in: Manly Know-How, Podcast, Skills

• Last updated: September 27, 2021

Art of Manliness Podcast #81: Target Focus Training With Tim Larkin

In this episode, I talk to Tim Larkin, self-defense instructor and creator of Target Focus Training. We discuss why people need to get comfortable with violence if they want to survive a life-threatening encounter, the difference between anti-social bluff and asocial violence, and how studying the worst people in society can help us become better defenders of ourselves.

Show Highlights:

  • How an injury during SEAL training led Tim to developing Target Focus Training
  • How Target Focus Training differs from other combatives like Krav Maga
  • Why you should watch videos of prison fights to learn how to protect yourself in a violent confrontation
  • How to tell the difference between mere chest thumping and actual violence (and why you should just walk away from the former)
  • How to prepare yourself mentally for a violent confrontation
  • Why saying “I’ll just shoot the bad guy with my gun” is a terrible answer to violent confrontation
  • And much more!

Book cover, how to survive by John Hudson.

Check out Tim’s site for free information about Target Focus Training. If you want to learn learn more, check out his book How to Survive the Most Critical 5 Seconds of Your Life as well as his other instructional products.

Read the Transcript

Brett McKay: Brett McKay here and welcome to another edition of the Art of Manliness podcast. So you are confronted with a really bad guy, a person who was threatening your life, or the life of your loved ones, and they had the capacity to do it, would you know what to do to protect yourself or your loved ones. Well, our guest today has been training individuals on this very matter what to do in this life or death situations. His name is Tim Larkin, and for the past twenty years, he’s been teaching a self-defense program called Target Focus Training to Military Special Forces around the world, along with law enforcement officers, as well as high-profile clientele, including actors and business executives. And Target Focus Training, as we will find out is all about using violence to kill someone, to disable them so that you can come out, survive.

So in this podcast we will talk about what Target Focus Training involves and how it’s different from sport combat you know like MMA and things like that. We’re going to talk about the mind of a criminal. We’re going to talk about the difference between antisocial and asocial violence and how sometimes the best response in some of those you know every day confrontations is just to walk away and then how do you know when you need to escalate your response in order to protect yourself or your family. And let’s talk about why studying criminals, people who use violence on a regular basis is the best way to learn how to use violence to protect yourself. So it’s a really fascinating talk that’s very interesting and yes, I am aware that not too long ago, just two episodes ago, we did a podcast on violence and killing of Dave Grossman. Please don’t read any you know too much into scheduling of the podcast. It’s just the way the schedule shook out with guest availability and whatnot. We’re not turning into the art of how to kill people podcast, so don’t worry that we’re going into some weird direction or not. It’s just the way things have happened. So if this isn’t your thing, check back next week because we’ll have a show as well too there. All right, with that said, I have to say that caveat because I know I get e-mails and tweets complaining about it. Let’s get to the show. All right Tim Larkin, welcome to the show.

Tim Larkin: Hey, thanks for having me Brett.

Brett McKay: All right Tim. So can you give a little bit of background of yourself for those who aren’t familiar, familiar with you or your work? How did you get to where you are today?

Tim Larkin: Yeah, I’m actually in my twenty sixth year of being a professional instructor, doing this which is crazy. But I got started years ago as I was always an avid martial artist, my grandfather was a south Boston trained boxer and got me into boxing early on as a young kid. And, you know I always had, I was a Navy Brat, and got into the Korean martial arts, because that’s really all that was available back then. And it wasn’t until I got into the Navy that I got introduced to you know the nexus of this approach to violence that has become Target Focus Training. It was an ex-Vietnam vet that I ran into and it was just completely you know, it was one of things where you know I went into, I was going into the SEAL teams, and I was the number one guy in my class. I was an officer. I had been trained since I was thirteen years old. I literally lived across from the SEAL base, and so I made friends with all the guys. I knew everything about SEAL training. I knew how to do it like well one whole week you know I was first in everything and then then two weeks before I was going to graduate I got into a diving accident, blew my ears in a diving accident and it just literally just changed my whole life because I was no longer was going to be able to be a Seal officer. I wasn’t going to going to go to the team that I was going to go to, which was the hottest SEAL team at the time. My whole plans had been turned upside down. I just thought my life was as I knew it, you know a 22 year old kid, it was over you know. And actually it was probably the greatest thing that ever happened me because it led me down this path and I got these meet people.

I worked for the admiral of the SEAL teams at the time. They kept me in the community because they liked me, and it’s the only reason they kept me in, and they and they had made me Special Operations Intelligence officer and they put me in a position because we were in expansion road, the SEAL teams at that time, so they put me in a very senior position, even though I was a very junior officer. It was mainly because I was broken, you know because I couldn’t dive, so they figured why put a healthy SEAL in this position, we can just use this kid who kind of knows what’s you know, what we’re all about, and he can do the work. And so here I was, I was hanging out with these legends of the SEAL teams, and they started looking at a problem in the late you know, late eighties, early nineties of the fact that the world was changing and that we were going to have to start putting hands on people. They basically predicted what we’re dealing with today warfare wise, and they realized that the current military in late eighties had really trained to kicked doors in, put hands on people, deal with close combat. And so they started looking at again and you know I was in his little group that was exposed to all the different martial arts systems and trainers that were available, it was incredible. And by chance I ended up finding the guy. You know here’s the guy with the least experience, I had no combat experience. I had know you know, no deployment experience at all.

