INTERVIEW WITH MARC “THE ANIMAL” MACYOUNG
by Seif Hammack
When it comes to fighting and self-defense there are a lot of pretenders out there but when you have an opportunity to talk with the real deal,you should take it. Marc “Animal” Macyoung is one such person and I recently had an opportunity to sit down with the “animal” himself and pick his brain about the manly and often mystified subject of fighting and self-defense.
SEIF HAMMACK: Hey Marc. Thanks for taking some time out to talk to us.
MARC MACYOUNG: No problem man. Glad to do it.
SEIF HAMMACK: You are seen as one of the founders of the self-defense reality, “been there done that,” genre along with other guys such as Peyton Quinn and Sammy Franco. I suppose the book I hear you most often associated with is Cheap Shots, Ambushes, and Other Lessons: A Down and Dirty Book on Street Fighting and Survival.
MARC MACYOUNG: Yeah, actually Paladin Press names my books and they always give them long titles. I usually have a short and simple title for my books and then they come up with one like that (laughing). Anyway, we were the guys, with actual experience, who came out and compared what we had to say against the martial arts trend. To this there is a good thing and bad thing: We literally changed the face of the martial arts. I mean you can’t find that much out there about awareness, avoidance, de-escalation, and other factors, now commonly preached, before 1989 or so when we started writing about them. Our stuff was immediately poopooed by the martial arts community. But over the years the students would read the books and the students that were white belts coming up on our stuff are now the black belts that are teaching. And they are teaching the stuff we talked about.
SEIF HAMMACK: That means it’s getting out there then.
MARC MACYOUNG: Oh Yeah. But a lot of the marketing Paladin does doesn’t reach the general public. So you get a lot of people who take our stuff and present it as their own. So that has been an issue: people poopoo our stuff and then they turn around and rip us off and present our material as their own. So it’s been an ongoing thing, but people still keep coming back and saying hey this stuff makes more sense than what these other guys are saying in these traditional schools. And the reason it makes sense is because that’s the way it works out there.
SEIF HAMMACK: Is it still a dojo mentality out there?
MARC MACYOUNG: Yeah. Literally what you are learning in the dojo is their whacked out interpretation of our information. So it is still very much a dojo environment. When it comes to most dojos I have a saying, which is “they have fantasy solutions to fantasy problems.” (laughing)
SEIF HAMMACK: Right (laughing).
MARC MACYOUNG: Fantasy is a one-dimensional representation of reality. It doesn’t have the full depth and width of reality. So when I talk about the “dojo fantasies” I’m not saying that they are making stuff up, but that they are trying to limit reality.
SEIF HAMMACK: It also appears that most of these instructors profess to have experience in fighting and self-defense when in fact, outside the dojo, they may have very little, if any.
MARC MACYOUNG: First of all there is a big difference between fighting and self-defense. The key element is that if you’re fighting you’re part of the problem.
SEIF HAMMACK: Okay, so if you are fighting then you are actually the aggressor?
MARC MACYOUNG: Or you’re an aggressor in a situation of two aggressors. In other words you’re being an asshole, and you’re being just as much of an asshole as the other guy. The thing about it is that self-defense is legal—fighting isn’t. Which means if you are found to be a participant in the escalation and development of a fight you are legally liable—they’ll bust your balls.
SEIF HAMMACK: So what you are saying is that you have the right to self-defense but if you are fighting then you are seen as someone who is out there looking for violence?
MARC MACYOUNG: Right. The cops usually arrest both participants after a fight. So a lot of what is sold as “self-defense” is actually training to fight. Now here’s the thing, a self-defense situation literally comes out of nowhere: it is a situation that you have not provoked, you’ve tried to avoid it, you’ve done all these things to keep it from happening and you’re still assaulted. Personally I can’t tell you how many times I would break up fights and one guy would act like he didn’t do anything to provoke it when in reality both guys were involved in the escalation of the whole thing. I mean that’s a fight. One guy is calling it self-defense, but the reality is that he was engaged in the escalation of this. So that is not self-defense, that’s a fight.
SEIF HAMMACK: And most people probably don’t know the difference.
MARC MACYOUNG: That’s right and if you don’t know the difference you can’t train for the difference.
SEIF HAMMACK: True. So lets take the average guy out there who lifts a lot of weights, maybe takes some martial arts classes or hits a heavy bag every now and then feeling pretty secure that he has what it takes to handle it out there. What’s wrong with that picture?
