in: Advice, Character, Podcast

• Last updated: September 30, 2021

Podcast #334: When Violence Is the Answer

We’re often told violence is never the answer. My guest today would argue that not only is that idea wrong, it’s also extremely dangerous. He says that sometimes violence is the answer, and that when it is, it’s the only answer. 

His name is Tim Larkin and he’s a self-defense expert and the founder of Target Focus Training. Tim has trained military, law enforcement, and civilians on how to use violence to protect themselves. In his latest book, When Violence Is the Answer, Tim makes a convincing case that civilians need to change their mindset about violence if they want to protect themselves and their family.

Today on the show, Tim and I discuss what he means by violence and why it’s often the only possible response to violence. He then goes into detail about the difference between antisocial aggression and asocial violence and how to respond to both. We then discuss why good people should study criminals on how to use violence more effectively. We end our conversation by exploring how knowing how to kill and maim people can counterintuitively make you a more peaceful and gentle man. 

Show Highlights

  • Why training is easy, but the understanding and mindset is hard to come by
  • Why people want self-defense without the violence
  • What actually is violence? How is it different from self-defense?
  • The most dangerous tool an attacker has at his disposal
  • What’s the difference between violence and simple social aggression?
  • How to recognize when an aggressive encounter will turn truly violent
  • Why you should always watch and identify with the victor in videos of violence and aggression, even if it’s the bad guy
  • The Mexican mafia’s reading list for new recruits
  • Why the best information always comes from the worst people
  • Why resolve isn’t all that important in true self-defense
  • The importance of understanding human anatomy when inflicting violence
  • Tim’s own incredible self-defense story, and the lesson to be learned from it
  • Why responding to social aggression with violence is never worth it
  • Violence as a tool
  • Why Tim treats everyone he meets as if they’re seconds away from a shooting spree

Resources/People/Articles Mentioned in Podcast

When violence is the answer by tim larkin, book cover.

When Violence Is the Answer makes a provocative case that normal, law-abiding citizens need to get comfortable with violence and doing violence to others. Weirdly, once you make that shift in mindset, you actually become calmer and more zen-like because you realize that most of the annoyances and aggression you see from people aren’t worth escalating to violence.

Connect With Tim Larkin

Tim on Twitter

Tim on Facebook

Tim on Instagram

Tim’s website

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Read the Transcript

Brett McKay: Welcome to another edition of The Art of Manliness podcast. Well we’re often told violence is never the answer, but my guest today would argue that not only is that idea wrong, it’s also extremely dangerous. He says that sometimes violence is the answer, and when it is it’s the only answer. His name is Tim Larkin, he’s a self-defense expert and the creator of Target Focus Training. Tim has trained military, law enforcement, and civilians on how to use violence to protect themselves. In his latest book When Violence is the Answer, Tim makes the convincing case that civilians need to change their mindset about violence if they want to protect themselves and their family.

Today on the show Tim and I discuss what he means by violence and why violence is often the only possible response to violence. He then goes into detail about the difference between anti-social aggression and a-social violence and how to respond to both. We then discuss why good people should study criminals on how to use violence more effectively, and we end our conversation by exploring how knowing how to kill and maim people can counterintuitively make you a more peaceful and gentle man. Really fascinating show. After the show is over check out the show notes at

All right, Tim Larkin, welcome back to the show.

Tim Larkin: Thanks for having me Brett.

Brett McKay: Man so it’s been a few years. I think it was 2015 we had you on talk about what you do, your self-defense stuff that you talk about. You got a new book out where you basically take in what you’ve been doing for the past several decades and synthesized it. The title is awesome, When Violence is the Answer, Learning How to do What it Takes When Your Life is at Stake. We’re often told that violence is never the answer, but right here in the title of your book you’re saying no, sometimes violence is the answer. When is violence the answer?

Tim Larkin: Well it’s the question nobody likes to talk about and I think that’s why that’s why the title of the book, and actually believe it or not I had to fight for that title. My publisher was good enough to finally realize that that’s a very relevant title. That’s how uncomfortable people are with even the word violence. The idea behind the book is we talk and we’re very well versed on when violence isn’t the answer, we’ve gone almost overboard on that aspect of it. The illusion that’s out there is that violence is never the answer. The idea was by doing that the very people that need the tool of violence the most have just self-selected out of even looking at the subject, thinking that it’s somehow will make them criminal. The goal of the book is to, not even get to the training aspect, I do talk a little bit about that, but it’s really how do we think about the subject and why is it so taboo, and where can we actually learn good information?

Brett McKay: That I thought was interesting. I mean there’s a chapter or two about specific tactics, but most of it is just an argument for regular good people to be comfortable with violence.

Tim Larkin: That’s the biggest change. The physical training aspect is actually fairly easy for me to get through to people. The hardest aspect and the ability to use that physical training correctly is going to absolutely fail you if you don’t have the correct understanding of the tool and correct mindset to use it. It’s the current Secretary of Defense, General Mattis, has that saying to his marines, that he first wants them to engage the brain before they engage the enemy. The idea behind that is we’re talking about real violence, we’re talking about criminal violence, we’re talking about a-social, devoid of choice violence, and in order to understand that correctly you have to wrap your head around what you think violence is versus what society tells you it is, the media tells you it is, entertainment tells you it is.

