H2H – hand to hand defensive skills – is an absolutely vital component to personal safety. Back in the days when I wrote regularly for Black Belt and some of the other martial arts magazines, I had the pleasure of writing the first cover story on Jim Arvanitis. It was not to be the last such story on him: Jim has long since become hugely famous in the martial arts world world.
An American of Greek descent, Jim was quite the street brawler in his younger days, and his quest for dominance there led him into the formal martial arts. He studied them both widely and deeply, and also rediscovered Pankration, the ancient Greek “all powers” fighting art that encompassed grappling, striking, and even biting. Some theorize that Karate developed in Asia from Pankration brought by the soldiers of Alexander the Great. Jim single-handedly revived Pankration in modern times, in my opinion, and now it’s much the rage among mixed martial arts practitioners. It is significant that Jim achieved that feat in the 1970s and ‘80s when most martial artists didn’t “mix.”
Arvanitis has recently completed some new projects, two books and two training DVDs. From Black Belt Books (www.blackbeltmag.com) comes the volume martial artists will want to read, “The First Mixed Martial Art: Pankration From Myths to Modern Times.” It’s a fascinating study of the history and the philosophy of the art. The best “video accompaniment” to this Arvanitis book is probably Jim’s 350-minute, 2006 video from Paladin Press (www.paladin-press.com), which graphically explains and demonstrates the vast repertoire of Pankration techniques. The video’s title is “Secrets of Pankration.”
But for the average person concerned with self-defense, as well as the dedicated martial artist, we have “Battlefield Pankration” in both book and video form, from Paladin. This book is subtitled “Lethal Personal Combat for the Street,” and the reader should take the title seriously. While there are some takedowns and other techniques that could restrain an attacker without physically harming him, Jim often goes on the assumption that you could be in a fight where you face fatal, crippling, or disfiguring injury if you don’t render the opponent wholly incapable of attack. The book shows you how to crack skulls, break necks, and empty eye sockets.
Jim’s hallmark since I’ve known him has been an extremely deep understanding of human kinesiology. He excels in teaching how to generate power, whether it’s peeling off an attacker who has you down and is strangling you, or delivering your own punch or kick with bone-breaking, organ-crushing force.
Most self-defense books will say something like “gouge his eyes out” or “hit him here as hard as you can,” and will leave the advice at that. In “Battlefield Pankration,” Jim teaches everything from exactly how to perform that eye-gouging to precisely how to set your body to throw a punch or kick with your full weight behind it that will have a good chance of ending the fight.
In a world rife with phony self-defense instructors, I can say with some authority that Jim Arvanitis is One of the Real Ones…and, among those, one of the very best. I definitely recommend all four of the above works to martial artists and legitimate self-defense instructors, and the “Battlefield Pankration” book and video both to those experts and to ordinary citizens who want to learn more about surviving when someone tries to take their life, and they have only bare hands with which to fight back.