Martial Arts at Olympic Games

olympic ( PART I - The restoration of the Olympic Games ) There are events that thanks to their meaning go beyond their prevalence, contents and duration. Without a doubt, the Olympic Games, being the most important sports event, are a perfect example of that. Because of their role, the Olympic Games were, are and will be more than just a sports occasion and ceremony. They are the symbol of the humane, unbounded and peaceful world. Moreover, they are a symbol of an individual's desire to compete with the best sportsmen of the world, with a passion to run, jump, swim, wrestle, box and much more by being better than his opponents.
The goal to achieve- citius, altius, fortius (faster, higher, stronger) is the driving force of all sportsmen who aim towards victory for themselves and for their country, while celebrating sports and honoring the host city or country. All Olympic Games had their heroes, i.e. sportsmen who are remembered, those who became legends of sports and a part of our civilization's history.
For example, let's bring to memory the first modern Olympic Games in Athens in 1896 and the Greek marathon runner Spiridon Louis, the American athlete Ray Irwin who competed in 1904 in St Louis or the Italian athlete Dorando Pietri from the 1908 Olympic Games in London. There are more cases, such as the American athlete Jim Thorpe (Stockholm, 1912), the Finnish athlete Pavo Nurmi (Anvers, 1920). At the Olympic Games in Paris in 1924 the legendary swimmer Johnny Weismiller took part, the athlete Jesse Owens competed in Berlin in 1936, the Czech athlete Emil Zatopek was a part of the 1952 Helsinki competition. Furthermore, the American athlete Vilma Rudolf became famous at the Olympic Games in Rome in 1960 whereas the Mexico 1968's Games were marked by the athlete Bob Bimon. In 1972, the American swimmer Mark Spitz competed in Munich, the Romanian gymnast Nadia Comaneci was a star of the 1976 Games in Montreal and the Russian gymnast Alexandar Dityatin is known because of the 1980 Games in Moscow. We should also remember the legendary sportsmen who were multiple medal winners, for example, the swimmer Jenny Thompson, athlete Carl Lewis or the swimmer Michael Phelps as well as many other excellent sports persons.
Athletes from various martial arts have always been extremely valued and famous during the duration of the Olympic Games as well as after the event has ended. Many of them became sports legends and a sort of modern heroes. Some of them were highlighted because of the Olympic Games where they have competed, and some have even won several Olympic medals. For example, the Cuban boxers Teofil Stevenson and Felix Savon, the Hungarian boxer Laszlo Papp, the Russian wrestler Alexandr Karelin or the American boxer Muhammad Ali etc.

olympic Martial arts in modern Olympic Games are rooted ever since the Ancient Greek Olympic Games where wrestling and pentathlon were introduced in 708 BC. In 748 BC, pankration (a combination of punching, wrestling and kicking) entered the Games, while fistfighting was introduced in 688 BC. The Games got their name after the location, Olimp, where they were held and where Zeus's temple was built. The Olympic Games increasingly became an important event in the history of Ancient Greece and reached their peak during the 6th and 5th century BC.
Ancient fistfighting had fewer rules than today's boxing. Athletes fought without rounds until one of them was knocked out or would admit that he was defeated. In comparison with modern sports, there weren't any rules that said that the opponent couldn't be kicked while laying on the floor. There weren't even weight classes, only two age groups- men and boys. Instead of today's modern gloves, Ancient fighters wrapped their hands and wrists in leather straps with rivets and pins. An annalist of that time described how rough those fights used to be by decribing a fighter called Stratofont- "When Odysseus came home, his dog Argos recognized him. But after four hours of fistfighting, Stratofont couldn't be recognized by his dog, his fellow citizens, not even by himself.” Ancient sculptures and mosaics confirm how fighters used to be extremely deformed.

olympic Similarly to modern sport, wrestlers needed to throw their opponents on the ground, on their backs or shoulders. Three such throws were necessary to win. It was forbidden to bite the opponent or to catch him by his genitals, but it was allowed to break his fingers. Wrestling existed as a separate discipline and as a part of pentathlon. Written accounts say that "There wasn't a greater spectacle in all of Olymp.” The most famous competitor of that time was Milo of Croton who won as many as 6 times. According to chronicles, Milo was also a well-educated man and a disciple of the famous Pythagoras.
As a sport, pankration was a very rough combination of punches, kicks and wrestling. Translated from the Greek language, pankration means "all the power”; "pan” means "everything” and "kratos” means "power” or "strength”. In the beginning, pankration was also known under the name "Pammachon” which means "total fight”. Most historians agree that pankration developed as a martial arts discipline in the 7th century B.C. Rules prohibited only biting, eye gouging, scratching and tearing the nose and mouth with nails. Punches to the stomach and the genitals, which is against the rules in most modern sports, was absolutely orderly and justified. Just like fist fighting and wrestling, there weren't any official categories here either and the competitors were divided into boys and men.

