In the Name of Self Defense

Written by Greg Ellifritz

Topics: Book Reviews

  • SumoMe


Anyone who has studied the science of self protection for a long time will recognize the name Marc “The Animal” MacYoung.  I first started reading MacYoung’s books when I was in high school.  Back in the late 1980s, he was one of the few authors who wrote about real life street combat and the psychology of personal protection.  MacYoung’s catalog of books (including titles like Street E&E, Violence, Blunders and Fractured Jaws, and A Professional’s Guide to Ending Violence Quickly) is legendary.


I’m happy to see that Marc has published some new books in the last couple years.  I recently read In the Name of Self Defense, an epic tome containing nearly 500 pages of hard-won wisdom.


The book’s description is as follows:


“The cell walls seem to close in as he buries his head in his hands. The same thoughts repeat over and over in his fogged mind: It all happened so quick. One second I was getting out of my car, the next he was attacking me. Now I’m being charged with manslaughter! How did this happen? It was self defense . . . wasn’t it?


Prison is filled with people who thought they were defending themselves. Just saying, “It was self defense” isn’t enough. When you claim self defense you are basically confessing to a crime. To keep you from being convicted you must provide evidence your actions remained within certain boundaries and you acted with just cause. That’s assuming you stayed inside legal boundaries and acted within reason. If you didn’t . . .


Now . . . are you sure you know what constitutes actual self defense? If the honest answer is no, then this book is an absolute must-read!


In the Name of Self Defense: What It Costs. When It’s Worth It. will challenge what you think you know about self defense. It’s an in-depth exploration of what is and what is not self-defense. Both in the streets and in the eyes of our judicial system—and where most people go wrong. Using the information contained in this book could mean the difference between you laying in a parking lot, legitimate self-defense or prison!


This book presents information unlike any you’ve seen before, focusing not only on the aftermath of an incident, but on what commonly leads to violence and your actions before, during, and after. Learn about the limitations of real self defense, how to accurately assess a situation and concisely “articulate” the timeline of events to officers and legal professionals in a manner that reduces the chances of a misunderstanding . . . and a subsequent prison sentence.


Whether you want to add to the knowledge you acquired as a beginner in a self-defense class or you’re an instructor looking to further your own knowledge or a professional whose job requirements place you in potentially violent situations with dissatisfied clients or customers . . . it doesn’t matter! In the Name of Self Defense is a must-read for everybody! If you’re lucky, you will never need the information contained within these pages, but if you ever require it what you learn from this volume will be vital.


Author and self-defense expert Marc MacYoung takes you on an entertaining journey through these lesser known (and some never-before-broached) aspects of self defense. MacYoung helps readers understand how to avoid violence, how to use the appropriate amount of force if it happens, and how to present the facts in a way that self defense is clearly understood and judged applicable to that situation. With a witty sense of humor and fifty years experience in a plethora of violent encounters coupled with a montage of experts in his corner, MacYoung delivers a thought-provoking examination of the world of self defense and protecting yourself legally after being forced to protect yourself physically. “


The book lives up to the claims made in the description.  It is a book that belongs on the bookshelf of anyone who studies the art of violence.


It contains chapters on such diverse topics as the cause of violence, pre-attack indicators, social violence, legal considerations for self defense, interacting with your attorney, dealing with the police, and the difference between resource and process predators.  Basically, it is a guideline for avoiding violence and dealing with its aftermath if your avoidance and de-escalation is unsuccessful.


It’s difficult to summarize a 500 page book in a single article.  Instead of doing that, I’ll share some quotes from the book that I found exceptionally useful.  I hope you’ll find them valuable as well:


On the reality of violence-

“No matter what level of force you use someone is going to feel you were wrong in doing so. If it fails to protect you, the unhappy person is you. If it works, the other person will be unhappy. If it really works, the family of the other person, the cops, the prosecutor, and the civil attorney for the family will all be unhappy. In fact, they’ll be lining up to show you how unhappy they are with your choice.”


