Summary: In spiritual warfare there are no rules, no rounds, no countouts, no one to stop the fight. Whoever fights the hardest, the meanest, and lasts the longest will win. There is no draw. You either win the battle or lose the battle.

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This week I caught a glimpse of the MMA. Has anyone seen these matches? They are brutal. They take place in a cage where two opponents fight three to five rounds. Every round is 5 minutes in duration with one-minute rest period in-between rounds. Non-title matches must not exceed three rounds. Title matches can be sanctioned for five rounds. In other words in most fights you have up to 17 minutes to either knock out your opponent, beat them so senseless they can’t continue, or cause them enough pain where they give up.

To accomplish this you can use a variety of martial arts moves along with more traditional styles of fighting. These methods are boxing, muay thai, kickboxing, jiu-jitsu, judo, amateur wrestling, catch wrestling, karate, teakwood, and sanshou/sanda. There are 5 strategies to winning; sprawl and brawl, ground and pound, submission, clinch fighting, and score oriented.

The injury rate for this sport is 228.7 per 1000 athletic participants or almost 23%. Most injuries were head injuries followed by wrist/ hand. Most frequent type of injuries was lacerations followed by fractures and concussions. There have been 7 deaths since being sanctioned in 2000.

As violent as this sport is it did not compare to the violent sports witnessed by the apostle Paul in Rome. One of the most prominent buildings in Rome was the Palestra. Built to resemble a castle it was a place of combative sports. It was open during the daylight hours to those who were training for sports entertainment. There you would find boxers, wrestlers, and pankratists.

The boxers were not like the ones we see today. Boxing was much more violent. The participants were required to wear helmets, not headgear, to keep their heads from being caved in. Few boxers ever lived to retire from the ring.

The boxing gloves were ribbed with steel, serrated like a hunting knife, and spiked with nails. In public they were recognized by their deformed faces, ears, and noses. Some would have an eye missing that had been knocked out during a fight.

There were no rules but one. You could not clinch an opponent’s fist. There were no rounds. The fight continued until one opponent surrendered or died.

Wrestling was a bit less violent due to being preferred by the wealthier class. It was a part of their son’s education. It was done in the nude and most of the violent techniques were not allowed.

The most violent sport was pankration. It meant “more power than anyone else.” It was kind of like a tough man contest. The idea was to prove you were tougher than any one else. Therefore there were no rules. You were permitted to kick, punch, bite, gouge, strike, break fingers, break legs, or any other horrible thing you could imagine. Again you won through defeating your opponent or killing him.

You may be wondering what this has to do with scripture and spiritual warfare. Let’s look at Ephesians 6:12. “For we are not fighting against flesh-and-blood enemies, but against evil rulers and authorities of the unseen world, against mighty powers in this dark world, and against evil spirits in the heavenly places.”

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