We could say that pankration was, thanks to its brutality, in many ways similar to today's Ultimate Fighting. As a competitive sport, pankration was a combination of boxing and wrestling techniques. However, what made it special were the additional elements such as kicking. The winner would usually decided on the ground, where the choking techniques and holding down were freely used. According to historians, the most famous pankration fight was held in 564 B.C. at the Olympic Games final. A competitor called Arahion was barely conscious and managed to dislocate his opponent's toe while he was choking him. Because of the pain, the opponent gave up one moment before Arahion died. The judges proclaimed the dead Arahion as the winner of the fight! Furthermore, the most famous pankration competitor was a Spartan called Teagan.
Since the competitions were so dangerous, not all athletes met the Greek ideals of honor, fame and excellence. The oldest rule-breaker was Eupolis from Thessaly who bribed other boxers at the 98th Olympic Games. Callippus from Athens bribed his pentathlon opponents at the 112th Olympic Games. Furthermore, at the 226th Olympic Games, two Egyptian boxers, Didas and Sarapamon, were punished because they were setting up their mutual fights. Such cheaters had to finance their own sculptures on which special inscriptions were carved and placed along the road that led to the Zeus's altar in front of the entrance to the stadium. This was a kind of a warning to other sportsmen as well as a pillory for the frauds.
How much pankration was dangerous and brutal as a sport tells the fact that, from all the sports that were held during the Ancient Greek Olympic Games, it was the only one that wasn't included in the modern Olympic Games.
Centuries later, around 1872, a French baron called Pierre de Coubertin was looking into the reasons why the French were defeated in the Franco-Prussian war (1870 – 1871). He deduced that one of the reasons was that the French weren't physically prepared enough and so he planned how to improve this. At the same time in Coubertin, a desire for a union and collectivism among nations, a wish to compete with other youth of the world on the sports field and not the battlefield was sparked and commenced. And so, the idea to revive a noble and magnificent Olympic idea got its deepest meaning. olympic
Pierre de Coubertin presented his idea on a congress held on the Parisian University of Sorbonne from June 16 to June 23, 1894. He spoke in front of a large international audience. And he succeeded! On the last day of the congress, it was decided that the first Olympic Games of the modern era will be held in 1896 in Athens, in their Greek homeland where they were born 2672 years earlier. In order to organize the event, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) was established and Demetrios Vikelas, because of his Greek ancestry, received the honor to become its first president.
The Olympic movement has used many symbols and signs since it was founded, many of which present the ideas and ideals which Coubertin had envisioned. Certainly, the most well known symbols are the Olympic circles. These five mutually connected circles symbolize the unity of the five (inhabited) continents. The colors blue, yellow, black, green and red were chosen because every country on that continent has at least one of the colors on its national flag. On the Olympic Games in Antwerp in 1920, the Olympic circles were presented for the first time and its was the first time the Olympic flag fluttered in the air.
Coubertin's ideas were best described in the Olympic moto: "The most important thing on the Olympic Games is not to win, but to take part. Just like in life, the most important thing is not the victory, but the fight. A great man is he who doesn't win without a honorable fight.”
Athletes competing in different martial arts depict this moto in the best possible way, being it their appearance on a sports event as well as their victories after a honest fight. Martial arts have their heroes, their legendary sportspersons that represent them on the modern Olympic Games. Among many excellent sportsmen who took part in the Olympic Games, we will make a couple honorable mentions of those who, because of their performance, became sports legends.

olympic At the Olympic Games held in Athens in 1896, the German Carl Schuhmann celebrated his victory in wrestling. He won the final match against a Greek called G.Tsitas who was 190 cm tall and weighed 105 kg. Schuhmann was only 159 cm tall and weighed around 50 kg. The Greek wrestler threw and crushed him throughout the match, but Schumann was persistent and rised again and again. The fight continued until dark, when the judges decided to make a pause. The other day, Schuhmann won Tsitas in just 20 minutes. On the same Games, the American John Paine was noticed in shooting (John and Sumner Paine were the first brothers to win the Olympic Games), along with the French and Greek fencers who also reached excellent results.
The Olympic Games in Paris in 1900 are especially remembered thanks to the American fencer Emile Costa and Cuban Ramon Fonst (he also won and 1904). The poster for these Games showed a woman holding fences in her hands, inviting everyone to join the tournament. French archers as well as the Beligian archer H.V. Innis were among the stars of that competition. It is important to mention that the French boxing- Savate (even the La canne discipline) was included in the programme.