“For millions of years, they have been an everyday part of human existence and consciousness. Humans knew how to conduct themselves accordingly. By making them taboo, we’ve lost that knowledge. We no longer learn the process. It’s not only that we don’t know how conflict and violence work nor is it that we don’t know the rules. We don’t even know there are rules. In our ignorance, we unwittingly break them. Then we’re shocked, appalled, confused, and self-righteous when things go south.”


“Most people are nice. They follow the rules, they try and get along. This is a good thing. It makes the world a better place. But… Nice people fall to the manipulator. The manipulator crumbles under the assertive. (I know what you’re doing, knock it off!) The assertive shrinks before the aggressive (barking, howling, drooling in your face). The aggressive have no plan for the assaultive (decks someone). The assaultive are unprepared for the homicidal.”


“Until you:

Develop the ability to take a hit without having an emotional melt down
Have firsthand experience that you can be struck, and it won’t ‘destroy’ you
Don’t get all trauma-drama-esque and ‘triggered’ over having been hit in your past
Get over your fear of being struck
You: Have no baseline to accurately assess danger
Are likely to freak out and emotionally overreact when confronted
More likely to get furious and overreact to the insult of being struck rather than the actual danger
Will attempt to negotiate and de-escalate from a position of fear
Will attempt to deal with the situation from a position of overconfidence
Will be reacting to past events instead of what is happening now.”


“Now, restating five significant elements of violence: Violence is a collective set of behaviors. Violence provokes violence. Violence usually comes with instructions on how to avoid it (warnings). Experienced people—who knowingly use violence—know it can be used right back against them. Inexperienced people are overcommitted.”


On avoiding “social violence”:

“It’s amazing how well not breaking social rules can keep you from being involved in a violent situation (especially if you think those social conventions are stupid). The same goes for not insisting on your rights (especially rights regarding breaking local rules or misbehaving). It’s even more impressive how not insulting, belittling, or looking at people like they’re dog turds can keep you out of conflict and violence. This should be a no brainer.”


“Your survival isn’t based on how much of a bad ass you are, but how well you can keep from irritating the wrong people.”


“Point one: The majority of violence that occurs between humans is social. Point two: Violence between strangers is rare. Generally, it’s between people who know each other. The most common form of violence between strangers is over territorial transgressions. (Managing these two greatly reduces your risk of being involved in a physically violent situation.) Point three: Generally, social violence is not intended to be lethal. Nor is it intended to be injurious. Usually it’s about inflicting pain. (You don’t want to kill or injure your own tribe members because it weakens the group.) Point four: Although it has served our species for millions of years in our modern world, social violence is hideously misunderstood. Point five: Social violence is usually very emotional and monkey brain driven. Since we are designed to emotionally infect each other, it takes practice and experience to be able to see the details.”



Pre- assault indicators:

“A lot of people self-sooth by verbally attacking others. This is their default reaction to unacceptable emotions. They vocally lash out in response to something that caused them emotional distress.”


“The pale person is closer to action than the red-faced one. At the beginning of the attack, there is a lowering of the jaw to protect the throat and to present the armored parts of the skull in anticipation of counter force. Shoulders rise to protect the neck. Eyes narrow to protect them. These all come from the lizard brain, and we’re not aware we’re doing them. So when the guy is in attack range and they all happen within two seconds… whup here we go!”


“Change of voice—Three main options: 1) shouting, yelling, and screaming (common monkey threats) or 2) condemning, hostile and contemptuous tone or 3) lowering of the voice, making it growly or more monotone or some unique combination specific to that person.


“Change of word choice—This especially applies to insults, slurs, belittling terms, and (if you know the person) use of acknowledged hot button words. Profanity is a common sign of escalating hostility, anger, and contempt. The question is whether the profanity is used for emphasis (“what the fuck is going on here?”) or in a personal attack (“what the fuck is wrong with you?”) One is the sign of anger, the other of directed hostility. “


“Speech cadence or word emphasis—Speech either speeds up or slows down (“WhattheHELL is happening here?” versus “What. The. Hell. is happening here?”)


