by Johnny Pain

I recently received an email from a coaching client regarding my last two posts “The Fallacy of Self Defense”, and “Self Defense and the Pooper Scooper”. He thoroughly enjoyed both bits of writing, but it sparked a concern that he had with regards to the information presented. Below is a paraphrased version of his concern. I’ve chosen to respond in article form since the concern is one that is shared by many.

“I’ve never been an aggressive person. I was a wrestler in high school, but viewed it more as an activity, not a competition. I never had the same aggression that others seemed to have. I’m concerned that my lack of an aggressive nature could prevent me from doing the types of things that you talk about in your articles”.


Well B, I think that I can help you here.

It is certainly true that some people are more proactive, aggressive, and just plain alpha than others. These people certainly find it simpler to fathom acting in an asocially violent situation. This does not mean that you are screwed if you are not like them, not at all.

In order to understand why this natural aggression is not necessary, you must first understand the nature of the type of conflict that we are talking about. When you find yourself in a situation that warrants the type of action that we teach, you will have no questions as to whether or not a response is warranted. We’re talking about a kill or be killed scenario. There are no other options.

You’re not going to be diplomatic; you’re not going to be able to work the “issue” out with social skills. You just won’t have that option, and it will be very apparent.

Now let’s look at how we remove the fear from the individual, and replace it with a comforting feeling of capability.

Understand that when we are faced with violence, it is a much different situation than being challenged to a “fight” in the traditional sense. It is not a competition of any sort, and thinking of it in that manner can be a one-way ticket to the intensive care unit, or worse.

Imagine a big, strong, well-muscled mixed martial arts fighter standing before you. He has an icy glare in his eyes, and is telling you that he wants to pound your face in.

If you think of this situation in the context of competing with him, this situation could be terrifying. Unless you are similar in size, strength, and skill, it would most likely not fare well for you.

What is important to understand is that when dealing with real violence, we are not interested in competing with anyone on any level. Imagine the same fighter now after being sprayed in the eyes with a strong pepper spray, and busted in the knee with a baseball bat by two bystanders. He’s blinded and having difficulty breathing, and his knee is busted. Do you now feel the same doubts about your ability to “finish him”.

Of course you wouldn’t.

Why? Simple, because he is an injured man.

What we teach people to do is cause injures; traumatic injuries that disrupt the body’s ability to function, and force them to react to the trauma.

We reverse engineer the attack from the trauma that we are intent on causing the other person. We understand the pathology of the trauma. We know exactly what we are doing with regards to disrupting this person’s ability to function, and we know exactly what he will look like when he receives the trauma.

Do this for me right now, stand up, close your eyes, and imagine that a grown man has just stepped in and shin kicked you with all of his might directly in your groin. What is your body doing at that point?

If you bent your knees, brought your hands to your groin, bent at the waist, and opened your mouth, as you undoubtedly did, you’re exactly right. Now imagine that the same man has capitalized on the fact that you were forced to deal with this injury (not because of pain, but because of the spinal reflex that occurs with response to trauma) and stomped on your ankle just above the lateral malleolus (the ball on the outside of the ankle). Now that you’re crumpled up from the groin trauma, and the busted ankle, he steps over you and delivers a full power stomp onto the side of your neck, effectively causing a high cervical spine transection, and ending your life.

What do you imagine you would have been able to do once he caused the first injury?

If you said nothing, then you are right.

What about countering, blocking, defending yourself?

Not going to happen.

Why you ask? Because the man knew what his target was, injured it, and then struck another, and another creating a series of injuries that completely incapacitated you (in this case killing you).

Keep in mind that we are not talking about the type of non-specific trauma that occurs in MMA or boxing; punches to general areas of the body, kicks to the legs, etc. The human body is very resilient, particularly when conditioned to be more so, and can soak up a lot of punishment. What it cannot soak up is injury. Do a quick YouTube search for “MMA fouls” watch what happens when someone inadvertently gets poked in the eye, or catches an inside leg kick to the groin (while wearing groin protection). They are given as much time as needed to recover; the same fighter who soaked up several full power punches and kicks for several rounds from another professional fighter!

