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.

My copy is heavily tabbed and footnoted. This is a book to study, not just read.

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.

Flipping through VoM

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.

*The views and opinions expressed on this website are solely those of the original authors and contributors. These views and opinions do not necessarily represent those of Spotter Up Magazine, the administrative staff, and/or any/all contributors to this site.

By Will Rodriguez

Will served over 20 years as an Infantry officer in Europe, the Middle East, Korea and Latin America. He led units from 40 to 1000 soldiers and has extensive experience/schooling in both light and mechanized warfare to include combat. His eclectic career includes serving with US and allied forces as well as the schoolhouse and the future force in a BattleLab. He holds a Nationals Security Degree from West Point and a Masters in Counseling & Leadership. He Co-founded W2 Training & Firearms (W2TF), a personal security consulting and training firm training approximately 500 - 600 students monthly. Will has over 500 hours of firearm, personal security, crime prevention and trauma medical training. Those instructor ratings including multiple NRA Pistol certs, Rangemaster Certification, Sage Dynamics Red Dot Sight and ALiCE Active Shooter Instructor. After Parkland, Willl served an Armed Safe School Officer with the Broward County Public School District protecting 1200 students and faculty against the Active Shooter threat Master Artisan and owner of The Soldier’s Place a military décor business. His work is featured in the National Infantry Museum, the Headquarters of the Special Forces Advanced Reconnaissance, Target Analysis, and Exploitation Techniques Course, 3rd Battalion 75th Ranger Regiment and Special Operations Command. Will is the Senior Editor, Writer and creator of His writing on military/foreign affairs and personal security issues has been published in Infantry Magazine,,, RE Factor Tactical He has been a frequent guest on the Wilkow Majority radio show. Will Rodriguez was born and raised in a very tough neighborhood in Brooklyn ranked number one in arson and in the top five for homicide and is extremely grateful for the opportunities he’s been blessed with. He is married to his best friend and biggest blessing. They have six furry four-legged children.

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