Book Review: “Meditations on Violence: A Comparison of Martial Arts Training & Real World Violence” by Sgt. Rory Miller

In his book “Meditations on Violence: A Comparison of Martial Arts Training & Real World Violence” Sgt. Rory Miller offers his perspective on dealing with violence from his experience as a corrections officer and martial artist. The main concept of Miller’s book is examining the gap that exists in many martial arts training programs and what happens in a violent attack.

Miller starts off by driving the point that violence is complicated. The how, when, and why of a violent attacks are many and you’ll drive yourself crazy trying to figure out all the different scenarios. He also makes the point that the “violence” you see in entertainment or even in your martial arts class is nothing like you see in real life. Miller also points out that the violent situation and how you would respond to them can vary widely. It should be noted that the violent situations that Miller talks about vary from a self-defense situation, to a sporting invite, to actual combat in war.
After giving an overview of what is violence and how responses can be different according to the type of violence, Miller tackles the topic of assumptions of violence and how we think of violence. In this section Miller does a good job of pointing out where many assumptions about violence are wrong. People will tend to discount their own experience or give too much credit to how they think things should work. To address these issues Miller suggests different types of training, both physical and mental. People that have done studying into the mental aspects will recognize items such as the OODA loop and Hick’s Law. Offering my own insight Hick’s Law is probably the one I see violated most often in the martial arts dojo. For those not familiar with Hick’s Law it states that the more options we have the longer it takes to choose one.

The next few sections Miller cover more about violence, the types of violence, the groups that violent people can be classified into, and giving an insight to these people, especially predators. Miller does a good job of classifying types of violence and how many of them can be defused without resorting to physical actions. Also pointed out that if a violent assault does happen it will probably happen much closer, faster, suddenly, and powerful then what many think. Miller covers lots of information in these sections which someone interested in learning more about violent behavior and the people that perform these types of behavior will find useful. While covering these areas Miller does recommend the book “The Gift of Fear” by Gavin DeBecker, a recommendation I would second.

Now Miller moves on to discussing training, especially in the martial arts, to handle violence. Most likely this would fall into the self-defense training that many martial arts classes will cover. Here Miller covers what he sees as many of the flaws of training. The obvious one is how do you practice a technique to break an arm without actually breaking the arm? If you practice always pulling your punches, or making light contact, what will you do in a real situation? These and others are items Miller points out that we need to be aware of and attempt to find ways to deal with them in our training. Here is where many students of martial arts that have only studied some type of set self defense in the class will go “I never considered that.” Miller does offer his advice on how to improve your training, which people who have studied the teaching ideas of Tony Blauer and the SPEAR system will recognize. Miller breaks down his training idea into six phases, which in my opinion provide a good general guideline when thinking about real world self-defense training. Miller also covers the stages of defending yourself from an assault. These cover what many martial artist do practice such as “blocking the motion” (think an upward block to deflect a punch) and “blocking the opportunity” (awareness of your target areas and your attacker’s weapons), but also the topics of “blocking the intent” (the pre-emptive strike), “altering the relationship” (defusing the situation without using physical force), and the “use of terrain” (awareness of your physical surroundings and what it means). Miller closes up this section with talking about the “Go” button and your actions once a violent assault starts. One important point that Miller makes is giving yourself permission to defend yourself, to use physical force. This part may make people go “huh”, but too often people don’t give themselves permission to protect their life. “They are bigger than me” , “they have a weapon” , or “he said he wouldn’t hurt me if I did what he said” are all reasons people give for not protecting themselves.

Miller then closes up his book with dealing with the “after”, what happens after a violent attack? Here are suggestions on handling the mental aspects that occur after a violent event. This can be a very complicated area and Miller offers some of his general thoughts on that matter.

Overall I found Miller’s book a good read with some good advice and insight. Anyone that studies martial arts with one of the goals if studying to be able to protect themselves should pick up a copy of the book.

Comments are closed.