Celtic Combative Systems
Celtic Combative Systems incorporates the better known
Irish stick fighting (Bhataireacht)
as well as the lesser known
hand to hand (Gráscar Lámh)
(Gráscar Lámh Syllabus)
of old Ireland, Scotland, and the islands.
Celtic Combative Systems takes the old Irish Martial Arts (Na Healaíonaí an Chogaidh Éireannach) which includes the two main streams of self defense (Féinchosaint); Armed Fighting (Troid Armáílte) and hand to hand fighting (Gráscar Lámh) and teaches them as I was taught them.
So why am I calling it Celtic Combative Systems and not Irish? A quick look through both my
or the historical overview will clarify this. For now, suffice it to say that the Irish traveled freely back and forth among the other Celts. Particularly when on the run.
My family has as many Scots and islanders as Irish. I've no wish to offend any of my extended family by claiming that something we share is suddenly purely Irish just because that's where I was born and learned it.
The Celts have long taken their heritage arts for granted, seeing them simply as our way of doing things and never, really, considering them "Martial Arts". Even in Ireland there are, today, far more people studying Eastern martial arts than their own traditional fighting arts. Add to this that the Celtic Combative systems are traditionally taught to family members or close friends and are not commonly available even to the Celtic general population.
Small wonder then that most of the outside world and many of the Irish, consider their heritage arts 'lost' or 'gone'. Some people have gone so far as to attempt to 're-construct' various Celtic combative systems from historical documentation. This comes as quite a surprise to those of us who've grown up practicing these timeless skills.
We'd like to see this all changed. We want to promote and teach the Celtic fighting arts to the general public and, in particular, to those with a professional need of solid use of force options.
Today, living in Canada, I am aware of only a handful of "instructors" who can claim old country ties and lineage in the old ways. If there are more they are not stepping out to identify themselves.
This could of course be because these are family fighting styles and the families involved are simply keeping to their traditions of not showing their ways to "outsiders". It could also be because our Celtic combative/fighting systems have remained mostly within those families tied to various 'darker' callings.
Our skills were born in the days of in-fighting between the clans. Our ways and our weapons were made illegal (along with our very language and names) by the British. Ironically the only time our skills could be openly used was while in service with the British Forces. They were, of course, also used in clandestine operations against the British!
These are, for me, points of history and not statements of a political preference. I am an Irish born Canadian who has spent more than thirty years studying Eastern martial arts only to finally return to my starting point in my martial journey to again embrace my families fighting traditions which I now call Celtic Combative Systems.
For over thirty years westerners, myself included, have taken to studying the Eastern martial arts. Caught up in the movie glamor. Seeking fitness or sport. Looking for competition and recognition. Searching for effective self defense.
To make effective use of Eastern martial arts for self defense requires years of study and practice. All the claims to the contrary time has proven false. Western fighting styles, including Celtic Combative Systems, on the other hand, were designed for immediate application.
Thus, while Celtic Combative Systems may be old school and old style, they are as applicable
as they were in old Ireland. Students in the old Celtic Combative Systems (and remember these were family members stretching possibly as far as cousins, but rarely involving outsiders) were initially taught what Paddy called the "dirty dozen".
Most of us were looking for immediate solutions to the real problem of daily defenses against imminent harm. We didn't have time to spend years picking through something to get to what worked so we learned it the other way around.
We learned the working basics which still today I find overcome anything I've been taught from any other martial art. We did this with hand to hand, stick and knife combative systems.
If I play your game and stick to your rules, I may or may not come out on top. My game is street survival. I'm still here and I've spent my whole life in harm's way. Point made?
Paddy was my instructor and mentor. He also served as a British Commando in World War II. Paddy's selection process was very simple. First he taught some of the old style boxing and wrestling. Those who couldn't take it or who showed undesirable characteristics were cut at that point.
Those who made it through this were taught a core syllabus which he referred to as his "dirty dozen" and in fact involved thirteen techniques (with numerous variations). These were what he said anybody could bet their life on, anywhere. They were quick and dirty solutions to any assault.
They were also brutal and brutally effective. These would not be taught in any Eastern martial arts club until after black belt level.
Most Celtic Combative Systems students when they became adept at these few techniques, drilled constantly as various combinations, would actually be satisfied with what they had and settle at that level. Just as in most Eastern styles the majority of students quit at or before green belt.
Those students who demonstrated the interest, attitude, and aptitudes were then selected for further instruction in one or more of the Celtic Combative Systems. A combination of self selection and mentor ship ultimately led to the selection of the next generation of instructors.
With Paddy every instructor of our Celtic Combative Systems had to have also been field proven. Suffice it to say that in Ireland there were always opportunities for this particular aspect of the selection process. This is not to say that those who ultimately became each families system instructors were necessarily the very best fighters in each family's style.