If you’re saying something like “Yeah but how do I land that kick on his groin, or that strike to X or Y target” then you are probably imagining a competition scenario where you are “squared off” or “dueling” with your opponent. Remember that we are not dealing with a situation like that. There is a need to remove the competitive thought process from violence, trust me; the other guy doesn’t have it. He’s not trying to compete; he’s trying to injure you badly.

I’ll give you another scenario.

Hypothetically speaking you’re to be locked in a room with another man and told that you must kill him in order to (insert whatever you feel would be a significant enough stimulus to compel you to do this). You’re given a claw hammer and the door is locked.

Are you fearful?

Are you confused about what you would do?

I’m guessing no, and I’m guessing that you imagine yourself attacking and bludgeoning the man in the head with the hammer until he stops moving.

Now, same situation except you’re not given a hammer.

Are you fearful?

Are you confused about what you would do?

For most readers, this change in context is a game changer. They now imagine themselves “squaring off” against this man, assuming some sort of fighting stance or at the very least putting their hands up in some preparatory, position in order to “fight” him.

What happened to bludgeoning him?

Where did that certainty go?

We removed the weapon, and all of the sudden we see the person fall into a “competition” mindset. Now he is approaching with trepidation, wary of what the other might do to him, feeling him out, and looking for opportunities to attack him.

How about fucking now?!

What is a hammer, and why does it make you a stone killer mentally as soon as it’s put in your hand?

What we do is teach you to be the guy with the hammer regardless of what is or is not in your hand. We teach you to operate with that same level of certainty and lack of doubt in any asocially violent situation.

Knowledge is power. Understand how to cause injury. Understand what happens to a man when they are injured, and understand what it takes to render someone non functional.

Act, get that first injury, and you own this man.

Trust me, the hang-ups about fear, and/or lack of aggression dissipate more rapidly than you could imagine once we get someone out on the mats. Once a student sees how simple injuring another human being is (who we are not looking to compete with, simply injure) and how easily the process is repeated while the person’s brain stem is dealing with their injury, their confidence in their ability to act in the face of violence skyrockets.

We don’t do punch, punch, kick, kick. We don’t look to match skill; we don’t care about the size or skill of the other guy. We simply care about getting that injury and repeating the process until he in non-functional.

Simply put, we aren’t concerned with losing because we are not playing the game.

The violent criminal certainly is not playing the game. He has no rules. He has no parameters in which he needs to act. He is focused and driven on his end. He’s willing to do whatever it takes to get what he wants.

We certainly are not going to allow the dregs of society to have that grossly unfair advantage over us. We have access to the tool of violence every bit as much as he does, and, with the type of education that we provide at the Greyskull Academy of Combat Sciences, can wield it far better than he could ever imagine.

Knowledge is power B, you don’t need to be a chest-thumping alpha, you just need to injure the man, rinse, and repeat until the desired level of incapacitation is achieved.



Johnny Pain is the man behind as well as the East Coast’s notorious Greyskull Barbell Club, the newly launched Greyskull Academy of Combat Sciences, and several other ventures. He is the author of several books on subjects pertaining to strength and conditioning. He can be found comically entertaining questions on his Q and A forum at or can be reached for consultations, training seminars, or speaking engagements at

Also, you can follow him on Twitter: @thejohnnypain



11 Responses

  1. Squatsfordinner?

    This is the stuff that’s always interested me the most since I’ve come to know you. The diet, training b2b stuff is all grade A material, but each time we hang out, learning this type of stuff/hearing the stories is by far the most appealing topic.

    Keep the articles coming, brother. Killing it right now.

    The dude.

    June 17, 2013 at 7:39 pm

    • Thanks Kevin.

      I appreciate the feedback. The response I’ve been receiving both publicly and privately regarding the recent content is awesome. It was a tough decision that I struggled with for some time, sharing this side of me with my SV audience who primarily knew me from the S&C world, but feedback like yours has convinced me that it is the right decision. I’ve commented to you privately before that despite my knowledge and experience in coaching and training others in the S&C and personal development worlds for which I’m known and recognized, that this subject is where my true passion has been since I first became exposed to the material that would influence this highly evolved practice as a teenager.

      I’m very excited to be showing the SV community this side of JP, and to be teaching publicly on a large scale now with the opening of the Greyskull ACS, and the release of the associated multimedia products. I absolutely will keep the information coming.

