There are a several seminal or “Must Read” books in the self-defense industry. De Becker’s “The Gift of Fear”, Samenow’s “Inside the Criminal Mind” and Grossman’s more recently controversial “On Killing” immediately come to mind. Varg Freeborn’s “Violence of Mind” definitely ranks among them. Serious students, practitioners and instructors must read this book or risk having an informational gap in their self-defense education.
I first met Varg Freeborn when I attended his eight-hour theory class. It was like drinking from a hose. What felt like two hours was an eight hour smorgasbord. My five pages of typed notes said different and my perspective on many subjects had changed or deepened.
Freeborn’s book is written in a very down to earth conversational tone yet covers deep and expansive concepts in twelve chapters ranging from mindset, to training, to knife fighting. This book changed my perspective on the sheepdog mentality and expanded my understanding of the criminal.
Varg’s firsthand, personal and extremely immersed experience with criminals and violence is reason enough to put this on your must-read list. Unlike most who write about this subject from a law enforcement perspective, Varg lived in it and suffered five years of incarceration for fighting for his life.
Read Violence of Mind and you will learn that criminals come in a variety of flavors. Some of the most often taught defensive approaches/techniques are useless or may even cause you to be a target. That was my number one take away. What defensive approaches/techniques? Am I leaving you hanging? Yes, and that’s why you need to read the book.
My one criticism is I wish Varg quantified his experience with criminals and what he considers top tier predators. Then again, the book is written from a largely experiential perspective vs. a clinical one.
The goodness doesn’t stop there. The book is full of common sense yet profound insights. My copy has about a dozen tabs and patching post it notes. Example, I was always fond of the sheepdog metaphor until Varg explained that unless you are military or law enforcement, that approach could lead you to a view of the world from the wrong side of the bars. Worse, that mindset could cause you to hurt that which you love the most.
Sheepdogs, serve a shepherd who doesn’t necessarily have his best interests at heart and works for scraps. Worse, he puts his life on the line for those that don’t like him and who he doesn’t really like. Applied to the human, is it always in one’s best interest to confront every attacker of others in the real world. One risks leaving one’s kids orphaned, a family destitute and/or oneself in jail for defending the wrong person. Varg’s metaphor of being the wolf protecting one’s pack is much better.
Violence of Mind delivers similar value in his treatment of developing one’s mission, the importance of concealment as a defensive tool and the realities of the knife as a defensive tool. As a student and instructor, I appreciated his breakdown on what constitutes quality training. As well as how to deliver it. Varg encapsulates several years of training theory into three or four chapters. The influence of Colonel John Boyd’s O.O.D.A. loop is unmistakable in several chapters.
Since I received my book at Varg’s defensive pistol class (take it!) I’ve read it three times. My copy has 12 tabs and every chapter has a one-page synopsis so I can go back and leverage the knowledge. While this book may not change your life it definitely will expand and deepen your knowledge and understanding of a plethora of self-defense concepts. Varg’s wisdom and knowledge is yet to be fully realized by the self-defense industry. Reading “Violence of Mind” can give you an important and real edge in practicing or teaching self-defense.
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