Brett McKay: Let’s get into that, what violence is. I thought that was an interesting point you make in the book sort of hitting on our discomfort with violence, is that people will sign up for self-defense classes but they want self-defense in a way where they actually don’t have to do violence. They want to like, “What can I do to protect myself but not actually have to do something bad?”

Tim Larkin: Right, and that goes to the core of the whole misunderstanding of what’s talking about. Another guy, a friend of mine in the industry, Tony Blauer, talks about a time he was on an airplane and if you’re in this business you get this question all the time and I thought his answer was perfect. The question was they find out you teach self-defense, they say, “Oh I’ve always wanted to learn self-defense.” Tony was a little irritated that day, been a long day flying back. He looked at the woman, he just said, “No you don’t.” She kind of was taken aback, she goes, “No, no I did.” He goes, “No, no you don’t want to learn how to do this because if you did you’d already know how to do this and would have been training all these years. What you want is you want to learn how can I live a life that avoids the possibility of me having to use self-defense, and with that I can give you a lot of information.”

That’s really what most of us want. It’d be crazy for us to think that we want to go out there and actually test ourselves or look for this, and that’s the real difference between violence. People that survive violence don’t brag about it, they certainly don’t want to seek it again. The example that I always give is the idea of people swimming. In my class I’ll ask people, I’ll say, “Hey, how many people here know how to swim?” Just about every hand will come up. Then I’ll say, “How many of you have ever had to swim for your life?” There will usually be a few hands, including myself, leaving their hands up. I said, “Okay, of you people that had to swim for your life, would you ever want to experience that again?” Nobody has their hand up at that point, and that’s what violence is.

Violence is that black swan event that, just like if you are in the water and you don’t know how to swim, you got nothing in the toolbox, you’re in a horrible situation. Same thing with violence, if we have nothing in the toolbox and society has got us to the point today where the people that need it most, meaning good, law abiding citizens, most of us have nothing in the toolbox when it comes to dealing with real violence.

Brett McKay: Let’s talk about like what do you mean by violence? Because that was the foundational chapter of all this is that difference between social aggression and a-social violence, because I think what most people when they take a self-defense class they’re preparing for social aggression, but you’re saying no, you need to prepare for actual violence. What is the difference between aggression and violence?

Tim Larkin: It comes down to communication. Everything that we want to respond to, often times we imagine we need to respond to, usually falls in the realm of social aggression. I’m fascinated when I see training out there, and I have a lot of guys in the industry, and a lot of the training revolves around social aggression, which is a fast track to jail time. They literally will teach things like here’s what you do in a bar fight, hey here’s what you do when somebody knocks into you. All these things that are eminently avoidable, that you can use your social skills to get out of, the aggression, versus that rare occasion when you would actually … The only tool available to you would be violence, and that’s when you’re devoid of choice. The way we define it is I am devoid of choice, meaning if I had an exit I would have taken it by now, if there was a way for me to talk my way out of this I would have done that, communication is stopped, I am facing imminent, grievous bodily harm. If I do not use violence to protect myself I am basically participating in my own murder.

That’s that uncomfortable time where people recognize it, and a way to understand it when you see a lot of these shootings that you’re seeing, people are realizing that oh my God, this is happening and they’re having to take action. Most people don’t know what to do in situations like that and they’ve had no skill training. What’s really interesting to me is even in the professional world they will give you an excellent training up the scale for social aggression, and then when it gets to a-social violence where say it’s a law enforcement and his life is on the line, or a soldier and he’s facing imminent bodily harm by the enemy, the training, when it comes to the physical training, self-defense, whatever you call it, at that point they say do whatever it takes, and they just send you on your way.

There’s no specific information and that’s what I find is just amazing. That’s when you need the most specific information, that’s when you need to understand how to go after the human body, how to take it out, how to actually injure it. The threshold to use this information is that of in the event that we’re talking about, if you had a firearm, you would be comfortable deploying that firearm and emptying it into the threat, that’s the level here. That eliminates probably 99.9% of most of the social aggression stuff that we think we need to respond to. We’re talking about all the unpleasant interactions that you can have with people, road rage incidences, incidences in social settings like night clubs and bars or restaurants, on the street, anything that you could walk away from if you chose to walk away from it could happen and it should happen.

That’s what I go in the book, in depth about, the idea of what do you actually have to respond to? If there’s communication still going on then it’s not the time. If you have to ask yourself hey, is this the time? Should I punch this guy, some of the crazy questions that I get. If you have to ask yourself whether or not it’s the time to use violence it’s probably not the time to use violence.

Brett McKay: Violence, let’s get some definitions clear, violence is imminent death or severe bodily harm, or in the case rape is another too where you could use violence.

Tim Larkin: Yes, basically if you don’t take action, meaning if you don’t try to protect yourself using the tool of violence, in the situation I’m talking about, you’re basically participating in your own murder. Meaning this is going to happen, this violence is imminent, and it’s devoid of communication. That’s the big thing meaning there’s no communication.

