bring His True Message to all mankind. On the island of Cebu, Magellan was able to convince Rajah Humabon (note the title, which tells us his true culture) that the Catholic Faith was the One and Only. Humabon was christened Carlos in honor of Charles I of Spain, while his chief consort Hara Humamay was given the name Juana, after Charles’ mother, Joanna of Castile. Humabon also made a blood compact with Magellan, as a sign of friendship; according to Pigafetta, Humabon requested that Magellan kill his rival Lapu Lapu, the Datu (chieftain) of nearby Mactan Island. Magellan accepted the task with pleasure (being such a good Christian).

Now, Magellan’s most experienced Marine officers had no desire to traipse off into the jungle on an island where there were thousands of natives armed with bows, bamboo spears, and iron swords. The Marines expressed their objections, unwilling to engage the rival chieftain on his home turf – their expedition had been chartered to purchase spices after all, and not to fight bloody battles so that the natives could be baptized as quasi-Christians. After the Marines refused combat, Magellan recruited all the untrained deckhands, cooks, and carpenters he could finagle, confirmed to them that God’s hand was upon them, and readied them for battle.

On April 27, 1521, Magellan’s motley crew disembarked on the island, where circa 1500 natives were waiting for them on the beach. The total number of Spanish “troops” were 49 men, of which 11 decided to stay behind to guard the boats when they understood the odds. The original plan was for the armada to bomb the shores (a good plan), allowing the armored Spaniards to sift through the wreckage and kill the wounded. But the ships could not approach the coast because of coral reefs, so the natives were out of range and the bombardment didn’t take place. However, with faith in his destiny, Magellan surged forward with his deckhands, convinced that God’s blessing would protect them.

It’s worth reading the translation of Pigafetta’s original account:

“When morning came, forty-nine of us leaped into the water up to our thighs, and walked through water for more than two cross-bow flights before we could reach the shore. The boats could not approach nearer because of certain rocks in the water. The other eleven men remained behind to guard the boats. When we reached land, the islanders had formed in three divisions to the number of more than one thousand five hundred men. When they saw us, they charged down upon us with exceeding loud cries, two divisions on our flanks and the other on our front.

When the captain saw that, he formed us into two divisions, and thus did we began to fight. The musketeers and crossbow-men shot from a distance for about a half-hour, but uselessly; for the shots only passed through the shields which were made of thin wood and the arms [of the bearers]. The captain cried to them, “Cease firing cease firing!” but his order was not at all heeded. When the natives saw that we were shooting our muskets to no purpose, crying out they determined to stand firm, but they redoubled their shouts. When our muskets were discharged, the natives would never stand still, but leaped hither and thither, covering themselves with their shields. They shot so many arrows at us and hurled so many bamboo spears (some of them tipped with iron) at the captain-general, besides pointed sticks hardened with fire, stones, and mud, that we could scarcely defend ourselves.

Seeing that, the captain-general sent some men to burn their houses in order to terrify them. When they saw their houses burning, they were roused to greater fury. Two of our men were killed near the houses, while we burned twenty or thirty houses. So many of them charged down upon us that they shot the captain through the right leg with a poisoned arrow. On that account, he ordered us to retire slowly, but the men took to fight, except six or eight of us who remained with the captain.

The natives shot only at our legs, for the latter were bare; and so many were the spears and stones that they hurled at us, that we could offer no resistance. The mortars in the boats could not aid us as they were too far away.

So we continued to retire for more than a good crossbow flight from the shore always fighting up to our knees in the water. The natives continued to pursue us, and picking up the same spear four or six times, hurled it at us again and again. Recognizing the captain, so many turned upon him that they knocked his helmet off his head twice, but he always stood firmly like a good knight, together with some others.

Thus did we fight for more than one hour, refusing to retire farther. An Indian hurled a bamboo spear into the captain’s face, but the latter immediately killed him with his lance, which he left in the Indian’s body. Then, trying to lay hand on sword, he could draw it out but halfway, because he had been wounded in the arm with a bamboo spear. When the natives saw that, they all hurled themselves upon him. One of them wounded him on the left leg with a large cutlass, which resembles a scimitar, only being larger. That caused the captain to fall face downward, when immediately they rushed upon him with iron and bamboo spears and with their cutlasses, until they killed our mirror, our light, our comfort, and our true guide. When they wounded him, he turned back many times to see whether we were all in the boats. Thereupon, beholding him dead, we, wounded, retreated, as best we could, to the boats, which were already pulling off.”

Magellan actually fought with worse odds than Thermopylae, and was able to hold his opponents off for an hour of hand to hand combat with untrained personnel at this back. Delightful. There are 19th century engravings of the scene, drawn at a time when people were still encountering natives who were outside what we term as modern civilization:

It is obvious that anyone who uses the case outlined above to demonstrate the superiority of FMA is intellectually challenged. The irony of the situation is that, following Magellan’s death, Humabon and his warriors plotted to poison the remaining Spanish soldiers in Cebu during a feast. Several men were in fact killed, including the then-leaders of the expedition, Duarte Barbosa and Joao Serrao. Leadership of the expedition fell to the rebel Juan Sebastian del Cano, who returned to Madrid with a ship full of spices and became rich. Indeed, for 200 years, historians believed that del Cano was the one who had made the first circumnavigation of the globe, until Pigafetta’s hidden diary was unearthed.

