A Primer on Violence, by P.N.

“All violence consists in some people forcing others, under threat of suffering or death, to do what they do not want to do.” -Leo Tolstoy

Violence is a word that conjures up a number of emotions. Some people think of violence and immediately visualize a major city in their head. Others think of violence as gangs, adolescents, and most often, criminals. For some, the thought of violence brings a visceral reaction that causes panic. For others, violence is simply something that happens on the news, in TV shows, in the movies and is far away from their life. Finally, for others, violence is something to prepare for, something to train for.

When discussing violence, we need not only think about our own emotions and reactions but those of other people. When walking down the street, is the violent criminal concerned that you don’t like violence? Are they concerned that you only believe violence belongs on TV? No, the violent criminal will do whatever they can to achieve their goal. What might their goal be? Sheer violence, robbery, theft, injury, or murder? The point is, we don’t know what level of violence other people are willing to achieve. So how can we prepare?

Antisocial Violence

As stated in many articles and books, we need to look at violence in two facets– antisocial and asocial violence. To define antisocial violence, we need not look any further then the cliché bar fight. A man bumps another man at the bar. The typical reaction includes posturing (to show dominance), possibly a push or shove to intimidate, possibly even a call to friends to “back him up”. In a scenario like this, violence is at the surface, spurred on by alcohol and egotistical behavior.

As humans, we have many skills that can help us avoid antisocial situations. We can use our words to deescalate the situation, we can feign fear and allow the other person to feel their dominance, and ultimately, we can walk away, even if we may be deemed the “coward”. Antisocial violence is something that can be avoided all together, from a situational perspective, and easily defused if it begins by using the skills that we have learned since early childhood (e.g., walking away, talking it out, using “I” messages).

Asocial Violence

On the other end of the spectrum exists asocial violence– violence that has no rhyme or reason, violence that isn’t related to egotism, social status, or even rational thought. When we think of asocial violence, we can think of a ruthless hit man, serial killers, sociopaths, et cetera. What separates these individuals is their utter lack of empathy, compassion and overall acceptance of human life. When discussing crime, we always here about the dreaded “gun violence,” murder statistics, rapes, robberies, thefts, et cetera. What can we glean from this information? We can take from this data that crime has no flow or discernible pattern when we look at it through the lens of antisocial and asocial behavior.

The difference between antisocial and asocial violence is the overall intent of the person performing the action. A carpenter can take a hammer and build a house; a criminal can take a hammer and bash someone’s skull in. What separates the two individuals? It’s only intent. What I am discussing here are not the individuals that take that hammer and use it for self-defense if being attacked by a criminal. I’m talking about the individual that maliciously, without concern for another individual’s well-being, picks up that tool and commits a heinous crime.

Any tool, when placed in the hands of a person with a vicious intent, can become a tool of destruction. At our base, primal level as human beings, we all have the ability to commit a crime. We only have to look back to the story of Cain and Abel to realize that even family members can kill when they have a specific intent. Again, it isn’t the tool that matters; it is the intent of the individual.

Preparing for Asocial Violence

In any case, we must look at what needs to be done to prepare for the unknown level of asocial violence that may meet us one day. For those of us that prepare for a multitude of situations (e.g., financial collapse, nuclear war, natural disasters, et cetera), we must prepare ourselves physically, mentally, and emotionally for this level of crime.

As we have seen during natural disasters, riots, protests, et cetera, antisocial violence is quite common in any type of situation outside the normal realm of day-to-day life. Some examples include people breaking down store windows and looting during “protests,” and assaulting police officers and those individuals that have a different viewpoint then their own. All of these things sit to one side of the violent crime spectrum that isn’t close to the discussion of asocial crime. We can arm ourselves, avoid negative situations, and overall be prepared for situations that are predictable.

Predictability (or lack of)

Asocial violence is not predictable. It is not so easy to prepared for. In a true collapse of society, we can assume that a great deal of asocial violence will be occurring for people (mainly criminals) to stay alive. It is just as important to be prepared for asocial violence in our day-to-day lives as much as it is in a true collapse situation.

How is it possible to prepare for something as unpredictable as a violent, criminal, asocial attack? A few simple methods to achieve this include:

  • always maintaining your awareness to a level of Condition Yellow,
  • physically preparing yourself to fight outside the realm of organized, “fair” fighting, and
  • doing mental preparation to “game plan” for any situation.