Facial grimaces or expressions—Frowns, open-mouth snarls or barking expressions, narrowed eyes, bug eyes, pursed lips, thin lips, flaring nostrils, beetled brows, and similar facial contortions are the most obvious. With others, however, flat, deadpan, deliberately neutral are the warning signs particularly with those people experienced with committing violence.”


“Lean—The person either leans forward (toward you) or rocks back in a specific way. Don’t mistake this backward lean for running, backing away, an “I’m submitting” signal, or any indication he is scared of you. There’s a certain form of rockin’ back that is him winding up. (If you don’t get out of his face, he’s going to hit you so hard you’ll get a speeding ticket in El Paso, Texas.)”


“Aborted lunge—This is a common strategy among the young and inexperienced. It’s also a great way to get shot if the person takes you seriously. The lunge differs from the lean in that it is a sudden forward charge that stops or jerks back before it becomes a fully committed attack. Often it is done with just the upper body and without the feet moving. This is an intimidation tactic, pure and simple. When done outside attack range, it is a threat display, but it’s also often used as an interview technique (to see how you react) and part of a build-up to an attack (he creeps closer with each lunge).”


“Baton gestures— A baton gesture is when you use a limb or finger like a conductor’s baton or drumstick. Most baton gestures are not threat displays, they are enhancements and exaggerations. They’re used more for emphasis or direction. In this context, they’re mostly with just the hands and arms. Baton gestures turn into threat displays when they begin to mimic a club rather than a baton—commonly fast, wild swings, and gesticulation with the entire arm.”


“Hands disappear from sight: If in certain circumstances someone’s hand drifts from sight, you call him on it. You do it in a way that communicates if he doesn’t bring that hand slowly back into sight extreme violence is imminent.”



On Predatory Movement Patterns:

“Anytime you see two people positioned so you have to walk between them—be careful. As in there are no macho points lost for turning around and leaving—instead of putting your (name a tender part) into a vice.”


“There used to be four, but I’ve changed it so there are five types of positioning: closing , surrounding, pincer, cornering, or trapping , surprise.”


“Here’s a hint: if you change direction, and he attempts to re-establish an intercept course, that’s—again—an articulable danger sign and removes doubt about the need for force.”


“There are forms of closing and trapping what I call the reverse or lopsided pincer. These are real common in areas where there is limited mobility, like apartment laundry rooms, convenience stores and Laundromats. A reverse pincer is when two guys come into a place through the main entrance, and one hangs back at the door. This is categorically a bad sign. That guy at the entrance is there both to keep people out and to stop you if you try to bolt. If there’s only one entrance, the mobile douche-nozzle will approach you directly.


You’re not inside a pincer, you’re outside it. A lopsided pincer happens when there’s a back door. Often the mobile guy will swing wide, pass you to get between you and the back door then hook around and come at you from the other direction. With this, you’re trapped in both a one-sided pincer and against walls or other large surfaces.”



The book continues with thousands of valuable tidbits like the quotes I’ve shared above.  I don’t want to give all of Marc’s stuff away, so I’ll just say that in every single chapter I learned something new….and I’ve been teaching these concepts professionally for more than 20 years.  My personal notes on the book took up 12 single-spaced pages.


If reading the quotes above doesn’t make it self-evident that this book offers some serious value, I don’t know what more I can do to sell it.  The book is a gold mine of information on topics you won’t see written about in many other places.


Spend the $7.99 and pick up a copy.  You won’t be disappointed.


In the Name of Self Defense is available at your local book store or at


If you would like to read some more good books, check out my book recommendation page.





*Financial Disclosure- I purchased this book with my own money.  The author has not provided me any compensation in exchange for this review.  It’s a good book and I think my followers would benefit from reading it.  The links above are Amazon affiliate links.  If you purchase the book through one of my links, I receive a small percentage of the sale as a commission.  If you support my work, this is a great way to provide a financial contribution to allow me to review more books in the future without paying a single cent out of your own pocket.

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