Around 2000 B.C., boxing and wrestling were popular combative sports in Crete. Plato mentions a type of shadowboxing called skiamachi that, when combined with the early Greek style of wrestling palaestra, gave birth to the deadly art of pankration.
Greek boxing blossomed between 700-400 B.C. Homer describes pankration in his literary masterpiece The Illiad as Achilles’ unarmed combat system. Pankration, which means “all powers,” became a hit during the 648 B.C. Olympics. Greek mythologists contend that Hercules and Theseus (founding king of Athens who used pankration to slay the Minotaur) created pankration.
Other noteworthy pankration fighters include Milo, Pythagoras (the man who created the first uppercut and the famous theorem), Theagenes and Alexander the Great, who some historians believe helped bring pankration to China and India in 326 B.C.
It has even been postulated that pankration and the Greek Pyrrhic war dance influenced the Indian fighting arts. The Greeks eventually deemed pankration’s violence too cruel, so the art died until its rebirth in the 1990s.