Int. # 3: Inside the Heart of Tim Larkin

Posted: May 20, 2015
Larkin headshot

So for the past 25 years I’ve instructed people on the realities of dealing with imminent violence. My system is called Target Focus Training. The client list has included everyone from the elites of the military and law enforcement community, celebrities, CEO’s, and great people in over 52 countries.

I have an instructor cadre of 48 instructors (10 Master Instructors) and we offer seminars worldwide. My HQ is in Las Vegas and we operate another full time facility in San Diego.

I’m a father of four (20 year old son, 4 year old son, twin 20 month old daughters) and my wife is a LT on Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Dept.
I want to thank Richard for this interview because these questions are very different than the run of the mill media questions I usually answer. I take what I do seriously but never have made the mistake of taking myself seriously and with that in mind here are my answers.


 Q 1. What significant change(s) on a human level, have you gone through over the last decade in direct relation to your work and how has it, if any, changed the way in which you teach/instruct?

The biggest change that I’ve gone through is that I’ve become a much better communicator on the subject of violence.

I realize the vast majority of the clients don’t necessarily want to do long-term training nor do they actually want to be good at “self-defense”.

Most people come to me because they don’t have an understanding of violence and how it pertains to them personally and how to navigate the subject.

This is a big departure from my early career where the focus was on producing “badasses” and exclusively focusing on military/ law-enforcement units and hard-core practitioners.

I still love to train those groups/individuals but I’ve found that they’ll still seek me out whereas the people that truly need the basic information rarely will so I’ve availed myself to speaking in other non traditional arenas where I reach people that wouldn’t necessarily seek out a self-defense instructor for information on how to live a safer life.

This change came about after 9/11 when I received more inquiries from general population groups and associations. I was challenged on how to craft the message so they hear me rather than dismiss the message as too aggressive. It made me a better communicator and forced me to re-think how to introduce the subject of self protection.

Q 2. Is there a particular incident/occurrence/situation you recall having directly experienced/been involved in that has deeply & emotionally touched and/or altered you and your perceptions of the world in general?

I wouldn’t say there’s a particular incident but the fact that I have traveled worldwide since I was a small child gives me a different perspective on the human condition.

It’s gonna sound like the negative take but I operate with the idea that everybody is just three days away from killing each other.

What I mean by that is if you take away access to water from a group in three days you are gonna see a vast difference in how humans interact with each other. I just like to keep that in the back of mind whenever I’m operating in society.

Probably sounds like an extreme attitude but I found it to keep me very polite and very aware

Q 3. Have you ever thought of quitting the game altogether? If yes, why? And if you were to at this stage in your life (today) do something entirely different, what would it be?

Sure there have been many times that I’ve thought that I would leave the industry. Sometimes it was because of better financial opportunities in other fields, sometimes because of difficulties with partners in the business.

I think if I was to leave I would still find a way to teach a subject that I’m passionate about.  I really enjoy the challenge of becoming a subject matter expert and then sharing that knowledge with others.

Q 4. Do you feel you were proverbially ‘born’ to do what you do, that this was your calling? Is there perhaps another thing you wish you would have done instead, or believe you are just as good at and should have perhaps explored instead?

I definitely think I was born (sounds hokey but I’ll stick with “born”) to teach people.

This subject matter was something, since I was a small boy, that fascinated me so it’s not a surprise to me that I ended up in this field.

I can’t really think of another subject that I’m as comfortable with or more passionate about that I wish I had explored more.

I feel pretty comfortable that this is an easy area for me to share my talents of communication. It has never felt like work for me.

Q 5. How has your work affected your personal life in regards to the relationships with those outside our field/profession? (Professional, personal, familial, romantic, etc.)

Well my career has cost me two divorces and numerous other personal relationships due to my travel schedule and passion to get out and share the material.

Most people couldn’t understand why I was so devoted to training and the fact that I would be gone for months at a time in various parts of the world training what they saw as merely punching and kicking.

I have to admit that I wasn’t the best at attempting to enlighten those around me about what I did.

