Life & Style

Transcript: Tim Larkin on The Paradox of Violence at TEDxGrandForks

Self-defense expert Tim Larkin discusses The Paradox of Violence at TEDxGrandForks event. Here is the full transcript of the TEDx Talk.

Listen to the MP3 Audio here: The Paradox of Violence by Tim Larkin at TEDxGrandForks


Violence is rarely the answer, but when it is — it’s the only answer.

Being in a time in the world right now, where technology is just so amazing, and our lifestyles have just really given us all sorts of avenues that we haven’t had before, one thing that kind of gets dropped to the side is the fact that we kind of forget that we live in a physical world.

The first part of that statement, that violence is rarely the answer, is the one we all like to hear about, because we all can easily point out those times when violence is the absolute inappropriate response.

But I’m going to ask you about the second part of that statement. That’s the statement that I have built a career off of. And that is: “When it is the answer, it’s the only answer.” If you’re facing imminent violence, do you have any idea really what you do? It’s something that’s worth considering. It’s worth considering, because you all live great lives, and often times we forget that, in just seconds, that can be turned upside down by a criminal element that just wants to get whatever they want out of you. They don’t care that you’re a mother, they don’t care that you’re a father, or somebody’s son. All they care about is what they need, and yet — we, as society, have stigmatized looking at the tool of violence, and unfortunately that’s only left it with the predators.


So I’m going to ask you to bear with me. It’s always great to talk about this to a new group. But it’s always best if I put it in context, because you hear me say: tool of violence. And what does he mean by that?

So, what I’d like you to imagine is, imagine a young mother, she is in the kitchen area, and she’s cleaning up. She’s getting ready to go to bed. She put her infant son to bed. Her husband’s on a business trip, and all of a sudden, through the back door comes somebody crashing through, and a stalker is there who has made his chance — this is his chance to attack her, he’s come in. He comes in, grabs her at the kitchen counter, and an epic struggle goes. He didn’t expect her to fight back, but she’s trying to fight back. She’s frantic. She knows her little boy is upstairs. She has no idea what this guy’s here for, but she knows it’s not anything good.

He gets very frustrated because it’s not going the way he wants it to go. She gets to the point to where she’s trying to fight, but he’s bigger, he’s faster, he’s stronger than her, but she’s still going to try, and in her attempts she ends up clawing him in the face, very deeply in the face, drawing blood. It enrages him. It enrages him to the point to where he sees, on that kitchen counter, that butcher’s knife. He grabs that butcher’s knife, plunges it into the side of her neck, and murders her.

We, as society, would look at that heinous act, and we would say: “That individual needs to be incarcerated for the rest of his life, minimum.” If there’s a death penalty in that municipality, he probably deserves it. At the very least, he should never see light on our streets ever again.


So, now I want you take that same scenario. Door crashes open, there she is, you know, gets attacked. She’s fighting back. Again it’s not going well for her. He’s too big, he’s too strong, and he has too much of an advantage on her at that point. But now she looks back to that counter, and she sees that knife. She grabs that knife, plunges it in the side of his neck and she kills him. As horrible as that is, we as society would want her protected to the full extent of the law. We would want her held up as an example of what it’s like for a mother to protect not only her own life, but the life of her infant child. In fact, this is what should happen if criminals ever try to invade our lives.

For the rest the talk though I want you to consider this: The knife to the side of the neck worked each time. It didn’t matter who was the good guy, or the bad guy. Violence is just a tool, and it’s available to everybody. How the tool is used will be determined whether or not is a just use of the tool, or criminal use. But it does not make us bad to look at useful information when we’re facing grievous bodily harm.

Now it’s always an honor to talk to a group like this, because my client base is 70:30. 70% of the people come to me after the fact. Act of violence has already happened to them, or a family member, or they narrowly escaped a potentially bad situation. So they’re searching for information. The other 30% that come to me have never had that happen to them. They’ve never had to deal with violence. They sought it out for self protection reasons. There’s all sorts reasons, but it’s great to get groups like that. I’m hoping the majority of you are in that 30%, because if you come to me after the fact, I can’t undo that. I can give you good knowledge, but I can’t undo it.


The more I can educate people on the realities of violence the less likely you are, once you have that information, to you put yourself in those situations. Anything you can avoid, you will avoid. But in order to do this we’re going to have to bear with some uncomfortable truths. Where do you look for useful information? Is it the combat sports, martial arts, some of the traditional areas that we’re looking at? I wish that was the case.

Unfortunately, when it comes to the tool of violence, the best information comes from the worst people in society. The majority of them reside in our prison systems. There violence is currency. It’s how they derive their power. So they have to be very specific in how they use it, and they have to be very good at it.

The other part that you have to understand about these people, the vast majority of them – I mean vast majority of them have zero training in combat sports and martial arts. Zero training in combat sports, and martial arts, yet they are, by far, the best at being able to kill with their bare hands or improvised tools. Why? It’s because they’re not trying to compete. They’re just trying to injure.


You have to look at competition. Does this mean that competitive athletes, martial artists, and combat sports athletes are not capable? No, that’s not true at all. I’m a huge fan of combat sports. I’m a huge fan of the martial arts. I come from that. But there are realities you have to look at. If you look at the biggest martial arts event that we current have right now is the UFC. Last time I looked at the UFC there were 31 rules, 31 rules in the UFC. Twenty seven of those rules prohibit injury to the human body. Twenty seven of the 31 rules. Why is that? Because it’s a competition. A competition is to pit skill against skill. Athletes train to be incredibly – just incredible athletes and incredible competitors. But competition is not going to do well, if [there are] injuries in the game. It’s not designed for that.