MARC MACYOUNG: (laughing) He’s dog meat. Fighting is kind of like playing football. You’re not going to play football without getting tackled. What a lot of people want to do with their martial arts is to go from the peewee leagues to the NFL. However, like football, the better you get the better the people you’re up against are going to be. You’re not going to be playing in the peewees anymore. You’ve stacked the deck and so has the other guy.
SEIF HAMMACK: Hmm. So do other skilled fighters instinctively pick you out because you’ve upped your skills?
MARC MACYOUNG: No. The punks are no longer a concern to you. But a lot of people make a mistake in moving up the ladder. They are dealing with the punks on a regular basis and they are buffaloing the punks. The punks take a look at them and back off. So they start walking around like they are the big dick in town and this delusion lasts until they meet somebody else of equal or greater skill. And they are out there. So these guys will be walking around huffing and puffing pushing away the little guys and all of a sudden they push someone their own size or they come up against a big dog.
SEIF HAMMACK: Right.
MARC MACYOUNG: Here’s the thing: if you are smart, the better at fighting you get the less fighting you’ll do. Because the better you get the less you want to do it. You realize that the people you are going to be up against are way good. There is an old saying that “when two tigers fight one dies and one’s injured.” So even if you win he’s going to get a piece out of you.
SEIF HAMMACK: It seems that grappling is the big thing these days. How good is grappling for self-defense?
MARC MACYOUNG: I meet up with a lot of grapplers. These guys are buff and rough—damn fine athletes. And I’m not trying to detract from their sport. But it is not self-defense. When I meet these guys they’ll sit there and talk about how “I’d do this and I’d do that,” and I say, “look, the size you are, the muscle you have, I’d just shoot your ass.” Inevitably, you can bank on this like the sunrise; they’ll look at me and ask, “Well what if you don’t have a gun?” To which I always respond, “Do you think I’m stupid enough to go up against you without stacking the deck in my favor? If I didn’t have a gun I wouldn’t be in your face.” They are literally betting their lives on the stupidity of the other guy. They’ve stacked the deck and they are forgetting that the other guy can stack it too.
SEIF HAMMACK: Right.
MARC MACYOUNG: When it comes to self-defense you’ve got to remember that that guy wouldn’t be there if he didn’t think he had something to give him a win. The thing about it is that there are many different ways of fighting and winning. He’s probably not going to fight your fight. I was in Germany teaching a seminar and I was facing this guy who was a grappler. His attitude was that every problem could be grappled: all I have is a hammer so everything looks like a nail. So he took me down—it was sweet. However he took me down next to a practice knife. So I casually reached over, picked up the knife, and slit his throat. But the people were sitting there, looking at me, saying “But he tackled you.” And I said “Yeah, so?” “But he tackled you.” I said “Yeah, but I slit his throat.”
SEIF HAMMACK: So they felt like since he had scored the takedown that made it a win for him.
MARC MACYOUNG: Yeah, but the truth of the matter is that if it were real I would have been the one going out for a drink and not him—actually I would have a shower first to get the blood off. So it really comes down to truth in advertising. Grappling is a sport. It’s a fine sport. It is not self-defense. That’s selling a hammer as a chainsaw—two totally different tools.
SEIF HAMMACK: So what does a person need to know about going to the ground in a real fight?
MARC MACYOUNG: Don’t. It’s a bad place. First of all do you know that in most states the shod human foot is considered a lethal weapon?
SEIF HAMMACK: I do now.
MARC MACYOUNG: If I kick somebody while he is standing he can roll away from it. It will hurt him but a lot of the force will be bled off. However, if the person is down on the ground, and I am stomping on him, there is no other place for the force to go but into his body. When you look at the uniform crime report you will see a very large number of deaths that occur from non-firearms and non-weapons. The majority of these deaths occur while the person is on the floor. He is stomped to death.
SEIF HAMMACK: Now that is pretty scary, especially for a grappler, because a grappler would tend to take the fight to the ground.
MARC MACYOUNG: You better believe it! Right, that’s his answer. It’s the “I have a hammer and everything is a nail” syndrome. People usually ask me, “Well what about a real fight?” Well every fight I have been in has been a real fight. The question is to what degree is it a fight? Grappling and submission holds do have their place in a real fight, but you have to ingrain it into your mind that it is for only when you don’t want to hurt the guy: someone’s drunk and getting out of line and you’ve got to sit on him. That is when you use grappling, when it is your job to control and contain somebody. That is when you use submission fighting.
