Thursday, July 26, 2012

Book Report: Meditations on Violence

I recently read "Meditations on Violence" by Sgt. Rory Miller.

Overall, it was an excellent book which I highly recommend to anyone on the Warrior Path.

About Sgt. Rory Miller
Rory Miller is a 17 year veteran of the federal correctional system, a prison guard.  he is also a lifetime student of the martial arts including traditional Japanese Jujitsu.  He has years of real-life experiences under the chaos and stress of confrontations, and is acutely aware of the psychology and physiology of fighting.  He is an outstanding source of good information about the reality of self-defense.

About The Book
Rory Miller does not sugar coat what happens in a fight.  He is careful to explain the psychology of both attacker and victim, especially in the context of twp basic scenarios: 1) social fights (what he calls "The Monkey Dance") where our objectives are status, control, and emotion and when "rules" are followed and 2) predatory attacks, where the assailant attacks with surprise, often using weapons, or with multiple attackers, in order to avoid the risk of injury.  The objective is usually property or sexuality, which includes predators such as mass-murders where the objective is to fulfill some fantasy or delusion.  The situations could not be more different, and should be handled in totally different ways.

Sgt. Miller does not show specific techniques and the book has few pictures, only using them to provoke thought.  he discusses various training methods and their pros and cons relative to the reality of being attacked.  He has chapters devoted to the psychology of victim and attacker, as well as our human responses to the stress of a fight and what to expect (adrenalin rush, nausea, tunnel vision, etc.).  He includes plenty of practical advice for how to train to manage stress and what to do depending on the nature of the assault and the state of mind needed to be a survivor of such an encounter. he also includes a brief overview of the general legality of fighting and how to ensure you are within your right to self-defense by choosing an appropriate response to the situation.  He illustrates with many examples from his own career dealing with violent, often drug-fueled offenders as well as terrorists, gangstas, and other criminal types..

My Thoughts
Rory Miller is a practical man who has the survivor objective of getting home safely every night to his family. This is the objective all of us should have regardless of the situation we find ourselves in.  That said, Sgt. Miller does not give much credence to the spiritual aspects of the training, especially if they are not bundled together with real-life, dependable combat techniques.

He suggests that self-defense should not be taught by teachers without a lot of their own combat experience (not including MMA or tournament fighting).  I accept his point.  I am fortunate not to have been in too many fights, and all were either tournaments or "monkey dance" situations involving opponents with only limited training and limited conviction to hurting me.  I have not had to face knife attacks (and hope I never do) or other weapon attacks or multiple attackers.  At 45 years old, I do not expect to go out and cause trouble in order to validate this part of my skill set.  Instead, I will continue to promote the martial arts as a holistic way for us to improve ourselves - something I have had over 30 years doing.  My goal is surely to help my students realize their goals in self-defense, but also to gain discipline and confidence to take control over their
own lives, be responsible for their own choices, and create the future for themselves that they want - with healthy body, mind, and spirit.

I think it is the fact that I carry myself with confidence, rarely go to dangerous places, and think through risks before I do things, which has kept me from being in fights most of the time.  I am too small to be threatening to bigger guys, but too confident to be seen as weak by those same guys - it is a fortunate balance, and one I intend to keep.  I am glad Japan is such a safe country, and I hope it remains so.

Rory MIller is right that being a survivor requires a certain mindset.  It is about prevention, and about preparation (much of which is mental).  Fights are chaotic, unpredictable, and savage.  In the case of predatory attacks, they can be life-threatening and in order to survive, you must be willing to use whatever force necessary to escape.  This means gouging eyes, tearing throats, biting, or doing whatever else will cause the most damage to the weakest target in the shortest time.  Under the stress of real violence, the human body is amazingly fragile.  At the same time, we can actually take a lot more damage than people expect and keep on going, so it is important to never give up until you have escaped/neutralized the situation. As long as you are still alive, there is ALWAYS something you can do.

I hope none of you are ever made to fight, or even worse, become a victim of predation.  Just in case, better to read and think about Sgt. Miller's excellent book.

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