I recently went through my second Rory Miller book: Facing Violence (Meditations on Violence being the first). Of course I would read this (instead of some light short story) while vacationing abroad! In any case, the book was enjoyable we as well as instructive.
Over the years I’ve read a number of books in the “self defense” sphere but Facing Violence stands out in this respect: It covers more (if not all) aspects of one’s potential encounter with violence, including legal and psychological after effects. The book is neatly broken into these subsets:
- Legal and Ethical
- Violence and Dynamics
- The Freeze
- The Fight
I won’t pore into details as I HIGHLY recommend this book for well, everyone besides children. If you’re a petite female, this book is right for you because you are a likelier target for assault by what Miller dubs a “process predator.” If you’re a large, trained martial artist this book is for you because, though you’re an unlikely target for a predator, you may be more likely to get caught up in what Miller dubs
the ‘monkey dance‘ and you need to know the legal consequences of your actions (hint: if you flatten your opponent in a fight you didn’t start but could have avoided (even if such avoidance meant feelings of embarrassment), you’ll have a tough time claiming ‘self defense’ in court).
Violence and the Legal Aspects
The legal aspects of this book are especially instructive and timely, especially given that there is no shortage of YouTube videos with martial artists giving “self defense” advice which applies well to a situation where the rules of engagement are of two fighters in a sanctioned event but not necessarily in an event where the ‘winner’ of a fight suffers the chance of assault charges or of being sued by the ‘loser’ for enough money to ensure the ‘winner’ lives out the rest of his life in a form of indentured servitude.
Assault vs Competition and The Freeze
Another important distinction is the mental difference between a competition and an outright assault. Many martial artists train in a manner that assumes their opponent will always start out in front of them, with enough distance ensure a ready position before the engagement begins. But in an actual assault, you may not realize you’re in a ‘fight’ until after you’ve come to realize you’re on the ground after being hit in the back of the head with a hard object. ‘The freeze’ can leave even the most well-trained martial artist in a state of panic (or euphoria) where those years of training don’t seem to matter as they flail in response, with no apparent force behind said flailig. Fortunately, Miller has some exercises on reducing the effects of ‘the freeze.’
The aftermath of a fight/assault can also have major consequences. Not just legally, but psychologically. Perhaps ones’ years of training and identity as a martial artists was nowhere in evidence as they were victimized by a street thug, or were unable to prevent the victimization of another. Or perhaps something much worse (no need in spelling it out) happened to a female victim. The effects can be traumatic and life altering. Miller also gives advice on this topic as well.
Simply put, this is the sort of book I wish I had read in my early 20’s as a hot head martial artist/college wrestler who frequented the nightlife. It could have saved me a lot of legal hassles. It’s the book I hope more martial arts experts moving into the self defense sphere read so they don’t give the sort of advice that could just land their student in jail.
As much as I’d love to “review” Miller’s book and point out where he is right and wrong, simply put it’s clear he has more experience in this space. A real peer review panel for this sort of book is hard to come back. After all, the more violent encounters one faces, the less likely they’ll be around to write about it, or review a book for that matter (talk about a field of study with diminishing returns!). I can only say that it fits what I’ve seen and read elsewhere.
Fortunately, this is a quick and painless read. Thanks, no doubt to Miller’s years of report writing, the reader’s time isn’t wasted with fluff.