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Oct 04

Book Review: Meditations on Violence

Meditations on Violence: A Comparison of Martial Arts Training & Real World ViolenceMeditations on Violence: A Comparison of Martial Arts Training & Real World Violence by Rory Miller

This book was recommended on Amazon for people who liked THE GIFT OF FEAR, and since my library didn’t have it, I took a chance and bought a copy. Wow. It’s completely changed the way I feel about my martial arts training. Some of the writing is a little blocky, but he covers important factors of violence that are never discussed in the dojo.

Most importantly, I think, Sgt. Miller talks about the effects that stress hormones have on the human body, and how they make you behave. These behaviors (freezing, etc.) are useful for people being attacked by a tiger, but not for someone who needs to defend himself or herself. He talks about the patterns of fights, and how you can disrupt those patterns to defend yourself. He also reiterates some of what De Becker said in THE GIFT OF FEAR in that bad things happen in bad places, by bad people, and that 90% of self defense is avoiding the bad places and the bad people.

Miller also discusses the different types of fighting, and why they occur. He’s got a rather confusing chart, but he discusses the difference between winning an MMA championship and combat. The sport fighter will get a good night’s sleep Wednesday night so he’ll be at his top form to face the opponent on Thursday. If a combat soldier knows there’s going to be a fight on Thursday, he attacks while the opponent is sleeping on Tuesday night. He talks about non-lethal fights for male dominance (he calls it the monkey dance; I’ve heard it called the antler dance) that are what people think of when they usually think of winning a fight. This is the “are you looking at me, punk?” that stupid people do in bars.

The part of this book that kept me up at night were the real-life anecdotes of fights that Sgt. Miller has been in. He works in a jail, and has dealt with everything from stone-cold psychopaths to drugged out junkies to common thugs. The things he deals with on a daily basis are not the sort of things I want to ever deal with. The stories, and the few black-and-white photographs, paint a bleak picture that you don’t get from the media.

Miller goes way beyond discrediting waif-fu, and talks about how impractical most of the martial arts are. He has some harsh (but probably accurate) criticisms of martial arts. Without naming names, he criticizes many, many martial arts styles on many different levels. Here are some examples: Learning to pull your punches is the same as practicing missing. Being told that a certain lock is inescapable just cements lies and helplessness (many so-called inescapable locks are quite escapable). Practicing attacks from only a certain distance with a certain stance is unrealistic, as a real attack may never occur that way (and attacks are unpredictable). He also offers suggestions for how to train for a real attack.

I’m going to be thinking about this book for a long time.

View all my reviews

1 comment

  1. Bobbie Lach

    Another key delineation of unarmed martial arts is the use of power and strength-based techniques (as found in boxing, kickboxing, karate, taekwondo and so on) vs. techniques that almost exclusively use the opponent’s own energy/balance against them (as in T’ai chi ch’uan, aikido, hapkido and aiki jiu jitsu and similar). Another way to view this division is to consider the differences between arts where Power and Speed are the main keys to success vs. arts that rely to a much greater extent on correct body-mechanics and the balance of the practitioners energy with that of the opponent…*:`

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