Gráscar Lámh
Hand To Hand Fighting Syllabus

The Gráscar Lámh, Celtic Combative Systems, Hand To Hand Fighting Syllabus was never written down when I was learning it. Today, with the entire system at risk of being lost, I have chosen to offer a written syllabus of the main teachings.

We will be following this up with books and instructional DVDs, for our Gráscar Lámh and our stick and knife systems. In the meantime, I hope that the following material will give insight into this combative system.



In our hand to hand combative system stances are easy. There is only one! In essence it is the boxer's or knife fighter's stance. The body is basically still square on. One foot stays slightly behind the other and maintains true shoulder width apart. The heels of both feet are kept slightly off the ground so that the Gráscar Lámh fighter's weight is evenly distributed on the balls of his/her feet.

Both knees are kept slightly bent with the body in a slight crouch. The chin is tucked into the chest and the tongue kept on the roof of the mouth.

Both shoulders are kept loose and rolled slightly forward. Both elbows are positioned about a fist's width out from the floating ribs with each aimed slightly in/towards each other. Do not exaggerate this or the hands will separate too much.

Both hands are kept up and open. Both hands are positioned with the heels of the hands at chin level. The thumbs of both hands, if extended would just touch each other. All digits maintain loose contact with each other and the thumbs against the index fingers.

If no edged weapons are involved then the palms face the opponent. If facing an edged weapon then the hands and arms are rotated so that the backs of the hands and tops of the forearms face the threat, protecting precious veins and arteries.

If a stick is placed in the hands it would be level to the ground and parallel to both the shoulders and the hips. With the hands closed on the stick there would be the width of the hand between both hands (remember if you stick your thumbs out they'll just touch each other).

The forearms are 'comfortably extended forward' to provide about a two thirds arms reach from your hands to your head. (New students invariably want to bring their hands too close to their own face/body. Trust me, that will prove a self correcting error as you'll soon fix it when you keep getting trapped or hit.)


In Celtic Combative Systems hand to hand fighting developing skillful and efficient movement is a lifelong study. Still, the basic principles of tactical movement can be learned very quickly. In essence it is a matter of maintaining your stance and balance.

Do not allow you legs to cross or pass each other. Maintain the distance between your feet as you move. When moving, first move the leg/foot closest to the direction you intend to travel. Do this simply by lifting it slightly and allowing gravity to start you in that direction.

This can be done when shuffling or when exploding or lunging, in lateral movement or when executing turns or pivots. Your weight stays centered over your hips. Maintain your posture at all times.

Most of the time you will concentrate on forward, aggressive movement. You will also learn to slip and 'bob' your opponent's striking attempts. Movements are very similar to a boxer's but without any tendency to skip or bounce; both will get you swept.

Striking Techniques:

Gráscar Lámh, hand to hand combative striking involves a full range of percussives including striking with open and closed hands. We minimize closed hand striking as a metacarpal break will render a hand useless and take all but seasoned fighters out of the fight. For this same reason we routinely target our opponent's hands. We utilize arm strikes with elbows, upper and lower arms and shoulders.

Our hand to hand system also involves kicking and leg strikes using the feet, knees, upper and lower leg strikes (some of these I've not seen elsewhere); knee drops and shin bars/strikes to an opponent on the ground.

Kicks are kept low and short range unless a fighter is baiting an opponent. High kicks are too risky for street altercations and if an opponent throws a high kick at us we will target their standing leg or destroy the incoming kicking leg. Shin kicking is constant!

In most hand to hand altercations, properly executed head butts are fight finishers. They are also amazingly versatile. Most fighters do not stop to consider the possible array of head butt applications or the damage these techniques can do.

Hand to hand combative systems students learn applications and techniques for stunning an opponent against the wall or ground. Often times this is one of the easiest ways to shut down an attacker. Such applications can be relatively minimal in terms of injuries but can run the whole gamut including lethal use of force options. The higher end applications are not taught until a student reaches more advanced levels in their training.

We do not waste our time on blocking techniques. "If he sticks it towards you hit it and attack".

Ranges and Targeting:

In hand to hand combat, knowing how to strike is the smaller part of the equation. In order to be effective a fighter must understand fighting ranges and what target areas to deliver each strike to at those changing ranges.

All other things being equal, we will target our attacker's 'soft targets' first.


The hand to hand fighter who understands and utilizes proper structure will always be ahead of the pack. Structure incorporates the fighter's stance and goes much further. Maintaining structural integrity throughout the full range of motion will enable a fighter to deliver strikes more effectively and to minimize the effect of strikes received during the course of an altercation.

