Over the years I have read and listened to a lot of resources that have influenced the way I think about mindset, specifically the right mindset to solve problems in human violence. I think it is important to understand why some individuals and units can create a culture that sets them up for success in conflict and why others fail.
Here is a collection of the resources that influenced me the most. I’d like to share them with you and see what you think of them.
Matt Larsen on Managing Violence Podcast
Matt Larsen is the father of the modern US Army combatives program. As a former Marine and Army Ranger, he is a veteran with a myriad of combat experience. Unlike many other veterans, he goes beyond the gung-ho rara rhetoric and looks at the problem of combat mindset from a perspective that is informed by psychology and the scientific method. On his first talk with Joe Saunders of the Managing Violence Podcast, he talks about the origins of human violent behavior and what this means to the practicioner. In his second talk, he describes how and why the US Army’s combatives systems was reformed by him and describes how effective training programs have to be structured as well as the role that mindset plays in success in conflict.
Matt Thornton on Aliveness
Matt Thornton is a visionary grappling and martial arts instructor who goes beyond simply demonstrating techniques and structures his training sessions in such a way that guarantees success when tested. He came up with the concept of „Aliveness,“ which is a training principle to ground martial arts and combatives systems in reality and make them effective. The most accessible way to get an overview of his ideas is his talk with Joe Saunders and these two articles: one and two.
The concept of aliveness is important beyond the world of martial arts. I think it holds many implications for military education and training, and how to prepare soldiers better.
The Changing Face of Battle by John Keegan
The Changing Face of Battle is a masterpiece. It is a demonstration of how psychology affects humans in combat. It shows that „morale“ and „discipline“ are not just lofty words but have a real impact on the battlefield and how ignoring the human psyche can lead to defeat in battle.
The „Othismos“, Myths and Heresies: The Nature of Hoplite Battle
The „Othismos“, Myths and Heresies by A.K. Goldsworthy is a paper on the nature of battle in Ancient Greece. The Othismos is what happened when two Hoplite armies clashed on the battlefield. In the field of Classics, there are two different schools of thought on the nature of this clash. One school (I call them the conservative school) is of the opinion that the two armies charged at each other until they stuck to each other shield to shield and a shoving contest began (this scene from the movie Troy is a very good depiction of that theory, as well as this scene from the otherwise horribly ahistoric and bad movie 300).
The other school of thought (let’s call them revolutionaries) thinks that it is utterly unrealistic to assume humans would charge a formation with spears sticking out of it and that the Othismos did not mean a shoving contest. A.K. Goldsworthy is of the revolutionary school and explains in this essay why for reasons of human psychology and physiology the conservative school is wrong.
Deep Survival by Laurence Gonzales
Why do some people survive dire circumstances while others fail? Deep Survival tries to answer that question by looking at a series of case studies and analyzing the actions take by those in unfortunate situations. He concludes that mindset makes a huge difference and explains why some people survive on deserted islands while others go missing and die in their backyards.
Facing Violence by Rory Miller
Rory Miller is an expert on violence a law enforcement officer with several years of experience in corrections and on tactical teams. In his book Facing Violence he describes how to recognize dangerous situations and deal with them, and the psychological conditions that can lead to violence.
What do you think of these books? Which books would you like to add to this list? Share your thoughts in the comments!