The St Louis 1904 Olympic Games will remain remembered because of the American fencer Albertson Van Zo Post and the American boxers George Finnegan and Charles Mayer. A demonstration in female boxing was also introduced on this event. Furthermore, the boxer Oliver Kirk won golden medals in two weight categories- under 52 and under 57 kg.
The London 1908 Olympic Games are noted thanks to a scandal in which English judges disqualified almost all French fencers who were the expected front-runners of the matches. These fencers were also former champions of the 1896 Games held in Athens. For the first time in history, women competed in archery. And so, an English female competitor, Charlotte "Lottie” Dod, who won the 1887 tennis tournament in Wimbledon, won a silver medal in archery by just turning 36 years of age (Charlotte Dod and William Dod – the first brother and sister to win Olympic medals). In wrestling, the Italian sailor from Milano, Enrrico Poro won the first ever golden medal in the Greco-Roman wrestling style. Upon returning home to Italy, king Vittorio Emmanuele III decided to give him a special reward. He did so after giving a speech which many remember to this day- "I am glad to award an Olympic champion who is as short as I am.”
The Olympic Games in Stockholm in 1912 were especially important for Italian fencers who promoted their own school, i.e. style of fencing. Among many, Nedo Nadi was highlighted because of his foil technique. On the other hand, Hungarian fencers were more prominent in using a sabre. The event will stay remembered thanks to a Swedish shooter Oscar Swahn who helped his team in winning the medal although he was 64 years old. Wrestling matches didn't have a time limit, so, for example, a fight between the Swede A. Alhgrem and the Finn I. Bohling was discontinued after nine hours resulting in a tie. Both wrestlers were awarded silver medals. The boxing competition wasn't held because Swedish organizers had to obey the law according to which boxing matches were prohibited.
Because of World War I, the Olympic Games weren't held in Berlin in 1916.olympic
After the Games in 1920 in Antwerp, the South African boxer Clarence L. Walker took up the sport professionally after winning and making a tremendous success. However, he did not become a professional boxer, but a professional ballet dancer. The American boxer Eddie Eagan also took part in the boxing tournament and won the golden medal. At the Winter Olympic Games in 1932, he competed in bobsleigh and also won a golden medal. Eddie is the only athlete (martial discipline) who succeeded in winning the golden medal at both Summer and Winter Olympic Games. The Games in Antwerp in 1920 will be remembered because of the American George S. Patton who competed in pentathlon. He was later known as an American general. Furthermore, the oldest competitor in the history of the Olympic Games, the Swede O. Swahn, won a medal in shooting a deer in a team race and was, at the time, 73 years old. The American sportsman Carl Osburn continued his series of victories in shooting which he began at the Olympic Games in 1912. The success was continued in 1920 and in Paris in 1924.
At the Olympic Games in Paris in 1924, the French wrestler Henri Deglane was especially distinguished. He was a 22 year-old firefighter who competed in the Greco-Roman style in the category over 82,5 kg and had 13 victories in only 3 days. The French foil fencers made a series of prominent wins, as well as the Hungarian sabre fencers. Among many, the French Lucien Gaudin (41 years old) and Roger Ducret were the most successful. Many will remember the Games because of the excellent swimmer Johnny Weissmuller who, after his victory at the tournament, had a successful acting career. Weissmuller had to train some specific wrestling techniques for his legendary role of Tarzan.
The Olympic Games in Amsterdam in 1928 are remembered because of an extremely tense foil team fencing match between old rivals, the Italian Giulio Gaudini and the Frenchman Lucien Gaudin. After one of the Italian's successful attacks in which he scored (touché) and which the judge denied, the Frenchman Gaudin admitted- "It was a touché, I was hit.” At the boxing event, the most successful were the Italian athletes who won the first three places, while the Argentinian boxers won two first places.

olympic Aladar Gerewich
The Los Angeles Olympic Games in 1932 come to mind because of the Swedish wrestler Carl Westergen as well as the boxer Errol Flynn, later famous as an actor. Those Games will remain in our memories also thanks to the Austrian female foil fencer Ellen Muler – Preis. Italian fencers were prominent once again and, among other, the Hungarian sabre fencer, Aladar Gerewich, was especially successful. There he began his long and thriving sports career which lasted for as long as 28 years (from 1932 to 1960). Gerevich took part in 7 Olympic Games and won 6 times.
At the Olympic Games in Berlin in 1936, apart from the fascist iconography, it is remembered because of the Italian foil fencers among which the Italian Edoardo Mangiarotti and the Hungarian sabre fencer Pol Kovac stood out. After those Olympic Games, E. Mangiarotti became the most successful sportsman of all times in the martial arts category by winning 13 medals. The Hungarian female foil fencer Ilonka S. Elek ( won 1936 and 1948) and the Estonian wrestler Kristjan Palusalu were among other very successful competitors.
After that, World War II broke out so the Games that were supposed to be held in Helsinki in 1940 and in London in 1944 were both cancelled. Olympic Games Part II



David“Sensei“Stainko ------------ Master of kinesiology -------------- 7th Dan MMS
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Posted By: Sensei David Stainko Prof. of kinesiology - Master 7th MMS