The Pankration Flow

Black Belt - - KARATE WAY - ABOUT THE AU­THOR: Black Belt Hall of Famer Jim Arvanitis has writ­ten six books about pankration, in­clud­ing The First Mixed Mar­tial Art: Pankration From Myths to Mod­ern Times, pub­lished by Black Belt %RRNV +H·V GHYRWHG KLV OLIH WR UHEXLOGLQJ DQG mod­ern­izin

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Tran­si­tions: STAND­ING

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When you’re clinched with an op­po­nent, you’re of­ten in a neu­tral po­si­tion in which nei­ther per­son has the ad­van­tage. That’s why your goal should be to work to a bet­ter, more dom­i­nant one that al­lows your strikes, take­downs and sub­mis­sions to be ef­fec­tive. An ex­am­ple is tran­si­tion­ing from a front col­lar-and-el­bow clinch to a rear body lock. The lat­ter gets you be­hind your foe, es­sen­tially giv­ing you his back and putting your at­tacks out of his sight. In an­other ex­am­ple, you’re locked up in a dou­ble-col­lar tie with your ad­ver­sary. To im­prove your po­si­tion, you “swim” your arms in­side his to gain the con­trol ad­van­tage.


You also " ϐ clinches, which en­ables you to avoid the dam­age that can come from closerange strikes. Es­cap­ing a tight clinch re­quires mo­bil­ity and tech­nique. There are some mis­takes to be cog­nizant of. For ex­am­ple, when you’re caught in a two-handed neck clinch, don’t lower your head away from the grip. This will ex­pose your face to knee strikes and a sure knock­out.

Tran­si­tions: STAND­ING TO GROUND

In tran­si­tion­ing from stand-up to ground, it’s cru­cial to not be­come pre­oc­cu­pied with fall­ing. If you are, your op­po­nent likely will sense it and take ad­van­tage. In­stead, you should re­main alert so you can tran­si­tion into a dom­i­nant top-con­trol po­si­tion and then fol­low up as soon as you land.

Stand­ing-to-ground tran­si­tions may be re­quired in the fol­low­ing sit­u­a­tions:


Once ǯ ϐ ǡ " stay fo­cused and de­fend your­self even though you might be in a stunned state. Oth­er­wise, you’re easy prey for fol­lowup strikes and holds. Cover up and stay in mo­tion un­til your senses clear.


This is a pre­ferred strat­egy of grap­plers.

Once you’re vis­i­bly shaken by a blow, dis­tracted or in the mid­dle of de­liv­er­ing a punch or kick, your op­po­nent might try to rush in and tackle you. De­fense re­quires you to change lev­els and em­ploy a take­down of your own, such as a sin­gle-leg, dou­ble-leg or gob­e­hind an­kle pick to dis­rupt his bal ϐ in a way you choose.


Kicks must be ex­e­cuted swiftly so they can­not be grabbed, es­pe­cially when you’re aim­ing for a tar­get that’s above the waist. Slow de­liv­ery can al­low your op­po­nent to catch your leg, dis­rupt­ing your bal­ance and leav­ing you open to a face punch or sweep.


Once you and your ad­ver­sary are tied up in a clinch, there’s a high prob­a­bil­ity you’ll go to the ground from a loss of bal­ance, a trip or an up­root­ing (us­ing a leg take­down or throw). When this hap­pens, aim to land mounted on his chest or just to the side of it. Un­for­tu­nately, that’s not al­ways pos­si­ble. You may end up in his guard or worse, so you’ll want to have strate­gies for by­pass­ing those po­si­tions.

Tran­si­tions: ON THE GROUND

Be­cause tran­si­tions are cru­cial to suc­cess on the ground, they must be de­vel­oped to a high level. Fo­cus­ing on po­si­tions and sub­mis­sions while ig­nor­ing the tran­si­tions needed to get from one to the other can lead to fail­ure.

Work on mas­ter­ing the me­chan­ics of ground com­bat be­fore you start blend­ing the el­e­ments into com­bi­na­tions. Strive to main­tain tech­ni­cal in­tegrity as you ef­fect a tran­si­tion, or you’ll give your op­po­nent a chance to es­cape or counter. Move­ment on the ground is para­mount. You need to know how to take ad­van­tage of any ex­ist­ing space to gain the best po­si­tional con­trol.

A ground tran­si­tion has many com­po­nents. For ex­am­ple, in­te­grat­ing a ba­sic arm lock with an in­verted leg choke re­quires co­or­di­nat­ing sev­eral move­ments, ac­tions and re­ac­tions, each of which is pred­i­cated on your op­po­nent’s re­sponse. Speed, tim­ing, power and ex­plo­sive­ness are all in­volved.

Ef­fec­tive tran­si­tions ne­ces­si­tate con­trol po­si­tions that ac­com­pany the ϐ " to main­tain po­si­tional dom­i­nance. It’s ϐ " fail to achieve this. There’s also the pos­si­bil­ity that your ad­ver­sary will free him­self from your grip, which means you must quickly ad­just your body to main­tain con­trol of him with­out los­ing your hold. In ad­di­tion, you need to know how to take ad­van­tage of any re­sis­tance he presents as you go for the sub­mis­sion. Op­pos­ing force with force tends to waste en­ergy.

The fol­low­ing are some com­mon tran ϐ ǣ


As in an up­right clinch, switch­ing po­si­tions on the ground pro­vides bet­ter con­trol over your op­po­nent. Go­ing from side mount

to top mount (or vice versa), mov­ing from bot­tom to top and tak­ing his back are all im­por­tant skills to de­velop.