I was just kind of an Intel geek and I ending up finding the guy right around the corner. We’re were flying these guys to Coronado from all over the world and the guy we ended up using well for the pilot program literally lived in Pacific Beach about you know less than a half a mile away from my apartment. And the only reason I found out about the guy was because a DEA agent called me up, a buddy of mine and said hey, are you guys still doing that punchy kicky stuff, because back then thought martial arts you know stupid. You just shoot people, why would you use martial arts. And I said, yeah, yeah, we are. He goes hey there’s this guy that has a little rap in Pacific Beach. He’s a former writing Army guy from Vietnam. He is just crazy. Everybody calls him the Mad Master. He goes but you’ll like him, you get along with personalities like that. You might like this guy. And I went in and basically was just blown away by what I saw. I walked into what looked like a slow-motion prison riot and even though I was really well trained background, I saw things going on. I saw one guy you know just coming in a basically he kicked the, he kicked the guy in the groin, grabbed his head, and also a knife came out of nowhere and he was simulating stabbing the guy in the neck and then he just threw the body down and all I could think of was this is exactly what you know I’ve seen on the street, you know in the streets of Boston I saw a guy get stabbed. I’ve seen a couple of guys well, real violence happened before, but I’ve never seen anybody training for something that looked like real violence. And so that it nearly achieved me and you know, long story short, but you would have brought him in, and this guy was a former 173-Charlie guy from Vietnam, and that unit got a lot of coverage, back then a lot of combat coverage and this guy was in the tunnels and all that stuff and he intimately understood violence. He intimately understood how to integrate you know the combat soldier with his tools so that everything works together, meaning you start him out completely stripped down to your, basically you’re just boxers and T-shirt, and once you can take care of yourself but you’re not a human machine, when I start giving you that tools, you’re even that more effective. And that was just a really, really cool concept and it completely changed the way I looked at you know how, how to deal with you know a threat from another human.

Brett McKay: Interesting, so it all started with this mad, the Mad Master, Vietnam guy.

Tim Larkin. Yeah, he wasn’t mad, you know what it is, it’s anytime somebody really understands lethal application, often times they’re seen as a little bit off, because nobody likes to talk because the subject of violence And you know some of the top snipers that I’ve talked to, you know friends of mine, often times people just say how intense these guys are, how they come off, and it’s not that, it’s just the familiarity with the subject, they’re very comfortable with the subject that most people are extremely uncomfortable with.

Brett McKay: Yeah, so okay so you started, you found this guy, you brought him into the training and then from there you’ve developed what you call Target Focus Training. Can you I mean briefly describe what Target Focus Training is and how it differs from other combatives that are out there?

Tim Larkin: Yeah, there’s probably two focuses’ with us. First, we focus on you know I got to educate the client first, and the first thing that I do if you come through the doors is we quickly identify the difference between antisocial aggression, and asocial violence. Antisocial aggression is really what a lot of people really go to martial arts training for and you know and fighting and MMA training. It’s really basically you know I got picked on in school or the bully, he said something to me at the bar, and I want to teach him a lesson.

Brett McKay: He kicked sand in your face right?

Tim Larkin: Yeah, and how do I do the Charles Atlas thing you know, and that stuff really, I just lump all that stuff in anti-social aggression, which is completely avoidable, meaning you have to choose to participate in that. Somebody insults you or drops a drink on you or calls you or you know says something offensive to you and you choose to participate when you have an exit, that’s a choice to use violence and it’s just, it’s just never worth it. I know oftentimes everybody thinks it’s great but I can just give you horror stories of people consisting of people on both ends of the equation. Guys that did that ended up inadvertently killing the individual or on both ends of the equation, guys that did that, ended that inadvertently killing the individual or vice versa. You know they ended up getting seriously grievous body harm over something that doesn’t pass what I call the three-day test, meaning three days from now is this incident going to matter to you, and very few things do.

Now the other side of the equation that we talk about which we are kind of more known for because that’s what gets us the press is anti or asocial violence, and that’s where it’s imminent. Violence is imminent, there is no escape, you have to take action, if you don’t take the action you’re essentially participating in your own murder because you’re going to be facing grievous bodily harm. And this is the area that makes everybody kind of uncomfortable. You know it’s the unthinkable that’s happening and how do you deal with imminent violence? How do you deal with another human being or human beings coming at you and you know, the assumption always has to be the persons going to be, the threats going to be bigger, faster and stronger. We assume they’re going to carry weapons, and we assume that there’s going to be more than one, because that’s just the real world. And if any of those things aren’t true, then hey, that’s a Christmas gift to you, that’s fantastic you know. But if we go after that premise, we say okay what type of methods and principles work in that environment and you really come back to the idea of the vulnerability of the human body which gets exposed in sports injury. If you look at sports injury data you find all the areas of the human body that can’t take trauma. I was intimately familiar with this as a young SEAL candidate going through. I was, like I said I was the number one guy in my class. I was going to be the anchorman. I was getting the award which is the number one guy in each class that graduates. I was unstoppable and yet I was stopped dead in my tracks by an injury, something that I couldn’t, well I couldn’t work through, we just gut it out. It was a physiological breaking of the sensory system of my body that just couldn’t be fixed. And that’s really what you want to look at when you’re facing bigger, faster, stronger threat, you’re going to have to put an injury on them that takes their brain, their will, everything out of the equation. And that’s really kind of the whole focus on how we look at the subject matter. That’s why it’s called Target Focus Training, you target specific areas in the body.