SEIF HAMMACK: So why is it that grappling is generally seen as being so effective?
MARC MACYOUNG: The reason why grappling was so incredibly effective in the sports arena, at first, was because the Brazilians still remembered that submission grappling exists and it was like a national sport for them. But in the western hemisphere with the influence of boxing and distance fighting on the martial arts and their popularity over grappling we had forgotten that grappling exists and had forgotten how to defend against it.
SEIF HAMMACK: Hence the first 4 or 5 UFCs.
MARC MACYOUNG: Right. The Gracies just mopped the floor with everybody. But once people began to study this stuff they began to come up with counters. This is literally the history of warfare. People come up with stuff that works in battle and they start winning for awhile then other people look over it, study it, counter it, and then they start winning. It’s amazing how during this process of counter, counter, counter, something will be left behind and eventually someone will come back to it.
SEIF HAMMACK: Great observation.
MARC MACYOUNG: The northern sport fighter had forgotten about clinching. However, street fighters know about clinching. When you got two guys flying at each other to fight, they are going to clinch. They know about going to the ground. What they know about going to the ground is that you don’t want to do it. Because in the kind of places that I used to be it was entertainment to kick the shit out of people on the ground. Now in a nice place with only two people fighting it may be safe to go there. But if you do that in some of the places I used to hang out in everybody in the joint may decide to stomp you just for the fun of it.
SEIF HAMMACK: Nice crowd (laughing).
MARC MACYOUNG: (laughing) Oh yeah, very nice crowd. I mean you need to know how to function on the ground. I’m a firm believer in that. But you have to know where grappling works best and that’s when you don’t want to hurt the guy and in conditions where it is safe to go to the ground. If those conditions don’t exist don’t go there or if you do go there get up—stat. I’m not against grappling; I’m just for grappling in its proper place and knowing where it doesn’t work—where you may get your throat slit.
SEIF HAMMACK: Now I read that you were in an altercation where a guy mounted you and he was pummeling you and you bit his crotch.
MARC MACYOUNG: (laughing) Yeah, I tried to do a dismount throw to get him off—it didn’t work. So I had plan B, you know, his crotch was there, I bit him. See here’s the thing, a lot of people want to take fighting and put it into a martial arts box. The problem is you’ve got to put the box down to have your hands free in order to fight. If you’re so busy holding the box your hands are not free. I did what I needed to do to survive. That was a situation where things were not going my way. In a grappling scenario he was winning; in a sport situation he was winning; here’s the thing, in a sport situation there are rules. I wasn’t playing by any rules and no rules means any rules.
SEIF HAMMACK: Yeah, even Ultimate Fighting wouldn’t allow a bite to the crotch.
MARC MACYOUNG: The UFC will not be reality until the people coming into the arena don’t have to go through a metal detector. When that happens and you have step into the ring with five other dudes in there carrying weapons—that will be reality.
SEIF HAMMACK: But those UFC fighters are in pretty good fighting shape man—something has to be said for that.
MARC MACYOUNG: Physical conditioning is critical to military combat, due to the amount of terrain soldiers have to cover before they engage the enemy, and to competitive sports as well but for self-defense it isn’t.
SEIF HAMMACK: It isn’t? And why not?
MARC MACYOUNG: Because in a self-defense situation I’m not there to fight the guy, I’m there to end it. Now by “end it,” most people think I mean that I’m going to stick around and beat the guy up. No. It means I’m going to get the hell out of there. If somebody attacks me and I drop him like a prom dress am I going to stand there? Hell no, I’m going to leave. Because if I stay there he’s eventually going to get up. I can’t tell you how many people I’ve known who have been killed because they hung around a place after they’d been in a fight. The guy leaves and then comes back with a shotgun blowing the other guy off of the barstool.
SEIF HAMMACK: Good point. These are things that a sport fighter generally may not even consider.
MARC MACYOUNG: The mindset of a sport fighter is that his physical ability is in front of him like a bulldozer blade; it’s going to plow through the problem. That is a fighting mindset. A self-defense mindset is you’re using your fighting ability as a shield to cover your ass as you get out of there. Kind of like the way soldiers in Vietnam would sit on their helmets in a helicopter to keep from getting shot in the ass! So this is definite ass covering (laughing).
