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‘Two Right Hands’
Of Naked Exercises: 7
© 2022 James LaFond
Perfect pancratiasts are those who are better qualified for wrestling than the boxers, and better for boxing than the wrestlers.
[Not a word is offered as to the method of fighting in the pankration, the premier sport of the time.]
36. Good athletes, also, are those who are great though of small stature. As such we shall consider the ones who, in size, rank after the thick-set and well-proportioned, but display a magnificent, and, for their size, unusually fine physical structure—all the more, if they do not appear emaciated, but exhibit even some corpulence.
[Ground fighting rewards the shorter stronger man and is reflected by the heavier weight of the same height combat athletes in boxing and MMA.]
Their advantages are of more value in wrestling; for they are mobile, adroit, impetuous, light, agile, and tough, and elude many dangers and difficulties in wrestling, by virtue of the fact that they stand just as firmly on the head as on the feet. In the pancration and boxing, however, they are not good contestants, since the blow of the opponent strikes them from above, and they must bob up from the ground very comically, in opposition, when they themselves deliver a blow.
[He is more concerned with the viewing aesthetics of punching and would be horrified, and apparently was, y “superman” punches.]
As an example of those who are great though small, we may mention the statues of the wrestler, Maron, whom Cilicia once produced.
[Not found in my original survey.]
To be excluded also from this class are those with long chests; for they, indeed, are able to elude wrestling holds, but they are incapable of throwing any one because of the strain on the legs.
[Four types of athletes viewed metaphorically according to totem animals again, offer the viewing non-combatant perspective and continue to avoid method. Nothing about how a thing is done has yet been produced. It seems that the trainers the author talked to did not take him seriously as a practical inquirer and communicated with him according to spectator conventions.]
37. Lion-figured, eagle-like, splinter-shaped, and those nicknamed bears: these are the types of athletes. The lion-figured are powerful in breast and hands, but weaker in the hinder part; the eagle-like, similar to these in figure, but lean in the groins like eagles in upright position, These two types produce bold, violent, impetuous people, who, however, easily lose courage in case of failure; and one need not be surprised at this, if one considers the nature of lions and eagles.
38. The splinter-shaped and string-like are both rather slender, with long legs and excessively long hands, but differ from each other in great and small; for the former appear stiff, beautifully delineated and have good limbs, and from that, I think, their nickname comes; the latter, however, are rather limp and sluggish, flexible of body, and are for that reason compared with the string. Some, however, are more daring in holds, and others, the string-like, more restrained and slow.
39. Enduring athletic types are the hard, the muscular, those with narrow waist and cheerful face, but, more dependable than they, are the phlegmatic; for the choleric among them are such that, because of the sprightliness of their disposition, they may even go mad.
40. Those likened to bears are roundish, supple, fleshy, less finely articulated and more bowed than upright, hard to throw, agile in slipping out, and enduring in a clutch. And their breath rattles like that of bears when running.
41. The ambidextrous, who may be characterized as people with two right hands, a strange trick of nature, are of invincible strength, hard to ward off and tireless. These characteristics, of course, are due to the two-sided development of the body, which is capable of more than the usual condition. Whence this knowledge comes, I am going to state.
The Egyptian Mys, [Not found in original survey.] as I learned from older people, was a moderately-big little man, but he wrestled with extraordinary art. He fell ill and swelled up on the left side. When he was about to give up the profession of athlete, he dreamed that he should not be concerned about the illness, for he would be able to do more with the afflicted side than the well and uninjured. And the vision was true; for, since, with the affected parts he knew how to employ wrestling holds which could not be parried, he was dangerous to opponents, and even had advantage from the illness, since his strength lay precisely in his infirmity. That is a miracle and should not be related as normal, but to appear as an exception, more the work of a god who wished to reveal something extraordinary to men.
[When I wrestled in Junior High School, our team captain was a one armed youth who was almost impossible for most wrestlers to deal with due to his extreme build.]
42. Concerning bodily proportions, then, and whether these or those characteristics are better, there is indeed hypercritical disagreement among those who have not investigated these things intelligently; but, as concerns temperaments, however great their number, no objection has been raised, either previously or even now, against the opinion that the best of temperaments is the warm-moist; for it consists, like precious statues, of genuine, unadulterated stuff. Free of clay, mud, and superfluous humors are they who lack phlegm and fluidity of the bile, and who are equal to the necessary exertions, have good digestion, are seldom ailing, recover quickly from illnesses, on the contrary, and are tractable and docile in varied kinds of training as a result of their happy temperament.
[More erotic, academic, spectator theory better suited for pro wrastling.]
Among athletes the choleric are warm, but dry in temperament and as unproductive for trainers as is hot sand for the sower; however, they are conspicuous for their presence of mind, for this they possess in unusual degree. The phlegmatic, on the contrary, in consequence of coldness, are sluggish in their behavior. These are to be trained by means of the most vigorous movement; the choleric, however, leisurely and with pauses for rest—for the one needs the spur, the other the rein—and one must be dried with dust, the other moistened with oil.
[Below this sissy admits that the true agonistic heroes of antiquity did not concern themselves with his faggotry, but with the real actuality of physical combat.]