Brett McKay: Yeah, well all we do is, where do you put the effort basically.

Tim Larkin: You know if I’m going to do something whereas somebody else so then they show something that looks aggressive. A lot of people like to show aggressive type stuff, and when I look at that, it’s just mindlessly. I look at it as mindless aggression. The same slam that you just did to the guy’s chest you know, if you just moved it up three inches you’ll crush his throat you know and it’s a completely different response to something like that if your life’s on the line. One, you could just potentially annoy the person, the other one will obsoletely so that you could put another injury on them and save your life.

Brett McKay: So here’s a question I had when you we’re talking about antisocial aggression and antisocial violence. I mean how do you develop the ability to distinguish between the two, because some people might take antisocial aggression as you know asocial and violence. I mean what, I mean are there signs in human behavior when you know that this is turning into. It’s you know shifting from yesterday from aggression to violence?

Tim Larkin: Yeah, essentially it’s very, it’s actually very straight forward, it just comes down to choice meaning if you have to ask yourself is the time to use violence, it’s not. There won’t be a question in your mind when it happens. Let me give you a quick example. I train all over the world and when I was in London, I used to go there all the time, and in 2000, I believe it’s 2005 and incident rocked London. A young lawyer gets stabbed to death in a park. He came home at night, he actually lived in a good part of London, and went to a park that was not a dangerous park. This wasn’t a dodgy area at all, but that night he was followed by two European gangsters, who saw him as a, just a opportunity. You know he’s as nicely dressed kid, and you know he was the first one in his family to you to get beyond you know basic education. He took it all the way to university, became a lawyer, was extremely successful, I was a great story as a person you know the achievement this kid had. As he’s walking through the park, these guys come up behind, and draw knives, pin him up against a tree and demand all his stuff you know, and this kid does everything, right. He gives them the watch, the wallet, he gives them you know the briefcase they wanted and they left, and everybody loves that part of the story. The second time they came back, their knives were drawn, their heads were down, they rushed him and stabbed him forty seven times and as he was being stabbed, that people said as they were hearing him scream, he was screaming, I gave you everything, I give you everything. My goal for any client is to understand the difference between those two situations and in the first situation, you have an opportunity to engage somebody socially and possibly user your social skills to talk your way out of a situation, in the second situation the only tool that’s going to that’s going to get you out of there is violence and you have to know how to use it because it’s imminent.

Brett McKay: And so in that case you would go for – I guess the thing is you were talking about talking about you would punch a throat, groin attacks I guess would be would be something. Would eye gougers be involved in this?

Tim Larkin: Yeah, all that’s available to you. Basically you’re looking at the when you’re putting an injury in the human body you’re either destroying a structure of the human body or you’re destroying a sensory system of the human body. And you’re doing in a way that the pain part of it is irrelevant, meaning because everybody has a different threshold of pain, it’s functionality that you’re destroying. You want to make sure that when you, if you going to slam a guy and you’re going to go after his ankle, that you’re ripping the connective tissue to the point to where you know any radiologist looking at the film, would just sit there and say hey I don’t care whether this guy feels it or not, he’s not going to be able to walk on that’s really what you’re looking at. It’s a very different approach because a lot of times people talk about pain and they talk about you know rushing somebody and doing things that are just – they look aggressive, but they are highly ineffective.

Brett McKay: So we’re going for like maiming, right. So this is?

Tim Larkin: Well, you’re going for a result and again you know it sounds like it’s overly aggressive. It sounds like you’re just teaching people to automatically going into kill mode, and that’s not the case at all. What we found is the more people are trained, you know when we were originally training just military and law enforcement, the higher up they were in the skill set of justify legal force, the less likely they were to have reports of excessive force on the job or you know any types of incidents outside of the job as far as getting into fights or anything like that. Because once you understand how the human body responds to trauma it’s not one of those things that you want to try out. You know it’s akin to going out on the range, shooting a 45, and then you know asking yourself well gee I don’t really know if this would work, maybe I’ll just blow a hole in the guy next to me to see if it’s going to work, it’s that ridiculous, meaning once you understand how the body responds to trauma and you see this, and then we have numerous videos of you know sports injuries and also real violence, showing just how quickly the body shuts down when it’s truly injured. That’s the skill set that you want to build when your life’s on the line.

Brett McKay: Interesting. Okay, So I mean is there something you can train at home by yourselves or do you need to have a, do you need to have a, you go to a gym or I don’t know what you call it, a dojo or what you call it. Anyway because like research shown like for tactical training to like really, really effective you need to make it as real as possible, so it’s a military in areas though sometimes use simulation and have like a 3D arena right. How do that with Target Focus Training without killing your partner?

Tim Larkin: Well that you know it’s funny the people when they approach this type of idea, this training you I guess what’s really funny to me when I look at like combat sports and everything in general everybody want to go ballistic right out of the gate. Hey, you got to be really, you got to be really, we got to stress you out right away. It’s like there’s not training, no lethal training that’s ever done that way, only jackoff training is done that way, meaning you would not go to a range, and I don’t take you down to my kill house basically. Yeah, load you up, load you up, you know your first time, load you up, but hey yeah you point the gun this way, throw you in the kill house and have people start shooting at you.

Brett McKay: Yeah.

