´Violence is rarely the answer, but when it is……it is the only answer.´ As a society we tend to focus on the first part of this statement only.

We prepare for a lot of circumstances that are not very likely to happen: We have fire extinguishers, alarms on our houses, all kinds of insurances and wear seat-belts and all kinds of protecting clothing doing just about anything slightly out of the ordinary. We know ´some things can just happen´.

But yet, very few of us prepare for a violent encounter.

However: Broadly 2 groups do prepare: The Predators and The Ones guarding us from the predators.

But as you know: You are the First Responder to your own attack……..You are there already! So, it makes sense to be prepared ourselves, right?

On my path to ´Being Ready´ I came across this great book: ´When Violence is the Answer´ written by Tim Larkin. (also available as an audio-book, 6 hours) Tim knows violence. The book has taught me, among other things, many insights into how violence works, what types we can distinguish and how to prepare. However, this is not really a ´How to…..´- book. It is, more importantly, a mindset book. In this book review, I will share some of these eye openers. I hope you will benefit from them as I have.

But really……: You should read this book yourself. It can save your life. I highly recommend it.

Human Violence….. Lt Col Grossmann (from the books ´On Combat´and ´On Killing´) called it the ´Universal Human Phobia´. To make his point he uses this example:

A family is struck by a tornado that leaves their house destroyed and the family in the hospital.´ om-pare this to: ´A home of a family is invaded by a violent motorcycle gang that beats up the family and sets the house on fire.´ In both cases the result is the same: Family in hospital, house destroyed. But I´m sure the second case left a different feeling with you.

Most people are scared of Human Violence. So they do not think about it and hope that reality will match their fantasy. Hope is not a strategy.

The book ¨When Violence is the Answer´ consist of 2 parts. In part 1 Tim explains ´how to think about violence ´. In part 2  ´how to think about using violence´ is discussed.

Part 1:

Violence is merely a tool. It can be used by your attacker, but it can also be used by YOU. The willingness to use this tool makes all the difference. Your attacker has already thought about it and he is willing. He (I will use ´he´ as most perps are male) has intent. As soon as you decide to use violence to injure or kill your attacker, you level the playing field. Sure, physical strength and techniques are ´nice to have´, but the one thing that will make the difference is your willingness to use violence.

2 Types of Violence

There are 2 kinds of violence: Social and A-Social. The distinction is very clear. Let us look at them separately.

Social aggression: Status and social dominance are most of the time involved. There will be posing, name calling (communication), and likely an audience. It is a competition and it has certain unwritten rules. Think of a road rage gone wrong. Or a school fight. Or a bar brawl. These fights are most of the time wildly inefficient. One is out to harm the other…..not kill him. Domination is the goal. There is social status to be gained or lost. These fights you tend to find on You Tube.

If you end up in a situation like this: Walk away. Sure, your ego will be bruised, but you will be alive and not in jail. There is no ´self defense´ in these situations and they often go horribly wrong. It is never worth it. If you can talk down the situation, apologize, d-escalate, walk away……it is best to do so.

Even being mugged falls into this category: ´Your money or your life!´. Just hand over your possessions. No material goods are worth as much as your life. It´s an exchange. Just be alert that it does not turn into A-Social violence.

The violence you see in Martial Arts and competitions is the same. That is why there are rules to an MMA fight. A Jury. Round times. A set location. A single opponent that has been studied. And over 30 rules to be followed. Otherwise there would be a lot more eye gouging and kicking in the nuts. Fights end too soon. Crowd not happy. Sponsors not happy. No money.

And than there is A-Social Violence. There is no communication. Your attacker is out to hurt or kill you. There is no possibility of flight. You need to use violence. You need to level the playing field. You need to do all the stuff forbidden in MMA. No hesitation in this moment. As Yoda said: ´Do. There is no Try….´ This is the stuff many of us were taught and what we drilled during Combatives lessons in SF training.


Mindset will save your life

The first thing to fix could be your mindset. Tim gives this example in his seminars: ´….So it has come to this point. You are in a fight. One person is strangling the other. What is your next move?´ Then, after a small pause, he himself says: ´Well I would continue to strangle him, knee to the groin and as he comes down hit him in the neck…………or did you think you were the victim, the one being strangled?´

And that is mindset. Many people have been conditioned into thinking that they will not use violence. It is not the ´civil way to go´! That needs to change. Not to make you into a psychopath, but to prepare your mind. Criminals only see themselves as the dominator, the one using the violence. That gives them confidence and an edge. Do not see yourself as the victim. Good guys can win by using violence. Real violence is binary, it is either ´on or off´. It is an ´all or nothing´ event.