I’ve given the example a couple times of situations where it initially starts out and it’s say a robbery, and the person is communicating in an unpleasant way, but basically communicating with the guys that are robbing him, giving over all the watches, the wallets, everything that’s asked for, and the people go away. There was an incident in London that I talked about that kind of highlights this whole thing. The young lawyer did all that. Two guys held up against a tree with knives and robbed him and he complied, gave them everything, and they left. He used his social tools in that unpleasant situation to basically negotiate a favorable response where they left and he started walking away. Everybody loves that part of the story because it falls into the realm of what we’re told to do by law enforcement, don’t resist, don’t do this, don’t antagonize and that’s fine.

Problem was the second part of the story. They came back, second time when they came back their heads were down, their knives were drawn, they rushed him and just started stabbing him immediately until they killed him. He was heard screaming, “Hey why, why, why? I gave you everything, I gave you everything.” What I want people to understand is the difference between those two scenarios. There’s one scenario at the beginning where you possibly could use social, you possibly could use social to talk your way out. The second one where there’s no communication, it is pure action and it’s imminent and there’s no escape. The only thing that would work is the tool of violence, and if you have nothing in your toolbox at that stage of the game you’re going to be just an easy target.

Brett McKay: The tool of violence is basically you have to be able to kill or bodily maim, seriously bodily injure that person. Not just submission move or a thing, you have to inflict severe damage to this person.

Tim Larkin: Well what we’re talking about, we’re talking about injury to the human body, it’s very specific. Our bodies are all similar in the fact that we all have areas of the human body that can’t take trauma, meaning physics to physiology meeting badly, a hard part of you with body weight behind it going through an area of the other guys human body that’s not rated for that type of traffic. When we talk about injury to the human body we’re talking about breaking the structure of the human body or we’re talking about breaking a sensory system of the human body. Things like broken joints, destroyed eye balls, crushed throats, something as mundane as breaking the top of the foot, anything that elicits a level of trauma that creates what we call spinal reflex reaction, and that means its a reaction that takes the brain, basically captures the brain and takes the brain out of the equation. Meaning the trauma is so much, it’s so great on the body that the spine gives the feedback to the body to pull away from it.

We’ve all experienced it. When you touch say a hot surface, your hand automatically comes off that surface. You brain isn’t engaged to that, you don’t realize that you’ve touched a hot surface until after your limb has already been removed from that and that’s to protect you. What we do is we use that information of how the body tries to protect itself to actually destroy itself. We flip it upside down and we use the fact of these spinal reflex reactions to trauma to basically take the brain out of the equation, because the most dangerous thing that you and I ever face with another human being is an act of brain. As long as he can think and move he can do damage to us. As soon as we take his brain out of the equation, and we do that through injury, and injury is something that all of us are capable of. We’re all capable of delivering injury to the human body. We’re not all capable of competing in combat sports, but that’s the great thing about violence, is the tool of violence is available to everybody and it works on everybody, and that’s the education process.

Brett McKay: Let’s go back to the social aggression aspect of this. Trying to figure out the difference between social aggression and a-social violence. You mentioned communication is one thing, if they’re communicating with you it’s probably social aggression, but are there any other signs that someone … How can you tell if someone’s a-socially violent besides they’re just not talking to you?

Tim Larkin: Well it’s really the cues, it’s not really when somebody’s a-social. The way we highlight a-social is in our training. In our training we basically have no communication, meaning there’s no talking when they’re out in the mats, when clients are out in the mats training. There’s no music, there’s no social interaction, meaning you don’t help each other up, you don’t do any of the social things that are out there. You’ll see this in a lot of other combat sport gyms and martial arts facilities, and that’s fine, there’s nothing wrong with that. The problem is my goal for training people is to get them to trigger on a-social. The thing that saved my clients lives across the board and across all the demographics that I’ve trained is their triggering an understanding that oh, this just went a-social, and what that is is getting used to training in a non-communication environment, in a environment devoid of social communication.

It’s just a recognition system, everybody understands that. We’ve all done it before, we’ve all walked into situations where all of a sudden our non-verbal cues are hitting us all the time. We call it intuition, sometimes it’s dismissed, sometimes people think it’s esoteric but it’s not, we have non-verbal warning systems that are inherent in our physiology that are designed to protect us. Things where people say, “Hey, the hair on the back of my neck is standing. My stomach feels queasy.” This is your body screaming out saying hey there’s something wrong here, I’m picking up something that’s wrong here and you need to pay attention to this.

Brett McKay: One thing you also highlight in the book that’s useful for just good regular folks to watch are videos or films of a-social violence going down. Because what they’ll be surprised by is that there’s no yelling, there’s no screaming, there’s no that war face you talk about in the book, it’s just quiet and there’s an intent and it’s done fast.

Tim Larkin: If you watch violence across the board, real violence, you’ll just understand. You watch say animals, predator animals, when it’s two predator animals of the same species in a territorial situation it’s loud, they’re making all sorts of gestures towards each other, they’re knocking into each other. Not really trying to injure each other, they’re just trying to run each other off the land. It’s usually an alpha type of situation. If you watch that same predator going after prey, they’re usually in a low crouch, super silent, just waiting for the right time, and when they strike they strike fast and silently and just get into it right away. That’s exactly how a-social violence goes down with people and that’s the difference.

