- Martial Arts Series -
Milo of Croton
Ancient Greek Wrestling Champion
Ancient Greek Wrestling originated as a combat sport (mimicking or mocking combat), with the primary goal of scoring more points than the opponent. Points were scored each time the opponent was thrown to the ground and the back and shoulders simultaneously touched the mat... obviously very similar to today's sport.
Wrestling had no weight classes, so the sport favored the large and strong men... easily defeating the skillful opponents.
While most martial arts originated out of survival, they have since evolved to sports. Meanwhile, wrestling has remained a sport, but provides a tremendous means to control your opponent and finish them.
The Legend is Born:
Milo of Croton, born in 6th Century B.C. is a Greek Legend remembered as the only wrestler to win 5 Olympic Championships. More than a wrestling legend, Milo was praised for his famous military victory over Sybaris (Southern Italy).
Milo, along with the other wrestlers were glorified for their physique. They were all that was man!! In fact, they were praised so much that they were given names (e.g. The Lion). He was a figure of strength. He was a figure of great power and invincibility.
Who fights in the nude... honestly?
The Greeks! Yes, they fought in the nude. In fact, they did almost everything in the nude. Ever wonder why almost every ancient statue is of a nude person? Well, perhaps this will provide some insight as to why.
Apparently the Greeks had a genetic gift that I was unaware of until now. Was it because they wanted to prove their masculinity? Was it because it was a cultural tradition? Or was it simply because they were proud of their bodies?
The important thing is that the Greeks were fierce competitors. Yes, they trained in the nude, get over it. But, they trained extremely hard. They were hard people to beat. Milo of Croton prided himself on eating 20 pounds of meat every day to maintain his physique. Not quite the healthy meal we preach today, but that's what he practiced and it seemed to work out well for him.
Wrestlers trained in buildings called Palaestras (a long rectangular yard), unless it rained; in which case they trained under the surroundings colonnades.
Rhythmic training was part of the wrestler's practice. In order to maintain rhythmic training, they wrestled to the sound of a flute; not just in practice, but in competition as well. Interesting... I train to the heavy metal band, five finger death punch. Perhaps I will give the flute a try...
Although considered a brutal sport, there was a sport more brutal and that was pankration (wrestling and boxing combo). Wrestling had more rules, making it safer to compete in.
The wrestlers battled in a wrestling pit (a skamma), but there were no defined boundaries. No weight divisions existed, so wrestling favored the big and strong over the small and technical wrestlers. That would have been bad for me, because I've never been a super strong person. How about you? Would it have favored you?
The objective was to score more points than the opponent. That was done by putting the opponent on his back and shoulders or simply holding him from escaping.
Holds were allowed around the upper body to position the wrestler for a throw or trip, which was allowed. However, the most popular moves consisted of the "Flying Mare" and the "Body Hold." The Flying Mare consisted of grabbing the opponent's arm and flipping him on to his back. The Body Hold was violent! It consisted of picking the opponent up by the waistline, flipping him over head, and dropping him on his head.
Wrestling Takes Shape
Originally created for combat mockery, wrestling has become a popular, modern day competitive sport held in a arena with fixed boundaries and clearly defined rules.
Before this evolution reached its popularity in modern times, it went through a series of ups and downs and took many shapes over the time period.
During the Reenaissance years (~1500s), the upper and lower classes both practiced wrestling. Germany combined grappling and unarmed striking into an art they called kampfringen. The Middle East trained Koshi (their form of wrestling) for battle, which included grabs, throws, and strikes.
Asian wrestling was big in China, India and Japan. China's wrestling (Jiao Li) was simply a public sporting event; while India's wrestling evolved from a sporting event to a combat art (Kusti). In the 1600s, Japan evolved their wrestling into a word you may have heard before (Jiu-Jitsu), which is considered unarmed combat training.
Wrestling was very popular around the world, until World War I broke out. The art was abandoned by the United States because it was deemed illegitimate, being a competitive sport instead of a combat art. Unfortunately, the rise of wrestling as a popular sport is still trying to catch up to sports such as boxing. Not sure it ever will catch up.
World War II created another delay in the rise of wrestling, but at this point, rules were established and colleges were already starting to implement it into their sporting programs.
Today wrestling is broken down into Freestyle (what we call collegiate wrestling) or Greco-Roman wrestling, otherwise known as amateur wrestling.
Regardless of your view of wrestling as a sport or as a martial art, the fact is that it is extremely effective! I wish I would have learned at a young age, because it is that essential to winning a fight. I encourage you to look up some youtube videos and find a gym to start training in. It's fun. It's effective. And, it will always be a crucial martial art for survival!
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Editor-in-Chief & Publisher of Warriors Magazine