43. So much may be said about temperament according to modern gymnastics, since the old did not even have any knowledge of temperament, but merely exercised the physical power. By gymnastic, however, the ancients understood physical exercise only, whatever its form. Some exercised themselves by carrying heavy burdens; others, by competing in speed with horses and hares, bending or straightening thick iron plates, or by having themselves yoked with powerful oxen, and, finally, by subduing bulls or even lions. Thus did men such as Polymestor, Glaukos, Alesias, and Pulydamas from Skotussa. The arms of the boxer Tisandros from Naxos, who swam around the promontories of the island, carried him far out to sea, thus training themselves and the body.
[This narrative has become an exposition in how the author and his contemporaries are degenerated strands of ancient humanity, pointing out that nothing he has said about the preparation for the contests thus far are related to how the real champions of antiquity actually trained.]
And they bathed in rivers and springs and were accustomed to sleep on the ground, sometimes stretched out on hides, sometimes on pallets of hay from the meadows. Barley bread and unleavened wheaten bread made from pollard served them for food, and the meat they enjoyed was of the ox, bull, goat, and roe; and they anointed themselves with oil of the wild olive and oleaster. Therefore, they exercised without illness, and were apt to grow old late. They took part in contests for sometimes eight, sometimes nine Olympiads, were adapted to heavy military service and fought about the walls, by no means without success therein but rather distinguished by prizes and trophies, regarding war as preliminary practice for gymnastic, and gymnastic as preliminary training for war.
44. When, however, a change had come about, champions became worthless as soldiers, the energetic became sluggards, the hardened became weak, and Sicilian gluttony gained the upper hand, then enervation entered the stadia, and, of course, all the more, when the art of flattery was introduced into gymnastics. Medicine first made use of it, when she took as councillor an art which is good, of course, but too weak to be used upon athletes, in that it teaches them further inactivity and to sit before exercises chock-full like Libyan or Egyptian meal sacks, puts in more fancy cakes and extravagant cooking, by means of which fastidious persons and voracious eaters are brought up, and sets forth wheaten bread of fine flour covered with poppy seed, fattens them with irregular fish-fare entirely contrary to rule, determines the nature of fish according to the place whence they come in the sea—those being fat which come from the mud; those from the cliffs, lean; those from the open sea, fleshy; sea-weed blossom producing only small ones; and algae, insipid—and, moreover, provides pork with whimsical directions. Namely, they lay it down as a rule that pigs on the sea-coast are to be considered unusable, on account of the sea garlic of which the shores and the sand dunes are full; also to avoid those from near the rivers because they eat cray-fish; and, for a strict diet, to use only those fattened on cornelian cherries and acorns.
[Below the contests are shown to be fixed and even null, with the prize unearned valued more than the victory earned, placing Rome of 220 A.D. on the same ethical footing as America of 2022. rather than a defense of athletics, the author has offered a condemnation.]
45. Such luxury is also a strong stimulus to the sex impulse, and even gave the athletes an impetus to lawlessness in money matters, and to the purchase and sale of victories; for some sell even their honor, as I believe, because they need much; others must buy themselves an easy victory, because they lead a luxurious life. And if one steals or destroys a silver or gold votive offering, the laws against sacrilege pursue him with their wrath; but the wreath of Apollo or Poseidon, for which the gods themselves strove mightily, one can sell unpunished and purchase unpunished; and only among the Eleans is the olive-crown according to ancient belief still inviolable. As for the rest of the contests, however, I will mention among many examples the following one, which explains everything.
A boy was victorious in wrestling at the Isthmian Games, after he had promised one of his opponents 3,000 drachmas for the victory. When they entered the gymnasium the next day, the one demanded his money; the other, however, declared that he owed him nothing, for he had conquered against his will. Since that settled nothing, they had recourse to an oath, and, arrived in the sanctuary of the Isthmian god, the one who had sold the victory swore he had sold the god’s contest and that 3,000 had been promised him. And he made this confession with a loud voice, without the least hesitation. The truer the affair, even though witnesses were not lacking, the more ungodly and infamous it is. He swore to it, however, on the Isthmus, and in the face of Hellas. What then may not occur in Ionia, or in Asia, to the disgrace of the games.
Of this corruption, I can not acquit even the trainers themselves. They come, of course, to training provided with money, make loans to athletes at a higher interest rate than is customary among merchants at sea, and take no concern for the honor of the athletes, but advise them to buy and sell and seek only their own advantage, whether it be in profitable loans to those who are inclined to buy, or in collecting after a successful deal.
[The scumbag boxing and MMA promoters of today seem to have had a pedigree of some antiquity.]
So much may be said concerning the haggling traders; for they hawk, as it were, the ability of the athletes, while they take good care of their own advantage.
46. They commit, however, the following blunder also. They strip and train the boy athlete like a grown man, let him fill his stomach beforehand, go walking in the midst of training and belch so that it rumbles. In this way, like bad tutors, they deprive the boys of their youthful love of movement and accustom them to inaction, post-ponement of work, sluggishness, and a timidity inappropriate to their age. They should practice movement as in the palaestra. I mean, however, the passive movement of the legs as in light massage, and of the arms as in vigorous massage. And the boy should clap to it, since then these exercises are more vigorous. The Phoenician Heliz [Not found in original survey.] trained according to this rule not merely in boyhood but when he had reached manhood, and excited incomparably greater admiration than all those, so far as I know, who applied themselves to this sort of recreation.
‘He Who Intends’

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