The difference is one person often times is trying to communicate and it’s usually the person that ends up being the victim is trying to communicate with the predator who’s merely just taking action and getting right into violence and getting into the work right away. When you watch acts of violence there’s a lot that can be learned but most people watch them incorrectly.

Brett McKay: How do they watch them incorrectly?

Tim Larkin: They’ll usually empathize with the victim, and they’ll usually try to look at a situation and they’ll at … Because oftentimes it’ll be a criminal act of violence and oftentimes it’ll be the criminal that is successful using the tool of violence. Oftentimes people will look at it and say, “Well the victim could have done this, or the victim could have done that. Well maybe you could get your way out of this or you could have dodged this punch or you could have X, Y, or Z.” That’s the exact wrong way to look at it when you’re looking at the tool of violence.

When you look at the tool of violence you want to inoculate yourself to always identify with the winning side of violence. You want to train your brain to look at an act of violence and say, “Okay, at what point did it start to work for this person? The person that ultimately won what happened?” Usually what you’re going to find is you’re going to find there’s going to be an exchange, and at one point one person injured the other. Normally right after that injury they piled on on those injuries and ended up being the victor.

Now, the hard part for us as same socialized humans, is that we tend to identify with the story. I often have people watch the video with no sound in it whatsoever, they just watch the physical acts of the video, which normally makes it a lot easier for them to see. They go, “Oh, there’s the point, yes, okay.” What are doing? You’re training your brain to always identify with the successful use of the tool. You’re not training yourself to look at the tool being used at you and trying to figure out how to block your way to success. It’s dramatic, and where it really became relevant was when you look at alpha predators and you show them acts of violence. We’re talking about the worst of the worst in the prison systems.

They’ll look at an act of violence, they never identify with the victim, it just never happens. They always identify with the winning side, and if anything they’ll be critical of the winning side. They’ll say, “Okay he did this, this, and this, and yes it worked, but I would have done.” If they’re going to do anything they’re going to improve on the results the individual got with violence. They’re going to say, “I actually would have done it this way.” Whereas well meaning people would try to do that with the victim. Say, “Well I would have blocked the punch here, or I would have grabbed him here, or maybe I would have done this or that.” They won’t look at it that way, they’ll look at it from the successful use and then how could I improve upon the successful use of that too.

What that does is your brain says oh okay, this is what you want me to do, you always want me to look for options, you always want me to look for potential injuries, you always want me … If this situation comes about, my job is to immediately start looking for opportunities for you, that’s what you’re telling me to do.

Brett McKay: You don’t want that. The only option to be inflict injury on this other person.

Tim Larkin: That’s what you’re training yourself to do by watching video correctly. Meaning if you watch from successful side all the time, the people that are successfully using the violence. An act of violence goes down, and I’ll usually find really challenging ones where it’s pretty bad, and I’ll have people sit there, and I’ll have them watch it there. I’ll say, “Okay, why did that work?” As soon as people start going for the victim saying, “Well she could have done X, Y, or Z.” I say, “Nope, what happened?” Then somebody will say, “Oh, okay, he stepped through, he used his body weight, he hit her to the side of the neck and she went to the ground and that’s when he started stomping her.” Now that’s really hard for us to deal with as citizens, but what we’re doing is I can’t learn anything, I can’t undo this. All I can do is protect my brain from making sure that it gets the right information, and the right information is not trying to figure out how the victim could have not got struck and hit. We have to find out what works.

That’s the difference because what most people do when they see a bigger, faster, stronger threat, a bigger, faster, stronger individual, and if we’re going to face a predator usually that’s what we’re going to be facing, somebody who’s bigger, faster, and stronger than us. If we focus on all of those differences rather than the similarities, meaning oh my God this guy is so much bigger than me, rather than oh, there’s his throat, there’s his knee, there’s the side of his neck. Once we start realizing all the similarities and the options that we have, areas of the human body that this individual can’t protect, that’s when you start making the change. That’s when violence starts becoming universally available to everybody. It’s just whoever gets the injury first.

Brett McKay: Right, and going back to how thoughtful some of these criminals are about violence. You mentioned the Mexican Mafia has this reading list for new recruits I thought was surprisingly heady. What are some of the things that the Mexican Mafia has their guys read?

Tim Larkin: Well there’s a really great video that’s out, it’s an interview with one of the heads of the Mexican Mafia that was debriefed by law enforcement. They shared the video with me and he goes over the education portion. The books that I’m about to talk about, this literally is probably 80% of these books are books that I read as a young special warfare intelligence officer at the JFK Center at a course that I was at in Fort Bragg. It was Machiavelli’s The Prince, it was The 48 Laws of Power, it was Psychology and Abnormal Psychology, it was … What was the other book they had? They had one other book that was very much a special warfare book, type book that they had and that was great. The consistent book that they had that our first responders and our military people weren’t reading were books on anatomy.

