33784310Usu­ally I write about hor­ror fic­tion. This time I’m writ­ing about real-​world hor­ror and how author and self-​termed “vio­lence expert” Tim Larkin would have us pre­pare for it.

Vio­lence is rarely the answer, but when it is, it’s the only answer.”

Thus begins this fas­ci­nat­ing self-​defense book, in which Larkin dis­cusses two types of vio­lence: social aggres­sion and aso­cial vio­lence. Both are best avoided, but are far dif­fer­ent in terms of lethal intent. Social aggres­sion, as Larkin defines it, involves showy, chest-​beating behav­ior (usu­ally between males) and is basi­cally a jock­ey­ing for posi­tion in the social hier­ar­chy. Larkin stresses there’s only one intel­li­gent way to deal with it. You back down, apol­o­gize for what­ever the guy thinks you did, and buy him a drink. Bet­ter than a law­suit for invol­un­tary manslaugh­ter or a lengthy hos­pi­tal stay for your­self. In short, when it comes to these dis­plays of male domi­nence, fight­ing is rarely worth it.

With aso­cial vio­lence, on the other hand, there’s no talk­ing your way out of it. It comes at you from behind at an ATM or in a dark park­ing garage, with a big­ger, stronger, faster assailant who has no qualms about maim­ing or killing you. In fact, maim­ing and killing may be the goal.

For this kind of kill-​or-​be-​killed sit­u­a­tion, Larkin presents a wealth of anec­dotes: the kind where the good gal or guy tri­umphs in a ter­ri­fy­ing sit­u­a­tion and the kind where, trag­i­cally, the oppo­site occurs and the wrong per­son ends up in a pud­dle of blood.

So how does the aver­age Jane or Joe dis­able a much stronger attacker?

Larkin goes into great detail, with dia­grams for good mea­sure, about how all human bod­ies, nomat­ter how formidable-​looking, are vul­ner­a­ble to cer­tain dev­as­tat­ing injuries if the other per­son knows how to inflict those injuries and is able and will­ing to do so (a crushed tra­chea and gouged-​out eye­ball being two examples.)

In his classes, Larkin reports that sev­enty per­cent of the peo­ple who sign up only do so AFTER sur­viv­ing a vio­lent attack. The proac­tive stu­dent just want­ing to be pre­pared is rare in his expe­ri­ence, and Larkin wants to change that. Aside from detailed expla­na­tions of how to crush, snap, and gen­er­ally destroy var­i­ous parts of an attacker’s body, he also offers some obvi­ous but impor­tant tips: ditch the ear­buds and put down the phone in pub­lic, lis­ten to your intu­ition, and avoid the ATM after dark. Like jun­gle ani­mals, we need our senses on high alert; the dis­tracted are easy targets.

At the same time, Larkin him­self comes across as a fun­da­men­tally non-​violent sort who reminds the reader over and over that vio­lence is the last resort, no mat­ter how highly trained you may be.

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