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                                          Olympic sports - Wrestling - Pankration - Boxing
Ancient olympic Wrestling



Wrestling is one of the oldest sports known. Art and literature abound in dramatic examples of gods and men grappling as powerful adversaries. A number of tales make a hero of Herakles, the demigod, who was reputed to have been the originator of wrestling. According to Greek myth, Herakles challenged and charged Erginus, King of Orchomenos, and their muscle-bulging struggle ended when the King was pinned to the ground.
Two styles of wrestling, in vogue for centuries, added variety and excitement to athletic festivals: One was known as horthay palay; the other, kulisis.
Horthay palay, a free-for-all style of wrestling, was engaged in by semiprofessional athletes. Matches were fought in an area of loosened dirt, really a mud pit, where the wrestlers wallowed like animals, their bodies quickly becoming slippery with damp earth. Modern mud fights in which protagonists with bodies wet as eels slither helplessly into ludicrous positions bear no resemblance to horthay palay. The bull-strong wrestlers of Greece were trained for the condition of the ground and in the technique of the sport; they grabbed opponents with clever and damaging holds in spite of the mud. There were no rounds to be stopped or started by timekeepers or referees; the match was continuous, ending only when one combatant wrestled the other to exhaustion or insensibility. With stamina and determination, typical of Greek athletes, wrestlers fought hard and long, enduring agony until one fainted or hollered the equivalent of "uncle."

Upright wrestling, kulisis, beautiful to watch and requiring even more skill in execution than ground wrestling, was the accepted form of competitive wrestling. Little is known about the rules of kulisis: a book of rules and a drill book assembled by paidotribes disappeared centuries ago. What is known about upright wrestling has been learned from the study of countless pieces of sculpture, has reliefs cut in stone, and vase paintings.

Another style vicious, crude type of fighting, was allowed, first as an exhibition and then as a competitive event. This was the pankration.
The pankration was brutal, barbaric and bloody; it was literally a combination of the worst elements of wrestling and boxing. Beefy contestants, larded with blubber and bulk, battled each other with no holds barred; the only restriction was that fighters could not gouge each other in the eyes. They fought by kicking, biting, strangling, twisting arms, and jumping on a downed adversary; even the searingly painful, well-aimed blow of the knee to the groin was permissible. Kicking in the stomach was a favorite trick of pankrationists. The bout continued until one contestant was knocked out, or groveled in pain on the ground, unable to rise to continue the bloody battle.

Greeks were as wildly enthusiastic about boxing as are contemporary devotees of the sport. But Greek boxing more nearly resembled the sport as it was practiced in the early nineteenth century than twentieth-century ring-enclosed boxing.
There was no measured ring or boxing area. Boxers took their position on the hard dirt in the center of the stadium and spectators gathered around, giving the boxers plenty of space in which to circle. At a command from the judges, the boxers squared off, sparred and battled until one of the contestants admitted defeat or was knocked out. There were no set rounds and no classes; the designation of boxers as welterweight, lightweight, or heavyweight is a modern device. Any Greek boxer who felt himself ready to meet any other boxer was free to enter the contests, after receiving approval of the Hellenodikai.





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