The instructor had to be a capable fighter and able to stand alone on their personal merits, but they also had to have attributes that the "champion fighters" didn't necessarily possess. They had to have a genuine love for the people and the arts being taught. They had to be able to select who should and who should not receive further training.
In a sense they had to be more of a Military General possessing qualities of leadership, not expected from the foot soldiers.
Depending on the family and the individual instructor, they might become instructors in only one of the Celtic Combative Systems. Thus only one of hand to hand, Irish stick fighting or knife combative systems. Ideally they would become proficient in at least these three.
Over time, those instructors who were not schooled in all areas would end up with a family who's style consisted of only one of the combative forms. For most, this amounted to Irish stick fighting, particularly in the days when this was the most popular of them all.
That's a bit of the history around it. For more history, you'll have to go to the history page. There are two. One is personal and family history, the other has more to do with historical overview.
Now let's go back to the "dirty dozen". I'll detail these elsewhere. They're no big secret, just bloody effective and we trained in them until we could do them in our sleep. Most departmental defensive tactics nowadays are geared like the Eastern martial arts. You learn stances, balance, and movement first. Then you learn punches and kicks.
For us, these are the last things we'd worry about because as far as we're concerned they require the most skill and you came to our Celtic Combative Systems for what? Oh yes, an immediate solution to your self defense/fighting problems.
We have always contended that if you couldn't perform the basics at any time from any position, off balance, seated, on the floor, or whatever. Then making it look prettier just won't help. You've already lost.
On the other hand, learn to account for yourself by developing the mindset, attitude, and minimalist skills initially. Become incredibly good at the few critical things. Now, if you're still looking to learn, you're ready to start working on things like stances, balance, and movement which can now only add to what you're capable of.
As for punches and kicks, they're madness. Unless you're boxing and getting paid a whole lot of money to get punch drunk trading punches with somebody, why in the name of God would you do that?
Let's see. I want to learn to fight so I don't get hurt on the street so we're going to stand here and punch the daylights out of each other indefinitely??? Oh and we'll have a referee just in case somebody cheats!
This is sport folks. It has nothing to do with reality or the street.
You're going to punch somebody on the street, in the head, with your bare fist? You couldn't pick a harder surface to hit and remember this isn't some board you're breaking for practice.
He's going to move his head. So the odds of you breaking your hand are much greater than any chance of inflicting damage on him. Oh ya...and what are you going to do when you give him your best shot and he walks in with that toothless grin? You're playing his game. Why are you doing that?
How about kicking? Why don't you just kick him in the head? Do you really think the fine bones in your foot will take being wrapped around his head any better than the fine bones in your hand did?
Oh and what about weather? Terrain? What about while you're foot is in the air? He punches, kicks or knees your groin instead of your head? Ah, now one of you has the right idea. Too bad it's him, not you. ;)
Keep your feet below the waist where the Good Lord put them. Keep your hands open. They'll last longer and they can impact much harder on his target areas. Oh, not to mention they're an awful lot more versatile.
Closed hands can only impact. Open hands can impact in a variety of ways. They can also push, grasp, gouge, deflect. Ya, trust me it's a long list. Keep them open. For those of us in the professional use of force fields...open hands are camera friendly. :)
In the Celtic Combative Systems we use our entire body and every individual part of it as a striking surface. Our stance, balance and movements are consistent in hand to hand, stick or knife combative 'modes'.
Most of our strikes are "concealed". We're not actually trying to hide them, but most people are looking for obvious punches and kicks. They simply fail to see the rest.
If you run into me, intending to strike or grapple, you're going to run yourself into a world of pain. Every part of my body that touches any part of yours is going to hurt you. Meanwhile I'm going to look like an old guy stumbling around who lands on top of the young guy who attacked him. No obvious strikes unless I 'slap' you.
People are going to wind up wondering how that even happened! So I won the fight. How will I do at court? Read how it looked again. I've already won at court.
So far we've been discussing only the hand to hand part of Celtic Combative Systems. We've not touched on Irish stick fighting, which by the way doesn't require a shillelagh.
Any "stick" will do. From a pen to a collapsible steel baton, to a shovel or pick handle, to any other bloody thing you can pick up and swing. Despite the glamor attached to Irish stick fighting, it actually is a complete and effective Celtic Combative System.
Which, I do assure you, was not restricted to the Irish side of our clans. Only the specific politics of the times made the Irish famous for their stick fighting while the rest of the Celts were more covert in their practice or adopted Anglicized variants.
If the tool of choice or opportunity is pointy or sharp, now we're into the knife combative system. Another specialty all on it's own.
By the way, just as I don't like punches and kicks, I don't like talking about knife fighting. Again, that's just stupid. It's a war of attrition. You wanted to not get hurt, right? OK. Just so we're on the same page.
So the idea is to stop him hurting you. That means you get him first and you get him hard.
Knife work...not knife fighting.
Use of Force