      Thanks again Kev, and I hope to see you and the others there in September.

      June 18, 2013 at 12:39 am

  2. Lauren

    I came home from my Muay Thai class this evening upset for this very reason. I was paired with and practicing combination with a guy who was punching and kicking me much harder than anyone else had in previous classes. I ended up walking off the mats to the bathroom to gather myself before anyone noticed. i was upset not because it physically hurt, but because I felt the same way this guy is describing his feelings and didn’t know how I’d be able to defend myself in a real threatening situation. It was scary. I feel like the type of training you describe is a necessity for me.

    June 17, 2013 at 11:22 pm

    • B

      What’s crazy is I’ve had similar training in the military and I feel until I’m in such a situation I would never know. I feel the aggression when I’m drunk and some guy starts crap with me but that’s silly stuff when compared to asocial violence. I am ready and willing to admit I grew up soft. But I’m sure JP would agree that its all about being hard to kill. Its better to be the aggressor than the victim.

      June 18, 2013 at 12:37 am

      • An instructor of mine used to say “The best way to survive a violent encounter is to be the one committing the act of violence”.

        Come see is in Sept B. Your uncertainties will vanish.

        June 18, 2013 at 12:46 am

  3. Nate

    Really liking this series of articles and timely as I’ve been thinking more and more about home defense since having kids.
    Since having kids when I’m out in public with them I go into kind of a state of mind where I’m way more aware of what is going on around me than normal. I call it my papa bear instincts and its a like flipping a subconscious switch where you all of a sudden I become hyper aware of our surroundings and possible dangers.

    June 18, 2013 at 6:16 pm

  4. Ed

    Hey JP,

    This is a great series of articles! Thanks for taking the time to open up about this and write all this great content for us!

    I have a question about “competing” against an attacker. I agree with what you say in this article, but doesn’t training and ability come into play at some point?

    If I have the mindset and control to act against an asocial attacker, but they have 15+ years of various fighting/combat experience, do i really stand much of a chance?

    I’m not asking to contradict you, but never having been in a life threatening situation against another person, I’m curious.


    June 22, 2013 at 7:03 pm

    • Good question Ed,

      Of course facing someone with 15 years of experience is less appealing than facing someone with zero experience. However, what you have to keep in mind is that at no point are we interested in “squaring off” with anyone and “fighting them”. You’re projecting a competition mindset onto a situation where it does not belong. Simply put, we don’t ever want to find out how good he is. We aren’t assuming any preparatory stance, we’re not doing anything that shows any intention of fighting the person, we are simply stepping in and causing one injury followed by anothe until the situation is remedied.

      A person with 15 years experience responds the same way to having their eyeball ruptured or to being struck in the lateral neck. We work everything from the point where the first injury takes place. Intent is all that is needed to injure someone. Violence of action is crucial. Remember, in the situation you presented the other guy will have more skill and would probably mop the floor with you if you opted to compete with him. If you’re fighting for your life, you absolutely do not want to let him show you how good he is.

      Just get that first injury and you own the man.

      June 22, 2013 at 7:14 pm

    • To add to my last reply,
      I always tell students on day one that they are more than capable of incapacitating me or any instructor if they simply cause one injury. Much like I have little chance of coming back in the fight if someone clocks me in the back of the head with a baseball bat and knocks me unconscious (which did happen to me at 19), I, like anyone else am unable to “soak up” injury. It doesn’t matter how good someone is, all that matters is that you cause that first injury.

      June 22, 2013 at 7:26 pm

  5. Ed

    JP – I get what you’re saying, and it makes complete sense. So it’s little do with skill and training, and everything to do with having an understanding of how inflict the first injury, and then continuing to inflict injuries.

    Are there any good books out there that cover anatomy from the perspective of inflicting an injury such as you talk about in your articles?

    Thanks Again,

    June 22, 2013 at 8:10 pm

    • Standby Ed,

      I’m working on the principles manual this week. The next two products after that are an empty hand targeting manua, which will have detailed information on the spinal reactions for each target, plus a serious degree of detail on the pathology of the injury, which will be followed by a similar work for edged weapons.

      After that I’ll be doing DVD/digital download products as well.

      Keep an eye out on SV, the references that you’re looking for are on their way.

      June 22, 2013 at 8:38 pm

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