When Violence Is The Answer – Book Review

This is a review of When Violence Is The Answer: Learning How to Do What It Takes When Your Life Is at Stake.

Author: Tim Larkin

Publisher: Little, Brown and Company (New York, Boston, London)

Publication date: September 2017

Pages: 295

Special features:  Illustrations, Charts

Price: $28.00

ISBN: 978-0-316-35464-6

Rating:  ♂  MUST READ

Likely the most important book you will ever read on self-protection.  

“When violence is the answer, its the only answer.”  

How do you respond to that assertion?  Do you feel disturbed by it, or not?  Do you wish to deny it or do you accept it as true?

How you respond to this assertion will determine whether or not you will be willing to protect yourself and your loved ones if, Gods forbid, you are ever confronted by a criminal thug who is willing to harm you or your loved ones in order to get what he wants. 

If you have always lived in a bubble free of violence or threats, you may think that there always exists an alternative to violence. 

You might think it could never happen to you.

And you would be wrong.

And if you don’t accept that sometimes violence is the only answer, and you ever find yourself in a situation wherein violence is the only answer, you might just end up dead wrong.  

Tim Larkin, the author of When Violence Is The Answer, is a former Navy Seal and military intelligence officer who has taught more than ten thousand people in more than fifty countries how to deal with imminent violence.  He was part of a beta group that redesigned how special operations personnel train for close combat.  Over his 25-year career, his students have included elite combat units, law enforcement agencies, and wealthy families. He has previously authored the New York Times bestselling book Survive The Unthinkable: A Total Guide To Women's Self-Protection

In When Violence Is The Answer, Larkin discusses two main topics: 

First, how to think about violence.

Second, how to think about using violence.

To cut to the chase, When Violence Is The Answer is up to this point in time the best book I have ever read on self-protection. It will teach you the mindset and principles you must apply to recognize and survive a confrontation with someone who is bigger, stronger, and faster, and more than willing to hurt you to get what he wants.  It will also teach you how to properly train so that you will act decisively when necessary.  If you want to know how to prevail if the unthinkable ever happens to you, you need to understand the principles Larkin teaches in When Violence Is The Answer.  


Deprogramming Pacifism

Larkin knows that most of his readers have been more or less programmed to more or less complete pacifism. The powers-that-be have successfully programmed many people to believe that violence is never the answer. A certain ethnic group that dominates our political landscape constantly demonizes guns and gun owners, falsely claiming that "guns cause violence," and suggests that anyone who claims the right to use weapons – and therefore violence – for self-protection is a bad actor.

Due to this incessant programming, few realize that, as Jack Donovan has written, violence is golden, because your family, tribe, and nation have no chance at peace without the presence of men who are willing to protect the women and children by using violence, or at least the threat thereof, to repel thieves, thugs and invaders who would if given the opportunity use violence, or the threat thereof, to take property, liberty and life from the righteous people. 

So Larkin spends the first chapter deprogramming the average reader.  His message is simple: Violence is a tool.  Its not the right tool for most jobs, but there are some very few, very rare jobs you can’t complete without it.  When you need it, you will almost certainly have to use it yourself.  You won’t be able to call the police, or they won’t get there fast enough, when you are facing a criminal who is using violence to take property, privacy, liberty or life from you.

I didn't need convincing, but many people do.  I think Larkin will convince many, if not most readers who initially recoil at the idea that violence is a tool, and, sometimes, the only right tool for the job at hand. 


Social Conflict Versus Asocial Violence

In Chapter Two, Larkin teaches readers how to recognize when violence is the answer, and when it is not the answer.

Larkin next teaches readers how to recognize the difference between social and asocial (or anti-social) aggression and conflict.  You don’t want to use violence to end a social conflict.  You want to end a social conflict using social skills. 

Conversation is key.  If you can talk and walk your way out of a conflict you must do it, even if it means your ego takes a beating.

But no amount of talking will end an asocial confrontation.  If the predator doesn’t talk, you’re in an asocial situation.  If you try using social skills to disengage from an asocial predator, he'll use your socialization as a weapon against you. As Larkin writes:

"In the midst of a violent encounter, to think merely of "defending" yourself – rather than incapacitating your opponent – is essentially to curl up in a ball and hope for the best.  Waiting for your attacker to give up – or worse, expecting him to follow the rules – is, putting it bluntly, to risk participating in your own murder. Your only reliable course of action to save your life is to do what your attacker is trying to do to you, but do it more effectively and efficiently, and to do it first."

The Best Defense Is the Worst 

When violence is the only answer, you will have to choose between being the victim or being the victor.  Larkin knows that you have to have a victor’s mindset before you can expect to walk away from any circumstance in which violence is the only answer.  

At the start of the chapter on mindset, Larkin presents this illustration:


What do you do now?

With the text:  “Look at this image. Imagine this is you.  Imagine that the unthinkable has happened and random asocial violence has found you.  What would you do? Really think about it.  What’s your first move?”

What do you think your first move would be?

I have some martial arts and self-defense training, so thought of a few things I would do, before I flipped to the next page, whereon Larkin wrote: 

“While you’re thinking, let me tell you what I would do.”