SEIF HAMMACK: That’s a big difference.
MARC MACYOUNG: That’s a huge difference. And it’s a mind set issue. You see most people are training to fight a “super punk”—the asshole that buffaloed them in school, but bigger. The problem with that is that the badasses are not super punks. They are something totally different. And the average person will not be able to recognize the difference between a punk and a badass and neither will the average martial artist. He’s so busy looking for who he thinks the badass is going to be that he’s not going to see the real one until the guy walks up and bites him on the ass.
SEIF HAMMACK: Sounds like a major blind spot.
MARC MACYOUNG: And remember a blind spot isn’t only an area you can’t see but you don’t know you can’t see it. There are some sneaky, evil, little bastards who are going to be looking at where you’re not covered and that is how they are going to come in.
SEIF HAMMACK: Now can a person train for both sport fighting and self-defense or would one hamper the other?
MARC MACYOUNG: You can train for both. But the thing about it is that training for true self-defense is not going to take you anywhere like perhaps a sport-fighting career will. The number one element about true self-defense is that you have to shift your priorities.
SEIF HAMMACK: So is it a mental adjustment or both a mental and physical adjustment?
MARC MACYOUNG: It’s both. But I would say the majority of it is mental. The mental shift is that everything you thought was so important a few seconds ago you have to throw out the window. You need to know what the final destination is and that is that you could be killed here. You keep that end in mind. You have to accept the fact that every time you step into a self-defense situation or a fight you could be killed. If that is not the option the other is that you may have to kill someone yourself. So every time you step into a conflict you have to ask “is this worth either dying or taking another human life over?” This, by the way, is not an encouragement of the mindset—it is a warning away, a buffer, a repellant.
SEIF HAMMACK: So do you have to keep that in mind with anybody—even the yuppie in the Volvo?
MARC MACYOUNG: Hell, I’ve been shot at by yuppies too. Yep. Anytime you get into conflict.
SEIF HAMMACK: So how do a sport fighter and/or grappler learn how to make his art more effective for the street?
MARC MACYOUNG: Look, if violence were a simple problem it would have been solved along time ago. If I look at a situation from one point of view only, then everything I’m going to see will be colored by that perception. If I’m looking at it from a sports standpoint and continually operate along those rules I’m going to see a self-defense situation through those eyes. If on the other hand I learn from other points of view—from cops, lawyers, street fighters, guys from other arts, and everybody who has experience dealing with violence from different perspectives—then I begin to see why there are no simple answers here. So it’s when you get out of that one-dimensional mindset that you start learning. Read books on criminal behavior. Reading about current trends in crime is good to. This is for self-defense, because you learn the ways you may be attacked. Most importantly if something you are doing doesn’t work to stop an attack find something from the outside that will patch it? Don’t insist that your training partner attacks you in a way that you can control or that fits your specific technique. Most people don’t train against real attacks they train against altered and controlled attacks so that they can defeat them. So have your training partner attack you in a realistic manner. It does not have to be fast but the power has to be there—there has to be contact. The tough man competitions are good because these guys oftentimes, especially in the qualifier rounds, will attack and fight like the average barroom brawler—the guys you meet in the streets. I mean if my moves are not capable of handling that force why should I practice them? When it comes to sport training half of it is useless in a self-defense situation. The question is which half? Once you figure out which moves work in the ring and which moves work on the street you have to sit down with everything you know, look at it, experiment with it, and then put it in a sports pile or self-defense pile. Those moves that you have discovered work very well for ending the situation—those you keep for self-defense. No matter what style you’re in you have to go through your own bag of tricks and evaluate them.
SEIF HAMMACK: So basically you do see a use for sport fighting.
MARC MACYOUNG: Absolutely. The problem is that there are people who promote sport fighting as self-defense so that they can make money—not for the benefit of the students. If all you are thinking about is having to fight some bubba in a bar then yeah you can get away with it, no problem. But the ocean is a whole lot bigger than just that little bay. And it’s a whole lot deeper and there are some nasty things out there. So I will never denigrate the value of sports training. But I will raise bloody hell when someone turns around and calls it self-defense or street fighting. There are some vicious little pricks out there, I know because I was one of them, who are not going to be playing fair and you will die if you think that is the case. It comes back again to “do you think I’m stupid enough to face you without a gun?”