Tim Larkin: Which is essentially the way most people try training combat sports, which is ridiculous. The good guys that you have to be slow, deliberate, at first to lock in all the correct movement and then so you do the – you know its special operations you basically do the crawl, the walk and the run. And so if I was shooting, I would first make sure that I had locked in everything so that I can actually hit my target statically as many times as possible with no stress, just doing that. Then I’ll start to dynamically move a little bit, I’ll start moving and shooting a little bit, okay you’re comfortable doing that. Now the targets going to start moving, and then the last thing we’re going to do is we’ll do the, some munition training, but you will not step into that process until you really built a really good foundation. And it doesn’t take a long time to do that you know, learning that but we start out with people slowly and deliberately and learning how to engage body weight into each one of these areas and or the only thing we pull out at the beginning is just the velocity, meaning going full speed. If you look at a lot of you know “Reality self-defense” it looks a bit –.

Brett McKay: Sorry about that.

Tim Larkin: It just look ridiculous. These guys are doing these static movements, and they’re making really aggressive sounds, and ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, hah, and then just slap on a video of a prison yard takedown and see how those guys go and they don’t go like that. They don’t fight like that, they don’t kill like that, they kill slow and deliberate. I got a great video of the Black Crew family members, two of them, and they’re sitting there simulating stabbing to the human body, and they’re doing it slow and deliberate, and they’re doing it kind of not the most obvious parts of the human body. And when the corrections officer, who is a really good friend of mine, was showing me this, he goes, hey what are they doing, and I say hey they’re obviously teaching themselves how to stab. And he goes yeah, but why are they stabbing where they’re stabbing? And I said, ah I don’t know, is there something, something’s changed? He goes yeah something’s changed. He goes we just got new body armor, he said we just got new body armor and we had a car yesterday that we thought was kind of suspicious, and he said all they wanted to do was see our new equipment. And he goes now they saw where the gaps were in the body armor and they’re practicing if they ever have to go up against us they know where to stab. And it wasn’t ballistic, it was slow, methodical, make sure you get it in there because what most people understand how to use this stuff to protect themselves is you have to get it right. You have to tell your brain exactly what you want it to do and lock that movement in first. The brain doesn’t care about speed. The brain just says what do you want me to make the body do? And so once you lock that in the last dynamic you add into anything is the velocity you know and you can do it, but why sacrifice the accuracy up front for this spastic good feel, gee I feel aggressive.

Brett McKay: Yeah, that’s scary about that, the gang calling out the police just so they can take a look at the body armor.

Tim Larkin: Oh yeah, the best information comes from the worst people. I am currently putting together a book where I’m interviewing a lot of these guys, and what’s really funny is, not funny, well funny to me, but I’ve interviewed a lot of top combat sport guys in the world, I’m interviewing a lot of the law enforcement, military trainers, they’re friends of mine, I have a lot of circles, you know friends. But what’s most interesting is when you get into prison and you talk to the gang guys, the guys that are killing, the guys they have to kill. Violence is a commodity to them, its currency, it’s their power. They are very specific, they trained anatomy, they go in these areas because they don’t have time, they’re not doing it because they want to you know learn the human body. They want to know where do I put the effort in, you know if I’ve I set up this kill, you know if it’s taking six months to set this up, and I’m going to get one shot at this guy, I’m want to make sure he’s dead before the response team is there. How do I do that? And so they look at things, they study anatomy. They know you know if I have a shank I want to know where to put it. If I’m going to break something on him where am I going to go? And they just, they do within completing time. This is where you get really the roadmap you know if you really understand you know violence.

I tell people all the time worst way to figure out what kind of training works is to watch training videos, because everybody’s going to make themselves look good or canned, or they’re going to make it look impressive. What you need to do is you need to watch video as distasteful as it of real violence, of people doing real violence and what really was, how do people really stab each other? How do people break each other? How do they beat each other down, and does your training replicate that? I mean if you’re facing a threat like that because let’s be honest, that’s the threat we’re really training for. We’re not training for a competition threat. If that’s the threat we’re training for, due my principles and methods, handle a situation like that, and very few people do. You know a lot of it is just, especially in reality self-defense world it’s all about, you know basically just not being you know questionable methods. Combat sports is fantastic you know, but combat sports in order to be combat sports, I mean UFC has 31 rules I believe right now, at least last time it was 31. Twenty seven of those rules took out injury to human body, you know and that’s a lot because you can’t gamify violence if you have injury in it you know because it would just be over. I mean the reality of violence is very boring. It’s very straightforward. It horrific, but it’s absolutely essential if your life is on the line.

You know my grandfather was this South Boston boxer as a young I mean was like four years old when he started telling me. He would always say to us boys this is what you do in the ring, and he loved boxing, and he’d say this is what you do in the ring but out here and he’d he point to the street. He says if anybody tries to get you out here, this is what you do, and what he essentially started showing us was injury to the human body you know, and that’s it. Now the challenge is how we put this into context that makes you seem as social, you know what I mean. For the same social individual how do you engage them in this subject without them thinking that you’re turning them into a sociopath? And that’s the challenge and the idea is you’ve got to show it in the absolute right context. You know if I sat there and said okay, a guy came up, he poured a drink on me and you know called my mom a whore. So I reached up, grabbed his head, gouged his eye out, you know you’d sit there and go oh shit you know. And then if I said hey, I was coming in, I was waiting 5 minutes for this parking, parking spaces. This guy come up, he just jammed in right away, stole my parking space, I got out of the car, ripped him out of the car, gouged his eye out. It’s a thing that okay you know.