One could question whether there were any indigenous Filipino martial arts in the first place; when I first read Pigafetta’s account, I discounted modern interpretations because of the obvious references to shields and spears. But there is that intriguing mention of iron cutlasses. Rajah Humabon’s title suggests a Majapahit influence. On the other hand, the word kali is Malaysian. The word escrima is Spanish. Arnis also comes from the Spanish arnes. So? Can a martial art exist without having a local name?

Apparently yes, it can, if it is so ingrained in local tradition it does not need a name. I’ll explain as we go on.

I did look for kali, and even my detractors at this point have been forced to admit I’m a bit above the cut as a martial arts historian. I mean, I liked kali back in the day when I had a Filipino girlfriend – I even have an original Jody Samson butterfly knife. So I reckoned that if kali existed, it would be evident in 19th century records in duels. I mean, Greece has thousands of 19th century knife duels on file as court cases because, well, people died or got hurt, and so other people went to court, and the government said, bad boy, which meant that somewhere somehow a clerk filed a record. So we know that knife fighting and dueling was pervasive in 19th century Greece, just like it was in the States (all those records of Bowie duels, right?). Come to think of it, just like dueling was all over Europe. AH, but the Filipinos were Asians, you say, and did not keep records. Sorry guys. The Spanish were in the business of being in business – and so kept records on everything. Just like the Turks did in Greece. Just like any colonial power did everywhere.

So. No 19th century Filipino knife duels. And yet, their reputation pervades the islands. I mean, bolo duels were supposedly prominent in the North and Central Philippines, common to Spanish-influenced areas, farmlands, and places where machete-like bolo knives are commonly used. But darn, a duel occurred on 14 April 1920 which was reported internationally by Prescott Journal Miner as “The First Bolo Duel in Manila since the American Occupation” (the US occupied the Philippines in 1898). The duel happened when Angel Umali and Tranquilino Paglinawan met with friends in a vacant lot near the city centre before dusk to settle a feud; Paglinawan lost his left hand. With no law against bolo fights, Umali was charged for a petty crime. Now this is important – if knife fighting had been so pervasive, there would have been laws against it, just like there were all over Europe. No, the Spanish didn’t care, you cry! Sure they did. Lost workers meant lost income. They cared. No laws against knife dueling simply meant there was not enough knife dueling to matter to the bosses. Sorry guys, common sense must overrule desire, even if desire is more fun.

Bolo fights have become part of Filipino rural culture, however. On 7 January 2012, two middle-aged farmers were wounded after a bolo duel over the harvest of rice in a village in Zamboanga City. Geronimo Alvarez and Jesus Guerrero, were drinking, and at the height of their arguing, Alvarez allegedly pulled out his bolo and hacked Guerrero. Guerrero also pulled his bolo and repeatedly hacked Alvarez, and their relatives immediately intervened and rushed them to hospital. So we have a record of it, you see? Just like we have a record of most of the duels fought with bowies in the US. Dueling is all about making a name for yourself, young ones – people WANT a record to be kept. Who be da baddest MMA fighter, homes? Dat’s right.

Sadly, we must ponder reality, because lack of same has gotten many a young man killed. So let’s look at “kali”. Does it exist? Yep, right in front of our eyes. Dan Inosanto actually pointed it out years ago.

Southeast Asia is filled with dances of Indian origin and influence, the legacy of their empire in the region in ages passed. The keris derives from them. The dances derive from them. The music derives from them. Hell, there is even a Greek influence in some regions – in Java, the word for city-state is “kraton” (it’s kratos in Greek, hence pankration), while Pegasus and Medusa have been the symbols of kings.

Inosanto pointed out repeatedly that martial movements are retained in traditional Filiipino dances. He’s 100% right. Are they Filipino? Is MMA American? If you ask a Brazilian, he will say we created it with BJJ and vale tudo. But it grew and prospered in the US. I have talked about “trade-ition” before, and it is time people understood it.

The Philippines have been trading with India as far back as the 10th century, while in the 13th century actual kingdoms based on Indian culture were founded. With this trade came influence in language, music, dance, and writing (Baybayin is based on Sanskrit; a quarter of Tagalog is of Sanskrit origin). Some common words such as guro/guru (teacher), mukha (face), likhain (to write), and putong (turban) are Indian. Could weapons use have been left out?

So, kali has been in the Philippines since the 13th century – BUT NOT THE WAY IT HAS BEEN PORTRAYED TO THE PUBLIC. It was present as traditional Indian dances and movements. It was present as the effect of Indian martial arts and weapons on the local populace. It was present in many other forms. But “kali” the martial art DID NOT EXIST until the 20th century, when it was formed for political reasons, just like taekwondo. There is no history of knife dueling in the Philippines evident before the 20th century. What does this mean? It means that what is taught within kali’s syllabus must be placed under careful scrutiny and not taken for granted; look at US Army Combatives. Everything seemed like a good idea at the time – until it was tried in the field. Ten years later, the US Army was forced to announce it would be “revising” its syllabus.

You can accept my viewpoint or reject it; my obligation is to put it in print, so that lives can be saved whenever possible. I mean, there are still people out there looking for Shinryuken Masamitsu Toda, so I don’t expect many people to listen at this time. But the words will remain as part of the record, and who knows? Maybe 200 years from now someone will find these diaries, and like Pigafetta’s, say, hey look at this! Way cool!  But for now, please remember that, don’t make comments on whether a TV screen will fit into a specific nook until you’ve tried it – you’re wife may turn out to be right….


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?


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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