Your decision-making when confronted with A-Social Violence should be ´on the offensive´. You should be in ´cause mode´ not ´effect mode´. Active not reactive. Always looking for targets to destroy. Get that initial injury and upper hand. No techniques will do you any good if you are only reacting. The assaulter always wins. First practice your mindset and intent, then practice principles and techniques.


Learning from the Bad Guys

The use of violence is often seen as the domain of criminals. In the civil world, money is a currency of power. In prison, the currency is not money, it is being able to efficiently and effectively use violence. Tim studied a lot of video footage from surveillance cameras inside prisons. He was once shown a video by a guard. The guard asked him: ´What do you see?´Tim said: ´Well it seems the inmates are training moves for knife fighting. That is not unusual. But it´s weird. They make illogical movements, all wide…..not like you would usually train for a stabbing.´

The guard explained: ´There was a riot this morning, so we had to call on our CERT (like a SWAT team inside prisons) to restore the order. They went in and all was over within minutes. Our CERT has received new body-armour a couple of days ago. The inmate staged the riot in order to recce our new body-armour. And they are now training to stab our vital parts around the body armour.´

Do you know what books inmates study, apart from books about power and warfare? Human anatomy. To find out how the body works, how to effectively and efficiently incapacitate and take a life. And then they train how to do this.

In the end all human bodies are the same. They will react to incapacitating injuries in the same way for anybody….big or small, male or female, muscular or not, trained in martial arts or not. If you punch The Rock in the nuts, his brain will shut down too. If you gouge the next MMA-er´s eyeball, he will let go of you. 100%.

Intent is the Great Equalizer. Learn from your enemies. Think like your opponent.

Tim Larkin showing how to hit a vulnerable target. The Eye.


Be Vigilant

Of course…..this is a No-Brainer. We already talked about walking away from Social Violence whenever possible. See the situation for what it is. And survive the day. If you ever think ´Should I hit him?´, the answer is probably: NO. Another measure: If you had a gun, would you shoot him? If not: Walk away.

There are other ways to stay safer: Avoidance (a major factor in self-defense that is rarely thought) is a big one. Do not go to these places that are known for violence. Sounds logical, right? Be vigilant. In this era many people go to public areas with headphones on and their eyes glued to their phones. There is no way you can be Situational Aware like this. It is much easier to act when you actually see or hear the threat coming. Tim shares some other tips: Lock your doors, get a dog, leave a light on…..prepare yourself. Make yourself a difficult target. The examples that he shares will horrify and stun you.


Part 2: How to think of using violence.

Principles are more important than Techniques

In stead of going into techniques for situations that can differ a lot from what you might actually encounter, Tim focuses on Principles.

Your objective is to incapacitate your opponent by attacking targets that will block his brain and destroy him to the point where he is no longer a threat to you.

You have to take action. Luckily you already trained your mindset. You are ´full on´. Scanning for targets. You are going to injure (long-lasting), not hurt (only in the moment).

What targets? Anything that will cause a response where the attacker can no longer think of anything else than the infliction. It is a knee jerk reaction. He cannot help himself. A punch to the liver, a punch to the solar plexus, eye gouging, kick to the groin, strike to the throat. Stuff like that.

How to hit the targets? Hit it with all the force you got. Use your bodyweight. Go through the target. Create a tunnel of wreckage. Drive through. Hit what you can with full force and follow-up with your next available target. Be precise. Practice and training will help you with this.



The more precise you can deliver your punishment with full force, the more effective you will be in destroying your target. So you need to train this. Tim offers in his book all examples of Striking, Breaking (including the amount of degrees in any direction that joints will twist without breaking)  and throwing (hitting a person with a planet :-)), how to train with a partner (Slow is Smooth), mindset for training tips and more incredibly useful information.

Are you interested? Are you serious about self-defense?  Read the book!  or recommend it to somebody who can use it. Visit Tim´s  website  and/or the video beneath! Tim Larkin also does courses.

If you are a fan of ´The Gift of Fear´ by Gavin de Becker, you will love this book.

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Written by Robin C, Former Dutch SF officer, Operator, 12 years into adapting to civilian life





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