Colonel Jeff Cooper’s Color Code

White– You are relaxed and unaware.

Yellow– You remain relaxed but are aware of who and what is around you.

Orange– You have identified something of interest that may or may not prove to be a threat.

Red– If the focus of your attention in condition orange does something you find threatening, you will shift to condition red. Condition red simply changes the focus of your attention from a potential threat to a potential target.

On a day-to-day basis, you must live your life in condition yellow always prepared to shift quickly and decisively to condition orange, and if absolutely necessary then to condition red. When dealing with asocial violence, if you are in condition yellow, you are at least a step ahead of those in white and will typically be less of a target for a person looking to commit a crime.

Typically, criminals stay in condition yellow, orange, and/or red and are always prepared to commit a crime whether you, the victim, are ready or not. Look no further than gang members who walk out of their homes expecting to be shot. They live day-to-day in condition orange and red. If you were to find yourself in an area where individuals think this way, you must also be prepared to match their level of preparedness.

What is fair?

The next step to dealing with asocial violence is removing yourself from the realm of “fair fights”. When discussing fighting, regular people with compassion and empathy don’t want to hear about kicking/punching someone in the groin, gouging someone’s eyes out, or intentionally trying to dislocate joints. In a true asocial attack, is the criminal/sociopath going to abide by fair, clean rules? Absolutely not! You will not see “clean” blows if you were to go online and look up prison yard fights. What you would see are intentional stabbings to vital organs or decisive hits/kicks/punches to critical areas. You will see the general use of violence that is not conducive to a “civil” form of fighting. Remember, in the world of MMA, the fighter’s ultimate goal is to knock the person out or perform a submission that will cause the person to “tap out”.

Their goal is not to kill their opponent. Their goal is to cause the person to quit through a submission or lose consciousness.  The referee then steps in and stops them from continuing to pummel the person while they are on the ground. Does a person committing an asocial crime have a referee ready to stop them? I can safely answer “No!” to that question. We have criminals in prisons that are reading Gray’s Anatomy to better understand the human body and how to harm it; you must also complete your own studies to match the asocial criminal intent.

Be Vicious

Train yourself to viciously target those areas on the body that will cause the most harm in the quickest fashion. You must keep in mind that I am not talking about a bar room fight. Nor am I focusing on someone bumping into you aggressively on the street. In antisocial situations, using severe tactics can get you in extreme trouble. I can make a fairly educated guess that those individuals reading this website are preparing for when antisocial behavior is not existent. We are preparing  for when we are in the asocial realm completely. Ensure that your training involves unstructured, brutal attacks that are more likely to occur on the street. These types don’t usually exist in the studio or dojo where you may currently train.

The method that I find extremely useful and highly effective is mental imaging or visualization practice. Not only is this method simple, but it is free and easy to complete anywhere, anytime. At some point throughout the day, close your eyes and picture yourself walking down the street. Imagine an individual walking toward you that looks suspicious. Immediately, your internal radar pings and you sense that something just does not seem “right” with this individual. What’s your plan? Do you have a weapon handy? Can/should you cross the street to avoid this person? At what distance will you make your judgment to act if a threat seems imminent? Simply closing your eyes and imagining possible scenarios is crucial to helping you develop a response if/when those situations arise.

Game plan

Any number of scenarios can be “game planned” prior to any real-life incident occurring. Through our viewing of television shows and movies, and our access to the Internet and its multitude of videos, we don’t even have to fabricate situations. We can simply play that clip over and over in our mind. We insert ourselves into the situation and judge what our reaction would be. Compare yourself to the person in the situation that you viewed. Once again, watching videos will show you that the asocial criminal can and will strike at any moment. It does not always wait for any form of provocation. Overall, visualization techniques allow us to prepare in a way that otherwise is impractical from a financial standpoint (meaning going to a site to train) and in some ways from a physical standpoint.

In the end, individuals who prepare for the worst-case scenario (regardless of the chosen scenario) have to deal with the reality of antisocial and asocial violence. You may not have to deal with asocial violence at any point throughout your life. Though usually everyone experiences antisocial violence at some point in time. At the minimum, you need to be preparing for asocial violence if your chosen disaster does happen. You never know if tomorrow may be the day that something terrible may occur. So you must begin preparing now for any situation that may arise.


