Jim Arvanitis GREAT GRANDMASTER Legendary Father of Modern Pankration and MMA Pioneer 11th DAN
Jim Arvanitis is world-renowned as Greek Pankration’s “Renaissance Man” and the Founder of Neo-Pankration, a cohesive blend of the remnants of the ancient fighting legacy of his ancestors along with techniques from Western boxing and wrestling, muay-Thai, Catch wrestling, combat judo, and savate. His restoration of the defunct sport was first unveiled to the martial arts community in 1973 when he was featured in the landmark cover story in Black Belt magazine. Arvanitis has been a fixture in the media over the past four decades having appeared in hundreds of articles and on multiple covers. He has also been a frequent guest on radio, television, and internet podcasts. Considered as both an innovator and a visionary, Jim was among the first who integrated skills from various systems at a time when stylized martial arts such as karate, taekwondo, and kung-fu were most popular.
The Renaissance Man
Jim Arvanitis was cross training in combat systems before it was an accepted concept. He started wrestling at age eight, and switched to boxing a few years later, studying with the noted Soucy brothers at their gym in Lowell, MA. Later, as a result of a street brawl, he decided to return to his grappling roots where he competed at the collegiate level. In 1967 he discovered the martial arts but was unimpressed with the training methodology of the more traditional Asian styles. Arvanitis opted for muay-Thai (Thai kickboxing) and worked with Supachai Nitiyapatinai (aka “Supercat”), an exchange student from Bangkok, who taught him the tools of his brutal sport. About the same time he trained in kosen judo in Boston to enhance his ground skills. It emphasized newaza techniques (submissions) as well as throws.
By 1969 Arvanitis knew he was onto something. He trained like a fanatic combining all of his studies into one hybrid system. Wanting a name for his unique art Jim researched the roots of his heritage and learned of pankration. It became his mission to reinvent the sport and he has dedicated his life to this objective. Like any pioneer with a radically different approach, he received a great deal of criticism but it only fueled his efforts.
In 1972 Arvanitis was discovered by martial arts journalist Massad Ayoob who became fascinated with Jim’s concepts and extraordinary athleticism. Ayoob, who had written numerous articles on high-profile martial artists, was particularly taken by his boldness in going up against the traditional way of thinking at the time. They teamed up to write a major article for Black Belt magazine and in 1973 it became the November cover story. In another article two years later, Ayoob stated that “Arvanitis was perhaps the best consummate fighter that America had yet produced.”
Arvanitis opened his first Spartan Academy in 1972 in Boston, and used the original pankration as a blueprint for his core curriculum. Owing to his Greek heritage, his effort to reinstate the ancient Greek sport was only partially due to ethnic pride but more to his sincere desire to forge a new path in the martial arts by combining things that worked and discarding that which did not. From the outset there were no prearranged forms, bowing, or belt ranks but rather a focus on fitness and applications that simulated actual combat conditions. His system is highly similar to today’s MMA with both standup and ground tactics, along with an amalgam of strikes, joint locks, takedowns and throws. Jim’s diverse teachings also includes pragmatic edged weapon defenses and handgun disarms which he perfected with Ayoob and employed in the street on several occasions.
Arvanitis has since taught hundreds of students at his schools and seminars throughout the world including high-ranking black belts, competing athletes, and special military forces. In 1992 he was asked to train the elite Army Rangers for Operation Desert Storm.
Athleticism: World Records* and Special Feats
Well-known for his Herculean physical fitness feats, the energetic Greek-American holds world records for doing pushups on but his thumbs. He set the first in 1977 with 45 in 51 seconds in Boston. Three years later he topped that mark on the nationally-televised Guinness Game completing 61 in 47 seconds. Jim also did one-arm pushups on two fingers and thumb pushups with his arms extended in front of him. He demonstrated the amazing feat of one-arm thumb pushups on television talk shows throughout the 1980s.
• Thumb Pushups: 45 in 51 seconds (1977)*
• Thumb Pushups: 61 in 47 seconds (1980)* — Broke previous record on national television
• Extended-Arm Thumb Pushups
• Elevated Thumb Pushups
• One-Arm Pushups using two fingers
• One-Arm Thumb Pushups
• Planks on Thumbs
• Holds 50 pounds with arms locked out straight for one minute
• Explosive Behind-the-Back Hand Clapping Pushups (plyometrics)
• Static Leg Hangs for 45 seconds
PANKRATION: The Brutal Combat Sport of Ancient Greece/MMA Origins, Ethos Books (2015)
Battlefield Pankration: Combat Efficiency in the Spartan Tradition, Paladin Press (2011)
The First Mixed Martial Art: Pankration from Myths to Modern Times, Black Belt Books (2009)
Game of the Gods: The Historical Odyssey of Greek Martial Arts, Black Belt Books (2007)
Pankration: The Traditional Greek Combat Sport and Modern Mixed Martial Art, Paladin Press (2003)
Mu Tau Pankration: Concepts and Skills of All-Powers Combat, Spartan Productions (1997)
Mu Tau: The Modern Greek ‘Karate’, Todd & Honeywell (1979)
Battlefield Pankration, Paladin Press (2011)
Secrets of Pankration, Paladin Press (2005)
Greek Pankration, TRSDirect (1998)
Modern Pankration, Panther Videos (1994)
Featured in over 200 international magazine articles, including cover stories and cover mentions, in the leading martial arts publications including Black Belt, Martial Arts Illustrated, Inside Kung-Fu, Inside Karate, Ultimate Warriors, FIGHT!, Taekwondo Times, Kumite World, Ultimate MMA, Official Karate, World of Martial Arts, Combat Sports, Budo International, and others.
HOF Awards and Other Recognition
Recipient of 30 Hall of Fame awards:
• Martial Arts History Museum Hall of Fame, 2010
• Black Belt magazine’s Instructor of the Year, 2009
• World Head of Family Sokeship Council International Man of the Year, 2010
• World Head of Family Sokeship Council Living Legend, 2006
• World Head of Family Sokeship Council Historical Figure, 2001
• World Head of Family Sokeship Council International Pioneer, 1998
• Action Martial Arts magazine Grandmaster of the Year, 2006
• New England Athletic Hall of Fame, 1999
• State of NH Athlete of the Century, 2000
• Former guest columnist for both Black Belt and Inside Kung-Fu magazines
• Paladin Press Author of the Month
Trained civilians, bodyguards, athletes, combat sports competitors, law enforcement, SWAT, and Military Special Forces since 1971
Opened first Spartan Academy of Pankration in 1972, Boston, MA
Over 60 seminars conducted throughout U.S., Canada, and Europe
Prepared Army Rangers for Operation Desert Storm, 1991-92
Taught accredited college courses in ancient Greek warfare and Olympic Games at USF, Sarasota, FL
New England Golden Gloves Boxing
Northeast Intercollegiate Wrestling
Muay-Thai kickboxing matches (Thailand)
Held first Pankration open challenge matches, 1975
Numerous street brawls and challenge fights
**Additional information can be found at www.jimarvanitis.com.