This is par­tic­u­larly rel­e­vant in ground-and-pound com­bi­na­tions. For this tac­tic to work, a dom­i­nant po­si­tion is nec­es­sary so your op­po­nent will be un­able to in­ter­rupt your strat­egy with sub­mis­sion at­tempts. The best po­si­tion for un­leash­ing strikes is strad­dling your downed op­po­nent in a chest or back mount. If you end up in his open or closed guard and he’s able to de­ter your at­tack, you need to be able to get past his legs to di­min­ish his de­fen­sive ca­pac­ity.


An­tic­i­pate that your op­po­nent will pos­sess strong de­fenses against the ba­sic ϐ Ǥ " " plan on us­ing strikes to pen­e­trate them. By forc­ing him to re­act to a strik­ing on­slaught, you’ll make him ex­pose his limbs, which fa­cil­i­tates a sub­mis­sion.


A sub­mis­sion chain is a series of locks and/ ϐ se­quence, sim­i­lar to stand­ing or grounded strik­ing com­bi­na­tions. They’re es­pe­cially in­stru­men­tal as coun­ters against coun­ters for sub­mis­sion at­tempts. Once you sense that a cer­tain hold is not work­ing or has been blocked, quickly tran­si­tion to an­other, com­ple­ment­ing the re­sis­tance en­coun­tered rather than merely us­ing strength to over­come your ad­ver­sary.

Tran­si­tions: GROUND TO STAND­ING

Know­ing how to get up from the ground is es­sen­tial for all strik­ers.

" ! ϐ Ǧ ciency to de­fend your­self when you’re down, but your strength man­i­fests when you’re on your feet and able to un­load heavy shots. When things go ϐ ǡ you need to re­turn to your po­si­tion of strength as soon as pos­si­ble. First, cre­ate enough dis­tance be­tween your­self and your op­po­nent. This can en­able you to use up-kicks. An­other tac­tic en­tails us­ing your legs to push him away so you can scoot back and scram­ble to your feet. It’s cru­cial to re­main well-pro­tected in case he in­sti­gates a new at­tack.

Ob­vi­ously, seam­less tran­si­tions are the nu­cleus of any mul­ti­skill com­bat Ǥ ϐ ) stay one step ahead of your ad­ver­sary. That way, you can smoothly ex­e­cute po­si­tional changes to bet­ter dic­tate the out­come of the con­test. As was proved in pankration long ago, the abil­ity to ) ϐ Ǧ ciently un­der duress is the best way to pre­pare for vic­tory.

STRIKE TO STAND­ING SUB­MIS­SION: Jim Arvanitis (left) squares off with his op­po­nent (1). The man ini­ti­ates a right punch to the head, caus­ing Arvanitis to move lat­er­ally and step for­ward while par­ry­ing the blow with his rear hand and de­liv­er­ing an el­bow strike to the face with his left arm (2). The pankration stylist fol­lows up by ex­tend­ing his right arm (3) so he can wrap the limb around the PDQ·V QHFN OHDYLQJ WKH HGJH RI KLV IRUHDUP XQGHU KLV WKURDW (4). Af­ter lock­ing his hands to­gether, Arvanitis leans back to ap­ply a guil­lo­tine choke (5).

SPRAWL TO BACK CON­TROL: Jim Arvanitis (left) and his ad­ver­sary face each other in match­ing right leads (1). The op­po­nent drops his level and shoots in, forc­ing Arvanitis to step back and lower his hands (2). Arvanitis then sprawls, SODFLQJ KLV ZHLJKW RQ WKH RWKHU PDQ·V EDFN (3). The pankration mas­ter moves to his left while mak­ing sure his ad­ver­sary re­mains pinned down (4). As the man at­tempts to curl up into a de­fen­sive tur­tle po­si­tion, Arvanitis steps over his back (5) and mounts him (6). With his heels locked against KLV RSSRQHQW·V KLSV WR ÁDWWHQ KLP $UYDQLWLV LV IUHH WR SXQFK un­til the con­fronta­tion ends (7).

KNEE CATCH TO TAKE­DOWN: The op­po­nent (right) clinches with Jim Arvanitis (1). Arvanitis leans for­ward and drops his level (2). The op­po­nent takes the bait and begins a left knee strike, but Arvanitis checks it with his right arm (3) +H WKHQ XQGHUKRRNV WKH PDQ·V OHJ and pos­tures up to re­duce the dan­ger of get­ting hit (4). Next, Arvanitis OLIWV WKH RSSRQHQW·V OHIW OHJ (5) and sweeps his right leg with his left foot (6). He fol­lows his ad­ver­sary to the ground and stacks the left leg to main­tain con­trol (7). If nec­es­sary, Arvanitis can con­tinue with strikes.

CRU­CI­FIX TO ARM LOCK: -im Arvanitis begins in a mod­i­fied side mount (1). kote how his right el­bow is against his op­po­nent’s left hip and the op­po­nent’s right hand is on Arvanitis’ chest to pre­vent him from mov­ing for­ward. Arvanitis ex­tends the man’s right arm (2). He im­me­di­ately places his left leg over the arm and his right leg un­der it (3). Mak­ing sure that he’s hold­ing down the op­po­nent’s left arm (4) I Arvanitis ham­mers his face with his left fist (5). If the op­po­nent man­ages to free his left arm to block the blows (6), the pankration in­struc­tor — who has al­ready placed his right arm un­der his foe’s left el­bow — can flat­ten his hips, grip the man’s left wrist and ex­e­cute a fig­ure-4 lock (7).

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