Indeed structure is an essential component in all aspects of use of force/fighting applications and will contribute greatly to any fighter's long term health and well being.


In hand to hand combatives, surprise, sustained aggression, speed, forward momentum, intimidation and the will to prevail will take any fighter through most attacks. The rest is just fine tuning your abilities and stress inoculation. This means learning to manage your adrenaline and fear in a combative situation.



Hand to hand combative systems students are introduced to break-falls. These are not done as in the Eastern arts by striking the ground but by natural falling and rolling with the hands remaining in a position for immediate defense or attack.

Back, side, rolling and rolling side break-falls are all taught this way. In our system of hand to hand fighting we do not teach front break-falls as such but maintain that in such circumstances the student should learn to tuck or roll onto their side or back as this is what they would naturally do in a fight anyway.

The Overwhelming Principle:

Hand to hand fighters must learn to utilize striking skills as entries and 'distractions' to set up other techniques. No one of any serious intent will simply 'allow' you to apply a lock, come-along, take down or throw. You have to use your striking skills to shock, shut down, off-balance or stun your attacker long enough to be able to effect your other options.

Except in extreme mismatches we do not attempt to apply blending or yielding principles without at least taking the wind out of our attacker's sails. We are proponents of pre-emptive striking.

Vital Point Tactics

We do teach "modern" pressure point tactics but please remember that our hand to hand combatives are "combat" orientated. We are much more inclined to specifically target an opponent's eyes, ears, throat, body cavities and vital organs. Modern 'pressure points' are great when they work but we don't bet our lives on them.

The older vital point targeting simply works on everyone. No fear of "What if he's a non-responder?" The human body simply cannot continue to function when deprived of certain organs or abilities. These are our targets. We want him shut down now.

Body Fulcrum Throws:

When striking skills have been satisfactorily covered (practice and refinement are life long pursuits) the hand to hand combative student enters the world of standing clinches and throws. Students first learn to use their own body as a fulcrum to throw their opponent as these types of throws allow each partner to learn both throws and break-falling from throws in the safest possible manner. Throws are learned on a student's strong or dominant side.

The list of body fulcrum throws includes (but is not limited to):

Hip Toss
Push Pull Hip Toss
Single Hip Toss
Stomping Hip Toss
Rearwards Hip Toss
Hip Roll/Hip Wheel Throw

Body Drop/Leg Pivotal to the front
Body Drop/Leg Pivotal to the rear
Kneeling Leg Pivotal
Dropping Leg Pivotal
Pivotal Throw Under Attacker's Arm
Pivotal Throw Over Attacker's Arm

Sweeping Outer Thigh Throw
Sweeping Inner Thigh Throw
Rearwards Sweeping Thigh Throw

Shoulder Throws including:
- Bent Arm
- Straight Arm
- Collar Assisted
- Straight Arm Cross Side
- Double Arm
- Defender with One Arm Disabled
- Facing Arm Bar Shoulder Throw and Dropping Shoulder Throw variations
- Shoulder Wheel

Cross Leg Seated Roll
Leg Check Seated Roll
Sacrifice Roll -Defending
Sacrifice Roll -Attacking

Neck Throw
Kneeling Neck Throw
Dropping Neck Throw

The Plow Hip Throw
The Single Hip Plant
Hip Toss with Two Handed Plant
The Hip Spin
The Hip Toss and Ground Crush


In learning our hand to hand fighting system to this point some joint locks will have been learned in the process of executing throws and take downs. Senior students of Celtic Combative Systems will now specialize in a wide variety of joint articulations and will learn to employ these skills as stand alone techniques, finishes to throws and take downs, escorts and come-a-longs, subject roll overs and for joint separations and dislocations and to throw while using a variety of joint locks.

NOTE: In Celtic Combative Systems, hand to hand fighting, we do not advocate anyone attempting to apply any joint locks without at least distracting the subject via light striking or the use of pressure point applications unless the subject really is completely compliant, such as in a passive arrest sequence. No street adversary is going to simply allow you to lock them up in any kind of physical restraint without some kind of resistance.

We fight as we train. To expect otherwise is to set yourself and your partners up for a rude awakening or a permanent sleep! There is nothing wrong with isolating a technique to learn it.

Thereafter, as you practice your hand to hand skills, you should develop the habit of employing as many variations of dynamic or aggressive entries into each joint articulation as you can come up with. Habits keep you alive or get you killed. Develop sound habits always.

