Meditations on Violence: A Comparison of Martial Arts Training & Real World Violence by Rory Miller is an important book. It connects martial arts training to real world situations like no other book I’ve read. We all have opinions on how we would be able to handle violent situations. These opinions are oftentimes based on flawed, if not false, assumptions. This book will give you a new perspective on how you train as a martial artist and how your assumptions will affect the way you react (or fail to react) to a violent situation.
Amazon.com describes the book best:
“Finalist – 2008 Book of the Year Award by Foreword Magazine Finalist – 2008 USA Best Book Award A Comparison of Martial Arts Training & Real-World Violence Experienced martial artist and veteran correction officer Sgt. Rory Miller distills what he has learned from jailhouse brawls, tactical operations and ambushes to explore the differences between martial arts and the subject martial arts were designed to deal with: Violence. Sgt. Miller introduces the myths, metaphors and expectations that most martial artists have about what they will ultimately learn in their dojo. This is then compared with the complexity of the reality of violence. Complexity is one of the recurring themes throughout this work. Section Two examines how to think critically about violence, how to evaluate sources of knowledge and clearly explains the concepts of strategy and tactics. Sections Three and Four focus on the dynamics of violence itself and the predators who perpetuate it. Drawing on hundreds of encounters and thousands of hours spent with criminals Sgt. Miller explains the types of violence; how, where, when and why it develops; the effects of adrenaline; how criminals think, and even the effects of drugs and altered states of consciousness in a fight. Section Five centers on training for violence, and adapting your present training methods to that reality. It discusses the pros and cons of modern and ancient martial arts training and gives a unique insight into early Japanese kata as a military training method. Section Six is all about how to make self-defense work. Miller examines how to look at defense in a broader context, and how to overcome some of your own subconscious resistance to meeting violence with violence. The last section deals with the aftermath—the cost of surviving sudden violence or violent environments, how it can change you for good or bad. It gives advice for supervisors and even for instructors on how to help a student/survivor. You’ll even learn a bit about enlightenment.”
The probability of a violent assault on you is low, however, the loss given a violent assault can be severe (loss of life, limb, etc.). It doesn’t matter if you are a suburbanite working in a corporate environment, a high risk professional (law enforcement, security, convenience store worker) or live in a higher risk area, there is a chance you will need to use your martial arts training to defend yourself. So no matter who you are or what you do, if you are a martial artist you will get something out of reading this book. This book is easy to read and gives the information in a concise manner. You leave each chapter feeling like you have learned something.
The introduction to the book discusses how students look at the black belt in the front of the room. Whether you like it or not, if you are a martial arts instructor, your students look at you as an expert on violence. Because of this, having an understanding of the applications of violence is imperative for a martial arts instructor. If a teacher misunderstands the realities of violence, they can give the students an unrealistic view on their abilities. Attackers don’t stop when a “point is scored”, boards don’t hit back, and in bunkai the uke does not have evil intent. It is important for an instructor to convey to the reality of violence, so the student does not act as if they can handle a dangerous situation when they cannot. The teacher cannot teach a realist view on violence if that teacher does not understand it themselves. Read this book. You will be surprised how much you have to learn.
Once you have read the book, please come back and let us know your thoughts. This is not a book you should get at the library. Buy it so you can take notes in it and go back to review it. I have read it three times and am reading it again. I wish I bought it in print rather than on my kindle so I could write in the margins. I might need to buy a print copy after all.
For more information on the book click: Meditations on Violence: A Comparison of Martial Arts Training & Real World Violence