SEIF HAMMACK: Pretty harsh reality.
MARC MACYOUNG: Exactly, it’s a harsh reality out there. Which is why when I talk about the benefits of martial arts and sport fighting—it’s wonderful, it’s great, and its part of a much nicer happier less dangerous reality. Go for it; enjoy your life doing this stuff. Don’t try and take it where it doesn’t work.
SEIF HAMMACK: Now you actually teach. What is it exactly that you teach?
MARC MACYOUNG: My teaching is principle based. True self-defense has one purpose and one purpose only. Like I said it’s to cover your ass while you are leaving: ending it now and escaping. That is my work regarding self-defense. I try to run a balance between the realities of self-defense and understanding the depth of your martial arts beyond what you are being taught. You can do both if you understand. The difference between knowing and understanding is that if I know something I know it from one perspective, if I understand something that means I know it from many perspectives … I understand it’s implications, strengths, limits, etc. When you seek understanding rather than just knowing you can take your martial arts training and apply it to self-defense because you know what not to bring along and what not to do. This is a different ballgame with different rules. In order to survive in a self-defense situation you have to think. I cannot teach you how you are going to be attacked. What I can show you, however, are principles that if you understand them and apply them you can use them anywhere and at any time. No matter what is happening you will see the opportunity
SEIF HAMMACK: How does a person that has been training in sport for so long keep his training from interfering with that switch in mindset from sport to self-defense?
MARC MACYOUNG: Fighting is like Russian roulette; sooner or later it’s going to get really wet and messy. If I’m there to fight I am risking meeting this damned Irish man, we all now him, his name is Mr. Murphy and he has a law that comes with him; he also loves to fight. If there’s a fight going on he’s going to be right there watching. So if I’m fighting and I’m there to win and prove my superiority … that could take some time. Now the longer it takes the more likely Murphy is to jump in. So you ask me how you keep your training from going awry? The answer is you end it quickly. The shorter the conflict the less likely Murphy is to jump in. The thing about the sport mindset is that a lot of times you get hit three or four times and then you get warmed up. Unfortunately, on the street, the little son of a bitch that you’re up against has a razor so you have just been slashed three or four times … you’re not going to warm up you’re going to bleed out. So now if you take the mindset that this ends now, that a fight shouldn’t last longer than three moves … that’s not macho that’s just effective. This isn’t some hardcore, kung fu, killer-commando mindset, this is just I’m going to end it now. And I have sorted through my tools and figured out what is effective for ending things quickly.
SEIF HAMMACK: You mentioned the reality of getting slashed in a fight. Let’s talk about knives for a minute.
MARC MACYOUNG: When it comes to knives the problem is that there are tons of people out there teaching knife fighting, what Col. Rex Applegate called dueling. Personally I don’t want to duel I want to be alive. I want to end it now.
SEIF HAMMACK: So your thing is not to get into one in the first place?
MARC MACYOUNG: Remember, every time you step into that world it could escalate to the point of either you dying or somebody else dying. Are you willing to spend the rest of your life in prison because you killed somebody over a rude comment? That isn’t worth it. Contra wise I am so familiar with the scale, the force continuum, that I will look at somebody and recognize an immediate threat and I will kill somebody in less than five seconds if the person presents me with a sufficient threat that I recognize. There is no such thing as a glass ceiling in fighting; there is no point where it stops and you say I don’t feel comfortable past this point so I wont go there. That’s what people need to remember about fighting. That’s why I say it is so critical to differentiate between sport and self-defense. If you train for sport there are rules, those are wonderful, stay in them. If you’re training for self-defense you have to look at the entire spectrum. And the reason I don’t advocate fighting is because you are quite literally stepping into a place where there is no limit.
SEIF HAMMACK: So is there a point to learning how to use a knife in a fight?
MARC MACYOUNG: If you are learning from the idea of a sport or art then yeah … enjoy. But knife fighting is murder, there is no such thing as a professional knife fighter; they’re just criminals. Now in terms of self-defense, that is different, that is not knife fighting.
SEIF HAMMACK: Okay, so what is that?
MARC MACYOUNG: Using a knife for self-defense is ending a situation as quickly as possible. It is a lethal force situation where you need to use a deadly weapon to prevent yourself from dying or suffering grave bodily injury. And before you even think of using a knife for self-defense you had better learn judicious use of force laws, because it is the same thing as using a gun. If you use a knife on somebody at an inappropriate time you are going to prison.
