Sunday, February 26, 2012

Books: Facing Violence - Preparing for the Unexpected



Rory Miller's first book, "Meditations on Violence," was a sobering introduction to violent conflict. As a corrections officer, Miller spent years dealing with some of the worst characters humanity has to offer - thugs, predators, and sociopaths - and his writing effectively captured that unique perspective. Unfortunately, "Meditations on Violence" was more expository than instructional; the author illustrated how a real-world fight differs from what is taught in the dojo, but he didn't offer comprehensive advice on how to actually survive that fight.

"Facing Violence," on the other hand, is Rory Miller's guidebook for self-defense preparation. Think of it as a self-help book (Miller has a degree in experimental psychology) for people who want to lawfully defend themselves. It starts with the basics (legal and ethical, i.e. it's no good to win the fight if you go to jail afterwards) and goes all the way through to the aftermath.

Here's an excerpt from the "avoidance" section:
3.1: absence
Bad things happen in predictable places. If you avoid those places you can avoid a huge percentage of the violence that occurs in the world. What are those places?
Bars, parties, and other places where people get their minds altered. Drugs and alcohol change the way people think and act. They lower inhibition and they make people stupid. When some of your brain cells are pickled or fried, picking fights can seem like a good idea. You may forget that "no" is a complete sentence. And that's just alcohol...
The book is full of advice like that - practical techniques that don't require a fancy gun, years of training, or great strength and speed. Another thing Miller stresses is knowing your "glitches" (things that might make you hesitate during an assault):

One example that will be familiar to most martial artists: two students practicing at light or no contact and one accidentally hits the other in the face. Even with a light touch, both of their eyes go wide, both take a step back, hands go up and the apologies start to spew.
Does this make any sense at all? Two people studying martial arts (arts dedicated to Mars, the god of war) specifically in a class where one of the seeming goals is to learn to hit people... and there is an immediate, visceral and almost universal reaction to face contact.

Long story short: "Facing Violence" is required reading for anyone interested in self-defense or martial arts. It cost Rory Miller injuries, years of training, and hundreds of fights to learn the things in the book - so reading it for around $10 off of Amazon is a bargain.

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