Tim Larkin thinks that it's important you know how to kill someone with your bare hands.
After years of military experience, Larkin dedicated himself to teaching Target-Focus Training
, a system of self-defense. Lately, however, Larkin and his mission -- which is to enable trainees to react effectively to life-or-death situation or what he calls an "asocial" attack -- have come under fire. An upcoming seminar in Slough, England, has been met with a great deal of controversy from the community. The town's former mayor, David MacIsaac, even told a local paper that Larkin was "not welcome
" in Slough.
Listening to Larkin discuss his methodology is oddly hypnotizing. He's a persuasive pitchman, a sort of Billy Mays for violence, though he insists he's essentially a pacifist. Larkin counters his critics in Slough by citing that England has yet to face up to its problem of violence, citing a 17 percent increase in knife crimes. "You can say I'm extreme, that's fine," he says. "[But] I wouldn't be asked to go into a lot of big corporations and teach their international business people how to protect themselves if I was this crazed lunatic that was going around telling people how to kill."Read on
to find out more about how Larkin's system works, why violence is sort of boring, and how easy it could be to accidentally kill your buddy over a Playstation dispute.
Basement Brawls and Bladder Punches
Larkin got his start under the wing of his Boston-Irish grandfather, who taught him how to spar in the basement when he was around 6 years old. "He really felt it was important that a boy know how to defend himself," Larkin explains. "He would say things like, 'This is what you do in the ring, and this is what you do on the street.'"
At the age of 15, Larkin got his first taste of the difference between those two fighting styles -- between the martial arts he'd been studying and the cold realities of actual violence. "I was at a party and I saw a very attractive girl over by the punch bowl. I went over and started talking to her, had a great conversation, then all of a sudden her eyes go wide and the blood leaves her face. I'm not the sharpest tack but I figured there's something going on behind me. And sure enough, charging toward me was her bull of a boyfriend. This guy was massive ... and [he] started beating the hell out of me. The only thing that hopped out at me was some of the things my grandfather showed me when I was a young kid -- basically involved targeting, where to hit on the human body. That's what saved me."
As for the bullish
boyfriend? "He was hurting. I was able to get his nose, his eyes were watering ... then I got him a couple of times in the bladder area."The Weird Science of Violence
That high schoo
ffle drove home a simple point to Larkin: The most effective self-defense focused on specific areas of human a
omy. It wasn't about landing a roundhouse punch, but rather about honing in on sensitive zones that can
stop an attacker. Larkin went on to the military, including a brief career with the SEALs, and continued brainstorming what would later flourish into Target-Focus Training.
Oddly enough, a lot of the background research came
from sports-injury data -- looking at accidental injuries on the playing field, and then determining how to replicate the same damage in a life-
or-death situation. "Sports-injury data involves humans colliding with humans, and then humans colliding with the planet," he explains. "Those are forces we can replicate. You have approximately 120 areas of the human body that are fairly easy to injure. By injure we mean destroying either the sensory system or the structure in that part of the human body so that it no longer works ... Everything that we try to do is going to, at a minimum, require medical attention."
There's a certain detachment that L
arkin slips into when talking about what is, essentially, the act of beating someone senseless. Kicking the sh*t out of a perp becomes "work" you're enacting to "shut down" the human body; unholy levels of pain become "systematic trauma." In Larkin's mind, violence is exactly this mundane -- it's not the stuff of "Bloodsport": "When you're truly exposed to what violence is -- not what some action movie makes it look like, where there's some sort of heroic, ego-gratifying result -- you would never want to experience it again. Violence is very straightforward and raw, it's very mechanical. You're basically learning how to break the human machine." Death Shove
Larkin also stresses how simple it is to kill a human being, whether you intend to or not. He says that his staff compiles news clippings of incidents in which otherwise ordinary fights ended up lethal. For that reason, he claims Target-Focus Training actually makes the world a bit safer, since it teaches exactly what sort of damage is inflicted during an altercation.
"You could get into a shoving match with your friend over a Playstation game," says Larkin. "Just pissed at each other. You give one good shove, your buddy falls back and hits his head on the chair. On the way down, he snaps his neck and dies. Now you're facing manslaughter charges. If you put your hands on somebody, it can go there each and every time."Shoot to Kill
All this is not to say Larkin is a booster of hand-to-hand combat over anything else. It's a matter of using what you've got at a given moment. "I'm not pro-gun, I'm not anti-gun," says the fight trainer, who lives in Nevada and has a concealed-carry license. "I think it's a great device if you need it ... If I'm in a situation and I'm fighting for my life and a firearm is available, I'd love to use it. Hell, I'd like to use an M18 tank if I had it."
Of course, the thought of Larkin at the wheel of a tank is probably not going to put those skittish folks in Slough at ease, even if he really is the pacifist he claims to be.