For the past several years, two basic types of uniforms have been seen in pankration competition; trunks and no shirt in professional pankration, and karate, judo or jujitsu uniforms in amateur pankration. A special pankration uniform was developed several years ago, but its heavy material made it too hot and limiting for the rigors of pankration. Plus, it was very expensive. Smith wanted a uniform that was sturdy enough to withstand pankration competition, cool enough so as to not overheat the competitors, affordable to all athletes, and of a design that reflected the historical aspect of the sport.
"The reason the karate/judo/jujitsu uniform became the recent choice is simply that those who were part of the latest pankration movement a few years ago came from karate, judo and jujitsu", said Smith. "There is no historical reason for it, and, to be honest, it is rather strange to have participants of the ancient Olympic sport of pankration dressed in the garb of oriental fishermen."
Smith says that the trunks of modern professional pankration more closely resemble the historical pankration, which was done naked. "But, while that (competing naked) might increase our spectator numbers, it would most probably cause our participant pool to dwindle, if not in numbers, then surely in social decorum", joked Smith. "And it might limit our available tournament venues."
The Olympian fighting tunic seemed to meet the criteria Smith had set for a pankration uniform. It was strong, the sleeveless design made it much cooler for competitors, in was reasonable in cost, and its design resembled the tunics historically worn by Greek, Roman and other western warriors. Also, Smith liked the fact that the Olympian was designed and manufactured in the USA. Smith ordered four tunics to be tested by competitors at the Kansas City Classic.
The tunic caused a small stir when first seen at the tournament. Several argued that the sleeveless design put grapplers at a disadvantage. But Smith responded that the only people effected would be judo and jujitsu players - not the majority of grapplers, who are wrestlers and submission fighters, and wear little or nothing above the waist. And, Smith added, a lack of sleeves does not put grapplers at a disadvantage nearly as much as protective headgear does strikers.
Most of the competitors liked the new design, however, and were curious to see how the tunic would hold up in competition.
Hold up, it did, with the two top finishers in the men's light-heavyweight division, University of Missouri teamates Tony Mena and Duane Hamacher, fighting their way up through the brackets, and then each other, both wearing Olympians. Team-mate Terrance Thames took second in the middle-weight division wearing an Olympian. By the end of the tournament, the Olympians had proven themselves comfortable and durable, suffering no rips or tears, and allowing their athletes to remain cooler through their matches than if they had been wearing traditional gi tops.
Hamacher, who is coach, captain and a competitor on the University of Missouri team, said he couldn't be more pleased. "I was a lot more mobile in the Olympian tunic as opposed to the heavy judo gi", said Hamacher. "I felt lighter on my feet and I had more air flow to my body to avoid overheating, yet it still held up when the grabbing and ripping came down."
As the tournament came to a close, the question from many athletes was, "Where can I get one?"
Smith said that, as a result of its performance, the Olympian will be the official tunic of the WPF. "It proved itself", said Smith. "It holds up, it allows the fighter to stay cool, and it looks good."