Joint Articulation, Upper Body:

Wrist and Elbow Arm Bars:
- Side Pocket Drill Arm Bar
- Long Arm Bar (with wrist, fingertip and hand rotation variations)
- Short Arm Bar (with wrist, fingertip and hand rotation variations)
- Drawing Inside Arm Bar
- Facing Arm Bar
- Arm Bar Shoulder Pin Variations

Escorts and Come-a-longs:
- Level 1,2 and 3 escorts with subjects hands free or in restraints
- Metacarpal Come Along
- Swan Neck Come Along
- Bird Wing Come Along
- Pistol Grip Come Along

Entangled Wrist Locks, to back, side and front while standing, kneeling or reclining
Fingers Inverted Wristlock Variations
Swan Neck Wristlock Variations
Reverse Wristlock Variations
Vertical Wrist Lock Variations
Side Wristlock Variations
Inward Torque Wristlock Variations
Two Hands Opposing Torque Wrist Lock
Wrist Pins
Knife Hand Locks; inline and cross line

Spinning Arm Bars
Butterfly Finger and Toe Locks

Elbow Lift Locks, from side, front and 'Third Man In'
Reverse Elbow Lift Locks
Hammer Locks
Leg Applied Hammer Lock
Straddle Stance Cross Arm Locks
Basket Weaving Lock

Figure 4 Wrist and Arm Locks

Shoulder Seizure Variations
Shoulder Pins, standing, standing hands free, or kneeling
Shoulder Dislocations, single and double
Double Shoulder Lock Hold Down

Spinal Column Fracture Lock

Subject Roll overs from their back onto their stomach
Restrained Subject Roll overs and Assist onto knees/standing

Joint Articulation, Lower Body:

Lower Body Joint Articulation can be "hand" or leg applied or by trapping opponent against your own body.

Toe Locks
Ankle Locks
Knee Locks
Hip Locks
Leg Twists and Leg Screws
Leg Lock Roll overs
Leg/Spine Locks

Other Throws and Take downs:

Arm Bar Take down
Shoulder Lock Take down
Neck Turn Take down
Arm Bar and Inner Thigh Roll

Figure 4 Rear Take down
Figure 4 Throw
Figure 4 Kneeling Throw

Ankle and Knee Take down
Kneeling Leg Take down
Double Ankle and Knee Rearwards Take down
Leg Applied Single Leg Take down

Recumbent Ankle Throw
Recumbent Single Leg Scissors Take down
Recumbent Double Leg Scissors Take down
Leg Scissors Throw
Leg Scissors Rearwards Throw

Wrist Throws including:
- In-bent Wrist Torque, Arm Bar Pivotal to Wrist Throw and Metacarpal Take down
- Reverse Wrist lock Take down
- Pinkie Up Take down
- Pinkie and Bent Elbow Take down
- Vertical Wrist lock Casting Throw
- Vertical Wrist lock Rear Take down
- Entangled Wrist lock Take down

Hammerlock Throw
Half Nelson Throw

Outside Leg Reaping
Inside Leg Reaping
Outside Leg Sweep
Inside Leg Sweep
Rearwards Single Leg Throw

Pivotal Throws including:
- Hip and Chest, Arm Bar and Ear Clasp
- Double Wrist Seizure
- Attempted Rear Bear Hug
- Outside Forearm
- Inside Forearm
- Double Forearm
- Under Nose
- Point of Shoulder
- Facing Arm Bar
- Inside Neck
- Outside Neck and Forehead Rear Pivotal throw

Front Scoop
Rear Scoop

Spinning Leg Sweep
Ankle Wheel
Knee Wheel

Head Controls:

Head controls were introduced, in our hand to hand system, as part of the 'Dirty Dozen'. Now we expand on the number of possible applications of this simple, often brutal and very effective combative principle. Head controls are an essential component of hand to hand fighting and include:

Hair Grab Techniques such as Front Hair Grab, Rear Hair Grab, Side Hair Grab, Front Hair Take down, Side Hair Take down, Rear Hair Take down and Hair Grab Throws

Other useful head controls include:

Fish hook
Ear Rotational Head Take down
Ear Pinch Control
Under Nose Head Rotational Take down
Cross Face Head Control/Take down
Chin and Head Rotation Take downs
Side Headlock with Knuckled Temple Lock
Eve and Orbital Cavity Controls
Forehead Rotation Controls/Take downs
Base of Skull Crush Control
Under Ear Digital Pin Control/Stunning

Ground Fighting:

Hand to hand fighters in the Celtic Combative Systems, are taught to fight from every conceivable position on the ground as well as standing to a grounded opponent and grounded against a standing opponent.

Our ground stuff is absolutely not B.J.J. or any other competition material. We believe that, on the street, staying on the ground is a serious mistake. If we go to ground we will destroy the opponent and get back up.

