The Man Behind the Training of Navy SEALs, Special Ops & Civilians

Steve D Sims
4 min readJun 14, 2019


Tim Larkin is a best-selling author of How to Survive the Most Critical 5 Seconds of Your Life, and the New York Times bestselling book Surviving The Unthinkable.

He has trained more than 10,000 people in more than 50 countries in how to deal with imminent violence, including elite combat units, celebrities and high-status executives, law enforcement agencies, and high-net-worth families. In 2011, Black Belt Magazine named Larkin their “Self-Defense Instructor of the Year.”

Oh, and he’s also banned from entering the U.K.

“I’m a guy with over a 20-year history and not even a parking ticket when in the UK, and I was banned for travel as being a threat to society.”

This is because of Larkin’s unique take on self-defense.

He trains people to avoid violence wherever possible. Particularly when it comes to social aggression — frat guys fighting in a bar or someone flipping you off in traffic — this is avoidable. “De-escalate and live another day!” he asserts. Yet he also teaches that there are times when avoiding violence isn’t possible — a move that was not popular with U.K. Prime Minister, Theresa May.

“I like to say that violence is rarely the answer, but when it is, it is the only answer. To survive these you must render your attacker: incapacitated, unconscious, or dead.” While Larkin concedes that this can be deeply uncomfortable for people to consider, he’s aware that 70% of his students have survived an act of violence, and are under no illusions about the safety of the world.

Larkin is one of those people.

Navy SEALs training course

Born in Boston to an Irish family, Larkin learned from his environment the social status of being able to defend yourself. But the most impactful event of Larkins’ life was when he was 12. The son of a Navy officer, he and his brother would watch the Navy SEALs train and were adopted as junior mascots while the men trained.

“These guys early on taught me that they were training for a very different thing. You know, they weren’t training because somebody was bullying them or they had threats. They were training with the idea of how to effectively use violence to protect the country. It was really startling. I didn’t realize what an effect it had on me.”

So with the zeal of a young man pursuing a dream career, Larkin went on to ace SEAL training and might still be there if fate hadn’t had a different path in store for him. A catastrophic jump that Larkin was lucky to survive would change everything.

Told he’d never be an active agent again and moved to the Intelligence area of the SEALs, Larkin learned a wide-range of martial arts and hand-to-hand combat. He also took with him the life lesson that he has used to inform everything about how he handles the world.

“What was great was I was able to utilize probably the worst thing that ever happened to me into a compelling reason. Because I can tell you firsthand, being bigger, faster, and stronger does not protect you from being injured.”

Larkin developed a scheme that uses body weight — regardless of if it’s fat or muscle — as a way to help defend yourself.

“When you understand how to use the tool of violence, which is what I teach people to do, you understand that it’s available to everybody. You don’t have to be bigger, faster and stronger. And that’s the cool part about my message.”

To find out more about Tim Larkin, Target Focus Training, and his new book When Violence Is The Answer, visit his website.

Listen to Tim Larkin with Steve Sims on The Art of Making Things Happen

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