SEIF HAMMACK: So who should rightfully carry a knife?
MARC MACYOUNG: Somebody who knows what it means. My first stepfather grew up in East LA. This man taught me to fight. And from my childhood this has been indoctrinated in me. He used to tell me, “don’t carry a knife unless you are going to pull it, don’t pull it unless you’re going to use it, don’t use it unless you’re willing to kill with it.” Every time I pick up a weapon I am accepting the fact that I am accountable to higher standards. I cannot get into the emotional blackmailing or hijacking whim dejours that the average person gives into because I now have a weapon that is capable of taking human life.
SEIF HAMMACK: Okay, so I take it a person shouldn’t just go to their local dojo to learn this stuff right?
MARC MACYOUNG: (laughing) Yeah, right. I still see people teaching this over hand “x-block” against a downward stab. That was a move against samurai with swords … it’s a sword move. What you have a whole lot of people doing here is thinking that expertise in one field automatically instills expertise in another. “Because I know this I know that.” It’s using one perspective to color everything you look at. Just because you know one thing doesn’t mean you know another. One of the best ways to learn about what a blade can do is to get a machete and go clear a lot. You’ll learn all kinds of things about blades that won’t be taught in school. You’ll also learn to have a deep and abiding fear of them, which is a good starting point. There are a lot of experts on knife fighting and my recommendation is to go see what they have to offer. They all have some information that is valid but nobody holds the entire truth.
SEIF HAMMACK: Like all of the arts.
MARC MACYOUNG: Right. So you create a third pile: you have your sports pile, your self-defense pile, and interesting other arts pile. I mean it’s really fun to learn and to pick and choose what works for you. The bottom line is that it’s not about me, it’s not about my system, it’s not about what I can do or what techniques I prefer … it’s about you. What you can do to stay safe and to grow and learn. That gets lost a lot of the time. People trying to make their living off of this stuff saying, “You have to study with me forever and ever.” No I don’t. It’s about the student not the teacher.
SEIF HAMMACK: Good enough. Let’s talk about your thoughts on fear.
MARC MACYOUNG: Okay, do you know what the difference is between fear and terror?
SEIF HAMMACK: Terror would cause you to freeze or incapacitate you and fear would simply be that rush of adrenaline.
MARC MACYOUNG: Right. The difference between fear and terror is that with terror I don’t know what to do. With fear I have a working solution. If I don’t have a solution that I have faith will work, I’m going to freeze. And I’m going to basically get my ass kicked. Fear on the other hand is the go juice. When I have a solution that I know works fear is going to make me do it faster. Fear is your ally. People talk about “no fear,” and I’m like, “You fucking idiot.” The only people who are not afraid are stupid or psychotic. Fear is that juice that gives you the ability to operate towards a goal that you know works.
SEIF HAMMACK: I think a lot of people are afraid of fear.
MARC MACYOUNG: Because they don’t know the difference between fear and terror. I have done things that are absolutely amazing. I mean there are people who claim that I have knocked bullets out of the air with my dick. I’ve got to tell you that this is not macho b.s. The truth is that I was so scared that they were going to hurt me that I had to do something. If I didn’t have knowledge of something that would work I would have gone into terror … I would have froze. As it was I knew I had to do something and I had a set of tools that I knew worked. This again comes back to sorting through your tools. If I don’t have faith in my tools and I haven’t experimented with this stuff to figure out what works for sport and what works for somebody trying to peg me, if I don’t know that difference, I’m going to freeze and I’m going to get clocked.
SEIF HAMMACK: So it’s being in a situation where you have an option as opposed to being in a situation where you don’t have options.
MARC MACYOUNG: Solutions. We all have options: one option is I piss my pants and faint (laughing). I just don’t consider it and effective solution. If I do something I know it’s going to work. The only question is can I do it fast enough? Fear is going to make sure I do it fast enough.
SEIF HAMMACK: So then fear is…
MARC MACYOUNG: My friend! We go out and we drink and laugh about what happened. The idea of conquering your fear: it’s like listen you stupid son of a bitch don’t try and do it because you’re throwing something away that mother nature gave to you in order to keep you alive. Pain and emotions are motivational messages. When we feel them we feel we have to act. Fear is an emotion that we have to survive. Walking into a dangerous situation where this son of a bitch wants to kill me … that is dangerous, he wants to kill me, he has the ability to do it. Should I be fearless? Yeah, right … bullshit. I want to be the one who walks out of that situation. The guy that has no fear is not going to be reacting fast enough and he’s going to get killed.