But let’s hey at Sandy Hook, the guy, the shooters I is just drop down for a reload, I saw my opportunity, he had already shot five kids. I shot, I saw an opportunity, I was able to close the distance, get on him and the first thing I saw was his eye and I was able to gouge it out, and that’s what incapacitated him, I was able to get him under control. All of a sudden nobody’s laughing, nobody’s thinking oh my god, they’re thinking oh hey that’s exactly what you need to do in a time like that, you need to know when to deploy something like that. Unfortunately there’s a lot of good information out there shown in the wrong context. They show it in the context of a bar fight, they show it in the context of all this avoidable stuff that will absolutely get you arrested, if you’re lucky enough to be arrested at that point. And what happens is general society looks at that information and says oh, okay I don’t want to jail so I’m going to dismiss that because you know that is thug behavior you know. With the challenges you have put it in the right context and when it’s in the right context, it becomes abundantly clear that this is a skill set that is absolutely necessary.

Brett McKay: So training for this sort of thing is just slow and deliberate, like you’re doing that slow-motion fighting, that you talked about, like I mean look it’s like a slow-motion movie fight basically, that’s what you’re kind of, you’re doing.

Tim Larkin. Yeah and no, that’s how you begin, so basically I go back to that firearms example, because firearms is perfect. Firearms training at first is extremely slow and deliberate, because you got to get the feedback before you can do all the cool combat shooting, before you can do all that you got to lock everything in, all your movement and you got to make sure that you can consistently have groupings that are consistent before you add in any dynamics. You know you don’t add in moving and shooting at the same time if you, you know if you have mastered static shooting yet. You can’t have somebody engaging you back, you can’t have force on force like you’re talking about until you know how to move and shoot, and then move and shoot against moving targets, and you engage that. So you stair step somebody for success first and give them the skill sets and then you can absolutely ramp it up and you can absolutely pressure test. You know I hate to talk pressure test because I see what these idiots do for pressure testing in my industry and it cracks me up. You know it’s like oh I’m standing at the bar, and he comes at me, so I glass him in the eye and I do this like, you’ll just go jail you idiot you know, and people will dismiss that, and it makes you feel good, it makes you feel like you’re a tough guy, and most of these guys would basically piss their pants if they were ever in a situation like that.

You know their training is just ridiculous. It’s not real, there’s nothing realistic about that, because when you look at real violence people don’t operate that way, they don’t go hey you, well and do all this, it’s like a bunch of, it’s like a bunch of sheep around you know yelling to each other, they try to pretend wolves. And then you see the wolf just kind of standing in the background, you know quietly slipping the knife out as he’s just picking who he wants, you know. That’s the guy to worry about, not the loud mouth that’s running around. They guy to worry about is that quiet little dude that’s just you would never think anything of and he would slip out some sort of device and just has no problem putting in into you right away you know. And that’s the idea when you understand how real violence works it’s not about being bigger, faster, stronger you know. Those things help, don’t get me wrong, you know I am not saying it, but we have to assume that if we are facing, if we personally are facing bigger, faster and stronger, the person or persons coming against us, that doesn’t matter to them, they don’t see that as a threat. So therefore, you have to be able to respond in a manner that bypasses having to be bigger, faster and stronger. You do that through injury, and we’ve all experienced it. You know I’ve got twin daughters right now, they’re one year old and I have a three and a half year old boy. And they’re just bundles of uncontrolled energy you know, and you hold down and they’ll throw their heads back, they’ll poking you in the eye, they’ll do something that as a fully grown adult will actually injury you at times, you know temporarily.

Brett McKay: Yeah.

Tim Larkin: And it’s not intentional at all but you know if I sat there I mean the ridiculous scenario of putting me in the ring with say my one year-old daughter and you know Ref saying go, I think we all know how that would turn out. But if I give that little girl the opportunity to poke me in the eye you know because I don’t feel a threat towards here so I put something vulnerable close to her and she can exploit it, she can easily injure me you know. Probably one of the things that grabbed me when I was a kid was I used to read boxing books all the time, I mean anything I could get on boxing. And Jack Dempsey has a great book, and you can get it on the Internet for free. It’s called Championship Fighting and one of the graphics in it is literally a trucker, you know an old style trucker guy, you this is about a two hundred pound trucker, and this is a guy kind of with a flat cap walking along, looks like a trucker that you’d see in a Three Stooges comedy or something. And then there’s this baby just falling on top of his head, there’s this picture of a baby falling on top of his head, and Dempsey’s point was he said even a ten pound baby that falls out a two-story window can easily take out a two hundred pound burly trucker you know coming on. And he was trying to show that hey bodyweight into a part of the body that can’t take that is going to get you a huge result every time., and it does not matter necessarily that the person is bigger, faster and stronger, because that part of your body cannot take trauma and they’re going to have to physiologically react to that, and it’s going to take their brain out of the equation during that reaction to the trauma. And we see it all the time in sports, see it in combat sports all the time. Guys will be doing eight rounds of heard boxing and then somebody lands a liver punch, and here’s this guy who’s taken all this nonspecific trauma for eight rounds, gets one shot to the liver and he just drops to his knees, he’s completely immobilized you know. You see it all the time in NMA, you’ll see a guy roll up and snap a guy’s ankle by accident and its over at that point you know, and yet before that you had guys viciously going after each, really trying to compete, but as soon as injury enters the game, the bigger, faster, stronger goes right out the window.