I had more the attitude if they couldn’t figure it out it wasn’t worth communicating to them. In hindsight I probably should’ve had more patience in attempting to communicate this to those around me but honestly I don’t think it would’ve made a difference in how those relationships turned out.

Q 6. Do you have any regrets at all? If yes, which is the one that haunts you the most?

My regrets come from the fact that throughout my life and career I’ve had opportunities to receive training and enlightenment from some incredible people and enjoy amazing places but because I was so single-minded in my career I often missed out on taking advantage of those incredible opportunities.

I think this is a common pattern in driven type A personalities to sometimes not stop and smell the roses and I certainly have been guilty of that in the past.

Q 7. What are your proudest moments/achievements in both your private and professional lives?

As young intel officer in the late 80s early 90s I participated in some incredible operations and worked with units that I really didn’t deserve to be part of.To this day I still have great relationships as a result of those years.

Professionally in 2002 I presented in Prague to a group which included the recent former head of MI6.

After the presentation he took me aside and told me was the finest presentation he’d ever seen on hand to hand combat and opened some doors for me after that event that were professionally incredible.

Since that time I’ve had multiple magazine covers a New York Times bestseller, lots of media accolades etc…yet nothing has outdone that conversation I had in Prague.

Q 8. How do your friends and family outside the industry/self defense/martial arts world view what you do for a living? What are your thoughts and feelings about it?

Until recently I’ve been a bit of an embarrassment for my mom and dad as they couldn’t understand why I never used my degree in international business to get a real career.

I always laugh thinking of the 52 countries that I presented in, numerous corporations that I worked with as well as other business professionals yet my mom sees me basically as a punching and kicking specialist.

That is hard for her to compete with in her social circles since her friends have kids who are Drs and lawyers. So she loses those bragging rights.

My friends mostly misunderstand what I do and usually talk about me in tough guy terms or joke with me about being a “killer”. I like it this way because the majority of my friends don’t participate in self-defense training.

I have many friends who are entrepreneurs in other fields and I’m able to have a relationship with them and talk about things that have nothing to do with my subject matter.

I find this to be essential for me to stay grounded.

Q 9. How often do you find yourself going against what you preach and teach, after all, we’re all human, we all have our ‘bad days’ and the like; and how often are you aware of it enough in the present moment to catch yourself do you think?

I’m definitely a very flawed individual and there are many times I catch myself going against what I teach.

Often times it has to do with daily meditation other times it has to do with how I responded to antisocial aggression behavior. I humbly recognize that it’s much easier “to do as I say” and hopefully ignore “do as I do”.

But I think this is a very human condition and I’m okay with it because I don’t delude myself that I don’t violate on my own teachings and I do catch myself in the act. That last part is the important bit.

Q 10. What now? Where do you go from here? Where do you see yourself in 10, 20 years both on a personal and professional level?

At this stage in my career I’m really trying to leverage my audience so I’m focusing the majority my time on writing books, doing presentations in front of large audiences and really trying to get my message out.

So this is taking me away from small group trainings which of been the focus of the past 25 years of my career.

What I found now is that I can share my message and make much bigger impact if I focus on using technology and media to reach as many people as possible.

This doesn’t mean that I don’t still train…I do and I still find it to be my favorite way to spend time with clients.

My personal journey changed in that I’m okay handing over some of the day-to-day reigns to my senior people which frees me up to do the larger projects. It is been a hard transition for me to delegate some of those responsibilities as I am a perfectionist.

But I really enjoy the opportunity to expand the audience who can hear my message.

I have other business interests that don’t require as much of my time and they are fun. But for the next 20 years I think in some way shape or form I will still be communicating the message of self protection in some format as I really enjoy it and I enjoy the challenge of continuing to be relevant in the industry.

So the easiest way to hear more about how I look at the things would be via my recent TEDx talk which really covers how I look at the subject of violence.  View it now at this link “Paradox Of Violence”.

To find out more about me or my system here is the link: Target Focus Training

Once again thanks to Richard for letting me speak to his audience and I hope he’ll let me return the favor in the near future.