Violence is a Tool
One of the first premises that the author puts forth is the need for people to dissociate any preconceived notions that violence is inherently wrong. Based on this, the study of violence is also not inherently wrong. It would be in everyone's best interests to learn the nature and use of violence so that - at the very least - they can protect themselves against it.
"Violence is a tool like any other. As with any other tool, the proper object of our moral and ethical judgment isn't the "what" - after all, you wouldn't call a screwdriver or a toothbrush evil - but rather the "why," the ends to which human beings choose to direct it [Chapter One]."
Indeed, people we may view as evil can use the tool of violence is immoral ways for their own ends. For those that want to shape the world first need to shape society around them, and for many, it is much harder to shape people's perspectives than it would be to remove them altogether. Those that may utilize violence in an "evil" way can destroy their adversaries through its use, and avoid the hard work of persuasion and winning hearts and minds.
But remember, some of the most common responses to the illegal or immoral use of violence is the justified and morally acceptable use of violence. Osama bin Laden, Adolf Hitler, and Dong Zhou - depending on perspectives - used force immorally, but then had destruction brought against them. If violence is brought upon you, would you not be justified to defend yourself with the tool of violence? Especially if they intend to hurt and kill you, then your only real options might be to fight back or die.
Larkin looks at violence as a tool in the pragmatic sense, and not so much in the moral sense. Meaning that in the process of learning violence, he isn't as concerned about who is justified in the use of violence, and only in who was more effective in its use. Therefore, he is as apt to learn from the unlawful use of force, as he would from a police officer or innocent bystander. In many parts of his book, he talks about doing video analysis of prison inmates in how to train to protect themselves and fight other inmates and correctional officers. Larkin's view of violence, as you will see if you read his book, is very pragmatic - it is just a tool, and if you want to defeat it, you must learn about it.
Social vs. Asocial Violence & De-Escalation
Larkin speaks about two forms of violence we see within society.
Social violence is about social position; it follows the rules and involves a lot of posturing. Schoolyard fights, road rage, disrespectful attitudes, for example, can lead to arguments that compel them to fight to assert their position. "They are quasi-violent scenarios that stem from conflict and jockeying within the social hierarchy [Chapter Two]." Making the other submit is a primary goal of social violence - two assert dominance and their will over others.
Asocial violence is about "wrecking the social order." Killing and damaging a target to take what you need. This is the bully-victim who, rather than fighting-back (a form of social violence), brings a gun to school and blasts them all away. This is the mugger who, rather than hold you up at gunpoint demanding your wallet (another form of social violence), shoots you in the back of the head and takes your stuff. In asocial violence, the victim is simply in the way, not someone the attacker tries to influence.
Most confrontations are of the social-nature, but you never know what the other person is thinking. You may feel the need to confront a person that insulted you and assert your dominance, or you see that they broke the law and you are going to call them out on it. But what if the other person is intoxicated, has a warrant for their arrest, or is merely a person with sociopathic tendencies. You may be looking for a social fight at the very most, but they might be willing, pressured, or even eager to escalate it to an asocial conflict. You wanted to posture and teach them a lesson, but they rushed you with the intent to harm or kill.
Because of this, Larkin suggests de-escalating social confrontations when possible. You may be justified in your actions, but since you never know what the other will do, it is better to not escalate the situation yourself - even at the expense of your ego or immediate benefit. "And even for those of us who are best prepared, who are able to fight for our lives and win, there's something far better: never having to fight for our lives at all [Chapter Five]."
The author warns of the defensive mindset that victims have in asocial confrontations. They think about how to protect themselves, disengage, and ultimately make it out alive. They react to the attacker instead of merely acting themselves. The attacker has the advantage since they take the initiative since they are only focused on injuring.
"If you are thinking about what your attacker might do, or why he has picked you, then your brains' focus shifts toward the defensive, reactive posture of a victim responding to someone else's aggression, and it puts you way behind the power curve. When you lapse into a defensive mindset like that, you're automatically at a disadvantage, because reacting is always slower than acting [Chapter Three]."
In order to regain the edge in a fight, and avoid having to be reactionary, you must maintain the mindset of an attacker. You are forcing your adversary to react to your action instead of the other way around. By this time, you should realize that violence is merely a tool and that your adversary seeks to bring it upon you; therefore, you bring it upon them first and continue to keep the pressure on them - never letting up and giving them a chance to act, only react. This will ensure that you improve your chances for survival, and if you can cause the first injury, then your chances of successfully defeating them increase.
Slow is Smooth, and Smooth is Fast
Larkin harkens back to the old military adage in that training in the fundamentals slowly ensures that your form is proper and effective and that you can perform that task effectively when the time comes. Drilling those body positions, how you deliver strikes and throws, and how you transition from one target on the body to the next will strengthen those respective neural pathways in the brain: something we discussed in detail in our section on The Human Domain. Since actual combat can be hectic and confusing, and you may not have the time to think clearly, you will have to rely on what you have drilled into your brain. If you drill improper form, then when you execute, you will be ineffective.
"When it comes to self-defense, I've found that this crucial aspect of training is missing from nearly everyone's curriculum, and to me, that's a huge mistake: slowness, deliberateness, mastery of fundamentals - they're the foundation on which everything else is built. Without form, force, and accuracy, you won't generate the effect you want [Chapter Eight]."
He brings up that speed and strength in training aren't as important. What is much more critical is the conditioning necessary to identify vulnerable targets on the body to strike and the requisite form needed to deliver a debilitating injury. As long as you have the proper form to do it, you can do it quickly and with force required to do the job when the adrenaline starts rushing. What you can't do is think through potential attacking points, and making assessments after each hit. You need to assess the situation and immediately recall viable maneuvers to defeat the foe - regardless of the predicament.
The Science of Injury
In the last significant chapter of the book, Chapter Nine: Training to Inflict Injury, the author describes the particular methods for actually producing the injuries that will disable your adversary. Through the use of strikes, joint-breaks, and throws, focusing on targeting parts of their body, I find his discussion on the specific angles required to break joints, tendons, and ligaments quite intriguing. I don't want to dig too deep into the techniques, but I want to discuss his references to fundamental sciences. This is because the way he brings it up is similar to how we address the sciences concerning war and business at War Is My Business - breaking complex social endeavors down to causal relations with the natural world.
In the discussion of "striking," he notes that the purpose of the strike is to produce kinetic energy imparted into the target area to cause damage - break bones, dislocate joints, cause concussions, etc. He also notes that the muscles' capacity to deliver enough energy to do the necessary damage to cause injury is also sometimes insufficient. He, therefore, adds to the power of the strike the motion of the body:
"You'll need to recruit the largest amount of [kinetic energy] you can access: your body weight in motion. Without that powder charge of body weight in motion, you end up throwing bullets at him instead of shooting them… [Your body] stores potential energy (that is, energy that is potentially kinetic) in two forms: in chemical bonds inside your muscles, and in the elevation of your mass in Earth's gravitational field. You can convert this potential energy to kinetic energy in two ways: using your muscles to accelerate your mass or lowering your mass in the gravitational field."
This helps explain how striking or throwing (which he amusedly refers to as striking the opponent with the Earth itself) causes the damage you need to debilitate another person. It is a relationship between generating force in sufficient quantities to counter the resistance posed by the strength of bones and joints. With an emphasis on targeting specific points on the body, Larkin suggests we focus the energy we are able to produce on just those critical vulnerabilities. By concentrating that energy, we can avoid wasting it on portions of the body that won't cause the effects we are looking to achieve - debilitating injury.