Pankrations History in the Olympics
The word pankration has been translated as "all powers" or "all powerful." Pankration can be viewed as the first martial art, a combination of boxing and wrestling. It was the most prestigious of sports in ancient Greece, and the actual history of pankration is mixed with myths and legends. Its founder, as the legend goes, was Theseus, who invented pankration in order to defeat the Minotaur in the labyrinth. Not everyone was a fan, however. The poet Xenophanes described pankration as "that new and terrible contest... ." There's solid historical evidence that pankration was added as an Olympic sport in 648 B.C., at the 33rd Olympiad, and it continued as part of the games for more than 1,000 years.
Plain and brutal, pankration was a no-holds barred contest with very few rules. You couldn't bite or gouge out the eyes of your opponent, but those were the only restrictions. A match ended by knockout, beating your opponent into submission or death. According to legend, one match ended when a champion named Damoxenos pulled out the entrails of his opponent. Breaking the bones of an opponent was a common tactic. Plato criticized pankration as brutal and lacking in aesthetics.
The rise of mixed martial arts in the late 20th and early 21st centuries helped revive interest in pankration. There now are associations of pankration athletes actively promoting the sport and hoping to convince Olympic officials to consider its inclusion in the Olympic Games. In the meantime, pankration has been stripped of some of its brutality in favor of an emphasis on technique and sportsmanship.
Today, pankration is developed by International Federation of Associated Wrestling Styles (Fédération Internationale des Luttes Associées or FILA) as a mild form of Mixed Martial Arts (MMA). FILA is the body responsible for supervising Olympic wrestling, and competitions for freestyle and Greco-Roman wrestling take place every Summer Olympiad. When including pankration into its field of activities, FILA had the vision to encourage the perpetuation of this ancient form of total combat.