SEIF HAMMACK: And the fear leads to terror if you don’t have solutions?
MARC MACYOUNG: If you don’t have an answer, right. I went through a door once, thank God I peed before I did this, and I found myself looking down the barrel of a shotgun. Anytime you are looking down the barrel of a gun, I don’t care what caliber that gun is, that barrel is three feet across. It’s that big. I looked up, I saw this gun, the guy was scared but I was more scared, I swatted the gun aside, ripped it out of his hand and hit him over the head with it. Was this macho? No, this was just fear and a part of me saying that “that [gun] needs to go away.” I don’t care how it goes away … it goes away now. I mean it was raw fear and I would have pissed my pants if I hadn’t peed earlier. But that’s fear working towards a goal. If you have kids you will discover how fast you can react when your kid is hurt … it’s amazing. I mean that kid hits the deck and boom you’ve got the kid; you’re in the car, and on the way to the hospital. Your scared but you are not in terror. If you were in terror you would just freeze.
SEIF HAMMACK: Like a panic.
MARC MACYOUNG: Well, panic is seeking an answer. I’m trying to find a solution. It’s like when in danger, when in doubt, run in circles, scream and shout (laughing). I’m looking for a solution, but I don’t have one. I’m desperately seeking solutions. Wasn’t that a really bad movie? (laughing)
SEIF HAMMACK: (laughing) Maybe.
MARC MACYOUNG: That’s the difference. I personally never wanted to work with guys who had no fear. Because they were the ones who were going to do something stupid and get me killed. I didn’t mind them getting themselves killed; it was they getting me killed that I objected to.
SEIF HAMMACK: What about the concept of controlling fear?
MARC MACYOUNG: (laughing) Okay, how about this? I have a solution. I look at my fear on a leash and, to quote the immortal bard, “cry havoc and let slip the dogs of war.” Why do I want to control my fear if I have a solution?
SEIF HAMMACK: I guess it would be control in terms of not going into terror.
MARC MACYOUNG: Well, here’s the other thing. If I have a solution that I know works I’m not going to have so much fear to deal with either. If a little five year old stands there and says, “I’m going to kick your ass,” how scared are you? Why does that little five year old not scare you where as if it were a big, snarling, tattooed, three hundred pound biker you would be going “aaaaahhhhhh!!!”
SEIF HAMMACK: Because you have the solution for the kid but not for the biker.
MARC MACYOUNG: Exactly. Now the reason you have the solution for the kid is because you know you can win. Even if he challenges you with more gusto than that biker you’re not afraid. So controlling fear is kind of a misnomer. Because if you understand what you are doing and you have a solution that you know will work you’re not afraid. If you don’t have a solution you’re in terror. If you’re scared then it’s a matter of like gee I hope this solution is going to work in time. So do I want to control my fear or do I want that fear to make sure that solution happens fast enough? Do you now see how come I’m such a pariah in the martial arts world?
SEIF HAMMACK: Yeah, but it seems that the martial arts benefits from having some renegades to shake things up every now and then anyway.
MARC MACYOUNG: Well, the problem is that people want to put reality in a box and reality doesn’t fit in boxes nicely. So I break a lot of the mythologies about martial arts and self-defense. I mean there has been a lot of time and energy spent in making this mythology.
SEIF HAMMACK: A lot of people are getting rich off of that mythology.
MARC MACYOUNG: I know. Unfortunately I discovered scruples. Okay, I admit I read Aristotle’s “Ethics” while working in a strip joint (laughing), but I really do have them. And for me one of my worst nightmares is that I teach somebody something that will get him killed. The people I train tend to be in high-risk professions, so this is not a myth this is a possibility. If I teach some bullshit I’m going to get one of my people killed. And it is a terrifying possibility to me. Therefore I have to always do the check it, double check it, and when you’ve done that check it again thing. My students come back to me on a regular basis and say, “It went down the other night and thank you, it worked.”
SEIF HAMMACK: That must feel pretty good.