His next two INVALUABLE paragraphs hit me like a slap upside the head, waking me from a long held delusion. ALONE THEY WERE WORTH TEN TIMES WHAT THE BOOK COST. I thought that my training had given me a victor’s mindset.  I was wrong.  Larkin showed me that I had unwittingly been trained to identify and visualize myself as the victim. 

But most of us do. Larkin points out that those of us who want to be on the side of good and righteousness don’t want to hurt people.  The idea that a good person will do  the least harm possible is so ingrained, some consider it a martial arts ethic, summed up in a guideline:


“Aim to avoid rather than block, block rather than harm, harm rather than maim, main rather than kill.”


Sounds noble, right?  That’s what a good person would do, right?  You’d defend yourself if attacked, but you’d try to do the least harm possible.  Because good people don’t want to hurt anyone.

But if you find yourself in a situation where violence is the answer, following this maxim will probably turn you into the victim, not the victor.  You won’t be the one to walk away if you get caught up in what Larkin calls the fantasy of defense

Larkin has spent a lot of time interviewing criminals, and watching videos of violence they have committed.  Criminals don’t have any reservations about damaging other people.  None at all. 

They go straight for hurt, maim or kill.  

Larkin clearly explains why self-defense is no match for violence. Focusing on defense against the aggressor's moves puts you in what Larkin calls Effect State.  

To be the one who walks away, you need to be in Cause State

You have to find the best target and be the first to inflict debilitating damage.  You will have to put the aggressor out of commission, at least temporarily, and possibly permanently.  

Larkin recounts several stories from his students who did just that.  Like Sara, the petite 110 pound blonde, a first year college student, who took only one afternoon seminar with Larkin. Soon thereafter, Sara was target of a 235 pound sexual predator.  He was on top of her.  To an untrained woman, the situation would have seemed hopeless. But, thanks to her training, Sara was not a victim.  She knew how to identify the best target, and how to wield her own best weapon to disarm her attacker's only real weapon.  With her bare hands Sara permanently stopped that filth from having his way with her...or any other woman, ever again.  She walked away, and he passed away, because she learned from Larkin how to use violence as a tool at the moment when violence is the answer...the only answer. 

Getting The Best Information From The Worst People

Larkin has spent a large part of his life studying how criminals prepare for, implement, and respond to violence.

He tells some very powerful stories that illustrate how criminals make use of violence to get what they want, and to survive violence themselves. All of these stories drive home a very important point.

Criminals make violence their business, and they get plenty of on-the-job training.  They actually study anatomy so that they know how to quickly and efficiently hurt people, they study street fights to learn how to prevail, and they visualize and practice hurting people. 

As Larkin says, when it comes to using violence, the worst people have the best information.  When Violence Is The Answer levels the playing field.


The Art of Self-Protection

In The Art of War, Sun Tzu wrote:  “The art of war consists of defeating the enemy without doing battle.”  

Similarly, the art of self-protection primarily consists of keeping yourself away from situations in which you will encounter or need to use violence.  

Unfortunately, many people have habits that make them very easy targets for thieves, thugs, and invaders.  No book on self-protection would be complete without discussing these bad habits, and When Violence Is The Answer does not disappoint. 

Larkin wants people to be ready to do whatever is necessary to survive asocial situations, but he also wants his students to keep themselves out of harms way whenever possible.  In Chapter Four he discusses the strategically dumb and lazy things people say and do that make them vulnerable to violence.  By studying the smart and stupid things others have done to either avoid or invite violence, Larkin shows you what you must do to keep yourself out of harms way, so you minimize your chances of ending up in a situation when violence is the answer. 

Thinking About Using Violence

Once you accept that sometimes violence is the only answer, and there might come a time when you have to use violence yourself to save your own or someone else’s life, the question becomes: How do I use violence effectively?

You can’t learn effective use of violence just by reading a book.  You need to practice it.  But before you practice, you need to know principles.

Often people want to know what to do if ______________ happens.  What do I do if he has a knife?  What do I do if he has a gun?  Where should I attack if this happens?  What about if that happens?

The problem is, you don’t know what is going to happen.  You may prepare for X, Y, and Z scenarios, but what will you do if something happens that you did not rehearse?  

You need principles.  How to identify a target, what’s your best weapon, how to strike, how to practice striking so that your training will translate into real-world effectiveness.

In the second half of When Violence Is The Answer, Larkin provides the reader with the principles that will apply in any situation.


Prepare For The Moment When Violence IS The Answer

In the final chapters of When Violence Is The Answer, Larkin covers the following topics: 

  • what are the best targets to strike
  • how to use and disarm the deadliest weapon 
  • how to train efficiently and effectively so you’ll be prepared to act decisively
  • how to inflict injuries that will stop attackers cold

Of course there is only so much he can provide via the written word.  Reading a book won’t train your body to automatically do what needs to be done in the moment you decide that violence is the only answer.  Its up to you to follow through.

I hope you never encounter a moment when violence is the answer.  Nevertheless, violence is unpredictable. You probably have insurance policies to cover other black swan events.  Just in case....

The unthinkable does happen. 

If you are serious about being prepared to protect yourself and your loved ones from violence, I highly recommend that you read When Violence Is The Answer.  But don't just read it. Practice, so you will be prepared for the unthinkable.