P5 offers the most complete Pankration training program in San Diego supported through The USA Federation of Pankration Athlima and FILA (International Governing body for Pankration Competition). Sensei Palmejar is the only recognized 2nd Dan Pankration Black Belt in the downtown, San Diego area, is a 4 time member of the USA National Pankration Competition Team, is an official USAFPA Team Coach and the 2012 California State and US National Pankration Champion.


For some, mixed martial arts (MMA) is a revolutionary idea but as the saying goes, “There is nothing new under the sun.” The concept of blending martial arts skills in sports competition is, in fact, very old dating back some 2500 years.

Ancient Greek Pankration is considered the precursor to MMA and was the cornerstone of the very first Olympic Games. It was modeled after an earlier battlefield form called pammachon (Gr. “total combat”) which combined unarmed fighting techniques with the more dominant use of the sword (machaira), spear (dory), and shield (hoplon/aspis). It was introduced in the 33rd Olympiad of 648 B.C., and, along with boxing and wrestling, formed the “heavy events.” There is also a mythological origin, tracing it to the exploits of the legendary heroes Herakles (aka Hercules) and Theseus of Attica.

Pankration translates to “all-powers” and consisted of striking and grappling techniques. It included striking with the closed fist, kicks, elbows, and knees combined with clinching, takedowns, throws, sweeps, and submission holds (joint locks and chokes). For the first 200 years emphasis was on standup fighting (ano machia) due to the influence of pammachon. As the sport evolved there was a balance of upright striking and ground (kato) combat.

The techniques were given the term palaesma by Philostratos, and according to Aristotle, Leukaros of Arkarnania is said to have codified the techniques of pankration in antiquity. In fact, the Doric practitioners of the sport that occupied the region were so skillful that Plato referred to them as “Akarnanians the pankratiasts.” Specialized terms were given to describe them such as hyptiasmos (similar to pulling guard), klimakismos (rear naked choke), mesolabe (waist lock), laktisma eis gastrizein (straight kick to stomach), embole (takedown), embasis (mount), rassein (throw), etc.

The agones (competition) took place in a sandpit arena called the skamma as opposed to a cage or ring. There were no rounds or time limits, no weight divisions, and few rules. Only biting and gouging were banned although the militant Spartans allowed these, too, in their local contests. These tactics were considered unfair fighting (kakomachein) and contrary to the laws of the games (nomos enagonios). The rules were strictly enforced by the hellanodikis (referee) who whipped would-be violators with a stout rod (ravdos). Victory was attained by rendering one’s opponent either helpless or senseless.

Pankration was taught within family clans and by master teachers (paidotrivis) to students. Training (paraskeve) included numerous conditioning exercises and combat skills development such as skiamachia (shadow-fighting), akrocheirismos(sparring drills allowing either light or full contact), and korykomachia (bagwork). Forms were known as pyrrhics and single blow challenges as klimax. Internal energy was developed through breathing exercises known as pneuma (from the Greek word pneo or “breath”), the equivalent of chi in the Chinese arts. Those who excelled at pankration were also believed to have been bestowed special attributes (areti) by the gods themselves.

From the beginning, pankration was criticized by Greece’s military leaders as being useless in warfare. No one believed that a kick or punch was capable of penetrating the heavy armor worn by the hoplite (Gr. foot soldier). By Plato’s time, pankration was described as “wrestling that allowed strikes” and had become primarily a ground contest. It was this component of the sport that he objected to. Nevertheless, its techniques are well-documented in the battles of Thermopylae and Marathon. Once a sword was lost or a spear was broken, the battle continued in close. Gouging the enemy’s eyes, throwing him forcefully to the ground where he could be finished off with a short bladed weapon and strangulation were the most common tactics.

There is also the story of the pankration champion Dioxxipus, so skilled that many feared to compete against him. He is said to have proven the critics wrong after his one-sided defeat of Alexander the Great’s most fearsome warrior, Coragus, who was fully armed and armored while Dioxxipus carried only a club.

As an athletic competition, pankration vanished following the decline of the Roman Empire when all pagan festivals were abolished in 393 A.D. While there is proof that wrestling persisted in Hellenic society after the conclusion of the Games, little evidence supports that either boxing or pankration continued. Some historians contend that many combat styles practiced today such as karate, kung-fu, jujitsu, catch-wrestling, and Thai boxing (Muay Boran/Muay Thai), may have been influenced by this combat form of antiquity. (