gradstudent, you are making some of this up. this is a bad habit, especially for a gradstudent.
first of all, there is absolutely NO proof that "a subgroup of practioners became specialized at breaking fingers to get quick submissions".
finger breaking in pankration is mentioned 2 times in history. one of the times it is by Pausanias, who wrote about his travels to Greece, saying that "it is said that" Leontiskos of Messene won by twisting fingers. the other time finger-breaking is mentioned, it is on a 6th century B.C. inscription BANNING the breaking of fingers in pankration. please read this thorough history on pankration: http://historical-pankration.com/art...wrestling.html
so, we don't know for sure if finger-breaking was allowed or not, or if it was banned later, or whatever. we do know that large joint locks were allowed and used effectively. now, i want to talk about finger breaking.
have you ever tried to break the fingers of someone who doesn't want you to break their fingers? of course, it is VERY simple to break the digits of the hand. that is not the easy part, gradstudent. the hard part is holding someone down while imobilizing the arm so that they will allow you to break their fingers. it's very hard to do this standing up, almost impossible because your opponent can move around, hit, etc. this is why when aikido people try to do standing joint locks in real life, they fail miserably. if you grab someone's fingers while standing, they will punch you, move around, grab you, head butt, etc... just doesn't work. SO, you must do it on the ground. you have to know how to control the person on the ground, how to hold him down, how to control his arm and then break the fingers. you wouldn't know this if you just trained finger breaking on a cooperative opponent. this is why i stress the importance of training alive.
any idiot can break someone's finger. let's say that your imaginary clan of finger breakers existed. you say they specialized in finger breaking, how hard is it to specialize in breaking the smallest bones in the body? you also said that they were poor at other techniques. so, how did they get in a position to apply their deadly finger breaking techniques??? how did they defend against techniques applied by their opponent?
this is my main argument against the people (mostly "traditional chinese martial artists") who say, "i'll just break his fingers" or "i'll just gouge out his eyes." if you can't hold someone down and imobilize their arm, how are you going to break their fingers? if you can't hit an actively resisting opponent, how are you going to gouge out their eyes? please realize i am not saying that breaking a guys finger or pulling out their eyes is not effective. but, you have to have other skills to do this. also, finger breaking will not stop a fight. people break fingers and continue to fight all the time. however, breaking a large joint like a elbow, shoulder or knee, almost always stops the fight.
OK. now let me give you a better example.
in japan, during the feudal age, there were many styles of jujitsu. these styles were used by the samurai for combat without a sword. these techniques included striking, eye gouging, small joint manipulation (your deadly finger breaking), throws that would simultaneous break the opponents arm, on top of chokes, joint locks and ground control. brutal techniques (especially the fatal finger breaking), but very hard to train realistically.
a guy name jigoro kano had a great idea. he theorized that training the less dangerous techniques realistically would give better results than training the very dangerous techniques unrealistically. he was right. thus the birth of judo. judo practicioners wiped the floor with the old-school jujitsu guys (even with their arsenal of deadly techniques) because the jujitsu guys were not training realistically. the judo fighters trained the less dangerous moves over and over again in an alive setting. the lack of "deadly techniques" allowed them to develop the more important skills of body control, movement, leverage, etc... against an unwilling, uncooperative opponent. sounds familiar?
in brazil, fights occur (and have been for a long time) where biting, eye-gouging and finger manipulation is fair game. BJJ and luta livre fighters still win.
in catch wrestling, manipulating fingers and putting pressure on your opponent's eyes is called ripping. it sets up your other techniques. but to apply a rip, you have to have control of your opponent. again, a deadly finger break is not possible without having other skills.
in vale tudo japan, yuki nakai, a 150 pound submission figher, fought Gerard Gordeau, a 215 pound champion in kyokushin (bare knuckle) karate and savate (french kickboxing) who knew no grappling. although gordeau repeatedly gouged nakai's eye during the match, yuki nakai defeated gordeau by heel-hook. later, nakai beat craig pittman a 270 pound wrestler by armbar. he lost in the finals to rickson gracie. so, sometimes eye-gouging is not as deadly as it sounds. nakai did receive permanent damage though.
so you do agree that mma is close to real combat. but you also say that because of other factors, like terrain conditions, etc., that it is not realistic.
ok, fine. so how do you train for these unexpected conditions? people have developed simulation training where you simulate these strange conditions. simulating fighting in bars, in uneven terrain, etc... what happens is that the people who have the strongest foundation in realistic combat arts do the best, regardless of the environment.
sorry for the long post...