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Why Brains Beat Brawn In Self-Protection Scenarios


We all train for our own reasons: to be fit and healthy, to be our best self, to be ready for whatever life throws at us. Most of us assume that if we're training regularly, maybe hitting the punching bag here and there, we'll be able to muscle our way out of a dangerous situation if we need to. But truly, we don't think it will be necessary. Violence happens to other people, in other places.


If that were true, I wouldn't have a job. As a self-protection instructor, I meet a lot of people who only considered self-protection after experiencing an attack. Some are fighters - boxers and martial artists - who realized that outside of the ring, the techniques they had been trained in were far less useful than they had assumed.

The problem is that in a conflict you do what you've been trained to do. If you're a boxer, you'll box. If you're a wrestler, you'll wrestle. In a bar fight, you'll probably be okay, but a bar fight is almost always avoidable.

In a situation of real violence you'll instinctively be playing by the rules. The rules of boxing, wrestling and MMA exist to minimize the possibility of someone getting seriously injured. Predators know that, and use that against you.

When was the last time you put a knife to someone's neck and demanded his or her watch? You've never done that? Then you don't think like a predator. A predator doesn't use violence to show off their strength. They use it to get what they want. You should never use violence except when trying to survive a violent attack, but understanding how a predator thinks will give you the knowledge you need to survive the unthinkable. It has nothing to do with being bigger, faster or stronger.

The thing to realize is that you don't "win" in a violent conflict -- you survive. In any violent encounter, the survivor will be the person with the greatest degree of outward focus, or single-minded purpose. But in general, the one doing the violence - not the one receiving it - will prevail. To survive, you must learn to use violence to get what you want: your survival. These are not fair fights.

The human body has a number of weak points - targets - where injuries typically occur. They are important to normal bodily functioning and they have specific associated spinal reflexes when struck. These include the eyes, the throat, the collarbone and the groin. No matter how big or strong your attacker, they are susceptible to injury in these areas. In a violent encounter, this is where your energy needs to be directed. A fist to your attacker's forehead may result in nothing more than a broken hand, but a finger in their eye will likely reward you with your life.

No matter how fit or strong you are, the best way to hone your self-protection skills is to focus on targeting. Learning how to use violence in this way doesn't turn you into a criminal; it just changes the balance of power, leveling the playing field should you find yourself in a truly threatening situation. Being trained in the effective use of violence as a survival tool will diminish the chaos of the situation, and the fear of the unknown. The most powerful weapon in violence is control, which you can take away from an attacker by injuring them. Instead of worrying about what he's doing, you, make him worry about what you're doing.

I've had Hollywood producers train with me and leave telling me how shocked they were at the ugliness of real violence. It's true. Violence is horrible. When we watch boxing, MMA or movies, we're seeing a performance. What I train people to do is think the way an attacker would. When you do that, you recognize imminent danger when it's in front of you. Violence is rarely the answer, but when it is, it's the only answer.  The one thing all survivors have in common is that they believed they could survive. When they reached the final decision point of fight or flight, they all unequivocally, steadfastly chose to survive.


Readers -- Did you find this blog helpful? Have you ever had any self-protection training? Have you been in a situation like this? What did you do? Leave a comment below and let us know.

Tim Larkin is a self-protection expert and the New York Times bestselling author of "Survive the Unthinkable: A Total Guide to Women’s Self-Protection." A former military intelligence officer, Tim redesigned how Special Operations personnel train for close combat, and he has trained people in over 50 countries. Tim founded Target Focus Training to teach people the skills necessary to survive an attack. His clientele include families, high profile business leaders, celebrities, law enforcement & military.

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