Someone recently wrote in regarding strike response and how to be the first one to act in a violent situation:

Dan H. writes:

“I am working my way through your DVD series “Surviving the Most Critical 5 Seconds of Your Life,” and I understand and appreciate the series of actions based on response, etc.  

My question is one of getting the first strike and the initial injury to get the process started.  

Will you share with me the mind-set, readiness, or just general info on setting up this first strike?  Seems to me this is the most critical time as my attacker is still at full capacity.”


You are absolutely right: Everything hinges on that initial injury. Violence is a struggle until someone gets a debilitating injury, and then the situation landslides in the favor of the person who dished it out. Everything after that is academic.

The first rule is: INJURY NOW!

This means don’t waste time looking for an opening to strike or waiting to see what he’s going to do. As soon as you realize it’s on, break something inside of him. No assessment phase, no dropping into a fighting stance, no waiting to block, counter or otherwise engage with his skill or athleticism. Violence isn’t chess at 90-miles-per-hour. It’s a demolition derby.

tim-larkin-strikeThis is why we train the way we do: You get out on the mats, and when it’s your turn, the first thing you do is plow through a target with a strike to cause injury. You’re training your brain to look for targets and smash them with no hesitation or monkeying around.

If you can “put your dukes up,” you can use the same motion to put your fingers into his eyes or your forearm though his neck. Don’t waste that motion by going halfway.

You want the first thing that hops out of you to be injury, and as you practice, so you shall perform.

So the simple (though possibly unsatisfying) answer is get straight to it. Beeline from where you are through a target to smash it with a targeted strike. Keep going until you get that injury. (You’ll know it when you get it.) Then repeat until you recognize non-functionality (you’ll know that when you see it, too).

A couple of pointers on mind-set:

If there’s an attacker, it’s YOU.

He may have started it—and for us civilians, nine times out of 10, it will come out of nowhere—but the first thing you will do is attack him to injure him, break him until he’s nonfunctional, and finish it.

It’s not about what he’s doing or what he wants to do. It’s about you doing things to him to make him go on the defensive, try to block, back up, etc.

As long as you see yourself as the victim in the equation, you will be. Choose to be the problem instead of the one who has a problem. Make him try to solve it while you strike and injure him.

It’s not a fight. It’s a beating.

Fighting is hard. Injuring people is easy. Fighting with someone who’s bigger, stronger, skilled and motivated is not going to go well if you don’t have him beat in some of those categories. But everyone eats injury the same. In competition, it’s called cheating; in life-or-death violence, it’s called living.

If you see it as a struggle, it will be. If you see it as breaking things inside him, you will.

YOU don’t have to look any further than videos of criminal violence. And how do they engage? They don’t—they get straight to it. They wade in and hammer targets until they get the results they’re looking for. And then they pile it on. There is no consideration for the other man, his abilities or desires.

Change the way you look at the situation. Be the problem. Train accordingly—practice causing injury as the first thing you do. Resolve to get straight to it regardless of what has already happened—expect to get hit, cut, smacked, whatever. These things happen and we all have to accept that and get over it.

But the day belongs to the one who gets the first disabling injury.

Think and train to be that one.


Tim Larkin

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

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