And the problem is, as good as the competition guys are — and they are some amazing athletes — they face the same threat that you and I face, and that is a criminal that’s going to go straight to destruction, straight to injury, and when you see injuries in combat sports, when you see by accident somebody gets their ankle broken or something like that, you’ll notice the competition is over at that point. That person is fully focused on their injury.

Injury has no place in competition. It just doesn’t. It’s not why we do it. It’s not why we do competition. Competition is skill against skill. You have a ring, a referee, and rules. Imagine if a competitor, just out of the blue, jumped up, and was just frustrated that he was losing, and decided just to gauge the other competitor’s eye. We’d be horrified by that. Gauging somebody’s eye out. Horrific! When would that ever, ever be useful information to us? When would we ever need to know information like that? How could ever justify it?


I mean if we just tried it out in court: “Your honor, I was at a parking lot waiting for this guy to pull out, and as soon as I was going to go into my parking space somebody just came right in and grabbed my space. I got out of my car, I was so mad, ran over to that driver, threw him against the car, and gauged his eye out.”

“Your honor, I was at the club having a drink with my friends. This guy knocks into me, looks at me, and laughs at me. He tells me that I’m too fat to wear skinny jeans. I threw my drink down, grabbed him, threw him on the bar, and I gauged his eye out.”

“Your honor, he came in through the restaurant, and he shot 3 people next to me. I saw that he dropped down to do a reload. I was scared, I had no idea what I could do, but I had to do something. I knew I could close the distance. I ran over and knocked him to the ground. The first thing I saw was his eye. I gauged his eye, and prevented him from continuing the shooting.”


Now it’s interesting, the first 2 times I was talking, I gave 2 incidents early on, I saw smiles, I saw nodding, I saw people just — The third time though, nobody was laughing, nobody was smiling. It’s because often times, the tool of violence, the useful information, is put in the wrong context. The study of violence is put in a way that it looks like it’s always criminal so we can dismiss it, and yet we are really — really very hard wired to do this. We’re very good at the tool of violence. We had to, to survive as a species.

It’s simple for us to do injury to protect ourselves. It’s very difficult to do competition. If we wanted to be in a marshal art or combat sport we would have to be trained for years, and years, and that’s normally why most of us don’t do it, because I don’t have that time, and so we dismiss it. And yet, as I pointed out, some of the best individuals have zero training in combat sports, and martial arts.

Why is it worthwhile for us to look at injury to the human body? Because injury bypasses bigger, faster, stronger. It’s how a smaller person, male or female, can protect themselves. It is really your nuclear weapon that you hold. And the people I train, I think of them as Buddha with a nuclear weapon. Meaning, when would Buddha ever use a nuclear weapon? I’m not worried about the criminal element; they know how to do it. You folks though, if you’re facing criminal violence you’re going to want this, and you know, you’re probably better at this than you think. You’re probably actually able to do this. I’m going to give you a scenario. Can I have my helpers come out?

Just knowing what I know, and realizing that people are not trained, the best people in the world, these prisoners, these criminals, have zero training in combat sports, and martial arts. If you saw yourself having to use the tool of violence, dealing with this, right now, can you look at this scenario, and can you see opportunities where you could put injury on the other guy? I’ll give you a couple of seconds to look, and what’s good about this is very — there’s no threat here, you can actually look. There’s no wrong answers right now, you’re learning. Everybody had time? Would you want to see what I would do in this situation?


Okay. From here, I’d probably come right into the groin, come right over the neck, probably throw him to the ground, and then I’d probably stomp on him. You’re laughing. The problem doesn’t lie in the fact that I can’t get you to physically do this. The problem lies in the fact on how you look at the tool of violence. The majority of you, when I pointed that out, I asked you a question, I said: “What would you do? How would you handle this if you had to use the tool of violence?” And I can tell from your response the vast majority of you saw yourself in the victim profile. You started out with: “How would I get out of the choke?” The story you told yourself was: “Oh that has to be me.”

Why couldn’t the story have been: “I just finished with the first attacker. I got him on the ground, and I saw out of my peripheral vision, I saw the second attacker. The first thing I could think of was I just grabbed him, and choked him.” Why is that not acceptable to us? Why can’t that be the story? How we’ve been raised, we’ve been told not to think like that. We’ve been told there’s never a good use for the tool of violence, and here’s the problem.

I’m doing a book right now. I’m interviewing a lot of these alpha predators in prison. I show them any profile like that, they never see themselves from the victim’s perspective. They never see themselves from the inferior position. They always see themselves on the winning side of the equation of violence, and if anything, they’ll then tell you: “Well, I would have done it like this, they’ll try to improve upon it.” That is extremely useful information.

I can teach you the physical punching, kicking, I can do all that stuff. The real advantage, and the reason these guys are so good with no training, is because they only see themselves on the winning side violence. They only see violence as something where they’re superior, where they’re doing it. My challenge to you is in the next 30 days — the next 30 days when you’re viewing a movie, when you’re seeing the news, internet, if you see an act of violence, I want you to look at that act of violence, turn off the audio if you have to, look at it from who’s the winner, and who’s the loser. That’s only the good information that you can get out of that.

It’s going to be uncomfortable. But I guarantee you, once you start that, it’s your starting point to being your own self-protection expert. Thank you for your time.


By Pangambam S

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