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Pankration – Tournaments, Weight Classes and Rules

Modern Pankration has been changed to fit modern standards and rulesets for the safety of fighters. Bouts are contested in an arena called a palaestra, It’s a point-oriented competition that’s sanctioned by the sport’s major organisations, such as United World Wrestling (UWW).

In order to unify the rules and participation, UWW has adopted weight categories for competition. 

There are two rulesets in modern pankration defined by the UWW: Traditional and Elite.

  • Traditional ruleset –  is more restrictive and disallows direct punches and uncontrolled kicks to the head. This is more commonly used in amateur pankration tournaments.
  • Elite ruleset – less restrictive, just like MMA, where pankratiasts can kick and punch their opponents in the head.

Techniques from modern pankration are still dangerous but are a lot safer (than Ancient Pankration). The modern sport has more rules and regulations that the pankratiasts need to follow. Modern pankration promotes sportsmanship and self-discipline. But the entertainment factor and competitiveness are still there.

The ‘Elite’ version of Pankration. Very similar to MMA although there are rules in place that make it more sports orientated and less brutal.

Earning points in a match

Unlike MMA and boxing, which enforce a closed scoring (10-point must system), pankration uses the open scoring system.

  • An open scoring system means the scores are displayed openly to the audience, athletes, and coaches. 
  • This provides transparency and changes a large degree of the decision-making between fighters. Unlike other combat sports, the three referees score the contest as one
  • Points are scored on clean hits, ground transitions, and takedowns
  • 1 point is awarded for punches to the head and body, kicks to the body, and a takedown.
  • 2 points are scored for a side mount and kicks and knees to the body. 3 points for head kicks, full mount, and high amplitude throws. 
  • Lastly, 4 points are given if a fighter successfully transitions to a back mount or knocks down his opponent. 
  • Pankration also has penalties that may result in lost points. For example, modern pankration prohibits stalling.
  • If a player continues to stall despite being warned by the referee, points will be awarded to his opponent

How to win a match

There are multiple ways to win in modern pankration.

  • First is a knockout, where an opponent is no longer fit to continue due to being struck hard. 
  • Knocked-down fighters are usually given 10 seconds to recover.
  • The second is via submission. Since pankration uses a lot of grappling, fighters can end the fight with chokes and joint submissions
  • If the fighter taps out or yells for a stoppage, the referee will step in. 
  • Another way to win a pankration match is a decision by points. If the match ends without a submission or a knockout, the referees tally the points and declare a winner. 
  • The match will also be concluded if there is a 20-point gap between the two fighters. There are cases in which points are tied by the end of regulation and given a 1 minute overtime. 
  • It can also end via technical decisions. This happens when there is an injury caused by an unintentional incident. Points will be tallied to decide the winner. 
  • Lastly, referee stoppage happens when the referee sees a fighter is no longer fit to continue or if it is too one-sided.

Uniforms and training

Modern amateur Pankration fighters usually wear a uniform called an ‘endyma’. This resembles a judo Gi, but with a Traditional Greek aesthetic.  Internationally Pankration is practised with either a Gi or endyma (traditional uniform consisting of a loose jacket and pants, in North America and Australia the Gi is optional) along with approved protection gear including specially gel-filled gloves and shin pads.

Pankration Traditional Uniform
Pankration. Pro fight gear

Amateur Pankratiasts may opt for the Endyma (left) a type of Gi.  The ‘Elite’ fighters usually opt for the MMA aesthetic with shorts and relevant protective gear.

Modern Elite Pankration fighters will wear shorts and have protective gear (MMA gloves, shin pads, headgear) and may fight on a standard wrestling mat or in some cases a cage similar to MMA.

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