Friday, June 20, 2008

Meditations on Violence

Okay, so let's get this out of the way first -- Rory Miller's book, Meditations on Violence: A Comparison of Martial Arts Traning & Real World Violence is one you need to read if you are a serious martial artist. There is stuff in it you probably know, but some you probably don't, and knowing it might save your ass ...

Probably wouldn't hurt to read it if you are a street cop, a reporter, a fireman, or a medic who is apt to find him- or herself in harm's way. Or just somebody who is interested in methods to stay healthy and alive.

Miller, a corrections officer with a lot of training in both martial arts and hands-on applications of it, writes cleanly, in a manner easily understood, as offhand as somebody telling the stuff over a cup of coffee. His is, if not unique, certainly a rare experience, and there is much to be gleaned from him sharing it.

Buy the book, read it, lend it to your friends, and buy another copy when they don't give it back.

It isn't a how-to, full of techniques. The book speaks more to the psychology of violence, and how one's reality map might be radically altered. And the title is a bit iffy -- martial arts is a big tent, and he can't begin to cover them all. I understand the intent, but even so, it's kind of like picking up one of those martial arts "encyclopedias" and finding that the one you practice isn't listed. Sins of omission count ...

Over the last couple of years, Rory and I have had some interesting exchanges, on his blog, on mine, and ... over a cup of coffee. We are in agreement on many things, disagree on a few, and I'd like to think there is a mutual respect; certainly there is on my side.

After reading this book, some of what I had questions about has been made clearer. And while I liked the guy before, I like him better now. He lets it all hang out, and that gets him points.

There are still things about which we don't see eye-to-eye, and probably won't. He has a world of experience that I don't, but I've got my own, and I have to go with mine. (He speaks to this early on: "Never, ever override your own experience and common sense on the say-so of some self-appointed 'expert.'" Be skeptical as hell of this book, he says, and he's right to say so. He doesn't agree 100% with any of the long list of authors in the bibliography included in the back, and that's understandable.

As he points out, the needs of a CERT team barreling into a cell with a psychotic biker are not the same as a woman trying to avoid rape, or a guy getting hassled by teenagers at a bus stop, so one size doesn't fit all. Of those three, I'm more concerned with the last. But many of the principles are applicable straight across, and that's useful to know.

I have quibbles, but it's a good book. You should buy it.

1 comment:

Steve Perry said...

I tried to post the first part of this review on, but they apparently choked on the world "ass ..."