It’s interesting, he says this, he goes, “oh yes,” he said, “we have to know anatomy because we have to know how to kill. Violence is our currency, that’s how we derive our power, that’s how we control things, that’s how we are able to make money. Everything derives from a successful use of the tool of violence and you have to know anatomy in order to be successful.” That’s absolutely true, meaning the reason these guys are worth looking at, it’s a road that you have to be very careful with because it can seem, if you soundbite this information, it can seem like you’re somehow promoting these guys or somehow thinking they’re great people, they’re not. Often the best information comes from the worst people, and what he is saying is we can’t afford to get it wrong. When we use the tool of violence it’s a very specific use of the tool.

That’s the other thing that I learned by studying with the law enforcement officials that I did and really going in depth and realizing that for them violence is currency and there’s nothing random about it’s use. We, as society, think oh, we think these prisoners are crazy and there’s all these random acts of violence going on. Everything has to be condoned, everything has to be approved for the most part. If you just go off on your own and violently attack somebody you could have serious repercussions for doing that because you’re going to affect the business of the prison. The business of the prison is to make money for these gangs and they control acts of violence.

When they set up an act of violence they have to be successful. It may have taken them six months to set that up, and therefore they can’t afford to get it wrong, so they need to know we’ve got the shanks, we’ve got all this information, where do we put it to get the maximum amount of damage in the minimum amount of time because we don’t want the prison swap team, the CERT team, to respond in time to save this guy. They need to know exactly where to stab people, exactly where to hit people, exactly where to open them up so that they die. It’s very interesting, it has nothing to do with opinion, it has all to do with results and they’re very, very methodical about it.

The fascinating thing was letters that I was seeing that were decoded of one prison gang member sending to his cousin who was coming into prison for the first time, he sent a letter that if you and I read it it would seem very much like a family member sending us a hey, good luck letter, oh and here’s a little bit of information about the family. When it was decoded, it basically was telling him exactly how to make weapons, where you can make weapons in the prison, where to attack people, specific targets of the human body of where to attack people and how to make sure that you do it efficiently and effectively each and every time. It was very, very specific information.

The reason they do that is because these guys can’t afford to get it wrong and that’s why it’s worthy looking at how they look at the tool because they look at it very different than we look at it. We try to sanitize everything that we do, and we try to make an approach that’s a very indirect approach oftentimes because we’re trying to be good people. Unfortunately if we meet up against one of these predators who uses a much more direct approach and direct methods, we’re so far behind the power curve that we’re going to probably not come out on the right side of it.

Brett McKay: Going back to social aggression, so most self-defense methods out there, or people often confuse sport martial art with self-defense, they’re going to use that in social aggression because they think that they’re being threatened, that they’re going to have bodily harm, so they use those tactics, but what ends up happening is it often elevates it to possible a-social violence.

Tim Larkin: Yes, well when we look at the world of combat sports, I live in Vegas and I’m surrounded by some of the top UFC competitors, a lot of these guys are friends of mine. I love combat sports, I grew up with it. The only way you can gamify violence is to take out injury to the human body. If you want to find out how to be effective in a life or death situation, all you need to do is look at the rules in any of the combat sports. The last time I looked at the UFC there are 31 rules, 28 of them revolve around injuring the human body that they were taking out. The reason being is because that’s not the goal of a combat sport application. Combat sport application is to pit skill against skill, these amazing athletes that go at it, but if you allow injury to the human body you can bypass it right away.

All of a sudden what happens if a guy accidentally rolls up and breaks another guy’s ankle in a MMA fight, it’s over right away and everybody’s all upset because the fighter can’t go on. It wasn’t intentional, but it was an injury to human body. Those are all the telltale signs. When you see things like that happen in a combat sport environment, that’s the learning curve, that’s where you sit there and say, “Oh hey, wait a minute, had two highly trained guys that were completely committed, trained for at least 10 week training camp for this, were in amazing shape, and all of a sudden something just happened that this guy who had all the will in the world to keep going can’t keep going, regardless of his resolve.” He’s got an injury to the human body, and that’s what these prisoners understand at a much more base level. They want to go right to the direct injury. They want to go right to the thing that shuts down the athleticism, that shuts down the brain’s ability to think, the guy’s ability to respond. That’s by breaking a structure or sensory sense of the human body.

Brett McKay: If you are faced with a social aggression situation, I think men probably encounter this more often with each other, the shoving, the name calling, the chest puffing up, and the yelling and shouting. What should your response be?

Tim Larkin: Well you just walk yourself through the scenario. I’ll give you three scenarios. First one, I walked into the bar, this guy came by, and he knocked into me, and he told me my wife was fat. I went over, I slammed him on the side of the neck, I grabbed his head, I gouged his eye out your Honor. Second scenario, I’m going to the Whole Foods parking lot, I’ve been waiting for a parking spot for the last couple minutes. I go to go take it when the guy backs out, small little Mercedes comes in, grabs the spot, guy’s a real jerk, gets out, flips me off. I run over there, I throw him down, kick him, I stomp him on the neck, and then I gouge his eye out your Honor.

