Friday, April 11, 2008


...if, nine days hence, the rosy morn
Shall with unclouded light the skies adorn,
That day with solemn sports I mean to grace:
Light galleys on the seas shall run a wat'ry race;
Some shall in swiftness for the goal contend,
And others try the twanging bow to bend;
The strong, with iron gauntlets arm'd, shall stand
Oppos'd in combat on the yellow sand.

In the Aeneid, the hero, Aeneas sponsors a festival of games in honor of his father, Anchises on the anniversary of Anchises’ death. There were four events; sailing, a footrace, boxing, and archery. Then there was a fifth event, a mock battle on horseback. Thus was described the earliest (that I have read) account of one of the coolest events in the history of Olympic-style games – Pentathlon.
The ancient pentathlon consisted of five games that were thought to bear upon warrior skills. The five games apparently varied but were typically drawn from a short list including running, wrestling, boxing, jumping, javelin, discus, archery, horseback riding, and swimming. Running and wrestling were always represented in pentathlon, and running was considered the main event.
Likewise, in the modern pentathlon, five events were drawn from a short list of paramilitary skills. The first modern pentathlon included hurdles, shot put, high jump, long jump, and running. More recently, a more standardized group of five events emerged, representing the skills expected of a military courier or cavalry trooper.
  • pistol shooting
  • fencing
  • swimming
  • horseback riding
  • running
I have always been fascinated by the pentathlon. Now, when we run kohaku shiai (club tournaments) at Mokuren Dojo, I tend to select four judo-like games in addition to the standing shiai to demonstrate different components or skill sets of judo. Wouldn’t it be wonderful to run our own pentathlon, maybe consisting of five events from among the following?
  • free running
  • swimming
  • horseback or bicycle
  • judo, wrestling, or jiujitsu
  • boxing or karate
  • pistol or rifle
  • schlager fencing or pugil sticks

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