self protection lessonIf we are accurate and correct—if we hit a square-inch of important anatomy with enough force to break it—we inflict a debilitating injury. One major self protection lesson is that when it comes to blunt force trauma, injured people move in response to their injury.

Neurologically, organisms move away from negative stimuli—broken ribs and a bruised spleen, a ruptured eye, a crushed groin, a broken joint—the body tries to move the site of the injury away from whatever caused it, in a vain attempt to prevent further injury. (Note that this has nothing to do with pain—pain is entirely subjective while a broken knee is not.) Also, forces move mass. When you break something by smashing it with your body weight in motion, you will tend to unbalance and move the other person. Both of these mechanisms can be seen in action at the moment of injury.

If we wish to train for that moment during a self protection lesson, then we need to find our target, strike it accurately, follow all the way through with our mass and if we have done that correctly, we should expect to see results—our partner’s reaction. If we train without reactions, we are left with a choice: either nothing we do will “work” or we can actually injure our partner and get one great reaction… And lose our partner for the near future as he goes to the hospital and then spends time off the mats recovering. And comes back, maybe, one eye short.

As we (kind of don’t) like to say at more advanced levels during a self protection lesson: “You can give me a reaction or I can take one from you.”

When we look at real, successful violence, we see the results of injury—we want to add those results into our self protection lessons to give us realistic pictures of success. That way, we know when we “got it” and it’s time to pile in and finish it, and when we don’t so we can redouble our efforts with better accuracy and correctness.

People won’t just move for you, but injured people will move in response to their injury. And we want to learn not just how to cause that injury, but how to take full advantage of it. Modeling the reactions gives us that opportunity to train for that moment instead of being surprised by it.

Taken all together, our counterintuitive training methodology seeks to replicate what we see in successful violence, instead of training to go five rounds or overpower the man we want to “cheat” and do the things that aren’t allowed in competition, or even in no-holds-barred, anything-goes full-contact matches. We want exactly the eye, with enough purchase and follow-through to tear it out of the skull, and with the other man moving like he’s just lost one of them. The only way to train that is slowly—to lay it in accurately and correctly—and with a partner who’s going to move that eye away from your hand. Anything else is haphazard, dangerous, and preparing you for a terrifying epic battle instead of simple, fight-ending injury.


Tim Larkin

Self-Protection Expert & Founder of Target Focus Training
Author of When Violence Is The Answer

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