Europe and the Middle East

Europe and the Middle East have a martial-arts history as long and as colorful as that of Asia, although it hasn't featured as prominently in dreadful action movies. Highlights include the fighting arts of Classical Greece and Rome, the martial arts on both sides of the Crusades, the swordsmanship of the Middle Ages and Renaissance, and of course the sport wrestling and mixed martial arts so popular across Europe today.

As in Asia, fighting skills also figured prominently in legend and folklore. Ancient Celtic tales - collected in the Middle Ages - told of such heroes as Cu Chulainn receiving training at swordsmanship, spear-dodging, charioteering, wrestling, breath control, and chess, and performing superhuman combat feats. Likewise, Norse myths pitted heroes and gods against supernatural foes in wrestling matches.

Ancient Greece and Rome

Ancient Greece was home to a number of the world's earliest verifiable martial arts; in fact, these predate the legendary origins of many Asian styles. In the Greek city-states of the Classical age, every citizen was a soldier. Even after Greece abandoned the citizen armies of the polis, Greek society long held that martial skills were essential to a well-rounded upbringing for every male Hellene. For most, this meant little more than physical conditioning at the public gymnasium and the basics of handling the shield and spear. Dedicated practitioners went much further, however, and teachers of hoplomachia ("armed combat"), boxing, wrestling, and pankration (literally, "all powers") found no shortage of eager youths willing to take advantage of their services.

lack of weight classes meant that heavyweights dominated the sport.

Pankration (p. 188-189) was full-contact, no-holds-barred fighting. Only eye-gouging and biting were forbidden - and the Spartans allowed even this. Many strikes common to modern Asian martial arts - chops with the hand's edge, punches with protruding knuckles, leg sweeps, etc. - saw use. One famous bout ended when a fighter aimed a stiffened finger strike (what Asian martial arts call a "spear hand") at his opponent's armpit, piercing his vital organs and killing him. Pankration matches lasted until one contestant submitted or was incapacitated. Most bouts ended with a submission from a lock or wrestling hold, although one pankrationist famously won his bouts by breaking his adversaries' fingers, and death in the ring wasn't uncommon. At least one contender won posthumously: he forced his rival to submit even as he was dying from a fatal blow!

Mixed Martial Arts

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