Browsing the blog archives for September, 2014.

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