For those who have not heard: Tim Larkin, the founder and lead trainer of Target Focus Training was banned from entering the United Kingdom. There's a bunch more links on the TFT page here, for those interested. As near as anyone can tell, the ban comes from the perception that what Larkin “teaches an extreme and violent form of self-defense that is unwelcome [in Britain].”(Rosie Cooper)
There's been a lot argument about whether or not the ban is fair, right, or whatever. I don't really feel like touching that. What I do want to do is use this as a springboard to talk about marketing, image, and what Tony Blauer refers to as Fight Three.
In the Personal Defense Readiness System, "Fight Three" is defined as "You vs. the (legal) system." It is a reminder to our students that violence has legal consequences, and that you can win a physical altercation and then go to jail for a very, very, long time. Like all fights, Fight Three can be won or lost in training, long before the fight (to paraphrase Muhammad Ali). In this particular case, Larkin seems to have lost Fight Three without there being any other fight. He lost it through his marketing.
Larkin's marketing has always been focused on how he prepares his students for the most dangerous, life-or-death situations by teaching them "Justified Lethal Force". He makes no bones about the fact that his training is designed to injure, cripple, or kill. Indeed, that's a big part of how he markets his system. I found it interesting that, when I went to his site today, he's turned the ban into a part of his marketing strategy...it's pretty clever.
But I think this should also serve as a warning to all martial artists, self-defense instructors, and combat athletes.
This is the power of marketing. This is the power of image. To create an image that is so fearful, so terrifying, that a government would decide that what you are teaching is to dangerous to even allow you into the country.
Think about that. They didn't say "Mr. Larkin, you can't teach here, but if you'd like to tour the Tower of London, there's tickets available." They said "Mr. Larkin, YOU CANNOT ENTER OUR COUNTRY." Larkin has joined a list that included a Hamas terrorist and a white supremacist. All because of the way in which he preaches and markets his system of self-defense.
I've met Larkin briefly. Never really "trained" with him. Got about an hour and a half of lecture. He seems like a decent enough guy. Sincere in his beliefs about his training methods. Probably has some good information. But his marketing and image hurt him here. He's clever enough to be turning it to his advantage, but it's still hurting him.
This ought to be a wake up call for the martial arts, self-defense, and combat athlete communities.
If you want to continue to promote yourselves as bad-ass thugs with no regard for other human beings, if you want to continue to share an image that makes you look like a human death machine, if you want to keep on proclaiming your disdain for societies rules and "weaklings" who make them...this will be the response.
Let us be conscious of the images we create, before they do us irrevocable harm.