Reality-Based Self Defence: Scenario Training – 5


Blitz Magazine, September 2014 Vol. 28. No.9

“Competition sport has protected us from the ugly reality,” says Tim Larkin, founder of Target Focus Training. “Last I checked, the UFC has 31 rules, and 27 of them are pertaining to injury to the human body. Competition is not designed for injury; it’s designed for a skill-set, to test a practitioner. It makes a game out of violence to make it interesting.

“No-holds-barred is boring – it isn’t glorious. It’s brutal, ugly and has nothing to do with sport.” Tim follows this caveat by making a distinction between martial arts and real self-defense:

“The real danger arises when you try to push competition into the realm of violence. Competing with a killer, trying to ‘play by the rules’ when he knows there aren’t any, will get you killed. Put him in an armbar, he’ll tap out; as soon as you let up, he’ll stab you.

“Martial artists need to keep competition out of violence, to maintain a clear delineation between what happens in the ring and what happens on the street. In the ring, the best man wins; in the street, the one who relentlessly destroys the other wins.”

This is the crucial notion at work behind the efficiency of Target Focus Training. After being exempt from qualification for the Navy SEAL program due to injury, Larkin was charged with developing a self-defense system, given his extensive martial arts experience.

He came to the conclusion that exchange of technique between combatants was a conceptual flaw.

Ironically, studying sporting injury formed the basis of what became TFT. No matter how tough or determined an attacker, he can’t attack any longer once he has been rendered physiologically incapable through injury.

“The ‘somatic arc reflex’ is a result of trauma,” says Larkin. “[At that point] the body is in a reactive state and can’t be controlled by the mind.”

Instruction in Larkin’s seminars proceeds according to three phases:

  1. Instruction: what to do,
  2. Screening of video footage: evidence to instill confidence,
  3. Partner work to practice the technique minus velocity.

Surprisingly, Tim doesn’t advocate scenario-based training for civilians. “It’s effective with law enforcement officers and such, because they’re constantly engaging with the same profiles.

“For civilians, it’s absolutely worthless. If you look at the crime stats for civilians, the scenarios are far too varied and different.”

Larkin draws a parallel between self-defense training and firearms training.

“You don’t stress them [students] until they’ve got the fundamentals down. The fact is, putting an injury on another human being will save your life. You’re working with a human machine. First, learn to use the tools of the body and learn to target with them.

“The premise of the training is that [the assailant] is bigger, faster and stronger, and there’s more than one. If you stress [students] from the get-go, you create shit performance.”

Tim returns to his firearms analogy to bring the point home. “Otherwise, it’s like giving someone an automatic weapon with a thirty-round magazine and spraying and praying.”


Self-defence is ultimately a matter of what you can do when threatened and, surprisingly, the threat is greatest for a civilian because there are so many different potential scenarios to consider.

That said, the ultimate outcome of scenario training is to convert a conscious technique or skill into an instrument of unconscious response.

Scenario training is largely held to be an effective means to achieve this, but the relevance changes from practitioner to practitioner.

The relationship between the intention and the action is a murky one and is best traversed in the care of capable, experienced professionals, regardless of whether your ultimate outcome is self-knowledge or survival.

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