This is strictly 'dirty fighting' at its' extreme. There is still a science to the art, but "it ain't purdy"! The art of ground fighting continues into the Advanced Level Studies.

Advanced Level Students/Assistant Instructors

Neck Restraints, Chokes and Strangulations:

Note: In Canada, currently, law enforcement personnel are forbidden to use any form of 'neck restraint'. Law enforcement officers, other government agency personnel and various security agents are here reminded of this restriction.

Private citizens lacking other options made available only to "restricted personnel" may well find chokes and strangulation techniques their only viable option for dealing with some attackers. (Especially when drugs and/or alcohol have been used.)

Sound discretion must be exercised before applying any form of neck restraint. ANY NECK RESTRAINT IS OFFERED TO BE USED AS A CONTROL TOOL AND NOT TO BE MISUSED. PERMANENT HARM, EVEN DEATH, HAS BEEN KNOWN TO RESULT FROM MISUSE AND/OR DELIBERATE EXTENDED APPLICATION. Indeed it was the frequency of deaths occurring from these techniques which caused "neck restraints" to be removed as an option for law enforcement personnel.

In our hand to hand system we also teach proper neck restraints because we've too often seen defenses against neck restraints taught that will simply not work against a properly executed technique. To leave a student believing that such false defenses will work is to set them up for harm.

1. Bar choke
2. Naked Strangle
3. Head assisted naked strangle
4. Triangular Vice
5. Head assisted triangular vice
6. Single wing strangle
7. Figure four or American sleeper
8. Single lapel
9. Cross over lapel or hanging strangle
10. Knuckled carotids
11. Sleeve or Hawaiian choke
12. Sliding Collar
13. Japanese strangle
14. Bent wing single carotid
15. Face down Bar Choke
16. Front Headlock Single Carotid

Reclining Naked Strangle

Step through choke and cross arm lock--standing
Step through choke and cross arm lock--kneeling
Step through choke and cross arm lock--reclining

Leg Applied Neck Restraints

Entangled wrist with seated leg applied choke
Kneeling Leg/Shin Applied Single Carotid
Leg Applied Bar Chokes
Leg Applied V Type Neck Restraints
Leg Scissors Choke

Neck and Spine Destructions:

Half Nelson
Full Nelson
Single Arm Leg Applied Spine Lock
Double Arm Leg Applied Spine Lock
Double Shoulder Dislocation with Neck Stomp or Knee Drop
Facing Side Neck Break, high, middle and low
Rear Scoop Roll over to Neck Break
Rearwards C1 Destructions
Forward Neck Hyper Extensions
Dynamic Side Neck Disc Protrusions
Hyoid Bone Breaks
Wind pipe Crushes
Neck Throw with Lift
Plow Throw
Heart Compression Throw
Rib Compression Flailed Chest
Figure Four Standing Lock to Spinal Disruption

Stunning and Nervous System Shut Downs:

In addition to the widely accepted pressure point tactics of today Gráscar Lámh and Celtic Combative Systems utilizes other vital spots to provide stunning and nervous system shut downs when struck or otherwise over stimulated.

Stunning and complete or partial shut downs can be achieved by the so called 'quick penetration' of body parts or mechanical assists. Results can also be achieved by pinching, rolling pressure or by pressing into the body's soft spots and literally grasping internal organs.

Our hand to hand system emphasizes such soft spots as occur at bodily junctures such as where the neck joins the head or the torso; in the armpits, the groin area and along the lines where the legs join the torso. All around the bottom of the rib cage fingers can be inserted and the ribs grasped to create incredible pressures on the liver or spleen. The kidneys can be struck, grasped or subjected to direct or rolling pressure, all with great effect.

In hand to hand combat a strike to the tailbone or anywhere from the tailbone forward to the groin will drop most people fast. Strikes to the testicles may put your opponent in hospital tomorrow but he may yet finish you before he succumbs. Flicking or pulling the testicles will usually have a much greater and more immediate effect.

Any pressure or striking to the eyes or the orbital cavity will disable most people, as will flat handed slaps over the ears, although cupped hands will do a much better job on these targets.

Well, there you have it. The Gráscar Lámh, Celtic Combative Systems, Hand To Hand Fighting Syllabus all written down. Don't forget, you're supposed to learn the 'Dirty Dozen' first. They form a mini-combative system all on their own! Now all you have to do is learn it all ;-)

Actually that's only true if you want to be an instructor. Otherwise you actually get to pick and choose the bits you need. Of course, with or without the hand to hand training, there's also the stick and knife combatives to consider learning. If, like me, you get addicted to this area of study, you really can spend the rest of your life learning it all...or you can just take what you need. The choice, to a point, is yours.

Home Celtic Combative Systems