Brett McKay: So you’ve sort of alluded to this throughout our conversation. But how do you prepare psychologically or mentally for violent attacks, because right it’s like something that most people, like wouldn’t experience in their life right you know. I mean the news makes it sound like the world is like a really, really big scary place, but generally you’re not going to happen but it could happen, right, so you want to be prepared. How do you prepare for that right, whenever you don’t face it on a daily or regular basis?

Tim Larkin: Yeah you basically, like for my clients what I have them do is you know, there’s this couple of drills that you can do. One is you watch an act of violence, be it movie, TV, Internet, there is nothing to be learned from the victim’s point of view. So the idea of – what most people do is they see a vicious attack and they’ll sit there and say well jeez you know maybe if he had done this, he could have avoided that strike, or maybe he could have done this. It’s really interesting when we move in the prison systems and we started interviewing some of the guys and we show them an act of violence, they never see themselves on the receiving end, ever. They will only see themselves as the one successfully using the tool of violence and the only thing they will say, they’ll either say yeah, that’s how I would I would have done it or yeah he’s not as good, I would have done it this way. So they see themselves making improvements on the use of the tool in the situation and there’s a lot to be learned from that very uncomfortable piece of knowledge, meaning in your brain you don’t ever want to associate with a losing side of violence. That’s really what makes predators dangerous as they don’t go into it with a defensive mindset. They don’t go into with an idea that it could be done to them, because again that’s not a good survival mode. You want to go in with the idea this is what I’m going to do to you, so you have to focus on what you do to the other person versus that.

Now it’s a very good mental drill that you can get involved in right away. It will be extremely uncomfortable to most people at first because it sounds like you’re validating the attack that’s going on, and that’s not the case at all. You’re training your mind to only look at violence from the successful side of it, how is it successfully used and what can I learn from it, and it starts to inoculate you. From a training aspect, I’ve had tons of people that have gone through, that have never had an act of violence in their life, literally never had a fight in their life but because of the way this information was out when the unthinkable happened, they were able to go right into and injury, just one injury and that led to another injury, and that led to them saving their own life. It’s the methodology of what you expose, you know it’s how you do it. You noticed that when I was talking about the Brock Black rural family, they didn’t start out stabbing really hard and fast. They made sure they knew exactly where they wanted to go, they wanted to know, okay here’s the vulnerable areas, here’s where we can get the best entry, here’s how can go. It wasn’t until they had that well underway that they started to employ dynamic movement into it. And that’s all I’m saying, I don’t have a problem with people going hard in you know “pressure testing.” But doing that prior to setting the skill set in, it’s just masturbation you know. It doesn’t do anything other than it make you feel like wow, I had a rush, I’m a crazy, I’m ballistic, I hit the roobie robot looking guy fifty thousand times and all my friends high fived me. You know I mean, it’s just, it’s bullshit training, that’s what it is, because it doesn’t replicate Romanus, and you as citizen, you don’t have to live it, to be prepared for it. You just have to understand how the tool operates you know and that’s the most important thing, and it starts to inoculate you towards it you know.

Brett McKay: So I guess a summary like never see yourself as the defender, always see always see yourself as an attacker?

Tim Larkin: So I don’t even look at it, its attacker and defender, you know it’s those terms that look at people in violence as good guy, bad guy you know attackers always the bad guy, defenders always the good guy. That’s bullshit, in violence there’s winners and losers, and that’s it, and you always want to be identified on the winning side of violence, and that doesn’t mean you’re condoning it, and it’s again like is said, I mean emphasize again, the best information that you will find of how to use the tool of violence comes from the worst parts of society because it’s currency for them.

Brett McKay: So should you watch like footage of like gang fights, or jail fights, is that something that would be useful?

Tim Larkin: It’s extremely useful in the fact that you can see, first of all, it blows through a lot of myths. You can watch like a guy, you can watch some clips of guys instructing knife fighting, you know just martial artists or combat sports guys out there showing you I mean how to use a knife and all the knife things. And this you sit there and watch an MS 13 member go in and shank some guy just hard and fast and have him bleed out really fast and you go oh my god, that’s looks nothing like what those idiots were just showing me. And I will put the best “knife fighter” in the world up against an Aryan brother with a shank and I know who I’m going to bet on. I know one guy knows how to kill. I know another guy knows how to dance around and do things, and I’m not denigrating a lot of that, it’s just not realistic. It’s okay to learn something for the arts of what you’re learning, that all right, I have no problem with it. There’s a lot of great things you can learn, you know learning how to use a sword, using how to use different tools and weapons, and learning the history behind the art that you’re learning. But to sit there and say that how you would use it to save your life is just a fallacy.

Brett McKay: All right, so here’s a question I have for you. Whenever we write about combatives on the site, be it krav maga or something else like that and you’re using it to defend your life or the life of a loved one, we always get a bunch of comments from dudes who will say something like I’ll just shoot them with my gun right. Why learn a martial art like Target Focus Training when if you are carrying a gun right, you’re concealed carry, can’t you just shoot the guy?

