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on 10 April 2017
Another great book from Mr MacYoung. This should be required reading for anyone involved in teaching self defence. While much of the legal standpoint is obviously US based, the theory and suggestions are equally valid for the UK.
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TOP 1000 REVIEWERon 7 November 2015
This book is meant to give martial artists an understanding of the unpleasant aftermaths of using violence such as getting thrown in jail and revenge attacks. I find it hard to summarise this book as it has so many good points, but here goes.

The difference between fighting (eg step outside and let's settle this like men) which is illegal and self defence is important:
"Learn the following and never forget it: Your words and actions before, during, and after an incident will be gone over with a microscope as officials seek misconduct. And the raw truth is they don't usually have to look that hard. Way too many people believe they act in self-defense when they are—in fact—fighting. And that is where most people don't just step on their d***s, but pogo stick on them. While self-defense is legally justifiable, fighting is illegal. So, too, is a one-sided assault. As is excessive force and other similar procedures. Those actions, not that they defended themselves, are what get people into trouble. After crossing certain lines what people did is not legal self-defense, but illegal violence. That is the crime they are confessing to when they claim self-defense."

The legal concept of reasonable force is incredibly important, for example MMA style ground and pounding someone or stomping a downed opponent are both illegal in most situations because once the opponent is down/mounted they are no longer a serious threat:
"The ignorance about the limitations of self-defense is appalling. It's bad enough when it's yahoos on the Internet spreading the misinformation. It's more terrifying when it's from a so-called self-defense instructor. Things like teaching a neck break from behind on a downed and helpless opponent. (When he saw my horrified expression, the Tae Kwan Do instructor explained the move was “only for self-defense.”) Or teaching you to pull a knife and stab a downed opponent to finish him. And of course, always shoot him to the ground. These little excursions into manslaughter convictions are if not cavalierly then casually taught. Mere details to finish the job as it were."

"These different elements are commonly overlooked aspects of self-defense training. This is dangerous because teaching just the physical part is like giving you a high performance car without teaching you how to drive or an understanding of traffic laws. Mixing it with ideology and pop psychology is like giving people whiskey before handing them the car keys."

"A raw reality here, folks, if you have to act in self-defense, life as you know it is over! But here's the counterpoint: If you don't act, life—as you know it—is still over. Finding yourself in a self-defense situation is simple: All your options suck. You need to embrace the suck. If you act, you're going to do horrible, hurtful things to another person. If you don't, those horrible hurtful things are going to be done to you. You're damned if you do. You're damned if you don't.

But you'll be doubly damned if you didn't act within self-defense boundaries. And this is why we're going to spend so much time on:

1. Understanding violent situations
2. Knowing what subconscious processes get us into them
3. Staying out of these situations in the first place
4. Staying within self-defense parameters
5. Understanding and coping with the aftermath.

Believe me, it's still going to suck, but at least it won't kill you. Or put you in prison. Like I said, pick your poison. And yes, this book is an antidote. It will help you to survive choosing the self-defense poison. But just because an antidote will keep you from dying doesn't mean the process isn't going to be a rough ride. Knowing that self-defense is like drinking the least toxic poison will go a long way to keep you out of unnecessary situations."

The way the brain is built (with lizard brain, monkey brain and human brain) is important to understand. In violent situations the human brain shuts down, leave only monkey and lizard, the stupid monkey brain is obsessed with saving face and must win, but fortunately lizard has no problem running away.
"Many amateurs who claim self-defense have fallen into this very trap. They get caught up in this monkey-brain game of escalato (what Rory Miller calls “the Monkey Dance”). While busy attacking each other, they both are convinced they are 'defending themselves' from the unprovoked aggression of the other person. What's scary is how people go speeding down this road and then are shocked that things went physical. Really? Where did you think behaving this way was going to end up?

But the monkey doesn't believe that. In fact, the monkey is protecting something it considers much more important—feelings. The importance of this goal blinds it to all other considerations. An excited, out-of-control monkey protecting itself sees no problem with going to extremes. So, here is something else to write on the wall: Overwhelmingly, physical violence is about someone's feelings. That is a simple but profound truth. And that truth remembered in the heat of the moment can save your life. Not just in the sense of keeping you from getting killed or crippled, but out of prison. Violence committed over feelings is categorically illegal. If you fall into this trap, what you're doing isn't self-defense, it's a crime."

"This is why there is no one-size-fits-all response. That's another scrawl-it-on-the-wall note to self. Here's why: What works with one is a disaster in others. There is a time for empty-hand techniques, there's a time for weapons. There is a time for bone-breaking combatives, and there's a time for grappling, submission, and control. There's a time for fighting, and there's a time you have to kill someone quickly and effectively. (Not only before he or she kills you, but so he or she can't take you with them.) Some violence can be resolved through words, some by use of force, and other types by running like hell."

"Your behavior must be consistent with any actions culminating in self-defense. If you act strategically beforehand, you're going to have an easier time explaining to the cops why what you did really was self-defense. For example, communicating you didn’t want trouble combined with a good faith effort to withdraw, but he followed you. You did everything in your power to steer clear of it, and you can truthfully articulate what you did to avoid a physical confrontation."

Anybody interested in martial arts or legal use of force must be aware of the topics covered in this book, I think it is ridiculous that the martial arts do not include this kind of information making this book a must read to fill in the gaps of your martial arts training.
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on 2 June 2015
Good sound advice. I live in the UK so maybe a slightly different complexion on things here but the core information is 100% solid. I recently spent some time in court (only on jury duty) and even then I can assure you that one solid-gold take-it-to the-bank piece of advice that holds true on both sides of the pond is you do NOT want to get into the meatgrinder that is the legal system.
Some martial artists may be offended by Marc's raining on their parade of ninja awesomeness. I would urge you - as I am right now - to question your training and consider both pros and cons to what is learned and why. Any MA worth its salt should encourage that but this stuff is beyond arts and systems. Real insights into true self-defence as in defence of the self. This is not a 'how-to' book but deals in Big Ideas and is more useful for it - I would recommend to anyone as it could provide so much help - martial artists, hot-headed young men, complete novices. The information here works for everybody. IMO - it goes beyond just self-defence and into understand ng certain aspects of the human condition which help with any level of conflict.
Intelligent, insightful and truthful (sometimes hard to take but that's good) - take it from one who knows. That's Marc not me.
UPDATE - Marc advises you should read the book a second time after letting the ideas percolate for a while. I have done just that and it is a keeper. One of those books which deals with the deeper truths around conflict, aggression etc. What you have here is a very smart and knowledgeable man offering his hard-won advice. Take it.
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on 28 August 2014
I am now over half way through this, taking Marc's advice to read it slow, then read it again. Marc has served up a fascinating menu of ideas and concepts based on a lifetimes experience and learning and it is served up in a way that the more you consume the more you want. This is a big work in many ways and deserves to be digested slowly, trust me there are more tasty morsels of knowledge in this book than I can think of food analogies. So i will be recommending this to all my self defence/martial arts colleagues, students and friends as a must read. Engaging, entertaining and very MacYoung.
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on 26 December 2014
Still reading the book - it's not that it's not an easy read but it should be read and absorbed not rushed through. Great writing from someone who has been there.
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on 8 August 2015
Great book both for those interested in self defence and human interaction in general.
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on 4 December 2016
Very insightful, thanks Marc sharing your experience.
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on 3 September 2014
Excellent. Highly recommended.
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on 25 July 2015
not my order????
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