Force equals Mass times Acceleration (F=Ma)

It’s a basic equation in physics and applies in violent encounters. If you can apply enough force, using either mass, acceleration or both, you can ‘force’ someone to have a reaction. If you hit them in the right spot, you will force them into an involuntary response. This may not drop them like a rock but may give you just enough time to do some more damage or escape the situation. But, there are areas of the body where you don’t even need to create force to stop the attack.

There was once a short-lived reality show called Bully Beatdown. In the show, hosted by Mixed-Martial Arts fighter, Jason “Mayhem” Miller someone who was being bullied would write in about their bully. Miller would confront the bully and challenge him to fight a mixed-martial arts fighter in the ring. The bully would say yes and receive some training and then the fight was on.

But, rather than a street fight, there were two rounds in the ring. In round one, there was no hitting – just wrestling and submissions, which MMA fighters are masters at. Round 2 is kickboxing. The bully always got to wear headgear. So in other words, not a real MMA fight. To be fair though if it was a real MMA fight the bullies would have been smoked even faster so they wanted to make it a bit sporting.

It may seem that MMA is a violent sport but there are 31-fouls* in organized MMA fighting (Larkin 81). If you want to be an MMA fighter, you don’t do any of the things on the foul list. But, if you want to save your life from a violent encounter, that is PRECISELY  the list you should draw from. Here’s a sampling of effective moves:

  • Gouge the eyes – gross, yes I know, but the eyes do not require the force of your body weight to do injury (Larkin 81) and not only will your opponent be unable to see very well, it’s going to hurt like hell.
  • Kick, punch, knee to the groin. Again, no body weight required here – just ask any dad whose been popped by their kid with an errant shot to the groin. Fair warning, while I think every normal guy is going to double-over when hit in the groin, they can often recover quickly, especially if the hit wasn’t that hard, putting aside the pain and counter-attacking with effectiveness. When you hit the groin, its your chance to strike again, not stand there and admire your handiwork. Heck, this summer I got hit in the groin with a small water balloon (that did NOT explode on impact) and it took me about 45 seconds to stand back up. The pain lasted for another hour but I was back in the fight itself within a minute. You may not get 45 seconds – depends on the blow and the person – so hit again, now!
  • Hit the throat – another one that doesn’t require your body weight (Larkin 81). Hitting or grabbing the trachea forces an automatic response which can give you a couple of seconds to follow up the strike. Our brains think over 30 times faster than our bodies can react, which means we can be thinking well ahead of the last strike about what the next strike should be.

Once your opponent is down or in a vulnerable position, escape if possible, but you may have to create more injury before your escape, or else the violent encounter has just become a foot race. If he’s bent over, put a knee to his face, drop your elbow onto the back of his neck or slam him into a hard object – windows, fire hydrants, car doors and cinder block walls are all good options (Larkin 82-83).

If you decide to head butt or bite, be careful. This puts you into very close proximity to your opponent (think Danger: Close), and may not work. I’ve taken some pretty decent head butts – hit the right spot and you’ve dropped me. Miss by an inch and I’m now just more pissed.

When hitting your target, it’s not enough to just ‘sort of’ hit the target (Larkin 86). You need to drive INTO the target – you should be standing where he was standing when the attack is done.  You need to strike with the intent of injuring the other person.

Larkin introduces a concept called “the Cause State.” “The person in the cause state is the one who makes things happen. In violence, that’s the person inflicting injury upon the other,” (Larkin 90). In a violent encounter you want to be the one causing the effects, not the other way around (Larkin 90). The person in the cause state is the person who is intent on surviving this conflict (Larkin 91).

Larkin also publishes emails and blogs about his training techniques and today’s offered some clear cut guidance on when the fight starts. The following is from Self Defense #11, an email received on 10.24.13:

“One of our associates had difficulty comprehending
our clear-cut definition of when to use violence as
the solution to a dangerous problem. For us it’s
simple, the situation needs to be criminal in nature
and “life-or-death serious”, meaning… if you don’t
take action you are going to be harmed.”

When you’ve decided that you’re in a life or death situation, a decision which you may only have seconds to make by the way, it’s time to act – strike now and continue causing injury until you’re satisfied the attacker is no longer a threat (Larkin 92).

If you’ve managed to injure the person you now may have a new problem. That big scary dude who was intent on hurting you, raping you and killing you, may now be a little boy crying in front of you, whimpering and sobbing – suddenly, your caring instincts kick in and you let your guard down. Remember, that “whimper state” doesn’t last long and the second he recovers just enough, he’s going back to big-scary-dude  guy and he’s even more motivated to hurt, rape or kill you. Don’t stop after the first attack – stop when you know you’ve injured the person enough that they can no longer do harm to you, or long enough for you to get away from the situation.

Larkin says that your brain is your most important weapon and he’s right. You may have a knife but if you don’t know what to do with it or are mentally unwilling to use it, the other guy will soon have your knife. Same thing with a gun. It’s useless to you if you don’t use it when the time comes and it may end up in the bad guys hands. Now you get another problem to solve. Oh joy.

Many people who Larkin has trained say that those who later had to use their skills in violent conflicts usually reported that the conflict was over before they had time to think about being afraid or worry about how it was going to work out. They simply took action.

For a mental state YOU can use, let’s go back to our F=Ma equation. Use your force – move your mass forward – quickly! If you’re moving backwards and trying to dodge, counter and block, you’re reducing the (a) in F=Ma. The human body is better at moving forwards than it is backwards (Larkin 93).

If you’re backing up, he can move 3 feet of distance forward for every 2 feet you can move backwards. But, if move forward, you create momentum (i.e acceleration) pushing your body (i.e. mass) towards your opponent, injuring him at the first opportunity – maybe with a groin kick, a punch to the throat or a kick to his knee. Both the throat punch and the knee kick are going to require a bit of force to be effective, and moving your mass forward quickly is the best way to get that force.

If you don’t have a lot of body mass, you can still get there with acceleration. You don’t need to be huge to do damage. In fact, nail the right spot and you don’t need much force at all. But you must be WILLING to cause injury. Like I heard when I went skydiving – if the chute fails or has a problem, you have the rest of your life to fix it – same thing in a violent encounter – you have the rest of your life, which may be in the next minute, to decide what to do. Are you ready to die?


Larkin, TimSurvive the Unthinkable: A Total Guide to Women’s Self-protection. New York: Rodale, 2013. Print.

*What many MMA followers don’t realize is that one of the first televised MMA fights basically had no rules. It started back in the early 1990s (about the time The X-Files hit the airwaves) and Denver, Colorado was the only place that had not banned this new fighting style. A friend of ours paid for access to watch the fights and they were brutal. Kicks to the groin, broken limbs, you name it. It truly was all out, no-holds barred fighting. But, for MMA to gain acceptance (and be approved in other States) rules were established.

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