  1. A good essay; thanks! I have long been aware of the deteriorating condition of our societal mores, and the associated increase in violent behavior. For that reason, I’ve been licensed to carry a concealed weapon for many years, and for the past few years have always carried a concealed firearm anytime I am in a public setting. That said, I never engaged in serious research about what constitutes legal self-defense and how to recognize an imminent attack that warrants my physical or lethal response. Meeting the legal requirements of self defense is not as simple of having the advantage of stand your ground laws and “being in fear of your life.” My recent reading of various blogs led me to two books that I feel are a must-read for everyone who carries a weapon for self defense. The first is “Deadly Force: Understanding Your Right to Self Defense,” by Massad Ayoob, and “The Law of Self Defense,” by Andrew Branca, an attorney who specializes in self-defense law. Both books are available at Amazon.

  2. Retired after 30+ years in law enforcement I have survived by refusing to over complicate my personal ROEs (they didn’t hire me for my brains). The problem with most classes on the subject of self defense is they are often too complicated. I have found most try to over think this subject (I don’t care why I am being attacked only that I am) while under training for it (bad stuff happens to everyone on a regular basis). Yes that includes the majority of LEOs I have known.So here’s my basic rules…

    1. If attacked I win. Whether deadly or simply physical means of self defense I win and cheating is not only allowed but expected. Avoid always if possible but still, no matter what, I win.
    2. No rules means doing whatever it takes within reason while keeping your ego in check.
    3. Think outside the box.If i’m in my car and facing a deadly threat my car becomes a huge grained projectile…frankly, what’s the difference between a 12 ga slug and my car? Speed and weight.
    4. Keep it simple.Train with what you can do and don’t try to impress others, just do some kind of training. There is no perfect martial arts or even firearm only proficient practitioners. Shoot what you can hit with and fight as your body will allow. Remember to always cheat if you have to fight.
    5. Rules? there are no stinking rules when it comes to you winning. Fuss about the laws and their lawyers after you have done what you must…only because you must not because they insulted your ego.

    My rules are not really tough and can be summed up by simply saying if I must fight, I must win. Do what that takes…and no more. Keep your head up (out of that stupid “smart” phone) and on a swivel. K.I.S.S. and make sure you win!
    Basically, there are no rules when attacked and no dirty pool…the only rule is I win. Whether that means avoiding trouble, if possible, or using a crew served weapon…I win. The possibilities and strategies are so numerous and often random it is impossible to come up with a list of priorities or techniques…use your most deadly weapon, your brain. There is no perfect martial arts or firearm only proficient practitioners.

    1. Mas,

      Those are great Rules Of Engagement, and in a perfect world would serve the rest of us well. But unfortunately the rest of the population are held to a much higher standard than police and don’t have the luxury of ‘qualified immunity’ or the backing of LE and their allies ( prosecutor and Judge )… So we have to think, ( or as you put it, over think ) thru our response to avoid being a victim of the system.

      1. Perhaps you missed a few points. First I am a RETIRED LEO and as such am now a civilian just like I assume you are (besides I never got to see that ‘qualified immunity’ you suggest when active…guess me and every LEO I know was short changed). Second my main point is it is better to be in trouble with lawyers or even law enforcement than to be seriously injured or killed. Too much fretting over the possible consequences can bring mental constipation and inaction when the opposite is what is needed. Frankly that type of worrying instruction seemed to be more and more the thrust of LEO training as I pulled the plug on my career…more designed to reduce department liability than to help line LEOs stay intact. The two departments I worked for and every single other one I am aware of would rarely hesitate to kick a line officer under the bus if it would save them cash and/or a PR headache.

        Train as you will, it’s your life. All I was saying is don’t let civil or even criminal liabilities cause you to hesitate to save your life and limb or that of others you love. And, as the article pointed out fighting dirty is the way all fighting to win is done.

  3. Actually I have read this before, in an article of “book” about TFT by Tim Larkin I think. I liked what I read then and I still like it when reading today.

    1. Tim Larkin was my inspiration for the article but also “On Combat” and “On Killing” by Grossman are in my opinion must reads about the psychology and physiology of combat and killing. Important information if you’re ever in a harmful situation.

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