Third scenario, I was at my office when he came through the door with a firearm. He shot two of my coworkers, his gun jammed, I noticed that he went down for a reload, I tackled him. The first thing I saw was his eye, and I was able to use my thumb and I gouged his eye out, and I stopped him from continuing to shoot anybody else officer. Now, I did three scenarios there. We knew the first two were crazy and the reason I ended both of those with your Honor is because you’re going to end up, if you’re lucky, in front of a judge for something like that. There’s no way you’re going to be able to justify anything like that. The last thing you were talking to the officer and the officer dismissed it at that point and realized it didn’t go any further up the chain because it was a justified use.

When would gouging an eye ever be acceptable? It has to be there. We are not talking about a dust up fight. We’re not talking about things that are avoidable that you can absolutely walk away from. We’re talking about things when you’re devoid of choice and you have to use that. That’s the only time, doesn’t meet the threshold of if I had a firearm I would take it out and play it on here. Once you cross the physical plain, you have no idea where it’s going to end up, and this is where social aggression can turn into a-social violence even though neither party intended it. You don’t have the luxury of that choice because literally there’s … One of my instructors, for years, collected news clippings of two guys who get into an argument, one guy pushes the other guy, he falls over, brains himself, and he’s dead. Now the other guy’s facing manslaughter over nothing.

I think we talked about this before on the last podcast but it’s still very relevant for your listeners here again. You have to ask yourself, the act that you’re about to take, and these are things that you have to think about, and this is what the book really does, it really walks you through these scenarios to think ahead of time about this stuff. The idea is if I do what I’m thinking of doing right now, if I participate in this, three days from now if I’m sitting in a jail cell facing charges is this going to be worth it for me, or if I’m six feet in the ground dead is it worth it? Very few things pass that three day test. It’s an education process, especially this is the Art of Manliness and men have a huge challenge in this because we sometimes confuse our locker room culture and we communicate with violence sometimes, and we have this nebulous relationship with violence at times that can get us into trouble. This is where we really have to do some deliberate thinking about this, and understand the difference between.

That’s why I use the term violence. I don’t use fight, I don’t use any of those specific terms, I don’t use the term self-defense. Self-defense is what is determined after you use an act of violence, after you participate in an act of violence it is then determined whether or not it’s criminal or self-defense. Any of the things coming up, any of the conflict coming up prior to that, any of the social aggression coming up to the point of violence is all being dealt with, anything prior to that point where you actually use the tool of violence, all of that can be dealt with in anger management classes, and social interaction, and all of those things. When you get to that point of violence, we’re talking about when violence is the answer, you have to be very specific about that information. You have to use correct terminology.

Brett McKay: I thought it was an interesting point you made that by knowing how to inflict violence it can actually make a person more confident, more calm, more peaceful in those social aggression situations. They realize, you know I can just put my knee right there in that kneecap, or I could do this. By understanding how fragile the human body is it makes you realize this is not worth it, it is totally not worth it.

Tim Larkin: Yes, well one of the things I was thinking about and there’s some great guys out there from the combat sport world, martial arts world that shared stories. Some of them are incredibly tragic, but I’ll give you one that’s not. It could have been tragic but it wasn’t. Most of your listeners they follow any martial arts or anybody, one of the big personalities is Bas Rutten. He was a former champ, UFC champ, heavyweight champ, and he’s a really interesting guy, he’s Dutch. He talked about a time, it was really interesting in an interview that I heard him in, he talked about a time that he was in, I believe it was Amsterdam, and he got baited, he got baited into going outside of a bar and fighting two guys. He did it, and at the end of the confrontation one guy was breathing, the other guy was out cold unconscious, and he wasn’t sure if they guy was alive.

He ran to his hotel room and he said he spent a terrified night in his hotel room just waiting for the police to come take him away because he thought for sure he had killed that guy. The reason he felt the way you felt was because he realized it was all avoidable, he didn’t have to participate in that. It was such a learning curve for him that he recognized I allowed myself to be baited into that. The reality was hitting him after the fact and thankfully he didn’t murder that guy. It didn’t go horribly wrong, and it was over nothing, it was over typical bar room ridiculousness that he got caught up in. I thought it was a really honest thing and I hope most young guys could hear stuff like that because it really made a difference.

My situation, I’ve had a couple situations that have happened where it’s really educated me on what’s worth responding to and what’s not worth responding to. The one that hits me still to this day is I was a young guy, doing a lot of work in South America as an intelligence officer. We were doing a lot of back then counter narcotics type of work, it was really interesting, it was really what we thought was dangerous. I get back to San Diego, it’s a real … I’m feeling very comfortable in San Diego, it’s my home town. We’re driving around an area where we get into a little bit of traffic. Some buddies of mine, we’re going downtown to go to the happy hour, and we get caught in a little bit of traffic and there’s a guy that’s behind me that somehow, and I’m talking about traffic that’s just inching forward. This guy somehow thinks that I cut him off and he starts making faces at me and doing things and I’m laughing. I got two of my friends in the back of my Jeep and I just start making eyes at this guy through my rear view mirror.