Tim Larkin: Okay, so I got a concealed carry, I got it in the maximum amount of states available. I’m big on firearms. I have another business here in Vegas you know, a big machine gun Vegas that we have that you can shoot any kind of machine gun in the world. I have guys that can build me anything legally that I want in the world and let me just tell you I also travel around the world and my concealed carry is pretty useless to me in most parts of the world and I’m saying even in the United States, because it’s either not convenient all the time, even when I do carry there’s lots of a gun free zones that you have deal with, and the reason we have to deal with that is because we are law-abiding citizens, and you just have to, you just have to realize that. Now if I drive around in an M1 tank fully loaded every day, I’ll I do I, it would be fantastic, but that’s just not realistic. So I don’t want people to think I’m anti-firearms, I’m not at all, I’m very pro-firearms. What training and you know something like Target Focus Training does for you is every skill set that you learn at least with us translates directly to make you that much better with a firearm. So the targeting that you get, learning your brain, how to use your brain to identify the targets and then using the tools of your body to affect the injury on there, gets you into that idea of targeting, you know the idea of constant targeting of affected areas in the human body, and that just makes you that much better when you have something that can then project that through distance with a firearm. And also there’s lots of situations where if your first move is to try to dig out your firearm, you’re already done. They’ve already taken you out at that point, whereas it’s very effective to know close in how to injure somebody first, get them busy and then it’s very easy for you to deploy your firearm after that.

The problem is most of the training where people show you know, to get their gun, they show pushing or they show really ineffective strikes that are not going to work is somebody’s determined to get after you at that point on, we get a huge thing with. We did a huge thing with, I have a bunch of friends in the Australian SAS and they have a really good program on close in shooting and it was amazing how synergistic the TFT program and their close in shooting program was with the idea that as you close distance if the gun is not in your hand it’s not your first order of defense. Your first order is always your body and getting out there and so here are these guys, they’re at the highest level of tactical training and they all feel that it’s absolute essential that you train your body first, you train your mind first, coordinate your body and then you can put tools into your body at that point, you can anything there but if you if you only are relying on a tool, a firearm, if that things not available to you what do you have? You have nothing now. And so it really just increases your abilities all around if you have this information and you know how to deploy it with your, just your human machine.

Brett McKay: Didn’t the FBI do a study where they found that like, it takes like five seconds to close like a twenty yards gap. I mean it was something like that right where someone’s really close to you, you don’t have time to draw your gun.

Tim Larkin: Yes, it’s a 21 rule, as a tool or drill and what’s interesting about that I have a clip that I share with people all the time. The guy that got invented that drill that you’re talking about, the only reason it clicked 21 feet was because that’s how far they were shooting, they were seven yards. And the question was with hey if a guy closed the distance in 21 yards before you get you knife, your gun out and shoot them, and they did that and they quickly found that the guys trying to deploy the weapon, you’re really good shooters, were getting stabbed you know adjacently. And so that, the wait actually goes even further if you know, if you have your concealed carry in such a manner that you’re not used to drawing it. So how long does it take you to actually deploy your weapon at that point, and most people won’t train that. What’s interesting though is the guys who take, they can take action out of the gate without having to go to the tool first are usually the guys that end I taking out the threat. And you know what I mean is imminent danger is coming and a guy says –I’ll give you a perfect example. There is a SWAT, there is SWAT warrant that was issued and SWAT team went and cleared the house. They missed one area of the house. As the detectives went in to get and kind of do the follow-up, a guy opened up a closet door and a guy who literally came out at him with an axe. His first move was to his holster, and the axe just came right down and split his skull, and it killed him right away. Had his first move been forward at that point, attacking you know some vulnerable part of the guys body which he easily could’ve done, then the cop probably would still be alive today at that point. But again you’ll do what you’re trained and if you’re first thing is hey my only way to defend myself is if I reach down and get to this too in an environment where it’s just too close you know you’re just not going to get the result that you want.

Brett McKay: Right, so tools don’t win battles, people win battles, humans.

Tim Larkin: Yeah, it’s your mind for, you know it sounds like you were doing semantics, but it is absolutely true. You have to train your mind, coordinate your body first before you put any tool on it, and you have to be able to do it with just your human body first. And then the tools are great, because tools make the work that much easier, that’s why put tools in our hands, they do something that our bare hands can’t do. But we first have to know what can our bare hands do and under what conditions can our bare hands help us.

Brett McKay: All right, this is very good stuff. So I know you’re not a lawyer, but I’ll like to get your insights on the legal consequences of using you know pretty much lethal hand-to-hand force on an attacker. Is that something someone should consider or keep in mind when they do something you know, when they protect themselves. Or should they should they just like not care at all, and just like okay I just a, ought to pay the defense attorney or whatever.

Tim Larkin. Yeah, well that’s always, it’s always smart if you have a defense attorney. You know I know a lot of guys advocate having somebody on retainer helps at times to understand the laws in your specific area. You know across the US the council law is pretty, is pretty prominent meaning used as a citizen. I’m not talking about a professional like a police office or military but as a citizen being attacked you have pretty much carte blanche. If you’re in in imminent danger, if your life is literally on the line, you really feel your life is on the line, then you have justified means to protect yourself up to you know killing the individual. Now what’s interesting is the methods that we teach with Target Focus, you’re always going for the response, meaning you know you see what you’re doing, you understand when you go to these parts of the human body if you’re successful, here’s what you’re doing in the human body. You’re not going to do anything that’s going to go against your moral code, meaning you’re going to just murder somebody you know. You may end up killing somebody but it’s a very different term. Killing is a justified stance, whereas murder is never justified. So you familiarize yourself with that, but the way you keep yourself out of a lot of problems is avoiding the avoidable. The people that really get themselves in gray areas are these people that use violence in a situation that when you’re explaining to the judge just seems ridiculous you know.