MARC MACYOUNG: You know the first time I had some guy do that was at a gun show where I was selling my books and this guy walked up to me, looked at my book, looked at me, and looked back at my book and asked me, “Did you write this?” I said “Yeah.” And he put his hand out and said, “I want to thank you. You saved my life.” He had been in a situation and the other guy was holding a knife exactly the way I had said to look for. He saw the knife and said, ” I was going to fight but now I’m going to run like hell.” And because of that he lived. So I can’t afford to teach nonsense. If I were willing to lie and feed people’s fantasies of what the martial arts are about then, yeah, I would be a whole lot richer. If I wanted a cult of true believers to follow me I could have it but I refuse to go there. I’m not here for that. It’s sort of like I’m here to help people and much of that is payback for a lot of the shit that I have done. If I can help people understand, grow, and get along further in their path then I’ve paid my rent on this planet.
SEIF HAMMACK: Can anyone train with you?
MARC MACYOUNG: I seriously have one main standard and that is that I will not teach anybody from a hate group. That’s about it.
SEIF HAMMACK: How do people generally react to your teachings?
MARC MACYOUNG: Well, some people think I’m the savior and others the devil … in the meantime I’m sitting here smoking my cigar saying, “No, I’m just me (laughing).” My fans are devoted. But I get people who just tear me down saying, “Well, this guy, he claims to be a street fighter and he’s full of shit!” That’s because I don’t fit their fantasy definition of what a street fighter is. And that’s okay because I’m not going to argue trying to prove to them what I know and what I do. And I also don’t play in the instructor wars, which is going out and badmouthing other instructors. That guy’s got part of the truth, that guys got part of the truth, and that guys got part of the truth and he may have something that works really well for you so go play and see what he’s got. Just don’t accept that his truth is the whole truth
SEIF HAMMACK: Now you have written quite a few books.
MARC MACYOUNG: I think I’m at ten now and I’m writing number eleven.
SEIF HAMMACK: What is number eleven all about?
MARC MACYOUNG: You could call it primary colors of attack book. After a lot of thinking I have discovered that there are actually only six ways to attack and what I’m doing is detailing and showing all these different ways and once you know the primary colors you can mix them and create your own techniques.
SEIF HAMMACK: Sounds good. I really like principle-based stuff because you can plug a lot of your own stuff into it.
MARC MACYOUNG: Yeah and you can tweak the principles to your own. The best fighters are the guys who don’t know ten thousand techniques; it’s the guys who know about three principles and from those principles generate tens of thousands of techniques.
SEIF HAMMACK: So when is the new book due out?
MARC MACYOUNG: I don’t know. I’m still in the middle of writing it, and then the publisher has to accept it … that should be within a year. The other thing that’s going to be fun is that as soon as I get the book out of the way I’m going to be burning compact discs. I think that CD-Rom offers the best blend of video and book. The first one is going to be take down and control tactics for police and professionals. It should be out later this year and it will be posted on the web page.
SEIF HAMMACK: Cool. Where can one purchase you current material?
MARC MACYOUNG: You can purchase all of my stuff through the web page, which is at www.nononsenseselfdefense.com.
SEIF HAMMACK: And there is also a lot of information on your website about the things we have been discussing as well.
MARC MACYOUNG: Yeah. The best advice I can give people about the website is to make a cup of coffee … you’re going to be there for a while. I have gotten more people writing me and saying, “Man you give away too much stuff.” But the thing about it is that that’s the basic shit … that’s the intro course. Your average John Q. Public still has no idea who I am. I don’t expect that person to walk up and just on blind faith plunk down his money for my stuff. So, I operate on a basis of giving away this information for free because I want you to have faith that it is stable data. So John and Jane Public can come to my site and read it and say, “Okay, this makes sense.” It’s not a sales pitch nearly as much as it is establishing a sense of trust.
SEIF HAMMACK: Well, Marc I’d like to thank you for taking time to chat and I look forward to doing it again soon.
MARC MACYOUNG: No, problem man. I have fun doing these. I think I finally do have to get down to tiling this kitchen floor here however (laughing).
SEIF HAMMACK: Okay, take care.
MARC MACYOUNG: Bye.
For more information on Marc “Animal” Macyoung: his bio, teachings, materials, seminars, and classes, visit his web site at www.nononsenseselfdefense.com or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Seif Hammack is a freelance writer, currently residing in the D.C. metropolitan area, and an athlete with more than ten years experience in the martial arts having competed in boxing, kickboxing, grappling, and the mixed martial arts. Seif can be contacted at email@example.com.