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The Naked Exercises
And Notes on Video Reference Analysis, Coaching and Commentary: 3/15/22
© 2022 James LaFond
Pankration Programming
Hey James, 
Check out this video.  It breaks down the exercises and the way the exercises were programmed for a Greek training for Pankration.  The nuance of the routines is interesting to see as they programmed so that the fighters would be able to workout day after day by increasing and decreasing intensity.  Each day started with developing a program for the day based on how the fighter was doing physically and mentally each day.
Thank you, Banjo.
This is interesting in that I read all ancient sources except for one, and have not found any of this information that you summarize. The actual ancient literature on agonistics [1] from the period from 750 B.C. through 100 A.D. is limited to references in poetics, philosophy and epigrams. There were almost no descriptions—other then a few sentences by Plato and Paul—of how men trained for wrestling, boxing or pankration. This makes sense in that we do not devote a significant fragment of our literature to such everyday things that we do a lot. Driving a car, would be an example that fits.
So, unable to view the video, I am assuming that the training regimen that you summarize comes from The Naked Exercises, by Philostratus, circa A.D. 250, who also wrote Pictures in a Gallery and Love Letters to a Boy. The only version of The Naked Exercises I could find was a High German translation in calligraphy, which I failed to translate.
This must remain a hole in the Broken Dance, another reason why I could not complete that series of history books and never wrote The Boxer Dread.
If this is the source, I would give two cautions:
-When Philostratus lived, pankration was only practiced by a handful of professionals and the sons of top Greek-speaking priests and politicians.
-When he wrote, the order of Classical Antiquity stood on the clock of ages at One Minute to Midnight. In the lifetime of his children, the war arts of Homeric Hellas preserved through the sacred agons would be swept into eternity by the Germanic tribal invasions and collapse of the Imperium, that date being, I think A.D. 260, after which there are no more records of pankration champions. Boxing evolved a great deal from 750 to 330 B.C. and then devolved until the 200s A.D. and was resurrected briefly in the 300s and finally died in 514.
Philostratus may have been alive at the time Asclepiades of Alexandria fought as the most dominant pankratiast of all time, circa A.D. 196. Was Asclepiades the only undefeated panratiast over 800 years of sacred agons we know of because the field of competitors had shrunken so?
Or did he represent an apex paragon?
Might he have been both, a convergence?
He retired once because no one would fight him! He did state himself that he won contests simply by showing up, that no one would fight him, which would have been an absurd statement by the greats of the 400s B.C. and points to an extreme degeneration of masculine energy among the prize fighters of late antiquity. Recall that Asclepiades would have been excommunicated and marked a heretic by his faith if he killed an opponent before the altar of the god. How different is the fact that not an athlete in the vast Roman Empire would throw down in an MMA fight in A.D. 196, than the glorious victory in death by Arrichion lauded by Philostratus in 570 B.C. in a small regional gathering of Greek towns and micro-cities?
However, on the positive side, Philostratus was a curator of classical antiquity and did study the athletes from the ages gone by, using many sources that have disappeared with his own age. In Pictures in a Gallery, he describes the death of a Pankratiast named Arrikhion, in the mid 500s B.C., which placed him as a preserver of athletic records some 750 years before his own time.
I am inclined to think, that with the degeneracy of his age drawing a pal across these great arts, that he also tried to preserve the training methods slipping through the widening gaps in masculine society.
Not having read this source, and noting the very honest nature of ancient sources and their desire to preserve old ways rather than alter them as we do, fills me with a confidence that Philostratus penned a work of great value and clarity.
I would dearly like to see an English translation of The Naked Exercises.
Thank you, Banjo.
1. Training for the sufferings of the contest, as opposed to Athletics, which was the actual activity of prize-seeking that concerned all poetics references to ancient combat athletics.
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nc     Jun 28, 2022

James, you dodged the Bantu bullet. It thought you were on the train!
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