The one like years ago I don’t know if you’ve heard of this one, but there was a hockey guy in the early 2000’s, a dad, he’s a big guy was watching his hockey coach you know coach his kid and he thought the coach was just really abusive. And at one point and at one point he grabbed his son on the ice and was yelling at him and just he thought, the dad just thought he was too violent. Well he jumped over onto the ice, went over there, grabbed the hockey coach and they got into it right then and there fighting. When the hockey coach hit the guy in the face, he, the father jumped on top of the guy and got him to the ground and then repeatedly started like grabbing his shoulders and slamming guy you know back and forth you know kind of a, almost like in a schoolyard way. You know he’s on top of him just slamming him. What he didn’t realize was every time he slammed him he was swimming the back of his skull against the ice. He ended up, the guy ended up going into a coma and dying, and you know he obviously that family lost their dad, the other family lost their dad to involuntary manslaughter, 7 years in prison over a situation that yes, is it hard for me as a father to see somebody be what I think is abusive to my son and over the top? Yeah, but does it pass the three-day test? It doesn’t. And so that incident is something where you know inadvertent expectations. You have no idea once you cross that physical plane, and you put your hands on somebody, it can go anywhere and you have to be prepared for that and you have to sit there and say okay is it justified for me to take action in this? Is this something that I don’t you know, I don’t have choice here, I’m facing previous bodily harm. In that case, okay I get I’m not at war but in that case in my experience you’re in great territory.

We just had a fifty two year-old dentist who came through training, never trained in martial arts or anything before, came to us, went through one of our weekend courses, got all this done. Four weeks later he walks in on a Sunday to his practice just because he wanted to do some paperwork, catchup for the week, sees this guy breaking into his pharmacy, realized by the way the guy draws a knife, charges him and this goes oh my god, this is it, this is exactly what they’re talking about, no communication, is asocial. He was able to drop and he saw as the guy was coming in, he was able to strike him to the side of the neck, the guy dropped the knife and as dropped the knife he grabbed the guy’s head, he rammed it into the doorjamb, and dropped him. The guy dropped down and just when he was about to do the next strike where he thought he’s going to stomp on him, you know like in the throat area, because that’s where the guy dropped, he realized oh hey, the guy I completely nonfunctional, he’s out cold, I don’t have to do this, and he recognized it right away. Now, we didn’t show him grabbing the head and ramming it into the doorjamb. He just understood that hey that would produce a useful injury to me at that point. He understood the principle of injury to the human body. He also understood when it was over at that point and was able to do that. And we’ve had tons of civilian clients that have had the same experience, meaning they had to take action and they were able to stop and recognize the point where the other person was nonfunctional and no longer a threat, they were completely justified. But what’s interesting was and that what I told you about, when the cops showed up, and they saw this guy’s Rap Sheet, who he was, they looked at this dentist and they said you would’ve been absolutely justified in killing him. He said, this guy irony was it really set the dentist back, you know he didn’t really expect the cops to say that, but that’s exactly what they told him.

Brett McKay: Wow, that’s crazy. All right Tim, so we’ve been talking for a while and I knew your time is short but so let’s wrap it up. Before we go where can folks learn more about your work and do you have anything? You mentioned you’re working on a book? Any insights about that and what’s going to be in it?

Tim Larkin: Yeah, I’m working on a book that really talks about the subject of violence and really helps clarify you know the different approaches, you know the different approaches from the combat sport world. I have tons of friend in the combat sport world and they’ve shared their insights on how that applies to real violence. Then in the military and law enforcement community I have a lot of friends that I’m interviewing right now, and they’re sharing their methods and principles and challenges on how to train their people to deal with real violence. And then I’m going right into the heart of the situation and then I’m talking to the prison gangs and contact within the prison gangs on how they look at violence and how they look at violence as a currency and comparing and contrasting all that information, and it should be a – again, the goal of the book is to really just talk about the subject and get out of this idea that it is a stigmatized subject, meaning we stigmatized violence so much in the last fifty years that the only people to have access to the tools are the worst parts of society, the predators and because we’ve told ourselves that it’s bad to learn this information, we don’t have it available to us when we’re being attacked. And again it also take care of a lot of unnecessary violence. I truly believe the more trained people are in this type of information, the much more peaceful society we will have.

Brett McKay: Interesting, all right well that’s awesome, well I’m looking forward to it. And where can I, you have a website right, where can people go?

Tim Larkin: Yeah, they can tell me, it’s either two places,, just my name or Either place will get you lots of free information. I would suggest anybody just signing up for you know, I love you saw our products, I love you saw my book, but really if this was interesting to you, and you want more information, there’s a lot of free content if you just sign up for our newsletter. And take the time to really read about this and then you know if you like and you see a product makes sense, there’s lots of great stuff there.

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: Our guest today was Tim Larkin. Tim is a self-defense instructor, and the creator of target focus training as well as the author of several books on self-defense. You can find out more information about Tim and his program at

Well, that wraps up another edition of The Art of Manliness podcast. For more manly tips and advice, make sure to check out The Art of Manliness website at And also, I’d love for you to check out our store, We’ve got some great new products there. We just added some really cool, Semper Virilis Tie Clips, they look really classy, check them out. Your purchases there will help support the podcast as well as the content on the site, I’d really appreciate that. And until next time this is Brett McKay telling you to stay manly.

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