I’m incensing him, I’m blowing him kisses, he’s getting just more and more fuming, fuming. He angles his car around in about a four to five minute timeframe to get in front of me. Stops the car, gets out of the car, and I’m thinking, “Oh this is great. Here I am, this highly trained hand to hand combat instructor. I just got back from South America. We’ve been doing all this bad ass stuff. I get to show my skills off to my boys. Get out of the car. I take two steps out of the car and from the back my friend yells gun. I realize at that point I’m fully exposed. I’m in a complete fatal funnel if the guy has the gun and I’ve screwed myself. I just instantly realized what I’ve done to myself at this stage of the game. Turns out it wasn’t a gun, turns out it was one of those things, back then a lot of people had things that tied up your steering wheel, the club. He had one of those things. It was a metal club that he had there. I just looked back at those guys, I said a couple expletives to my friend for being an idiot, scaring me that it’s a gun.

I looked at it, it’s a club, no big deal, I can deal with this all day. The guy is a little bit shocked that I charge him. He comes and he tries to swing the club at me. I strike the club out of his hand, grab him by the side of the neck. I do basically a 270 and I slam him on the back of his car, I’m holding his neck down, and I’m just about to hit him because I’m so pumped up from the fact that I thought it was a gun and then I was mad that he was trying to hit me with a club, and I was just going to take my aggression out on this guy. I’m a young guy, I’m in my early 20s, and just as I’m about to hit him the little girl’s face is pressed up against the window. He had a four year old daughter in the back of his car and she was saying, “Please don’t hit daddy.”

To this day it still hits me. That was the last time I ever responded to social at that point. I got lucky. It’s not worth it, it just isn’t worth it. I know, my passion is to teach young guys, I love teaching young guys and really getting them through this and helping them navigate through this because there’s two things. There’s the young guys that will get themselves in trouble, and when I say young I’m saying anybody under 50, will go headlong into something and not think. I’m hoping that through this education process I can get them to think about the subject.

More scary for me though is the other side of it Brett where they have to take action and they don’t know what to do, they’ve never been taught about a-social, they’ve never been taught about the fact that hey, here’s the rare occasion when violence is the answer and by the way, here’s how to look at the subject matter, here’s how to look at the human body, here’s how to activate your brain, and here’s how to get the most out of this. Because there’s so much hero worshiping out there when it comes to the media. We see the Jason Bourne movies, we see all of these ridiculous ideas of what we think you have to do to be violent and violence is really very, very simple and straightforward to use and it doesn’t require great coordination. It just requires intent and knowledge. It’s a very simple skillset that all of us have access to and very few of us, in the last 50 years, have really looked at this and trained ourselves to do this.

I use the analogy of swimming before. I look at this subject matter as the same I look at teaching my kids to swim. I don’t teach my kids to swim so they can be the next Michael Phelps. I teach my kids to swim because I don’t want them to drown, and it’s the same thing with the tool of violence. Everybody should have a working knowledge of how the tool works.

Brett McKay: As you said, it’s dead simple and this is where your target focus training comes in. That’s what I love about the book. It’s super simple. It’s basically you know certain parts of the body, if you hit it hard enough, inflict it with enough damage, that it will have that spinal reflex thing. You highlight all these stories of students you’ve had. Some were 110 pound sorority girls taking down 215 rapists just by using this target focused training thing.

Tim Larkin: Target focused training is the method. We’re talking truly about violence. I don’t have a patent on violence. The Mexican Mafia, as we were talking about earlier, they understand. It’s anatomy, it’s understanding how to make anatomy, physiology and anatomy meet in a really bad way. Physiology and physics meet in a really bad way. The best data that’s out there comes from sports injury data, and the reason we look at sports injury data is because those are injuries that come from humans colliding with humans and humans colliding with the planet. We can replicate those forces, and that’s where we talk, really draw all our information. There’s about 70 areas on the human body that get an injury threshold that we’re looking for where the brain’s taken out of the equation.

Those 70 areas of the human body keep showing up time and time again in the data, and you only need to know a small portion of those to be effective. That’s the whole idea. I’m living proof of that. For me the seminal event for me was I was in Seal training, I’d been training to be a Seal for about 10 years as a young kid. I was a Navy brat, I knew everything there was to know about the Seal teams. I was fortunate enough to live in Navy housing in Coronado, and was around a lot of Seals and just learned everything. Went through college, got selected, got there, flew through training, was just doing great, and a couple weeks before training was over and I had already been assigned to the Seal team I wanted to go to. I was a young officer, I was full of myself, I was at the height of my physical abilities. I was absolutely sidetracked by an injury, a small injury.

I burst my eardrums and the semi-circular canals emptied out, I went into vertigo, and literally, instantaneously, my body just failed me and my career ended before it even started in the Seal teams. I had to switch over to intelligence at that point, and I stayed in special warfare, but for me injury just showed me that bigger, faster, and stronger, which I was always up until that point, inculcated in thought that was the way to go. I realized that no, that’s not enough because it had nothing to do with my will, it had nothing to do with my desire. My desire was through the roof. I had no control over my body when I went into vertigo. That was true injury and my ears just never healed correctly so I couldn’t do pressurized diving anymore, and that’s what got me on this journey. I ended up meeting people, ended up meeting people that started changing the way special operations looked at hand to hand combat, and it was all based off of injury to the human body.

