Myth has it that the origins of the ancient Greek form of combat, Pankration, can be traced somewhere between Theseus and his struggle with the Minotaur or Hercules and his fight with the Nemean lion.
What is known is that Pankration, whose name is derived from the Greek words Pan and Kratos meaning all power or one who wins using all power, was a competition in the Ancient Olympic Games dating back to 648 B.C.
Besides being an exciting sporting spectacle, Pankration is also said to have served as combat training for ancient Greek warriors such as the famous Spartans as well as the Macedonian troops of Alexander the Great.
Alexander the Great is credited by many modern disciples of Pankration to be the person who brought this Greek martial art to the depths of Anatolia and the Near East, possibly influencing other known Asian martial arts such as Karate.
Kon Pappy (Kostas Papaioannou) is a modern disciple of this ancient Greek sport and he will be giving a demonstration of Pankration during the PanHellenic Games that will be held in Melbourne on November 27-29.
In 1995 Kon set out to spread the ‘gospel’ of modern Pankration in Australia. Along with a Philhellene Anglican priest, father David Smith, Kon established the Australian Pankration Federation.
By his own admission, he drew his inspiration from Greek American Jim Arvanitis who is arguably considered the modern father of the revival of Pankration dating back to the late ‘60s.
Kon was no stranger to sports and martial arts. From a young age he started wrestling and eventually became an Australian champion.
In 1988 he moved to Europe and more specifically United Kingdom to train in boxing and fought 29 professional games with many successes. Upon his return to Australia he continued his immersion to the world of martial arts such as Korean Hap Ki Do and Brazilian jiu-jitsu.
Pankration which is considered the precursor of Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) has slowly yet steadily built a following in 74 countries worldwide.
Currently, there is a an International Federation of Pankration that was founded in 1999 and since then has organised world, European and Asian championships. “Australia is always in the top 5 of the world having won numerous medals,” Kon said with pride.
The rules of the Pankration are: “We strike to the body and to the thighs but not to the groin area, not to the face and not to the spine. Anything that endangers llife is out and you win by scoring most points or by submitting your opponent in a five minute period. And of course there are different weight classes,” Kon explained. Plainly said, as Kon further pointed out “it’s a mixture of wrestling with kick-boxing, or if you prefer an imperfect boxer with wrestling skills.”
Certainly a force to be reckoned with, I noted admiringly but Kon is ready to ground anybody who thinks that walking into his club is a free ticket to machismo. “Because my school is a non profit organisation I don’t have to put up with clowns and people who should be more with a psychologist and not a martial arts instructor,” he emphasised.
In the Atlas Martial Arts club that he runs in NSW, he also trains kids as young as 10 years old but with the exception that the curriculum is toned down (no joint locks) and they learn how to defend against punches and kicks and how to immobilise someone.
Most importantly, however, he tries to instill to his young students respect for others because as he highlights “there is enough violence out there.”
Kon stresses the fact that Pankration is based on science and that for him is its greatest allure.
In Australia there are 14 clubs that offer training in pankration along with other martial arts and it is estimated that 300 people have taken up the sport.
Unfortunately, in Victoria there is no certified person or club offering such training which makes the opportunity even more intriguing as Kon and eight other athletes from his club and the Zeus Martial Arts (NSW) will demonstrate the martial art of Pankration on Saturday November 28 at the PanHellenic Games.