Much is made of the fact that we teach barehanded killing. It’s the sensational tagline for media reports on what we do, and it’s the first thing people notice when they see us training. Just the other day, one of the instructors at the TFT San Diego Center lamented about the difficulty in talking to people about what he does. The conversation just stops dead at the killing, lethal self defense part.
So why do we do it?
The primary reason we teach lethal self defense is to clearly draw the line between what will kill the man, and what, in general, won’t.
Debilitating injury is the only thing that means anything in violence, so we train to smash, crush, rupture, break, dislocate or otherwise ruin parts of the body that have important jobs to do. He can’t walk on a broken ankle, for example. And if the targeted piece of anatomy is required to sustain life, then he begins to die when it stops working.
The brain bleed, crushed throat, broken neck, lacerated liver, ruptured spleen, etc., can all lead to death. We show you how to do these things so you know where that line is.
Take the side of the neck, for example: stomp the neck of a downed man and chances are good you’ll break it… and kill him. If you don’t want (or need) to kill him, then don’t stomp the neck when he’s down. The confusion occurs when someone thinks side of neck equals a knockout, and doesn’t know how things change as we go from the vertical (standing) to the horizontal (laying down).
The standing man will move in response to the injury, his body rotating and pulling the target away from the strike, thereby reducing the amount of pressure (and volume change) on that one square inch you struck.
When he’s on the ground, his body can’t move to dissipate the force — braced against the planet, he eats every ounce you put into him. And you’ll tend to accidentally put a lot more mass into it since “straight down” is the direction gravity pulls on you anyway. If you’re using your legs (very likely), the combination of shoes and the fact that your legs are three to four times stronger than your arms means you’ll strike much, much harder.
Increased force + increased mass = increased injury.
The standing shot through the side of the neck knocks him out; the stomp through the neck on the ground breaks it.
So we don’t teach this to say, “hey, this is a cool way to break a neck,” but rather to say, “if you don’t want to kill him, don’t do this.” We give a complete explanation of each target and the effects of rendering it useless. Some of those begin the process of dying and we point those out so you can make an educated decision about what you want to do to him. Don’t want to kill him? Then don’t crush his throat. Change the angle and take the side of the neck instead. Once he’s down, understand that the neck isn’t “safe” anymore.
Years ago, I had a student in the instructor training program whom, for religious reasons, could not kill or use lethal self defense. His question was, “Can I actually learn this?”
My advice? “Sure. Avoid the kill-shots. And make sure you’re really, really good at everything else.”
That’s just what he did. He trained everything, learned where the line was and then made sure he never crossed it. He was the knockout/joint-break king who would catch your head before it hit the ground. He would bust people up to the point where they might pray for death, but he’d never take them there on purpose.
The other reason we train in lethal self defense is so that you know how to do it if that’s what the situation requires—when you need to know that guy can’t get back up. A final option? Yes, but just one among many.
Case in point, Danny, a guy we trained, realized it was on when someone put a gun in his face. Two injuries later he was standing over the man, the gun in his own hand, and just as he’s thinking about crushing his throat or breaking his neck he sees the guy’s eyes rolled back in his head, tongue lolling. Danny recognized that the man was nonfunctional and stopped, having solved a potentially lethal situation without resorting to killing. This is the power of that complete education, of training to break things in the human body one-by-one as a considered choice.
We don’t do it for the shock value, or to peacock like badasses. We are working to give you a complete education in breaking the human body, so you know what you’re doing. We are working to give you a wide range of options and the knowledge of where the line between life and death is so you can stay on one side, or jump straight to the other should you need to.