The problem with that is it’s hard for people to wrap their heads around because there’s nothing rewarding. When you compete say in Jiu Jitsu, or any combat sport and you better one of your opponents, there’s a lot of social gratitude to that, and there’s a lot of comradery, and there’s a lot of social validation and proof on that. When you use violence there’s nothing. I mean when you see a really cool fight on TV where two guys were really going at it and it was a great fight, that’s amazing. Then you see videotape of one guy taking a hammer and hitting another guy in the head and just continuing to hit him until he’s dead, there’s nothing rewarding about that, there’s nothing to learn there, that’s just an act of violence.

Yet that tool is exactly what we need when somebody’s trying to take our lives, and we need to know how to access that. The scary part for most people isn’t the fact that learning it, it’s when you start to learn it you realize you’re already pre-wired and hard wired for this. We’re really good, we’re predators, we’re the top predators as a species. What’s interesting about us is we are not the biggest, fastest, and strongest because if we were we wouldn’t be the top species. We have brains and the brain is what makes us dangerous. When you train your brain correctly then everything else is available. You train your brain first, your body is your first line of tools that you have access to, and everything else is ancillary.

Once you train that way, physiologically you change on the way you look at things. You have a different outlook on life. It’s really what you came back to talk about. The more confident I am in justified lethal force, the calmer my life is because I understand the threshold of when I would ever use that and I would understand everything else that needs to be dismissed. I’m a really friendly guy. When people meet me I’m usually … I look, I’ve got tattoos, and I’m a big guy, and I work out, and I have all that look, I have the look of it. I’m always engaging with people, and it’s often funny when I see that. There are some people that’ll go, socially they’ll try to take advantage of it, they’ll say, “Oh okay, he’s not scary so I can kind of screw with him.” That’s when I know I have them at that point because that’s exactly what I want to do.

I don’t want to trigger anything that says I may or may not use the tool of violence. I want that available to me and I want it to be surprise each and every time that I use that. I don’t want to trigger off anything that shows me as being a violent person or somebody who’s there. I know it’s a tool that’s available to me, I know how to use it, and I don’t need to make people feel uncomfortable. What’s really interesting is I treat everybody that I come in contact with, if I’ve never met them before, I tell people it sounds kind of crazy sometimes, but I treat them like they’re six seconds away from a shooting spree and I don’t want to be the one to trigger it.

How would you communicate with somebody like that? Well you’d be really polite. You’d engage people, you’d let a lot of things go, and it’s just a much easier way to live when you do this. The problem is is when you don’t look at the subject and you have these irrational fears. Oftentimes you’ll do things, you’ll respond aggressively out of fear, you think, “Oh okay, I’m feeling really uncomfortable right now so I’m going to respond aggressively and maybe that’ll make the person back off.” Oftentimes that’s the worst thing you can do. When you really understand, okay I understand how violence works, I understand this person’s doing this for whatever reason, but hey I still have options so I can still deal with this socially. He may still call me names and it may be unpleasant, but I don’t need to escalate it at this stage of the game because I don’t want to flip that coin.

Brett McKay: Tim this has been a great conversation. I think the big takeaway from the book, as you said violence is simple. What I think you’re doing with this book and you did a good job with it, is just changing the mindset of just regular people about violence. Where can people go to learn more about the book and your work?

Tim Larkin: The best place to go to learn about our stuff is, and if they go to the book and pre-order the book I have a lot of free information I’m giving out. I’m giving out a 10 week course on the book where I go in depth on all of the subject matter that I couldn’t cover in the book for each chapter. That’s only for people that they go and pre-order and that’s at, the name of the book and they can get that.

I really appreciate the opportunity to share the message. I know it’s a different message for people and I hope they really understand that intent of this, with what we just saw in Charlotte, with what we’ve seen with Pulse Nightclub and all of these shootings, and everything that’s going on overseas right now, this is very much a topic that we’re all aware of, it’s the 800 pound gorilla that’s in the room. This is a real opportunity to explore it and understand it, and then probably you’ll deal with the news reports in a much more effective manner in how you look at the subject. You don’t want it to control you, you don’t want to have irrational fear, and the way you get over that is by just looking at a subject and studying it. This is a real simple, straightforward, entertaining way to do it.

Brett McKay: Awesome, well Tim Larkin thank you so much for your time, it’s been a pleasure.

Tim Larkin: Thank you Brett.

Brett McKay: My guess there was Tim Larkin. He’s the author of the book When Violence is the Answer. Comes out September 5th next week, and it’s available for pre-order right now on You can go there today, pre-order it and you’ll get it September 5th, the day it launches. Go do that today, it’s a fantastic book. Also check out our show notes at where you can find links to resources, where you can delve deeper into this topic.

Well that wraps up another addition of the Art of Manliness podcast. For more manly tips and advice make sure to check out the Art of Manliness website at If you enjoy this show, if you got something out of it, I’d appreciate it if you take one minute to give us a review on iTunes or Stitcher, helps us out a lot. Thank you to everyone who has given us a review, we really appreciate that. As always, thank you for continuing to support. Until next time this is Brett McKay, telling you to stay manly.

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